Watson Guitars
California, USA

6-string Headless Bass. 35" - 32" scale, Angled Frets (Serial 08B024)

Read the current review on this instrument by Bass Musician Magazine!

Materials: Top & Back: Goncola Alves.
Neck: Curly Maple, Brazilian Cherry and Goncola Alves
Fingerboard: Ebony with trapezoidal Snail Shell inlay
Pickups: Watson Humbuckers - Split coil + Serial +Parallel
Electronics: Audere 4-band 18v electronics system
Bridge: ABM Brass Single string units (18.5mm string spacing)
Hardware: Chrome
Finish: High Gloss Polyester Resin clear-coat with custom paintwork on the back

We are pleased to announce that this instrument is scheduled to be reviewed by Bass Musician Magazine in early 2010.

This bass has a 35-32 inch scale length with angled frets. The construction is neck-through. Hardware is ABM, and Pickups are our own super-hot dual coils. The Goncola Alves wood is very dense and our goal was to achieve the best possible spectrum of highs and lows for an instrument of this type. The bass is a little heavier than planned (around 10.25lbs) but given the density of the wood, the large dual coil pickups and the brass hardware, this is an expected trade-off for a bass that has such a LOT of tone!

The snail shell inlay was a lot of work but adds yet another unusual feature to an already unusual instrument. The bass is currently fitted with Circle-K Strings which have great presence and sustain!

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Back of the neck showing the custom string retainers I had to manufacture.
(1/10/10) Left: Since there was nothing available on the marketplace I had to make custom string retainers out of brass. These work very well and allow for easy string changes. Right: Since everything on this instrument is skewed I altered the logo artwork to match the angles of all the other features on the bass. Also snail shell.
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Continuous grain pickup covers and the Watson logo is 'skewed' to match the geometry of the rest of the bass.

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Full length shot showing the custom headstock and snail shell inlay.

(1/7/10) Left: this photo shows the entire instrument. The snail shell inlay really pops out, especially when light hits it.
Right: Th back of the bass has two cavities, one for the two 9v batteries and the other for the control cavity. Each has a cover made from the parent material of the back of the instrument (continuous grain as we call it).

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Continuous grain cavity covers and custom paintwork on the back.

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Strings are on and we are now in the testing stage.
(1/5/10) Most of the work has now been completed on the bass. Hardware has been attached and the bass has been strung up. Need some basic adjustment to get everything working nicely together but I can tell already that the bass has a lot of tone. Distinct definition between the serial / single-coil / parallel positions on the individual pickup switches. Sound is crisp and punchy. Very good tension and sustain on the low-B string although that was somewhat expected!

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Finish has been applied to the instrument plus a bonus diamond pattern all the way along the center laminate.
(12/30/09) We have now had the polyester resin finish applied to the bass. In this particular case we decided to go with a clear coat as it would bring out the best results in the woodgrains. However, on this bass we decided to take the finishing process ons small step further and add a tapered diamond pattern on the center laminate all the way from the back to the headstock. As if this bass wasn't enough of a conversation piece!!!

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Fingerboard is on, now we have to get to work on the final shaping of body and neck.
(12/12/09) The fingerboard has beed glued onto the rest of the instrument and we are in the process of final shaping and sanding in order to get the whole thing ready for finishing. This also involves holes for strap locks, adjustment holes in the pickup covers, and several intricate machining operations to the headstock for the string retainers. The sanding takes up most of the final finishing time in order to get the instrument smooth and free of surface flaws.

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The fingerboard has now had its inlay and frets installed.
(12/9/09) we have been quite bsuy over the last few days cutting and inlaying the Snail Shell into the fingerboard. The material is quite delicate to handle but well worth the extra effort! Once the shell inlay was completed I cleaned up the fingerboard, installed the pearl side-dots and put the frets into the fret slots. The ends of the frets will be dressed and we'll then be ready to attach this fingerboard to the neck of the bass.

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This is the fingerboard after the fret slots and inlay recesses were machined.
(11/12/09) We have been working over the last few days on the fingerboard of this rather interesting bass. First we cut all the angled fret slots and the followed up by cutting the slot fo the nut. Everything has to be very precise. Finally, we cut the recesses for the block inlays. These will make the angled frets look even more unusual as the inlays will consist of a very colorful snail shell! More news on that in the next few days!

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Top view of the bass with pickup covers and one of the ABM tuners in place.
(10/31/09) Right now we are doing some shaping and contouring on the body of the instrument and removing some of the material from the neck to get closer to a finished size. We're also close to starting work on the fingerboard, but first have to decide whether we will use ebony or birdseye maple - two very different looks! In the photo on the left, we dropped in the continuous grain pickup covers and added one of the ABM tuners.

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These are the two pickup covers we harvested from the top plate of the bass.
(10/27/09) Although it results in a little more work, we wanted to create matching continuous grain pickup covers for this bass. The pickups on the bass are quite large in relation to the instrument body so making them out of the same piece of wood as the top will help them blend very nicely into the instrument design. I will use these two pieces harvested from the bookmatched top to make the covers for our custom dual-coil pickups.

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This photo illustrates how much calculation goes into making a bass like this.
(10/15/09) This photo shows how complex the calculations need to be to place all the components for this bass in exactly the right place! At this point in time we are making sure the geometry of our pickups is correct so that we can proceed to cutting the pickup bobbins on our laser. Once the bobbins have been cut we can move ahead with the pickup winding process. Each or the two pickups is at a slightly different angle.

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we're in the process of designing custom pickups and establishing their placement on the instrument body.
(10/14/09) We had to spend a little time on the computer designing pickups that were angled and shaped to conform to the geometry of the variable scale lengths. Having established their individual shapes we now want to make sure we will be placing them exactly where we want on the instrument body. We will have to cut custom bobbins for each of these pickups and have them wound to fit custom covers. Lots of work to do!!

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The top surface of the body has been machined ready for the top plate to go on.

(10/01/09) We have machined the top joint surface of the bass in preparation for the top plate. In doing so we also establish the end of the fingerboard. The edges of the body shape still need to be cut and sanded closer to the finished sizes but we can see the overall shape now. The recess seen at the left end is the area that will allow access to the six ABM tuners. Next we will establish the location of the hardare so that we can cut some weight relief into the body.

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Both body halves have now been attached top the center core of the bass.
(9/24/09) The gluing of the two body halves is now complete. We attached both pieces very carefully and then amchined off the extra material from the center core section so that the entire back is one flat surface. We can now start working on the refinements of the body shape and getting the whole thing ready for the top to go on. We'll see a lot of progress on this bass in the coming week - should look good!!

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Top bout of the back of the bass is now being glued on.
(9/21/09) The top body half is now being glued onto the center core of the body. Since we already machined the control cover recess we have to be careful about the positioning of the back surface relative to the joint surface of the neck. Believe me, it's important! Anyway - as long as I am careful, the two surfaces which will end up being the back of the instrument will be co-planar, in other words they will both line up with each other!! Fingers crossed.

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Gluing veneers onto joint faces before the body wings go on.
(9/13/09) We are now getting ready to glue the body wings onto the bass but before that happens we're gluing a couple of decorative pinstripes onto the joint faces using veneers. Once this is done we'll glue the body halves onto the center core piece and we'll finally have something that looks like a bass guitar! This bass should go together relatively quickly because there are no complicated additions - except maybe custom inlay for the fanned fretboard!!

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On the small CNC - we are cutting out the control cavity cover plate.
(8/1/09) The next operation on this bass is to remove the material from the backplate, which will ultimately become the cover for the control cavity. I use a very small diameter cutter to do this. I will save the piece I cut out for use later as the matching-grain cover on the back of the instrument. It's definitely extra work but worth is for the visual impace at the end of the process. Once this piese is removed I can assemble the body wings.

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Front and back plates of Goncola Alves are in the vacuum press having maple veneer applied.
(7/30/09) It's time to get some work done on the body parts of this bass. We finish sanded the Goncola Alves plates for the front and back of the body and then glued the inner surfaces onto Maple veneer. The assemblies were then placed in the vacuum press to ensure perfect joints. This will allow us to move on to cutting out the control cavity cover plate and assembling the two body halves of the instrument.

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Carbon Fiber reinforcing rods are in, and the joint surface has been cleaned up to remove squeezed-out glue.
(7/15/09) We have successfully glued the carbon fiber reinforcing rods into the neck and spent some time carefully sanding the joint surface flush again to remove the extra glue and any carbon fiber above the surface. Now the core of the bass is complete and we can start thinking about making the body halves. I have already cut out the various pieces of the upper and lower body halves so my next task is to glue on the appropriate veneers to the various pieces.

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Here we are gluing carbon fiber reinforcing rods into the neck.
(7/10/09) Since the last photograph was taken we have cut the "head" angle where the string retainers will be located and machined the slots for the truss rod and carbon fiber rods. Having done that we were able to remove the assembly from the CNC and fit and glue the two carbon fiber rods into the neck. In the photo, you can see how we use clamps to make sure the CF rods are securely seated while the glue cures.

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After much calculation, I was able to cut the correct body angle relative to the neck.
(6/28/09) Because this bass will have varying scale lengths, the ideal height from body surface to the bridge varies slightly between the first and last bridge positions. I had to be careful to calculate the ideal angle for a flat surface that would serve both. Having done that I ran the CNC to clean up enough material so that I could use that angled surface as a datum when machining the back of the instrument. It will all become clear as the instrument progresses.

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The core of the bass is now set up on the CNC machine.
(6/13/09) We had to wait for some other projects to get off the CNC machine, but now we have the neck/body core of this instrument set up on the CNC. We have cleaned up the top surface of the neck already and we're now getting ready to machine the profile of the neck itself to its finished dimensions. While it is on the machine, we'll also be cutting the truss rod slot and the two carbon fiber slots.

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The process of gluing all the laminates together has started. Here we are clamping and gluing the third laminate.
(5/13/09) We had a lot of veneers to glue onto the laminated in this particular bass but we are finally done and now busy gluing the laminates together to create the core of the bass. I'll be gluing like this at least through the next couple of days but we will soon have a complete center core to start work on. I'm excited about this instrument as it is a first on many technical levels, and so far I have no buyer so maybe it will end up being my own bass!!

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Here we see two of the five neck laminates having veneer added to the sides for pinstriping.
(5/10/09) We have been doing successive gluing in the vacuum press to add the various layers of veneer onto the tapered laminates that will combine to form the core of the bass. In this case we are adding a dark veneer onto a light veneer. This is the last time these laminates will be in the vacuum press, we can now start assembling the veneers together to create the center of the neck-through instrument. Should look nice when it's done!

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The center pieces for the body are already rough-cut and I am gluing Bloodwood veneer to both sides.
(5/1/09) While I have been busy working on all the laminates for the neck pieces, I have also been getting things started on the body parts. In the photo to the left you can see the Maple center pieces of the body halves. Each piece currently has a Bloodwood veneer on one side. I still have to add the same veneer to the opposite side of each. The maple is quite curly so that figure will show up nicely on the upper and lower sides of the instrument.

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This is the laminate assembly for the core of the bass. These 5 laminates are now ready to be glued together.
(4/29/09) We have been working on the components of this bass over the last week or so. Each of the laminates in the neck have been rough cut, sanded and machined to the correct taper. I have also glued veneer onto the sides of the laminates for decorative pinstriping. The neck laminates are now ready to be glued together. The material for the center of the body has been cut out and the top and back plates have been resawn and sanded for bookmatching.

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The upper and lower bouts were split for bookmatching today on the bandsaw. The material is Goncola Alves from Brazil.
(4/10/09) Work has officially been started on this bass. I have cut all the rough pieces for the body and neck components and I am in the process of sanding all those pieces so that I can run the neck pieces through the ornamental mill and while that's going on, start applying decorative veneers to the body parts. Although this bass is a new design from many points of view, things are rolling along nicely so far.

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This is one of the woods I have in the shop that I am planning to use for this project. Goncola Alves from Brazil.
(10/6/08) I verified in the shop today that I have the wood to get this project started. I have plenty of Curly Maple and East Indian Rosewood which will make a beautiful center core and neck for this bass. I have an excellent piece of Anjico for the fretboard and will use Goncola Alves for the top and back. I'll use the same top wood as the center stringer in the neck. Hardware will be ABM single string bridge/tuner combinations. We;ll have to wind custom pickups for this bass as they will have to be at an angle to the centerline.
Last update February 18, 2010