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April 2012SOLD: Rare 1972 Rickenbacker 4001 Bass 15% Discount Off All Products (20th-22nd April Only). Finally Revealed: The Best Bass Guitar In The World! Build a Bass Guitar in 7 days (Pt. 6: Day 7) Build a Bass Guitar in 7 days (Pt. 5: Day 6) Build a Bass Guitar in 7 days (Pt. 4: Day 5) Build a Bass Guitar in 7 days (Pt. 3: Day 4) Build a Bass Guitar in 7 days (Pt. 2: Day 3) Build a Bass Guitar in 7 days (Pt. 1: Days 1-2)
If, dear reader, you are still with me, and reading this series of blogs, then I take my hat off – and salute you (though not necessarily in that order). Your tenacity knows no limits. Frankly I wouldn’t have your aptitude for patience, and would have thrown the towel in half way through Part 1, but there you go. It takes all sorts to make the World, and I’m grateful for the company.
For those interlopers that have arrived late to the party, and are confused by this blog already (and Lord knows I am), then you can go back and get an insight into the origins of this project by reading Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 simply by clicking the linked text.
For those dogged souls that were with me in Part 3, you’ll remember that you last left me in the pub, feeling tired and emotional, and nursing a grazed set of knuckles (no, not from walking, you cheeky monkey).
For day 5, I awoke in a rather punchy mood, having enjoyed two pints of lager the previous evening, chased down by half a bottle of a rather cheeky Pinot Gris, and a hearty yet overpriced Venison Steak (I think my bloodied knuckles may have given me an appetite for road kill). So it was with a light heart and a jaunty wave that I arrived at the work shop and patted the resident Rotweiller guard dog (Ruby), who had by now become accustomed to my erratic handling of tools, and quite sensibly sought immediate refuge in her blue basket, whenever she saw me reach for anything sharp. A wise mutt, that one... A wise hound indeed.
The entirety of the previous day had been spent purely on the Rosewood fingerboard, and I was now keen to get my grubby hands on the rest of the bass and make a real dent in the progress of the build. By now, the Alder body (which had been cut in half and glued for stability), had been released from its set of clamps; as had the Cocobolo fascia; and I could now prepare and bond those two items together.
Before that, the Alder body was planed (along its glued centre line), and then joined back to the Oak-veneered, MDF master template that had already been created (using clamps). Our hand-held Wood Router was now brought back into service, and as the bearings above the circular drill-bit traced safely around the MDF shape, the drill-bit did its work, and cut all around the Alder body in a lovely, smooth curve. This was where I started to become grateful for the lengthy and repetitive preparations I’d made this far, that frankly, had been fairly tiring and boring. Now, I was reaping the benefits, and some elements of the build would proceed quite quickly from here.
Once the body had been prepared and sanded, the 2-piece Cocobolo fascia (that had been spliced in half, ‘book-matched’ so the grain was symmetrical, and then glued along its centre), was glued to the Alder via an evenly-spread film of Titebond. The whole ensemble was then once again clamped (after a roughly sawn 2nd body-shape template was made, to stop the clamps from damaging the back of the Bass guitar body). After that was done, I reluctantly set the clamped body (that resembled a demonic spider, and no, I wasn’t drunk – see the centre picture below for yourself), down on the floor. There it was left overnight for the glue to work its magic.
By now, the angled-back headstock – with ‘Scarf-Joint’ (that I had been insanely proud of), could be worked on again. My novel (and some would say ‘deranged’), idea of an ‘upside down/reverse lefty headstock’, was sketched into the angled, block of Maple, that had thus far been left as a solid rectangle. Similar to the body; the necks’ template was brought back into action, and the Routing procedure repeated, to give us the solid (but roughly-hewn) shape of a ‘neck blank’ (that even at this juncture, was still solid, with no ‘C’ profile).
Attention now reverted to the Rosewood fingerboard. Last night, I had run out of time and admitted defeat against ‘The Belt-Sander Of Doom’. The darned thing had nearly relieved me of a couple of fingers, that I was pretty sure I’d need elsewhere, so I’d abandoned the task of cutting the ‘Mother-Of-Pearl’ block inlays (in reality, cut from a solid block of Acrylic, but with a Mother-Of-Pearl pattern embedded into it).
During the previous evening, I’d gained a hefty amount of inspiration whilst cogitating upon this problem (I actually got the inspiration towards the end of the bottle of Pinot, isn’t it funny how that’s always the case?). The solution I’d arrived at for saving my fingers, was to build a wooden, right-angled jig out of scrap wood, that I placed the Pearl inlays into, leaving my hands a much safer distance from the cruel, unremitting and unnerving Belt-Sander. Joy of joys, it worked, and I emerged from the task with all limbs intact!
The Mother-Of-Pearl block inlays were now pushed firmly into the recesses (that had been cut, chiseled and filed into the Rosewood board the previous day). A smattering of Superglue was put into the recesses first, and then ‘drizzled’ around the edges of the block inlays, in a desperate bid to hide the gaps that I’d left through shambolic and ineffectual work. More observant readers will notice that I’ve now started liberally using florid language, such as ‘drizzled’, in explanations of my work, which basically means that I’m already getting too big for my boots, and am beginning to get the misguided idea that I’m ‘quite good’ at this.
As soon as you start using convoluted words like ‘drizzled’ when describing wood-work, which is a word that you’d only find in the pages of pompous recipe books, and even then, only in reference to Balsamic Vinegar, then you know you’re taking it far too seriously and are in trouble.
Frankly, my fear of the Belt-Sander had taken its toll, and the fingerboard didn’t look at all pretty, it has to be said. So, once the Superglue had set, the Rosewood had to be returned to the smaller, table-top belt-sander. The circular sanding belt was once again lowered in microscopic increments, and the blocks were gently sanded until they finally became flush with the surface of the fingerboard. Due to my shoddy workmanship, I easily burned through three hours here, which taught me to maintain that Zen-like concentration in future – at all times. By taking a few more minutes on each task, to ensure that it was completed accurately, I’d save myself potential heartache such as this.
I’d been dumb and hasty – and in too much of a rush to get to the more creative and rewarding aspects of the bass build. Ruby the Rotweiller just looked up at me with an accusing glare that said ‘I told you about this yesterday’, which prompted a comic interlude, whereby I had a colourful conversation, littered with expletives – with a dog. This is a sure sign that doing concentrated work in an isolated environment will quickly promote Cabin Fever, and will eventually bring on premature senility.
Now, a central channel was measured and dug into the exact centre of the neck, to accommodate the steel truss-rod. This was cut to exceptionally fine tolerances, so that the truss-rod had to be ‘pressed very firmly’ into its groove, to ensure maximum strength and stability. The fingerboard would now sit directly on top of this.
The oversized (and still rough-edged) Rosewood board (now with flattened inlay-blocks, and complete with grooves to accept the nickel frets), was now glued to the neck. All three parts (neck, separate headstock, and Rosewood fingerboard), were then clamped and left overnight.
By now, a quick glance outside confirmed that once again, I had worked into the night, and if I didn’t finish quickly, I’d be missing Last Orders at the local hostelry, along with an opportunity to reflect on the trials – and new lessons learned – from the days work.
Please do join me for the final two blogs in this series, and if you have an additional moment, stop by to admire our growing selection of vintage and rare bass guitars that you could be buying, here.
Until tomorrow then, dear friend.
by Junk Male on April 16, 2012