Watson Guitars
California, USA

5 String Fretless neck-through active bass. (Serial 07B009)
Call for pricing 951 659-8616

Materials: Wenge body core with flamed Hawaiian Koa front and back. 7-piece neck has tapered stringers, dual acting truss rod and 2 carbon fiber rods. Graph-Tech Nut.
Fingerboard: Gabon Ebony with partial side markers.
Pickups: Carey Nordstrand OVERWOUND Big Singles (very punchy!)
Electronics: Glockenklang 3-Band preamp with Active/Passive switch
Bridge: Hipshot 19mm spacing
Hardware: Black
Tuners: Hipshot Ultra Light.
Finish: Satin Finish Polyester Resin

Body style is Single Cutaway, and through discussions with our friends at Luthiers Access Group we decided at the outset that this bass would be fretless. The combination of darker woods, black hardware and the satin finish combine to create a beautiful instrument in its own right. We selected Nordstrand overwound Big Singles pickups to best complement the fact that this will be a fretless instrument. These pickups in their normal configuration are very powerful, and for this bass we are raising the output level even higher. This also works well with the Glockenklang preamp. This instrument is definitely a fretless bass on steriods, now we need a fretless player out there that can handle it!!!

Right:(8/21/07) I took this close-up photograph to show the cutout at the back of the neck. It also highlights the interesting grain of the Wenge in the neck. The neck is comprised of tapered sections of African Wenge and Osage Orange (from Texas) and because of the contrasting colors the taper in the laminates is very evident.

The intersection of the cutout and the body laminates created a very interesting interaction which highlights the Koa and Maple veneers.

This instrument was finished in a satin coating which, although creating more work, gave the bass a really slick and 'earthy' look and feel which seems quite appropriate for a fretless.
Everyone who has seen it loves it!

Left: (8/20/07) Here you can see some of the detail on the finished instrument. The pinstriping around the edges is a combination of Koa and Maple. The center section of the body is made of Wenge. The pickups and the control knobs have a Koa bottom and Gabon Ebony tops with the same matching Koa and Maple veneers separating them. The fingerboard and all the hardware are also all black.

Below: (8/20/07) On this back view of the bass you can see the contrasting Osage Orange tapered stringers in the Wenge neck. Also visible are the five black strring retainers and the continuous grain Koa battery and control cavity covers which are attached by strong magnets. The back of the bass is also made of Koa with a very curly grain, and complements the Wenge in the neck and body center. All together these woods are very striking and they make the back of this instrument just as eye-catching as the front.

Below Left: (8/18/07) The bass in in the process of being assembled right now. After it returned from finishing there was a great deal of hand finishing to do on the satin surface before the hardware could be added. The tuners are now on, bridge is attached, strap buttons on and truss rod and cavity covers completed. Below Right: (8/18/07) Here you can see the Koa and Ebony pickup covers. I also made the control knobs using the same laminates so that they all would match together with the ebony neck. These are the overwound Nordstrand pickups which will be hooked up to the Glockenklang preamp.
Below Right and Left: (7/30/07) After a few busy days it's time to update the history on this bass. As can be seen in the photographs several things have been completed and the bass is essentially ready to go to finishing. The holes below the bridge have been drilled for the through-body strings. Control holes and recesses have been machined into the body and control cavity. Strap button holes and tuner holes have been drilled. The body has been sanded to a very smooth finish. I will do a final inspection tomorrow and if all goes well it will then get its Polyester Resin finish. Very happy with this bass so far, looks and feels good - it has great potential!

Right: (6/29/07) The fingerboard has been cut to size and machined with its compound radius on the CNC. Since I used a 1/2 dia. ball-nose end mill to cut the compound radius, it was necessary to sand the machining marks out and bring the board up to around 320 grit finish. It will be further finished closer to completion.

I also cut small slots on the upper edge of the fingerboard and glued strips of Koa into the slots as fret "markers". These end up as discrete pinstripes which end below the 'B' string and are really only visible to the player. I will also be adding dot markers on the usual fret positions on the side of the fingerboard.

Note that the pickup cavities have also been machined.

Left: (6/26/07) This bass has come along quite a bit since the last update. The Koa bookmatched top has been attached to the body, much of the rough shaping of the body and neck has been done, and as you can see from the image on the left, the control cavity and the 18v battery compartment have been machined.

Note also that the serial number has been inscribed inside the battery cavity.

We are now in the process of machining the Gabon Ebony fingerboard to create the compound radius. Once that's done and sanded smooth we will add fret markers and side dots and get the fingerboard ready for assembly onto the rest of the instrument.

Below: (5/13/07) Today we glued the upper and lower body wings onto the center core of the bass. This is a back view showing the figured koa on the back of the instrument. Now that the main pieces of this bass are assembled, the building progress will move forward quite quickly.

Left: (5/9/07) Here we are in the process of gluing veneers to the joint faces of the upper and lower bout sub-assemblies. These sub-assemblies are comprised of the Koa back plates glued onto the Wenge which will be the center layer of the body.

First veneer is maple followed by another one of koa. Then the 'wings' will be ready to be glued onto the body core.

The two contrasting veneers will add a nice highlight to the back of the guitar when it is complete.

Right: (4/25/07) As you can see from the photo, we have cut the pieces of Koa for the back plates. Here we are cutting out the control cavity cover from the parent material so that we can end up with a continuous and uninterrupted grain running through the cover.

I cut the outline of the cover on the CNC using a 1mm carbide end mill. This cut is just wide enough so that after the gloss finish is applied it will yield a good snig fit with the recess it is supposed to fit into.

I will save this piece until the bass is almost finished, when I will sand it to the correct thickness and hand-carve the 'latch' which will be used to remove the cover. All very work-intensive but worth it when you look at the finished product.

Left: (4/7/07) Here's a shot of the Glockenklang preamp components which will be installed in this bass. These preamps have a great reputation in the industry and this is the ideal match with the high-output pickups.

We're quite excited by the potential of this bass. It will have a beautiful Koa top, killer Nordstrand pickups and with the addition of this preamp, we're pretty much guaranteed to get a great sound.

It will be a great addition to any 5 string bass player's collection.

Right: The neck blank for this bass is up on the CNC for truss rod and carbon fiber slots. In the same setup we will also cut the external profile of the neck from the nut to the end of the fingerboard area.

You can see from the photo on the right that the angle for the head of the instrument has already been cut. Also the grain on the wenge material has a nice figure. This grain will be visible on the back of the headstock, there will be a bookmatched Koa layer on the front of the headstock to match the body.

Below: We are now on our way with this bass. The laminates for the neck section have been sawn up, sanded flat and machined to specific tapers in our mill.

As you can see from this photo, we are now in the process of gluing the laminates of Wenge and Osage Orange together with Koa veneers between each layer for added effect!

The process takes a little while because I want to be sure each laminate gets the best change to glue properly.

First I use the vacuum press to apply all the veneers, then each layer is glued separately together in order to guarantee that the various layers align correctly.

Each joint is left for several hours as I want to make sure the joints have the best possible integrity. The end result is a very rigid structure, and the combination of woods will yield a specific sound.

Below: We just finished sawing the material for the neck and machining the tapered stringers. In the photo below you can see that the neck will be constructed of four pieces of Wenge and three stringers of Osage Orange. The five center pieces are all tapered so that the combined laminations will follow the natural taper of the neck itself. We feel this is a much more elegant way to construct a bass neck. Additionally, the laminations add a great deal of strength to the neck. The harder, close-grained wood of the stringers will help maintain good low end response.

Last update August 28, 2007