5-string fretless bass build

5-string fretless bass build

Joined: August 24th, 2002, 11:25 pm

December 14th, 2008, 8:12 pm #1

Figured I'd start a picture thread, I'll keep updating this as I progress.

Fun with glue








both body pieces are glued and ready to carve, neck is just mocked up.



Body is oak, neck is oak and poplar.


The design. Haven't figured out a headstock design I like yet, the odd design of my tuners make traditional design headstocks impossible. I've figured out a few I like, just nothing I'm in love with yet.


________________________________________________________________________
UPDATE 1 12/14/08
________________________________________________________________________

Neck gluing begins.. I'm doing this in three parts, the outer pairs of 1/2" wide oak/poplar strips will be glued together. The truss rod slot will be cut into the middle piece, then it will all be glued together. After its all glued together, the basic profile of the neck will be cut with a bandsaw. I think this will make the process a lot easier, rather than trying to get 5 pieces glued together at once. Also cutting the truss rod slot before gluing elimates the need for me to route a straight 1/4" wide groove, I can just cut a 3/8" deep strip off the middle piece(already 1/4" wide) before gluing.

The pieces all together measure 2.25", perfect width at the base of the neck, so I don't have much extra material to trim off, just a bit for the taper.

I really should have more clamps.





________________________________________________________________________
UPDATE 2 12/15/08
________________________________________________________________________

Both outer pairs of the neck are glued, seemed to go very well despite the lack of sufficient clamps. Plotted out the template for the side profile of the neck, as well as a life-size outline of the whole bass, just for jollies . The design looks better life-size!

I'm a bit concerned with the width of the neck, its not as fat at half scale as most 5-strings. Might have to play soft to keep the B string from buzzing the E string. Worst case is I swap out the nut and make it a four string. Don't think I'll have to, I like the idea of a low action, narrow neck fretless. Lots of mwaaahhhh!

Looking around on the web I've found 5 string bass bridges with a 16mm spacing, which is slightly less than I'm looking at.. roughly 16.75mm spacing to keep the same distance from the outer strings to the edge of the fretboard. So this tight of spacing has been done with success. Its a fretless after all, really wailing on it isn't the idea.. that's what the Ric is for.

I'll post some pics when I get the neck all together. Ordering the nut, fretboard, and truss rod today. Going to do some pro/e work and design the bridge.
________________________________________________________________________
UPDATE 3 12/16/08
________________________________________________________________________


Got the neck glued up.

Truss rod slot cut in the middle piece:





Gluing:



all together:






It came out very straight and square, I just hope it holds close to this straight after shaping the back of the neck.


________________________________________________________________________
UPDATE 4 12/18/08
________________________________________________________________________

Neck shaping is pretty much done. Still have the head to do, and I'll probably continually touch up the backside of the neck as I go, especially the heel area once I get the body parts glued on. I cut the general profile on the bandsaw and went to town with a rasp thing and sandpaper. Probably about 10 or so hours worth of shaping on the neck. Can't wait to get the body added on!













Last edited by duplox on December 19th, 2008, 9:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Joined: January 11th, 2004, 5:20 pm

December 19th, 2008, 12:35 am #2

I always wish I could take a course in wood working because it's something I know little about. Personally from my experience with my own bass a neck through design will give great sustain.



This has been my main bass for over 20 years now, a Carvin LB 90 four string shown here in a picture that I sent to the Carvin museum several years ago. I have two of these and this one is the better one of the two for some reason it just sounds and plays better than the other one. Either way it's a solid maple body and neck done in four pieces (two pieces neck and two body). It has an ebony fingerboard and absolutely killer sustain and a great tone. It has a bright piano like punch which seems to work well with any amp setup I've ever used. It's not terribly heavy because the body size is small, much smaller than a P bass. This style of LB90 with a 24 fret neck was only made in 1988 as the earlier 22 fret LB90 looked more like a Fender Precision body style.

After playing a friends 1957 Fender Precision bass I think that Carvin must have had one of those for reference because by feel the dimensions are identical.

A couple of weeks ago I recorded a bunch of bass tracks for the new record using this bass, a 50 watt Hiwatt head and an EA NL-210 cabinet.

I'd love to have a fretless like my Carvin. The only fretless I have is a Yamaha which is like a Fender P with a Dimarzio pickup and Hipshot bridge(might be one to check out since it's easy to adjust the string spacing to taste). My fretless only gets used once in a while and it sounds good but doesn't sustain like the Carvin. I know a fretless will be somewhat softer but I'd love to have neck through body construction and an ebony board.

Keep posting the photos, it looks cool.

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Joined: October 5th, 2003, 6:30 am

December 19th, 2008, 4:09 am #3

Figured I'd start a picture thread, I'll keep updating this as I progress.

Fun with glue








both body pieces are glued and ready to carve, neck is just mocked up.



Body is oak, neck is oak and poplar.


The design. Haven't figured out a headstock design I like yet, the odd design of my tuners make traditional design headstocks impossible. I've figured out a few I like, just nothing I'm in love with yet.


________________________________________________________________________
UPDATE 1 12/14/08
________________________________________________________________________

Neck gluing begins.. I'm doing this in three parts, the outer pairs of 1/2" wide oak/poplar strips will be glued together. The truss rod slot will be cut into the middle piece, then it will all be glued together. After its all glued together, the basic profile of the neck will be cut with a bandsaw. I think this will make the process a lot easier, rather than trying to get 5 pieces glued together at once. Also cutting the truss rod slot before gluing elimates the need for me to route a straight 1/4" wide groove, I can just cut a 3/8" deep strip off the middle piece(already 1/4" wide) before gluing.

The pieces all together measure 2.25", perfect width at the base of the neck, so I don't have much extra material to trim off, just a bit for the taper.

I really should have more clamps.





________________________________________________________________________
UPDATE 2 12/15/08
________________________________________________________________________

Both outer pairs of the neck are glued, seemed to go very well despite the lack of sufficient clamps. Plotted out the template for the side profile of the neck, as well as a life-size outline of the whole bass, just for jollies . The design looks better life-size!

I'm a bit concerned with the width of the neck, its not as fat at half scale as most 5-strings. Might have to play soft to keep the B string from buzzing the E string. Worst case is I swap out the nut and make it a four string. Don't think I'll have to, I like the idea of a low action, narrow neck fretless. Lots of mwaaahhhh!

Looking around on the web I've found 5 string bass bridges with a 16mm spacing, which is slightly less than I'm looking at.. roughly 16.75mm spacing to keep the same distance from the outer strings to the edge of the fretboard. So this tight of spacing has been done with success. Its a fretless after all, really wailing on it isn't the idea.. that's what the Ric is for.

I'll post some pics when I get the neck all together. Ordering the nut, fretboard, and truss rod today. Going to do some pro/e work and design the bridge.
________________________________________________________________________
UPDATE 3 12/16/08
________________________________________________________________________


Got the neck glued up.

Truss rod slot cut in the middle piece:





Gluing:



all together:






It came out very straight and square, I just hope it holds close to this straight after shaping the back of the neck.


________________________________________________________________________
UPDATE 4 12/18/08
________________________________________________________________________

Neck shaping is pretty much done. Still have the head to do, and I'll probably continually touch up the backside of the neck as I go, especially the heel area once I get the body parts glued on. I cut the general profile on the bandsaw and went to town with a rasp thing and sandpaper. Probably about 10 or so hours worth of shaping on the neck. Can't wait to get the body added on!












Nice effort!

Our bass player uses Kubicki basses (one fretted and one fretless). The Kubicki necks are made of a whopping 34 laminates



Another bass-playing friend of mine, Pete, once stopped by the Kubicki factory and Kubicki himself, in a radical demonstration, layed a neck down across/between two chairs and then stood on the neck between the chairs.


But enough about that; keep us posted on the progress,

Paul
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Joined: August 24th, 2002, 11:25 pm

December 19th, 2008, 4:31 am #4

I wouldn't even be through putting glue on half of them by the time the first one dried! Mine would surely snap if I tried to do balance beam practice on it though. That's impressive.
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Joined: January 11th, 2004, 5:20 pm

December 19th, 2008, 4:22 pm #5

Isn't it true with wood that the more pieces you can glue together that the stronger, more rigid and more resistant to warping with weather changes the end result will be?

For what it's worth my bass tends to need very little truss rod adjustment as the seasons change but that's one of those things that has become less and less as the years have gone by. But last year we had a cold winter(dry inside) and a sudden warm spring(humid) that sent it into a fit. The relief changed RADICALLY and I talked to a guy in St Louis Skip Goez who does great guitar word about it and he said that everybody is having the same problem and it's the weather! I bet yours will be more stable in times like that what are you going to do for a fretboard?

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Joined: August 24th, 2002, 11:25 pm

December 19th, 2008, 9:41 pm #6

I'm not sure yet, I'm not sure how much I want to spend on it. This is the first time I've ever attempted this so I'm inclined to go cheap, I don't want to spend a lot of money on a bass that doesn't sound good. I'll probably go with a hard maple, those seem to be the cheapest. I want the fretboard to be black, so I think I'll just get the maple and stain it heavily. An ebony fretboard blank(3"x1/4"x28") is like $25, maple is $5. I printed out a section of a 12" radius circle to use as a template for the fretboard curve.
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Joined: January 11th, 2004, 5:20 pm

December 20th, 2008, 3:08 pm #7

I don't know for sure but it seems to me that the fretboard on a fretless bass needs to be made from very hard wood to help sustain but also to keep it from wearing quickly. My Yamaha fretless has a lot more wear on the fretboard than my Carvin fretted bass even though the Carvin probably has had hundreds of times more playing use. Is this because the Yamaha board is softer than the ebony on the Carvin? Probably but also not having frets has to contribute to some of the wear.
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Joined: October 5th, 2003, 6:30 am

December 25th, 2008, 2:34 am #8

...been subjected to round-wound or flat-wound strings? That might part.

Happy Festivus,

Paul
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Joined: January 11th, 2004, 5:20 pm

December 26th, 2008, 9:12 pm #9

I have always used roundwounds on that bass and I'm sure some flat wounds would be better about wearing the fretboard but I'm not sure if I'd like the sound..

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Ben Sinclair
Ben Sinclair

May 21st, 2009, 3:48 am #10

Figured I'd start a picture thread, I'll keep updating this as I progress.

Fun with glue








both body pieces are glued and ready to carve, neck is just mocked up.



Body is oak, neck is oak and poplar.


The design. Haven't figured out a headstock design I like yet, the odd design of my tuners make traditional design headstocks impossible. I've figured out a few I like, just nothing I'm in love with yet.


________________________________________________________________________
UPDATE 1 12/14/08
________________________________________________________________________

Neck gluing begins.. I'm doing this in three parts, the outer pairs of 1/2" wide oak/poplar strips will be glued together. The truss rod slot will be cut into the middle piece, then it will all be glued together. After its all glued together, the basic profile of the neck will be cut with a bandsaw. I think this will make the process a lot easier, rather than trying to get 5 pieces glued together at once. Also cutting the truss rod slot before gluing elimates the need for me to route a straight 1/4" wide groove, I can just cut a 3/8" deep strip off the middle piece(already 1/4" wide) before gluing.

The pieces all together measure 2.25", perfect width at the base of the neck, so I don't have much extra material to trim off, just a bit for the taper.

I really should have more clamps.





________________________________________________________________________
UPDATE 2 12/15/08
________________________________________________________________________

Both outer pairs of the neck are glued, seemed to go very well despite the lack of sufficient clamps. Plotted out the template for the side profile of the neck, as well as a life-size outline of the whole bass, just for jollies . The design looks better life-size!

I'm a bit concerned with the width of the neck, its not as fat at half scale as most 5-strings. Might have to play soft to keep the B string from buzzing the E string. Worst case is I swap out the nut and make it a four string. Don't think I'll have to, I like the idea of a low action, narrow neck fretless. Lots of mwaaahhhh!

Looking around on the web I've found 5 string bass bridges with a 16mm spacing, which is slightly less than I'm looking at.. roughly 16.75mm spacing to keep the same distance from the outer strings to the edge of the fretboard. So this tight of spacing has been done with success. Its a fretless after all, really wailing on it isn't the idea.. that's what the Ric is for.

I'll post some pics when I get the neck all together. Ordering the nut, fretboard, and truss rod today. Going to do some pro/e work and design the bridge.
________________________________________________________________________
UPDATE 3 12/16/08
________________________________________________________________________


Got the neck glued up.

Truss rod slot cut in the middle piece:





Gluing:



all together:






It came out very straight and square, I just hope it holds close to this straight after shaping the back of the neck.


________________________________________________________________________
UPDATE 4 12/18/08
________________________________________________________________________

Neck shaping is pretty much done. Still have the head to do, and I'll probably continually touch up the backside of the neck as I go, especially the heel area once I get the body parts glued on. I cut the general profile on the bandsaw and went to town with a rasp thing and sandpaper. Probably about 10 or so hours worth of shaping on the neck. Can't wait to get the body added on!












I stopped updating this a while ago, since then I'd finished the general shaping on the first bass. I decided I made the neck to skinny for a 5, and I wasn't very confident an oak and poplar bass would sound the greatest. Rather soft woods, especially the poplar. Here are a couple of updated pictures of it:



So, instead of spending a few hundred bucks on tuning gear and pickups for a 4-string that may not sound good, I decided to start over with a better design and better materials. I found a place a couple hours from me that sells exotic woods for extremely cheap, so after a couple trips I had enough hard maple to make at least two necks, a bundle of 1/4" zebrawood, and a lovely chunk of bubinga. All together it ran me $100, and I have enough maple and zebrawood to make another.. Planning on doing a walnut body with zebrawood top 6-string guitar. That's another story.
Anyways, here is the progress on the new bass.
Body wings are solid bubinga, neck is maple/zebra. I really like the zebrawood stripes down the middle.
Back:





Front:


The head still has to shaped. Body shape is still a work in progress, much more work done on the back than the front. Fingerboard will be zebrawood, and the head will have a 'veneer' of bubinga on the front, just scraps from the body I cut into 1/8" thick strips.
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