Watson Guitars
Idyllwild
California, USA

As reviewed in Bass Player Magazine, August 2008 edition! Click here to read.

6 String Single-Cut neck-through active bass. (Serial 07B014)
Now available for purchase at Bass Players Proshop in Sweden. - Call us for pricing: 961 659-8616

Materials: Highly fingured Hawaiian Crotch Koa top and Mahogany body. 9-piece Flamed Maple neck with tapered Ebony stringers, dual acting truss rod and 2 carbon fiber rods. Graph-Tech Nut. 34 inch scale.
Fingerboard: Very Nicely Figured Brazilian Anjico
Pickups: Watson High Output Dual Coil pickups switchable to Single-Coil, Series and parallel (Read More...)
Electronics: David McKeen 3-band.
Bridge: Hipshot 19mm spacing
Hardware: Black
Tuners: Hipshot Ultra Light.
Finish: High Gloss Polyester Resin

This is a high-end bass which we built for display in the January 2008 NAMM show. The bass has a very unusual flamed maple and ebony core, with each of the nine laminations separated by black and white contrasting pinstriping.

One significant feature is that it has a beautiful crotch Koa top, one of only two guitar tops which we cut from a very expensive and highly figured block of Koa we had in stock. The other matching piece is currently assigned to a customer's bass.

This is indeed an amazing instrument in every possible way. We have been trying to apply the best of everything in terms of workmanship details, materials, pickups, electronics etc. The instrument was very well received at the 2008 NAMM show and we were told by many bass players that it was one of their favorite basses in the show. Watch Bass Player Magazine in the coming months, as this bass is scheduled for a review in their magazine.

Right: (January 24, 2008) In this photograph we can see the beautiful Koa top and the pickup covers which were cut from their respective locations on the top so that we keep the continuous grain effect.

The Hipshot bridge allows for through-the-body stringing or conventional stringing. This particular model has a little extra acess to the 24th fret, and as a result of the extra material relief, those who have played it commented that it was remarkably easy and comfortable to play.

The bass weighs in at 9.75 lbs (4.43 kg) which is remarkably light considering the amount of ebony in the neck/body section of the instrument.

We fitted locking quick-release strap buttons and a Neutrix locking jack socket. Rear battery and control covers, and truss rod cover are attached with magnets.

Right: (January 23, 2008) Here is a photo of the completed instrument. As you can see, the pickup covers and the control knobs are all cut from the same parent piece of Koa.

The two black switches below the bridge control the coil tapping of the two pickups. In one position you get a slightly lower output full spectrum sound with clear highs and lows. In the other position, you get a higher output signal with much more pronounced mid-tones.

These can be switched independently for each pickup offering a wide choice of sound options. The bass has great tone and sustain.

Left: (January 10th, 2008) This photos shows the inlay that was used for the wider 6-string neck. Each inlay position consists of a center section of five strips and a larger single piece of shell on each side.

Due to the extra width of the neck, we chose to inlay an composite of Red Abalone and Gold Mother of Pearl. These were arranged along the fingerboard in a countinuously expanding pattern to match the natural taper of the neck.

It was a little more work to achieve but the result was visually pleasing. The striped inlay matches the stipes inherent in the Anjico fingerboard material. They add a lot to the overall impact of the bass.

Right: (January 9, 2008) Here is a photo of the back of the instrument where the neck meets the body. The contrasting effect of the ebony and maple stringers is quite impressive, as is the overall effect of the tapering of so many stringers.

I will post another photo of the detail of the black and white neck, because in this picture you can't see the double contrasting pinstripes that exist between each black and white layer.

This evening I got started on the copper shielding in the pickup cavities and some general cleanup from the finishing process. Tomorrow I will shield the control cavity and start adding the black Hipshot tuners, strap buttons, string retainers etc.

Left: (January 9, 2008) This impressive bass has just been finished with Polyester resin and looks great so far. I thought I would post this shot of the Koa on the top surface of the instrument as it shows the detail of the wood grain.

There's a lot of work to be done to this bass to get it in playing condition, and the first step in that process is to clean up the overspray from the finishing process so that everything fits together. This can be quite time consuming.

The fingerboard will have to be carefully cleaned and manicured, and the fret ends will be dressed. The recesses for the battery compartment, truss rod cover and control cavity cover all have to be meticulously cleaned up and fitted together.

Right: (December 25, 2007) In his photo we can see that the battery compartment has been cut out, the serial number has been inscribed inside it and I have filler the engraved part with black epoxy.

Also visible in this photo are the six counterbored holes for the string ferrules that allow the strings to be run through the body of the instrument and through the bridge.

You can also see one of the holes for the locking strap buttons in the end of the bass. Also, the holes for the controls and the selector switches for the pickups have been drilled into the control cavity. We are close to being ready to get the finish applied to this bass. All that's left is a final sanding.

Left: (December 18, 2007) It's time to get busy working on fretboards. The fretboard on this bass is a very special piece of hardwood I have had in the shop for many months waiting for the right project. I believe it is a type of ebony, very hard and beautifully figured.

I had some shell inlay on hand but none of it was large enough for a 6-string neck width. I decided to 'explode' the inlay pieces since it matches the linear grain of the fretboard. There are three clusters of inlay at each of the eleven positions, and each of those are progressively spaced apart from each other to match the taper of the neck. The end result should look quite impressive. I will be gluing part of this fretboard tomorrow. There will also be mother of pearl side dots along the upper edge of the fretboard.

Right: (December 16, 2007) Today we popped this bass up on theCNC and cut out the control cavity and the recess for the control cavity cover.

It's starting to look like a bass guitar now. The next operation is to cut out the 18v battery compartment (for two 9v batteries) and the recess for the battery cover. We will also have to make covers for both cavities in the next day or so.

Next up is the final work on the fretboard. So far we have Cut and radiused the fretboard, machined in the fret slots and we are currently in the process of programming the cavities for the somewhat complex mother-of-pearl and red abalone inlay on the board. That should happen very soon so watch out for photos of that.

Left: (December 4, 2007) Yesterday I set up the bass, with it's new mahogany wings, on one of our machines and completely leveled the back surface of the bass. This will be the final cut on the back of the instrument before the battery and control cavities are machined.

The 9-piece neck looks pretty dramatic despite the fact that most of the instrument is still only roughed out. I was surprised that the whole assembly is not as heavy as I expected.

Next operation is to flip it over and machine a joint surface on the top in preparation for the koa top plate. Also in the same operation I will cut channels into the body for wiring that will exist inside the body.After that is done it will be ready for assembly with the completed Koa top plate.

Right: (December 2, 2007) Today we glued the upper body half to the center core of the bass. The second gluing is always a little bit harder to set up because of the lack of flat surfaces to clamp to. In this particular case, I used the offcut piece of mahogany from the original body cut as a 'form" to make the clamping process a little easier.

This clamped assembly will remain this way overnight to assure a good glued joint.

Tomorrow - the whole glued-up guitar will be re-machined to clean up the main surfaces. We will then be able to concentrate on the operations leading up to fitting the Koa top. With its body halves attached, it will look and feel much more like a real bass guitar!

Left: (December 1, 2007) Can't believe it's December already! Today we finished gluing veneer onto the joint faces of the body halves. Having done that we proceeded to glue the lower body bout onto the center core of the instrument. The two veneers between the parts will create a nice highlight, and we plan to do the same thing in the joint between the body and the koa top, and the head and the koa headplate.

Tomorrow we will glue the other body half onto the core section and we will have something shaped like a bass guitar!

While all of this is going on - I am gluing the same veneers onto the back of the koa top pieces in the vacuum press.

Right: (November 30, 2007) It's time to glue in the carbon fiber rods. These two rods are epoxied into their slots and become and integral part of the strength and rigidity of the neck. The combination of the maple, ebony and CF rods should give this bass a great response, retaining a great deal of the string's energy. This will result in super sustain and very well defined low register notes.

Other work on this bass is also taking place in the background. We cut out the pieces for the Koa top and the mahogany body halves. We are currently gluing veneer onto those parts so that they will be ready to assemble to the center core of the instrument.We also cut the headstock veneer from the same material as the Koa top, this will be added to the headstock after the fretboard is glued on.

Left: (November 25, 2007) The laminated center section is now up on the CNC for several small operations. First I machine three surfaces, the joint face of the neck, the 13 degree head angle and the surface of what will eventually be the top of the body. This puts all three planes in relation to each other and once these are established everything else should fall into place!

I also machine the perimiter of the neck and in the same setup I then cut the truss rod slot, the two carbon fiber slots and relief for the truss rod end and adjustment key.

On this larger machine it's nice to be able to do all this machining in one big operation. Now the center section is ready for some cleanup and on to cutting body parts.

Right: (November 21, 2007) I thought it would be interesting to post this photo at this ealy stage of building to show the buildup of laminates in the center of the neck.

The contrast between the black and white is pretty dramatic, even although the wood surfaces are still very rough. There will be one additional piece of maple attached to each side of this "core".

Working with nine laminates and all these pinstripes is time-consuming and we will reserve this kind of work for our higher-end instruments. Since this bass is designed as a showpiece for the NAMM show, it's worth putting a little extra work into the finer details. If all goes well this should work out to be a very impressive instrument when it is completed.

Left:(November 18, 2007) We tapered all our maple and ebony stringers, then laminated each with a contrasting veneer. Now it's time to start gluing these laminations together to create the core section of the guitar.

Some care must be taken to align the laminates before the glue binds so that they are exactly in the right place relative to each other. Then, since these initial laminates are fairly thin, I usel a lot of clamps to make sure the pressure is applied evenly over the entire length.

Unfortunately this is a slow process because the glue has to be left to completely cure before the clamps are released. Best to leave everything overnight. This is a 9-piece laminated neck so it will take a while to complete, but the end result will be worth it.

Right: (November 16, 2007) Well, we are now on our way with this new bass. We took the maple stringers (as seen in the previous photo) and cut them all to a consistent taper. Once the surfaces were cleaned up I moved them to the vacuum press where I glued black veneer to both sides of each maple stringer.

You can see the stringers in the vacuum press in the photo on the right. Once they have a black veneer on each face they are ready to be set aside for gluing together with the ebony stringers to create the core section of the bass. Each of the ebony stringers will get the same treatment.

Left: (November 12, 2007) We're going ALL the way with this bass. On the neck-through portion we are going to create a 9-piece Flamed Maple and Ebony combination. In the photo to the left you can see the rough cut pieces, each of which is about to be milled to a taper. This is expected to have a significant impact not only to the sound of the bass but also in its visual appearance. The maple will impart a good high-end response while the ebony should yield terrific low end response.

We will probably fit the bass with dual-coil Watson pickups, we have some other exciting features we may build in as the instrument progresses. Keep checking this page for our regular updates on the progress of its construction.

Last update July 15, 2008