Building a Bass

In my last article I talked about my wife practicing her bass guitar and practicing in general. She’s been playing off and on since January of this year. Since I was waiting for guitar woods to come in, I thought it would be interesting to get out of my comfort zone and try building a bass guitar. Why? Why not? This article is about how I went about wrapping my head around the idea and then conceptualization.

I pulled up the selection of available bass guitar kits on www.BargainMusician.com for my wife to choose from. I told her I was just interested in what body style she liked. There weren’t a lot to choose from, but there were a couple of body styles I was hoping she would choose. However, she chose a Flying V. Not what I was expecting at all. I was really hoping for a Thunderbird or a Destroyer. No, a Flying V. The kicker is she had no idea I was going to buy and build it for her.

Once she had chosen a body style, I started sketching design ideas. When I start this process and begin drawing, a design/concept usually pops into my head. In this case, I wanted to turn this bass into a weapon of war. My wife likes that kind of stuff. The more bad-ass, the better.

The first thing that had to go was the bulbous headstock. I envisioned a spear tip with beveled edges. Maybe, a tri-point spearhead with blood channels.

I took the idea of the headstock down to the body. Once again, there would be no rounded areas on this bass. The fins are going to be cut off at angles, making them into weapons themselves. The entire body, front and back, will be beveled, just like the headstock. Also, the rounded area at the center of the V would be cut to make a sharp angle.

The pickguard will be modified as well. I’m going to cut it so only the section above the pot cavity (bottom right) is left. That part will be beveled to match the body.

I ordered the bass without her knowledge and a week later a large surprise package arrived in the mail. She really had no idea what I had done. It was like Christmas watching her carefully open the box. She was indeed very surprised!

As my wife was unwrapping the parts I noticed how beautiful the Birdseye maple neck was, not what I expected. This was going to change my color scheme quite a bit. Originally, the entire bass was going to be stained ebony with red stained highlights. Now the neck is going to be stained mostly red to show off the wood of the neck and headstock. However, I’ll be staining the ebony part way up the neck to make it look like it’s actually been used as a weapon. The body will be all ebony with red highlights on the beveling. I’m hoping to give the pickguard the same treatment with it being black and having red beveled edges.

Taking these ideas from paper and putting them on wood is a different matter entirely. One thing I noticed right off when measuring for the center of the headstock was that the entire headstock was slightly tilted. This meant changing the way I would do the tri-point. I essentially went away from its center, creating a new one and then sketched the secondary points off of that new point. The beveling, front and back was then measured from the secondary points to the bottom of the headstock.

Since I’m building this bass for my wife, I needed her input as to how she wanted the fins cut. I had a couple of ideas in mind and showed them to her by blocking out the fins. Once she made her choice of a single cut rather than a double I made precise measurements using a metal ruler so that each side was a mirror image of the other. I then measured out where to put the bevels on the front and back. I also took the lines of the fins to the center of the body to make it into a point, no round edges. The mock up on the bass was now complete.

The electronics and hardware are going to remain stock. My wife said she didn’t need anything special because she’s still a beginner. I agreed stating that any of the parts or electronics can be swapped out at any time if she needs upgrades. The one thing I’ll probably be doing is installing a pickup mounting system (PMS) from FU Tone since I’ll be cutting away the typical mounting spots on the pickguard. One of the things I really want to try is to make the hardware look relic/worn. I’m still investigating how to create that effect.

Now the fun part begins - woodworking. Taking the concept and turning it into reality. I really enjoy this part of the process. Like I discussed with my practicing last week, it’s a matter of, can I do it? We’ll find out soon. I’ll continue reporting back on the build process as I hit certain milestones. Until then, has anyone else built a bass? If yes, how did it go? Thanks for reading!!

-Scott Duncan - MU Columnist

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