Handcrafted basses

PREPARATIONS


On the MATERIALS page, I already mentioned that when fresh, new wood is used for the neck, it's better to build it from several smaller pieces rather than one piece. Let me explain this, it can save you a lot of money and still make a good bass or guitar.

Let say you go to the local do-it-yourself shop and pick a 2,5m long piece of meranti. It's dimensions are 12 x 25mm (0,5 x 1 inch). Pieces like that are mostly used for skirting boards. When you look along the wood, you see that it is bent a little. In fact, you won't find a piece that is a 100% straight. Now look at the wood, and see wich way it is bent. It probably wants to bend some more that way. You can make use of that by "bookmatching" the wood (see the picture left). Saw the piece in half and glue the halfs together, like in the picture, so that the bending forces rule eachother out.

Build the neck from several bookmatched pieces, the result is a straight neck (see picture right). I have build several basses using this principle, with good results. The finest example is the ML1H (see INTRO page). The neck is made from 6 pieces of limbawood (from the local DIY shop), and still 100% straight since 1985!

Note that the pictures are exaggerated, if your wood is THAT crooked, don't use it.

 

The cross-section of a neck, build from several bookmatched pieces of wood, could look like this. There are no fixed rules for this, but keep in mind that you need an even number of pieces to keep bending forces in balance.

 




Hardware:

Before you start building, you need to know what kind of bridge, tuners, tailpiece and pickups you are going to use. You probably have determined this already in the design-fase. Unless you exactly know the measurements of your hardware, you better buy them first. That is safer anyway, just imagine you planned to use some kind of bridge, and turnes out to be no longer available. O-oh.

Trussrod

The trussrod is there for compensating the pulling force of the strings, if you switch from a thinner to a thicker string set, you can adjust the trussrod. It isn't intended for correcting a bent neck, usually it doesn't work anyway. You can choose between an adjustable or non-adjustable rod. I have only 1 bass with an adjustable trussrod (my oldest), and i've noticed that when the construction is right, a non-adjustable rod will do nicely. For a guitar, the difference between a 008 and a 011 string set is relatlively a lot, an adjustable rod is sooner an option then for a bass with always the same kind of strings. I prefer a heavy construction, a thicker then normal neck and a solid steel square or U-shaped profile. That way the neck will not bend at all when tensioning the strings. A round trussrod will not help prefenting torque (the corkscrew effect), but a square or U-shaped rod will do better. A set of 2 trussrods are sometimes used for very wide necks, like on 6-string basses. If you prefer a light, thin neck, or use a softer kind of wood, i recommend an adjustable trussrod, because it's not to say how much the neck will bend when tensioning the strings.


Building:

Make sure you have little pieces of plywood or furwood at hand, when clamping your guitar after glueing. Never put the clamp directly on the wood, it's going to leave traces. You also need some pieces for support when the guitar is clamped to the workbench for some reason (sawing the grooves for the frets, among other things).


Again safety:
prepare your working space. Tools sharp, everything at hand (see TOOLS page)? Most important is safety. Make sure that the room is properly ventilated, use protection against noise, dust and flying woodsplinters. I won't get into that again any further, see the TOOLS page. Just be careful.

Next page: OK, on to the real thing, let's do some woodwork!