Watson Guitars
Idyllwild
California, USA

5 String Single-Cut neck-through active bass. (Serial 07B013)
Call for pricing: 951 659-8616

Materials: Highly figured Hawaiian Crotch Koa top and Mahogany body. 7-piece Birdseye Maple neck with tapered East Indian Rosewood and Padauk stringers.
Scale length: 35 inch scale.
Fingerboard: Macassar Ebony with matching pickup covers and control knobs. Gold MOP inlays.
Pickups: Watson high-output dual-coil pickups (switchable to single coil)
Electronics: Mike Pope 4-band preamp 18V Active/Passive with mid-range selectors for Hi and Low Mid controls
Bridge: Hipshot type-A with 19mm spacing
Hardware: Gold (shiny) with gold frets
Tuners: Hipshot Ultra Light.
Finish: Satin
Other Features: Dual acting truss rod and 2 carbon fiber rods. Graph-Tech Nut.

Our objective with this bass was not only to create a beautiful instrument but to optimize the brightness of the tone. To this end we used a 7-piece neck which will be predominantly maple. We also wound custom Watson dual-coil pickups to bring out the best in the instrument's inherent tone and couple those with a Pope 4-band preamp for the ultimate sound!

We had a VERY limited supply of top quality Koa, and it really adds some class to this bass. It ended up being visually spectacular! The Birdseye Maple for the neck is highly figured and darker than standard maple - and has an inherent golden brown color which compliments the Koa/Mahogany body. That combined with the Rosewood/Padauk stringer combination results in a nicely co-ordinated instrument! This bass is priced to reflect the addition of the highly sought-after Pope preamp system.

Left: (4/26/08) This is a photo of the Pope preamp after it was squeezed into the control cavity and wired up. As you can see, there are a lot of pots, switches, circuit boards and ribbon cable to deal with, bit in the end, everything woundd up in place.

The Pope system is very sophisticated. It is normally only found on Fodera basses, but in the case of this instrument the customer wanted it fitted into a Watson. It provides an extensive number of tonal options for the instrument. Coupled with the Watson high-output dual-coil pickups the bass has a lot of tone!

Right: (4/11/08) This photo shows the control layout of the Pope preamp. I will also add in the coming days, a photo of the actual control cavity from the back of the bass to show the complexity of the installation. You can also see the matching control knobs and pickup covers.The WATSON logo is engraved into the tops of the ebony pickupc overs.

Below: Here's a shot of the back of the bass. The entire back was tinted with a red/amber dye to bring the wood colors together and match the golden color of the Koa on the top of the instrument. The result was a very successful blend and adds a lustrous antique tone to the instrument.

Left: (4/6/08) The five Hipshot Ultra-Light tuners have been added to the headstock. In this photo you can see how nicely the amber tint on the back of the bass creates the 'antique' effect we were looking for.

The satin finish feels really nice from the player's point of view. The neck and body feel very comfortable in the player's hands. In fact, we ended up liking this satin finish so much that we will probably use it on several of our future instruments! Usually depends on the wood choices.

You can't see it in the attached photo, but the birds-eye of the maple shows up really nicely on the top and bottom edges of the neck. Another bonus was that the amber tint caused the Padauk stringers to take on a beautiful cherry color.

Right: (4/4/08) Now that the bass has been finished we have to quickly get to work assembling all the parts onto the body. First job is an overall cleanup of the instrument removing overspray from the fingerboard and any recesses where buildup occurred. The entire body has to be rubbed down to an even satin surface before hardware is attached.

With that done we then apply copper shielding to the two pickup cavities and the control cavitiy. This is a fairly work-intensive procedure to yield a clean job and guarantee electrical continuity across the entire shielded surface.

You can also see in the photo that the Neutrix locking jack socket has been installed. We will soon be ready to install the preamp into the cavity, an engineering feat in itself!

Left: (3/20/08) Here's a photo of the back of the bass shortly before the instrument went to finishing. You can see the upper cavity for the two 9v batteries and below that the oversized control cavity which is designed to hold the Pope 4-band preamp.

The Pope preamp has quite a number of components and requires a little more space than our normal systems.

We are planning to tint the back of the bass an amber color. This is designed to create a better color match with the koa top and to bring the separate woods visible on the back of the instrument together with a universal 'antiqued' tint.

The surface finish will be satin for this instrument.

Right: (3/13/08) Time to do the setup for machining the hole and recess for the Neutrix locking jack socket. To do this I remove a section of the table of my CNC machine so that most of the bass guitar can sit at an angle below the table. This leaves just enough body above the table to allow me to rotate the instrument so that I put the recess into the control cavity at just the right angle.

It's fun to make the machine do things it was not designed to do!

Things are moving along quite well with this bass. Next operations will be adding peral side dots along the edge of the fingerboard, followed by installing frets and attaching the finished fingerboard onto the instrument neck.

Left: (3/8/08) After much dialog with the buyer, many calculations and several test-fittings of the electronics we finally established the layout for the control knobs and switches on this bass. We have to accommodate six control knobs, of of which is stacked, five switches and one locking jack socking all in a fairly small area.

I think this configuration will wolk well and provide the most logical setup for a player.

We will have volume, passive tone, bass, low-mid, high-mid, treble, plus switches to alter frequencies of each of the two mid controls, plus individual dual to single coil switches and an active/passive selector switch.

Right: (2/29/08) We finished the machining of the control cavity and then moved on to machining the cavity for the 18v battery system. After that was successfully completed, we machined covers for the control and battery cavities out of matching mahogany.

Next - we re-clamped the bass body onto the CNC table and set it up to machine out the two pickup cavities. You can see in the photo to the right, where the bridge cavity is already completed and we are machining the cavity for the neck pickup.

These pickup positions have been carefully selected based on our experience in the past. We have a formula that allows up to optimize the pickup locations based on the scale length and materials used in the instrument.

Left: (2/26/08) Today we were able to cut the control cavity into the back of the bass. Because of the size and complexity of the Pope preamp I decided to make the control cavity slightly oversized. We have a lot of electronic components to squeeze into this space and I wanted to maximize the size of the cavity to try to avoid overcrowding.

I also made the cavity a little deeper than usual, mainly because the potentiometers have attached circuit boards and ribbon cables and require a little more depth to clear the cover plate.

Next up is the 18v battery compartment. We'll try to get that one tomorrow and possibly also cut the cover plates.

Right: (2/24/08) This photo gives us an idea what the combination of woods look like together. We are ready to do some weight relief inside the body, and also machine the wiring channels which will exist below the Koa top. Once that is done we can proceed to gluing the top onto the body so that it's all one piece. So far it seems like this will end up being quite a lightweight bass.

The fretboard is also ready to have the Gold Mother-of-Pearl inlay glued into the recesses. The combination of that with the Koa will look great.

Left: (2/7/08) Finally some more progress on this bass after all the craziness of the NAMM show! All the recesses for the inlay have now been cut. The inlay will be blocks of gold mother-of-pearl which will contrast nicely with the Macassar Ebony fingerboard and also match the golden colors of the Koa top.

The inlay should be finish sized and glued into the fingerboard in the next couple of days. I also have to drill and insert mother-of-pearl side dots along this fingerboard.

Next task after that will be to cut the Koa top and fit it to the body of the instrument. this will involve some careful machining of both the top and the body to achieve a perfect fit.

Right: (12/8/07) Time to glue in the Carbon Fiber re-inforcing rods. Fortunately this is a job that can be done while other things in the workshop are going on. Since the epoxy we use to bond them into the neck is quite slow-curing, this assembly is left overnight. Ther's always a good amount of cleanup after this operation as the glue tends to slowly squeeze our of the slots.

While all this is going on, I set up the Macassar Ebony fingerboard on the CNC and cut the perimeter, thickness and the compound radius. It is now ready for fret slots if I can find the time to get to that! It will also receive Gold Mother-of-Pearl block inlays. The two halves of the Koa top have also been glued together so it's ready for fitting onto the body when the time comes to do that. Still have a few operations to do on the body first.

Left: (12/2/07) There are a couple of things going on in this photo. Firstly, on the left, we are in the process of gluing veneer onto the joint face of the mahogany lower body bout. Soon to follow will be the upper bout for the same veneering treatment.

Also in the lower right of the photo you can see the bookmatched pieces of Koa that will become the matching headplate for the headstock on the bass.

The two pieces seen in the photo are currently only rough cut from the same material we used for the top of the bass. I glued those two halves together today so that the headplate will be ready as soon as the fingerboard is attached.

Right: (11/21/07) Here is a photo of the fingerboard for this bass. It is a nicely figured piece of Macassar Ebony with some really nice tan color which will match the colors we will have in the Koa top.

The board has only been rough cut so far but in the next few days we will start working on the details, cutting it to finished size and length, cutting the compound radius and fret slots..

Today we also glued the 'wings' onto the headstock and cut the neck profile on the body core. Pretty soon it will start to look like a real bass guitar! Next operations will be to glue in the carbon fiber reinforcing rods and start working on the assembly of the bookmatched Koa top.

Left: (11/19/07) This unruly and complex object appears to be some exotic bottom-dwelling creature from the Sea of Okhotsk, but is actually the Pope 18v 4-band preamp which will be installed into this bass.

We have to take a careful look at its design and layout so that we can plan the control layout of the finished instrument. The trick will be to avoid overcrowding the controls since we have six control knobs and five selector switches to consider!

It is also important to allow sufficient depth in the control cavity for those potentiometers with the small circuit boards attached. We may have to cut a custom control cavity to assure a comfortable fit.

Right: (11/16/07) The critical surfaces of the bass have now been machined. The relative angle of the neck to the body is an important first step in this process.

We are now at the stage where we carefully machine the slot for the truss rod down the center of the neck, and the two slots for the carbon fiber rods which will also be insterted into the neck assembly.

The slot for the truss rod must be a snug fit to avoid any possible vibration in the completed neck. The two slots for the Carbon Fiber rods are carefully aligned to give maximum support to the neck when it is under tension. The Carbon Fiber rods will be expoxied into the neck structure.

Left: (11/9/07) Just about every bass I make goes through this stage where all the tapered laminates are progressively glued together. In the early stages I use a vacuum press but for the larger pieces I clamp them traditionally.

Here you can see the final clamping of the last piece of maple which will complete the laminates for the core of the instrument. The combimnation of woods looks very good so far - looks like this will be a nice looking neck!

Right: (11/4/07) We have been busy getting the basic parts of this bass together. The blank pieces for the neck/body core have been rough cut. The neck will be mostly Birdseye Maple with small stringers of East Indian Rosewood and Padauk.

In the photo to the right you can see the Padauk stringers in the vacuum press where I am gluing some Koa veneer to the lower side of each. These veneers will act as the 'pinstriping' between the wood laminates.

We will be busy gluing veneer over the next day or so to achieve a tasty combination of highlights on the back of the finished neck and body.

Left: (10/27/07) Here we have a photo of the unusual birds-eye maple we plan to use for the neck-through section of the bass. This material is quite heavily figured and has an overall brown color which will blend very nicely with the Koa and Mahogany on the rest of the instrument.

We plan to laminate this neck section so that the neck will be mostly maple with minimal stringers. Depending on the yield of the maple, it may end up being all maple - all the better for the bright tone we are hoping to achieve when the instrument is complete.

Right: (10/26/07) This is a photo of the amazing Koa wood we have available for this bass. The photo to the right shows the wood after it was resawn and rough sanded, with a light coat of Naptha to highlight the grain. Although it looks beautiful in the photo, it will be even more amazing with the final finish on the instrument!

The wood has a very pronounced 3-D effect and with the final finish it will catch the light at different angles. The color is a vibrant gold with chocolate streaks.

Hawaiian Koa is becoming very expensive and harder to find in quality cuts. Any instrument with an insane top like this would most likely be a good investment as well as a great musical instrument.

Last update May 20, 2008