Watson Guitars
Idyllwild
California, USA

5-string Single-Cut Bass (Serial 08B021)
Call 951-659-8616 for special pricing.

Materials: Black & White Ebony top, stained curly maple and Gabon ebony back
Fingerboard: Flamed Maple with Black & White ebony inlay
Pickups: Watson High-Output Dual Coil pickups, switchable to Single-Coil, Series and Parallel (Read More...)
Electronics: Watson 4-band active/passive electronics system (another first!)
Bridge: Hipshot type-A 19mm string spacing
Hardware: Black
Tuners: Hipshot
Finish: Polyester Resin Satin

This is going to be a deluxe 5-string bass. It is built along the same lines as our 6-string bass 08B014 which was reviewed in Bass Player Magazine recently. The Black and White Ebony we are using for the top is quite rare.

The back of the body will be curly maple, which has been stained with a amber tint which compliments the top material. I have chosen to feature a center strip between the top plates comprising of a complex but subtle Celtic Knot inlay. This is a truly unique and very custom addition. Quite a lot of work but we think it is worth the effort.

The neck-through core is an impressive multi-laminate of 7 pieces of alternating Gabon Ebony and Flamed Maple. The maple/ebony neck structure will give us a really balanced sound, with lots of punch and sustain.

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This photo shows the curlly maple fingerboard and the Pale Moon Ebony fret markers. Because we added the top wood to the headstock also it looks like the rectangular fret markers are windows looking through to the material behind.
(1/12/09) Left: detail shot of the curly maple neck with the Black & White (also known as Pale Moon) Ebony inlay. Right: This photo shows the neck-to-body transition. The maple on the upper and lower back was tinted to match the mid-tones of the Pale Moon Ebony top. The figure in the maple in the neck came up nicely too.
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This photo shows the neck-to-body joint where all the different woods come together.

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This photo shows how the top wood and the neck inlays blend so well together.
(1/12/09) Left: Here's a shot of the all but completed bass with its matching knobs attached. In this case there are 6 knobs due to the 4-band preamp system. Right: Closer up shot showing knobs and switches. Each of the switches is dedicated to a pickup. They are used to select between series, parallel and single-coil modes.
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Here we see a close-up of the 4-band (treble, hi-mid, lo-mid, bass) EQ and the 3-way split switches for each pickup. The knob on teh right is a push/pull for active/passive.

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Back view of the instrument and the first stages of making all the electronics fit into the control cavity.
(1/4/09) In the photo to the left you can see that the battery cavity cover has been fitted and the five string ferrules are also in place. The control cavity has been lined with copper shielding tape and the Neutrix locking jack socket has been fitted. We are now in the process of wrestling all the electronic components into the available space in the control cavity. In this case we have a 4-band EQ so the electronics unit is slightly larger than our 3-band counterpart.

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We're in the process of doing several delicat finishing jobs at once to get the bass ready for the assembly of its hardware.
(12/26/08) We're now at the painstaking micro-surgery stage of the process where we have to fit all the parts together. As can be seen in the photo - I have added copper shielding to the two pickup cavities, and we are currently in the process of cleaning out overspray from the control knob recesses. In the process, we're checking the final satin finish, filling any minute voids, and preparing the tuner holes in the headstock for the addition of the tuners.

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The back of the bass is quite visually appealing. With the amber tint on the wings, the center core laminates really stand out!
(12/16/08) This is the back of the bass just after it was finished. We applied a stain to the maple on the back which matched the mid-tones of the Black & White Ebony almost perfectly. The center core has just a hint of amber to bring out the grain of the maple. One of the next jobs to be done to this instrument is the application of the copper shielding foil which will go into the control cavity and the two pickup cavities.

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This photo shows the satin finish before it gets rubbed down to a silky satin sheen.
(12/16/08) This bass has just returned from finishing and is now in the process of being hand finished to its final sheen. This is done using various fine media to result in a smooth satin surface finish. It takes several hours of patient rubbing! The woods look great under the finish and we should have the instrument prepped and ready for hardware in a few days. The flamed maple on the fingerboard also ended up looking really nice.

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Here we are gluing the headplate onto the headstock of the bass. I usually remove all these clamps before giving the instrument to the customer, otherwise I get complaints of neck-heaviness!
(11/11/08) We have glued the recently fretted fingerboard onto the neck of the bass and machined the truss rod cover from the B&W Ebony headplate. Next, we have to glue the headplate onto the headstock. In the photo to the left you can see that being done. Requires a number of clamps and even pressure all round the glued area to get the proper results. This last finishing touch will being all the woods on this bass nicely together.

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We are using carefully selected pieces of Black & White Ebony as fret markers on this bass. This will unify the overall appearance of the instrument.
(10/26/08) After much deliberation and internal soul-searching we decided the best thing for the overall impact of this bass would be to take the little Black and White Ebony we have left and use it for fret markers. This not only adds a touch of class without getting too glitzy - but cleverly brings together the wood used on the body top and the headstock for a very impressive unified look. This is not easy to appreciate until we see the finished bass as a whole - won't be long!

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This is the black and white ebony which we will be using for the headstock veneer. It has been bookmatched and will be veneered on the back.
(10/23/08) We need to get the parts for the headstock veneer and the truss rod cover moving, so we split some of the Black & White ebony to bookmatch the grain and sanded it down ready for gluing. We'll glue the two halves together on a veneer and then move to the CNC where we will cut out the truss rod cover piece. The headstock veneer will be attached right after we glue on the fretboard, which is being worked on at the moment.

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Close up of the back of one of the pickups which has been cut out to accommodate our dual coil pickups.
(10/22/08) The photo to the left shows one of the pickup covers we will be installing on this bass. We machined both pickups from the back to create the cavity into which our pickup assemblies fit. There's not much room for error here so we do this work fairly carefully. Since the wall thicknesses are small I coat the inside of the cavity with a special wood hardner which stabilizes the wood. The black sides of the cover are Gabon Ebony.

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This bass is now the proud owner of an 18-volt battery cavity and lid recess. We'll do the control cavity next.
(10/6/08) Today we machined the 18-volt battery compartment and lid recess into the back of the bass. this compartment will hold two 9v batteries which are connected to the control cavity through one of the channels we routed into the body earlier. I have already cut the matching wood cover from the same location of the same piece of wood so that will match nicely with continuous grain. Next up is the control cavity cut into the lower bout.

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This photo shows the bass on one of our CNC machines in the process of machining the recesses for the two pickups.
(10/4/08) The bass was set up on one of the CNCs to cut the pickup recesses to full depth. I use a laser to square up the centerline of the instrument to the machine table. Then I center on each of the cavities and cut them to the full depth. Next I will machine the bass from the back and cut the battery and control cavities. That should further reduce the weight of the instrument. After that it will be time to get the fingerboard done.

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This photo gives us an idea what the bass will look like with the pickups in place.
(9/28/08) Now that we have cut the pickup covers from the top of the instrument we wanted to see how these very custome pickup covers would look in the instrument. We are quite pleased at the blend and it looks like this will be a very attractive feature on the finished instrument. In this photo you can also see the Maple fingerboard which we will be machining in the next few days. This bass is shaping up to be quite a show-stopper!

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We now have the top plate of the bass on the CNC for final machining before gluing it to the rest of the instrument body. Here we are harvesting the two pieces of wood for pickup covers.
(9/26/08) Today we were able to do some machining on the top material of the bass. Firstly we cut out the section which will fit snugly over the end of the neck section. Then we cut through the top material to separate the two pieces of material which will be used for matching tops for the pickup covers. This is done with a 1mm end mill so that I have minimum waste. When the pickups are dropped back in there will be a nice continuity to the woodgrain and know pattern.

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In this photo you can see all the separate parts that will come together to complete the Celtic knot inlay. Hundreds of tiny parts that all have to be assembled in the right order!
(9/23/08) This was the scene last night as I got ready to start gluing in the Celtic knot inlay. As you can see I have all my component parts laid out in the most organized fashion. For each repeat of the knot pattern, there are 16 pieces of inlay, so it took a lot of preparation before committing to assembly. It took about 90 minutes and two batches of aerospace-grade epoxy to complete the job. I will post photos of the results after the glue has cured.

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The top plate is back on the CNC - this time to machine the scalloped recess into which we will set the celtic knot inlay.
(9/22/08) Today we set the top plate of the bass up on the CNC and cut the carefully planned recess into which we will be setting the knot inlay. After some R&D I decided that the best inlay materials are going to be Rosewood and Shedua. These look good together and match the darker areas of the Black and White Ebony. I am hoping to start the inlay process in the next couple of days. Once that's done we can assemble the top onto the rest of the body.

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The bass is now just about ready for assembly of the Black and White Ebony top plate.
(9/17/08) We just finished machining the top face of the bass in preparation for gluing on the top. While we aere doing that, we also machined the channels which will ultimately be used to wire the components of the electronics together. We machine them at this stage before the top goes on as it is much easier than trying to drill holes in a finished instrument. These will connect the bridge, battery compartment and pickups to the control cavity.

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Here we can see some of the parts to this bass. The body halves are ready for CNC machining and you can also see the Black & White Ebony ready for another machining operation.
(9/6/08) The core section of this bass is complete, we have cut truss rod and carbon fiber slots, epoxied the CF into their respective channels and glued the pinstripie veneers onto the joint faces of the body halves. This bass is slightly more complex than our standard models and I will now proceed to do some CNC work to harvest the cavity and battery compartment covers from the parent material. It's these details that make the difference folks!

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This was the first set of hardwood pieces I cut today on the laser. I used Tulipwood and Koa.
(8/31/08) I want to give this bass a special extra feature by adding an inlay of 3/16 thick solid hardwood along the centerline of the body and headstock. I'm looking for just the right woods to end up with a subtle but impressive string of Celtic knots. I cut these pieces today as part of an experiment to find the right combination of woods.
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This is the second group of inlay I cut using Zebrawood and Shedua. These match the overall color of the instrument much better.

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In this photo we are using the CNC to generate the top surface of the headstock angle. This face will ultimately have its own bookmatched top of Black and White Ebony.
(8/23/08) The neck section is now on the CNC. We do five operations in one setup. First we machine the top face onto which the fingerboard will be attached. Next we clean up the headstock angle (shown in the photo). After that we cut the truss rod slot and the two carbon fiber slots. Then we machine the outer profile of the neck/body core and finally we cut the body top surface at the correct angle to the neck surface to that everything will line up when the bass is finished.

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Finally managed to get all the core laminated glued together. This is a laborious job but well worth the time invested as it results in a strong and rigid core for the instrument.
(8/21/08) All the gluing is finally done to the core laminates of this bass. We are now in a position to get moving on the CNC and start machining the important datum surfaces such as the neck joint face and the perimeter of the neck. The assembly in the photo is still quite a bit oversize so there's quite a bit of material to be removed before we get close to a finished neck profile. The next operation on the CNC will get us much closer to that point.

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Clamping takes a day or two as we glue one laminate on at a time. The end result is a very strong and rigid core for the instrument.
(8/18/08) The process of gluing the laminates together has begun. This takes several days as the laminates have to be glued together one at a time and I like to leave the glue to set up either all day or overnight. Here we see the sixth of seven laminates being glued. One more outer piece and we'll be able to start machining the top surfaces of the neck and headstock, and cutting slots for truss rods and carbon fiber rods.

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Here you can see the combination of veneered laminates close up. They haven't been glued together yet but it shows how the contrasting laminates and veneers work together.
(8/6/08) We have now cut tapers on all the neck laminates and glued on contrasting veneers to each in the vacuum press. After a quick cleanup they are ready now to be progressively glued together to create the core of the neck-through construction. The photo on the left shows what the combination looks like stacked together. I will now start gluing these strips together starting from the center outwards keeping the whole assembly nice and straight.

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This photo shows three ebony neck laminates inside the vacuum press. We are gluing them to a contrasting sheet of white veneer.
(8/1/08) After the laminates are machined to the correct taper (in this case the three ebony and two maple laminates) I clean up their surfaces and glue them to contrasting veneers. The light woods and veneered with dark and the dark woods are veneered with contrasting light woods. This neck construction is all black on white. The vaccuum press is a great tool to speed up all this laborious gluing and saves me having to use clamps.

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Here we see the Ebony laminates set up on the Ornamental Mill for machining to the correct taper. They are held onto the mill using double-sided adhesive tape.
(7/30/08) We are now at the stage where we have rough cut the blanks for the core of the bass from the materials chosed for the laminates. In this particular case the laminates will be Gabon Ebony and Flamed Maple. These blanks are sanded and then machined to a pre-defined taper on our Ornamental Mill. The taper is carefully calculated so that the sum of the laminates create a combined taper equal to that of the neck profile.

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This is a rough idea of how the Black and White Ebony would look in the shape of a Single-Cut Bass
(7/23/08) I have been busy in the shop cutting raw material for this bass. The ebony and maple neck pieces are all cut and sanded and ready for the Ornamental Mill. I am also shopping for the ideal piece of spalted maple for the back of this bass. When I find that I will post photos. We're considering a birdseye maple fretboard for this bass. The photo on the left shows what the black and white ebony looks like in the form of a single-cut bass.

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This photo shows the awesome grain in the Black & White Ebony, and the rough-cut pieces of Gabon Ebony and Maple which will be used for the neck-thru core.
(7/10/08) This bass is still in the very early stages. I have chosen wood for the top and back, and all the laminates in the neck. I have yet to decide what wood to use as center (between the top and back plates). I am tempted to make the back a solid maple (perhaps spalted) and save the Black & White ebony for another bass - we'll see. This bass will have a 7-piece laminated neck made from Flamed Maple and Gabon Ebony.
Last update January 12, 2009