Watson Guitars
Idyllwild
California, USA

5-string 34" scale Single-Cut Neck-Through Bass (Serial 09B035)
Call
951-659-8616.

   
Materials: Top and Back: Pale Moon Ebony. Core section: Curly Maple and East Indian Rosewood
Antique tint on back. Top will have Celtic Knot design.
Fingerboard: Gaboon Ebony with Pale Moon Ebony rectangular inserts
Pickups: Watson Dual Coil - splittable Series/Parallel/Single-Coil
Electronics: Audere Classic Active EQ - 4-band
Bridge: Hipshot- Black. Aluminum, 18mm spacing - strings through body.
Tuners: Hipshot Ultra Light
Finish: Satin Polyester resin
Other: Piezos in the bridge - GraphTech. Recessed Strap Locks

This bass was modeled on one we built several months ago which was a big success at the last NAMM show. Most of its features will be very similar to that bass.

We also built piezo trasducers into the bridge.


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Pickups and covers ready to be installed.
(9/14/10) We have installed the custom pickups inside their respective wooden covers. It is at this point that you realise the benefits of harvesting the top wood of the guitar for the pickup covers. Although it is work-intensive, the end result of having continuous grain pickup covers adds a lot of visual impact to the finished instrument. The pickups are held inside the wooden covers using a light adhesive. The tops of the covers are thin and do not impede the signal.

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The satin Polyester resin finish is complete.
(9/9/10) The Satin Polyester Resin finish has been applied and the bass is looking quite spectacular. The first thing we need to do is remove some of the overspray that always seeps through the masking. Once that is done and all the surfaces are cleaned up we can start the building process. Typically the first thing I do at this stage is apply the copper shielding to the cavity areas. Following that I will start work on installing pickups and electronics.

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This is the 'flatwork" for the custom pickups.
(8/22/10) We build our own custom pickups for all our basses. Since every bass is custom - it is often the case that the pickups are custom too. We configure the bobbin geometry to the string spacing of the instrument, in this case 18mm at the bridge, which will require us to establish magnet spacing for the bridge and the neck pickups. The pickup bobbins are assembled and wound to exacting standards. Photo shows bobbin material on our laser.

Highslide JS
The pickup covers - finally completed!
(8/16/10) One of the de-luxe fatures we are including in this bass is the harvesting of the pickup cover material from the top plate. Before we glue the top plate onto the body we carefully machine out the material from the exact locations of the pickups. We keep these twop pieces of top material aside and use them to build the wooden pickup covers. This way - the tops of the pickups perfectly match the wood in the top of the instrument.

Highslide JS
here's a photo of the fingerboard with the pale Moon Ebony inlay..
(8/12/10) This happens to be the ony photo I took of the partially completed fingerboard on this bass. At my customer's request I used Pale Moon Ebony for the inlay on the neck. It looks very striking against the Gaboon Ebony fingerboard material. The neck is ready at this point for the side dots. Once they are set into the edge of the fingerboard I will install the frets and glue the fingerbard onto the body. You can also see the pickup covers.

Highslide JS
Celtic Knots are complete (phew) and we're ready to do more machining.
(8/1/10) Pickup covers have been cut from the top plate and the top plate has been glued onto the body. At this poit we are able to start work on the control and battery cavities. I set the instrument up on one of the CNC machines and align everything to the center line of the instrument. I then run programs for the two cavities and the recesses which are necessary for the respective lids. Now we can start doing shaping and carving, all done by hand.

Highslide JS
Celtic Knots are complete (phew) and we're ready to do more machining.
(7/18/10) We have to machine out a section of the top plate so that it is exactly the same size and geometry as the end of the neck section around which it will fit. I double check the physical sizes of the neck section and cut out the mating section from the top undersize, so that I can make final adjustments to guarantee a tight press fit between the two parts. This fit also aligns to top to the center line of the body, so it has to be just right!

Highslide JS
Celtic Knots are complete (phew) and we're ready to do more machining.
(7/18/10) The Celtic Knot inlay has now been done. After the adhesive completely hardened I scraped and sanded the surface back to flat. The knot pattern look great and the top plate is now ready for machining. I need to cut a joint so that the top fits nice and tightly over the neck section. Also - before the top is attached to the body I will harvest the two pickup covers and keep them aside until i am ready to make the pickup covers.

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getting started on the knot inlay pattern.
(7/15/10) It's time to tackle the challenge of the Celtic Knot inlay. The process begins by machining a channel in the center of the top plate. I then start placing the knot pieces systematically in the pattern. I also have pieces cut for the spaces between the knots, so the process is slow and I have to be sure every piece is the correct one, the two colors of the knot are continuous,and that they are all well seated as we move along.

Highslide JS
This is the top plate before we start to inlay the Celtic Knot pattern.
(7/1/10) We have glued the top plate together and it is now ready for some additional machining and the meticulous process of adding the Celtic Knot inlay. I will cut a complex channel into the parent material of the top and use the laser to cut the small pieces of contrasting wood inlay which will combine to become the knot pattern. I'll post some detail shots of this process in the next couple of days. Should be interesting.

Highslide JS
We're busy machining the compound radius onto the fingerboard.
(6/28/10) The fingerboard for this bass is Gaboon Ebony - very hard and very dark. This will be a great contrast for the rectangular Pale Moon Ebony fret markers which will soon be installed in the fingerboard. In the photo you can see the fingerboard on the CNC machine where the compound radius is being generated. As soon as this is complete, we'll cut the 24 fret slots, the nut slot and all the recesses for the inlay pieces.

Highslide JS
Two sides have been glued onto the back of the bass.
(6/20/10) The two partially assembled sides have now beet attached to the center core of the bass. We will continue to cut and trim extra material off the assembly in preparation for the assembly of the top plate. We'll do some rough shaping of the back of the neck to remove excess material there and shape the headstock area so that it is ready for its headstock veneer. I'll also start shaping the neck joint at this stage.

Highslide JS
We are now gluing the top plate together in preparation for the celtic-knot inlay.
(6/19/10) The top plate of this instrument has to be glued together in a certain way so that the celtic Knot inlay is enhanced. This involves quite a bit extra work to achieve the end result. Here we are gluing the component parts of the top plate together. Once this is cured we will set it up se that we are able to cut a special recess suited to the inlay. The inlay is somewhat work-intensive but we will do our best to document the process on this page.

Highslide JS
Gluing the second of the two body halves to the center core of the bass.
(6/16/10) We have been working steadily on this instrument. Over the past few days we have applied decorative veneer on the body halves and center core of the instrument. The goal is to create a very pleasing effect with pinstriping when the parts are all together. Yesterday we were able to glue the lower bout of the body onto the center core. Today (as seen in the photo to the left) we are now gluing the upper bout to the center core.

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Preparing the joint faces so that we can glue to body halves onto the core section.
(6/1/10) Now that we have glued up some of the body parts, we are able to start prepering to glue them onto the core section. First thing we need to do is apply some of the decorative veneer onto the joint faces. In the photo to the left we are gluing Koa veneer onto the joint faces. As soon as these are ready for assembly we will get them securely attached to the core and we'll finally have something that's shaped like a bass guitar!

Highslide JS
harvesting the battery cavity lid from the material on the back of the upper bout.
(5/30/10) Because this particular bass has a matching top and back, I have to approach the challenge of creating continuous grain covers differently. I start by cutting the cavity lids from the parent material suing a very small carbide end mill. I then flip the pert over and machine it out from the back side so that I completely remove the material for the lid. I then cut a very precise insert which I press into the back to replace the lost wood in the area under the lid.

Highslide JS
Body parts are now being assembled.
(5/23/10) We got started on some of the parts for the body of this bass. There are several reasons why this body has quite a bit more detail work than the average body. Since we have matching wood on the front and the back of the bass, we'll need to harvest the material for the two cavity covers before the body is assembled. We also have a decorative celtic knot pattern to incorporate and pickup covers to harvest from the top.

Highslide JS
Gluing the carbon fiber rods into the neck.
(5/19/10) It's time to get the two carbon fiber rods securely glued into the neck. We use a high-grade epoxy to bond the CF rods to the wood. The rods are securely clamped down while the adhesive cures overnight. When the clamps are removed we carefully frind off the squeezed-out adhesive and we're ready for the next step. These carbon fiber rods add a good amont of rigidity to the neck making it somewhat less susceptible to changes in humidity.

Highslide JS
Fully machined center core ready for carbon fiber rods.
(4/30/10) All the machining to the center core of the bass has been done. The head angle has been cut - truss rod and carbon fiber slots are in, and if you look closely at the photo you can see the body angle at the far end. This is just a reference angle we machine onto the material so that we can do more machining operations later in the process and have a very reliable datum surface to fixture onto. Nex we will glue in out carbon fiber rods.

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machining truss rod slot and slots for carbon fiber rods.
(4/19/10) In this photo you can see that we have already established the finished perimeter for the neck (based on nut width and the string spacing at the bridge). The truss rod slot and its clearance for the adjusting nut have also been machined. The photo was taken during the machining of the slots that will accommodate the two carbon fiber re-inforcing rods. Once these are done we'll machine the body angle relative to the neck.

Highslide JS
The core of the bass is now being machined on the CNC.
(4/15/10) The next operation for this bass is to mount the core of the instrument up on our big CNC machine. On this setup we will machine the top surface of the neck, the neck perimeter, the headstock angle, the truss rod slot and the two carbon fiber slots. Once these operations are done we can start working on the parts for the body. In the photo to the left, the top surface of the neck has been machined. This is the surface onto which the fingerboard will be attached.

Highslide JS
This is the completed neck/body core.
(4/9/10) All the separate pieces of the neck/body core have now been glued together. The composite is still quite a bit oversize because it allows for cleanup on all surfaces. As soon as we have time on the CNC machine we'll get this core set up and start machining some of the critical surfaces. We'll start to see the body parts of this bass taking shape too. We have Pale Moon Ebony set aside for the front and back plates of this bass.

Highslide JS
last of the outer pieces being glued onto the core.
(3/28/10) We are now at the final gluing stage for the neck/body core part of the bass. In the photo to the left you can see that we are gluing the last of the two outer laminates to the core. By the morning this assembly will be ready for one of our CNC machines where we will start machining some of the critical surfaces and dimensions on the instrument. We will spend a couple of days on the CNC and will also be getting body parts ready at the same time.

Highslide JS
All the center laminates are now glued together.
(3/23/10) We have spent the last few days guling the various tapered neck laminates together. The light and dark woods with the contrasting veneers look great. Next we will glue on the two outer maple sections and we will have a complete neck-body core. At that point machining will start and the instrument will begin taking shape! We have the material for the body parts and the top all ready to go together.

Highslide JS
We have started gluing the laminates together.
(3/13/10) Here we are getting started on the gluing of the laminates. We take our time in this process because the neck is the most important part of the instrument and we want every joint to be 100%. We glue one laminate at a time. Normally a setup like this will be left to cure either all day or overnight. We then clean up the joint and move onto the next laminate. In this neck there are seven separate components.

Highslide JS
East Indian Rosewood laminates are being veneered in the vacuum press.
(3/13/10) More of the same today - the process of veneering the neck laminates continues. This time we are applying hard maple veneer to the Esat Indian Rosewood neck laminates. Tomorrow - we will be able to start gluing these neck components together. A slow process because it's always good policy to let the glue cure overnight, and we will haveseven individual laminates to assemble. Worth it in the end though!

Highslide JS
Maple laminates are being veneered in the vacuum press.
(3/12/10) The maple laminates we recently tapered are now ready for the application of decorative veneers in the vacuum press. We try to apply a dark veneer against light wood and light veneers against dark woods, the net result being quite inpressive. One these maple pieces are done we'll do the same to the East Indian Rosewood pieces, at which point we'll be ready to assemble the neck laminates together. We'll let these glue overnight.

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We're cutting the East Indian Rosewood to the correct tapers.
(3/10/10) The East Indian Rosewood stringers have now been cut to their specific taper sized in the ornamental mill. This gives me a very accurate set of tapered stringers which have nice flat sider perfectly suitable for the very tight glue joints I will require between the veneers and other neighbouring laminates. Next step is to choose some veneers for decorative pinstriping. We'll apply these veneers to the laminates before they are assembled together.

Highslide JS
Maple laminates are being set up so that I can cut them to their tapers.
(3/5/10) Now that we have the center sections cut and sanded flat - we can get all five of the central laminates up on the ornamental mill in order to cut the tapers. We machine the entire length of these pieces to generate a pre-defined taper from one end to the other so that when all the pieces are combined together they follow the taper of the outer edges of the neck. This always yields an impressive result. East Indian Rosewood next!

Highslide JS
We are now sanding the neck laminates to create smooth flat surfaces on both sides.
(2/22/10) Weather was good enough today to get some of the shop tools outside! In this photo you can see that we are running all the seven neck laminates through the drum sander so that we yield a nice smooth and flat surface on both sides of each. This gets them all to consistent and matching thicknesses and prepares the surfaces for work on the ornamental mill, and thereafter for having pinstriping veneer attached.

Highslide JS
All 7 laminates for the core of the bass are rough-cut.
(2/20/10) All the pieces for the neck core of the instrument have been cut. The curly maple will be light colored and will have a nice figure. The East Indian Rosewood will be very dark and provide a very impressive contrast to the Maple. These two woods produce a very balanced sound from a bass. next operation is drum sanding, where we sand all these pieces to flat surfaces and consistent thicknesses. We're lookinmg forward to seeing this bass come together.

Highslide JS
Just cut some East Indian Rosewood for the tapered laminates in the neck section!
(2/15/10) I have now cut some of my East Indian Rosewood stock to create the three tapered laminates that will run through the neck and body of this instrument. The nice thing about these two woods is that they work together very well visually and from a sound perspective. The Curly Maple has it's own beauty and is very light colored, the EIR is just dark enough by contrast to still see the grain running through it. This one will be a looker!

Highslide JS
The three curly maple neck blanks have now been cut from the raw material.
(2/13/10) We have now cut three of the components of the neck/body core of the bass from the Curly Maple raw material. These are now ready to be drum sanded to a smooth and flat condition in preparation for subsequent gluing. We will also be cutting some stringer material from East Indian Rosewood in the very near future. All these rough sawn pieces will combine to create our multi-laminate neck core blank.

Highslide JS
Getting ready to mark out and cut the various pieces of maple for the core of the bass.
(2/11/10) We are getting ready to start cutting the component parts for the core of the instrument. In this particular case we will be using curly maple as the main component for the core section. I'll mark out the cross-sectional shapes using a template and this will allow me to rough cut all the pieces I need to get started. These maple sections will be paired up with stringers of east indian rosewood and double contrasting veneers.

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The material for the top and back has been carefully sliced up in our bandsaw. Always a nerve-racking job with a finite amount of expensive material!
(2/8/10) Our solid slab of Pale Moon Ebony has been sawn up into 4 plates, two for the top of the instrument and two for the back. These will allow us to bookmatch the grain on both sides of the bass. These individual plates will now be sanded flat so that they are ready for assembly to other components of the body. We will be cutting rough blanks for the center core and stringers in the next 2-3 days. Let the sawdust fly!

Highslide JS
This is the Pale moon (or Black & White) Ebony we will be using for the top and back of this bass.
(9/21/09) This is the last piece of Pale Moon ebony we have in stock and since our customer wants this material on the front and back of his instrument we will be using this entire block of material for this project. The neck will be built from laminates of Curly Maple and East Indian Rosewood. This will give us an instrument with a broad spectrum of tones and plenty of sustain. The Pale Moon Ebony always comes up looking spectacular on the finished instrument!
Last update September 27, 2010