Watson Guitars
Idyllwild
California, USA

Thee Ram Jam Ace Bass (Serial 09B026)
AKA "Tha Funky Stick"

Materials: Pale Moon Ebony top with Paroda back - Neck: Curly Maple and East Indian Rosewood
Fingerboard: 5A Birdseye Maple with fiber-optic lighting on front and sides
Pickups: Watson Humbuckers - Split coil + Serial +Parallel
Electronics: 3-band active/passive electronics system (Watson)
Bridge: ABM Type-A Gold & Black Combination
Hardware: Gold & Black Combination (bridge and tuners)
Finish: Satin

This bass is a very special project. The body design has been formulated through discussions with our customer and will be unlike anything we have built to date.

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Back of the bass with teh two covers off. Pretty busy control cavity!
(1/20/10) Left: A shot o fthe back of the bass with the two covers removed. We have three 9v batteries in the upper cavity, one for the LEDs and two for the preamp. The LEDs draw very little power. Right: This photo shows the neck with the lights switched on. Not easy to photo and capture the effect but they look good!
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Fiber optic lighting powered by LEDs.

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Finished bass with knobs on!.
(1/13/10) Left: Here's a top view shot of the finished product. As always, the Pale Moon Ebony looks awesome. Matching pickup covers, rectangular inlay, headstock and knobs don't hurt either. Right: Back of the headstock showing the neck laminates, tasty curly maple, and the custom black and gold Hipshot Ultra Light tuners.
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Back of headstock showing laminates and gold/black custom tuners.

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fingerboard has been glued on - now it's time to install the frets.
(12/24/09) This bass as 35 fiber optic cables running down th eback of the fingerboard. They exit the neck where the neck/body joint is, and in order to keep them in place it was necessary to glue on the fingerboard before fretting OR gluing the top of the bass in place. Now that that has been successfully done we can put the frets into the neck and dress them up. Once that's done - the top will be glued on.

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Time for some careful bench work where we are securing the first set of fiber optic cables (for the side dots).
(12/18/09) Installing all the required fiber optic cables into the back o fthe fingerboard is a tricky task. In the case of this instrument we are installing smaller lights along the edge of the fingerboard and larger ones in pairs on the front. This results in almost 40 cables which have to be set into recesses in the back of the fingerboard. This is our first LED/Fiber Optic endeavour but we are relatively confident it will work well!

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We've flipped the fingerboard upside down so that we could start cutting channels for the fiber optic cables on the underside.
(12/15/09) Now that we have completed the inlay on the top side of the fingerboard we put it on the cnc upside down so that we can start machining from the underside. This involves cutting the side dot recesses, gluing in ebony side dots and machining a large number of channels to accommodate the numerous fiber optic cable that will live inside the back of the fingerboard. We also drilled holes through the inlay for the front lights.

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The pale moon ebony fret markers are now in.
(12/9/09) The fingerboard has been shaped and slotted for frets, plus the fret markers have been installed and cleaned up so that they are flush with the compound radius of the fingerboard. Normally we would proceed to side dots and installing the frets but in the case of this bass we have the fiber optic lighting in the neck to consider. Most of that work has to be done on the back side of the fingerboard. More pictures soon!

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Fancy pickup tops are now in production!
(12/8/09) These are the covers for the two pickups which we harvested recently from the top plate of the bass. We glued them onto ebony bases so that we could machine them into perfectly fitting wood covers for the pickups. When they are ultimately re-installed in the bass the grain on the tops of these pickups will perfectly match the grain in the top of the instrument. We have some other ideas to add extra mojo to this bass - stay tuned!

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We have cut out the tops for the pickups from the Ebony top.
(12/2/09) The top of the bass has been assembled and over that last couple of days we have cut out the joint for the neck and harvested the tops for the two pickup covers from the parent material. The top is now ready for assembly onto the body but before we do that we need to run channels for the fiber optic cables which will run from various points on the neck through to the control cavity. Hopefully this will not delay us too long!

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Fingerboard is now up on the CNC for work on the upper surface.
(11/30/09) The birdseye maple fingerboard is now up on the CNC and the edges have been cut to their finished dimensions. We will be doing a LOT of work on both sides of this fingerboard. The customer wants Pale Moon Ebony rectangular inlays, and also LED side dots and front dots too. We'll work the front dots into the edges of the inlays. This requires a lot of machining on the top and the bottom of the fingerboard.

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This is the very nice piece of birdseye maple which we are going to use for the fingerboard of this bass.
(10/4/09) We have several things going on at once with this bass. We are working on the LED hardware which has to be designed into the structure of the instrument. We're also preparing the Black & White ebony top for installation onto the body. Thirdly, we are getting started on the fingerboard which we will set up on one of our CNC machines. We'll cut the board to size, machine the compound radius, cut all the fret slots and the slot for the nut.

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Both the back pieces have now been attached to the core of the bass and the back face has been machined flat.
(9/20/09) Tha Funky Stick now has both the sides attached to it. It's still a very rough version of what it will eventually look like, but at least we have the beginnings of a body! The brown Paroda wood is very light, and we are planning to keep the weigh down to a minimum as we continue the work on this instrument. It also finishes to a luxurious dark brown color - should look great when the bass is completed.

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Lower bout (back material) is being glued onto the center core of the instrument.
(9/18/09) Today we were able to get things set up to glue the lower body half onlto the core of the bass. It takes a little bit of fine adjustment to get the parts in exactly the right relationship to each other, then we leave it overnight for the glue to cure. Tomorrow well hopefully get the upper bout glued on and we it will start looking like a real bass guitar. After that, we will machine the back and front surfaces of the body to size.

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Gluing veneer to the sides of the neck/body core.
(9/13/09) In preparation for gluing the body halves onto the center core of the instrument we are applying some pinstriping veneer to the joint faces. Once that is done we'll glue the two pieces of Paroda onto the center piece. These two pieces will become the back of the instrument. After that is done we'll do some careful machining to prep the instrument for its top plate. We have a lot of planning to do as we have to allow for wiring for LEDs.

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we just recently cut the back body halves from a nice piece of Paroda.
(7/30/09) We were able to spend some more time on the Ace Bass recently. After some discussion with our customer we collectively decided to use Paroda for the back of the instrument. It is a very lightweight wood with a beautiful color. We expect that this will help in keeping the instrument nice and lightweight. The two body halves are only rough-cut at the moment but we will be working on them in the next few days.

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Here we are cutting some basic sizes for the bass on the CNC.
(6/13/09) The neck core is up on the CNC for the machining of the fingerboard joint surface, truss and carbon fiber slots, machining the headstock angle and also the angle between the neck and body top. These are all critical surfaces from which all the other measurements on the bass are established. We have specific sizes from our customer for neck width so we are being careful to make sure the resulting neck will feel just right.

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I have to glue two pieces onto the core of the bass to allow for the extra width of the headstock.
(5/30/09) Before we get the neck of Tha Funky Stick up on one of our CNC machines, we have to glue on two 'ears' of matching Maple to allow fir the extra width of the headstock. I try to select pieces of Maple which are as close a match as possible to the grain direction and natural color as possible. Once these pieces have been guled together we will cut all the joint surfaces on the CNC. While all this is going on we will be working on the body.

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The core of the bass is completed. Five laminations of carefully selected woods tailored for our esteemed customer.
(5/10/09) Tha Funky Stick is rising from the ashes. We now have the core of the instrument glued together and ready to be shaped and forged into a bass. The maple in the neck will keep the instrument bright sounding, the rosewood will help sustain. This is only the beginning of a truly amazing instrument. We are also getting ready to cut some material for the body of the bass. As soon as we have time on the CNC machines we'll get the next operations moving.

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As you can see - "Tha Funky Stick" has to be forged under extreme pressure.
(5/1/09) We have cut all the neck laminate pieces to the correct tapers and them glued on carefully selected veneers. Now it's time to start gluing these laminates together to create the beginning of the core of the instrument. In the photo you can see the first two being glued together. We'll repeat this setup until we have a completed neck blank with all five laminates. Then things will start to take shape and the Funky Stick will become a reality!

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The center laminate on the 5-piece maple and rosewood neck is being cut to the correct taper in the ornamental mill.
(4/15/09) We have started the machining work on the laminates that will make up the neck/center core of this bass. The neck will consist of alternate layers of Curly Maple and East Indian Rosewood, all odf which have to be machined to a pre-determined taper on our ornamental mill. Here we see the central strip of maple being cut to its taper. We'll repeat this process with the other 4 laminate pieces. Once they are cut and cleaned up, we'll start applying veneers.

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This is a photo of some of the Pale Moon Ebony we are planning to use for the top of this bass. Awesome stuff!!
(4/8/09) This is the Pale Moon Ebony which we are planning to use for at least the top of this bass. This will give the instrument a lot of visual impact! It's a hard wood so it will lend some sustain to the voice of the instrument. between this and all the maple we will be using in the neck we should be able to achieve just the right amount of brightness and sustain. Right now we are doing a lot of sanding to the various woods getting them all ready for machining.

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This bass is constructed as a neck-through instrument. It will be assembled as a center core of several laminates of Curly Maple and East Indian Rosewood.
(4/5/09) We are looking for a very lightweight but strong neck for this bass and we decided that the best combination for the job is mostly Curly Maple with two stringers of East Indian Rosewood. The neck will also have two carbon fiber reinforcing rods embedded in it. We have cut the neck/body core blanks and we are now ready to drum-sand these pieces for a consistent surface finish and set them up on the ornamental mill to machine the tapers.
Last update February 20, 2010