Workshop Blog

Workshop Blog:

July 2019

I’ve been working on a couple of instruments this month, the first is the 4 string Olive topped bass featured back in the March edition of the blog.

With the body and neck both carefully sanded they’re finished with multiple coats of an oil/resin blend, applied by hand. The finished result is a silky smooth surface with a nice looking sheen, which not only feels great in the hand but provides a reasonable amount of scratch protection for such a lightweight finish.

I then apply shielding paint to the pickup and control cavities and pre-wire the Nordstrand 2 band preamp ready for installation. Pre-wiring allows me to make the bulk of the connections without having to solder inside a cramped control cavity. Using a template ensures that the wires are trimmed neatly, without unnecessary excess.. I do however leave enough wire on the bass and treble pots to allow them to be fitted the opposite way around, should the customer prefer that configuration.

The preamp is then fitted inside the control cavity and I connect the Nordstrand ‘Big Single’ pickups, along with the battery box, the ground/shielding connections and the jack socket. The Olive control cover is held in place with black stainless steel bolts and threaded inserts, with a Gotoh battery box for easy, tool-less battery changes.

The Hipshot tuners and bridge are fitted, along with the Dunlop Flush Mount strap locks and Ebony control knobs. The only job left to do is to make a nut and the bass can be strung up for the first time.

This bass will be advertised for sale shortly. Please feel free to get in touch if you would like more info, or would like to arrange a visit to try the bass out in person. I’m located in Burntwood, Staffordshire (Worldwide shipping is available).

With work on the Olive 4 string bass coming towards an end, I begin work on my next build which is a 5 string bass (34’’ scale, 24 fret), with a spalted Maple top, African Mahogany body, Maple neck, and Rocklite fretboard. It will also feature Hipshot hardware, a pair of Nordstrand pickups and a 3-band Nordstrand preamp.

I begin by laminating 3 pieces of quarter sawn Maple together to create the neck blank. After cutting and gluing the scarf joint to create the angled headstock, I taper the sides and attach two ‘'ears’’ to provide the extra width needed for the headstock.

Next, I take an offcut from the spalted Maple top, cut it into a bookmatch on the bandsaw, joint and glue the edges and then sand it down to approx 1mm thick using the drum sander. It’s then laminated to a piece of black veneer, before being glued to the face of the headstock. For the back of the headstock, I repeat the process using a piece of veneer (not bookmatched) cut from the Mahogany body blank.

Moving on to the body.. the spalted Maple top is glued to the Mahogany body blank using a vacuum bag, and is then routed and sanded to shape, ready for the pickup cavities to be routed and the holes for the pots to be drilled.

The control cavity is next to be routed (along with a matching cover plate), followed by the roundover on the rear and a bevel on the front.

Spalting is a term used for the discolouration of wood caused by fungi. Spalted wood can be particularly challenging to work with as the process leaves soft and fibrous patches of wood, which require treatment with CA glue or epoxy resin to stabilise the areas before a finish can be applied. I’ll cover the stabilisation process in more detail next month, for now I simply apply some CA glue to any splits and areas with soft patches that could be susceptible to damage during the building process, such as the inside edges of the pickup routes.

That’s all for now.. more updates coming next month. As always, feel free to leave any questions/comments below 😀