Watson Guitars
California, USA

WATSON Signature Series Bass 4-string (Serial 10B039S)
Active/passive, headless neck-through bass
951-659-8616. or email us here!

Materials: Top:Birdseye Maple Core:Curly Maple and Purpleheart
Fingerboard: Ebony with custom fret markers
Pickups: Watson Humbuckers switchable between single coil, series and parallel
Electronics: David McKeen 3-band active/passive 18v
Hardware: Black

Hipshot Custom Headless

Options: LED/Fiber Optic side dots
Finish: Gloss Black Finish - slightly translucent on center

This bass was made as a tribute to our customer's long-standing partnership with Gibson instruments. He wanted have a bass made that optimizes all the good qualities of these basses but also combines those attributes with some of his own personal requirements, making it a true custom instrument.

In the words of our esteemed customer:

The Colonel: Why build it?
As a longtime Gibson and Steinberger artist, Hardgroove has blazed a unique trail of live performance and record production across five continents and countless cities.
Since becoming the bassist / bandleader of Public Enemy and Fine Arts Militia, Hardgroove has created a striking visual image that is instantly recognizable. A big part of that image is the assortment of Gibson and Steinberger basses in his arsenal.
 "I wanted to build a unique instrument that could serve as my personal tribute to the iconic Gibson and Steinberger brands" says Hardgroove, so he  approached Watson Guitars of California to help him develop "The Colonel" which is his unique vision of the Gibson "Thunderbird IV" and the Steinberger "Synapse" basses.
With some very high profile shows fast approaching in his schedule Hardgroove felt Watson Guitars was the perfect boutique builder to help him create an instrument that would not only meet his specs, but pay the ultimate tribute to his favorite manufacturers, Gibson and Steinberger!

The Colonel: Origin of the name:
While residing in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Hardgroove expanded his trailblazing career to include hosting his own radio program called Hardgroove's Fuse Box as well as minor acting roles. When these activities were brought to the attention of Gov. Bill Richardson, the Governor awarded Hargroove the prestigious "Aide De Camp" honor from the State of New Mexico (which formally acknowledges Hardgroove as Colonel Hardgroove), as well as officially declaring May 8th as "Brian Hardgroove Day" in the State of New Mexico.

Check in often to watch the creation of The Colonel!

Highslide JS
Back of bass withy magnetic covers attached.
(5/17/10) Left: The bass has a nice continuous flowing appearance partly due to careful tinting and the use of magnets as opposed to screws to attach the cover plates. Right: The back of the headstock shows the custom string retainers unique to this instrument. You can just see the detail of the wood grain through the trans black tint.
Highslide JS
Back of headstock showing custom string retainers.

Highslide JS
Full body shot of the completed instrument.
(5/17/10) Now that the bass is essentially finished we were able to take a few glamour shots before it went off to its customer. On the left we have a full body shot showing the Hipshot tuning block. On the right we have the headstock with "The Colonel" proudly displayed in shell inlay which matches that of the fret markers.
Highslide JS
headstock with custom string retainers.

Highslide JS
Back of the instrument right after finishing.
(5/13/10) Here we can see the back of the instrument showing the cutaway at the back of the neck to provide easier access to the upper frets. The cavity at the top right is for the batteries - designed in this case to hold three 9v batteries, two for the 18v preamp and one for the LED which provides the lighting for the side dots on the neck. The larger cavity os for the preamp, switches, pots and the fiber optic cabling which will be connected to the LED (yellow in this instrument)

Highslide JS
Just finished with the polyester resing coating and subsequent polishing.
(5/12/10) This is the instrument shortly after the finishing process was completed. Beautiful and shiny but I now have to start working on cleaning up any overspray and getting the instrument ready for assembly and wiring. Once the overspray has been carefully removed from cavities and other areas we'll apply our copper shielding inside the control and pickup cavities. When that's done we'll add the bridge and nut and prepare it for wiring.

Highslide JS
The body is now being sanded to a smooth finish. Birds Eye Maple looks nice.
(5/3/10) Here are a couple of photos taken as we were in the process of sanding the body. On the left you will see the knob and switch configuration. On the right, the photo of the back of the bass shows the control cavity cover and battery cavity cover in place. Also visible is the cutout at the neck/body transition.
Highslide JS
View of the back of the bass showing the cavity covers in place.

Highslide JS
Headstock almost complete. Inlay has been done.
(5/3/10) This is the headstock of the bass. Yes - there are no tuners, they are at the other end of this bass attached to the bridge! We have a unique methor of securing the strings on this instrument. On the back of the headstock we will insert metal string retainers and the strings will be clamped with set screws from the top of the headstock. We'll drill small holes for the strings when the finishing of the instrument is complete.

Highslide JS
Clamping on the Birdseye Maple headplate.
(5/2/10) We have bookmatched a nice piece of Birds Eye Maple for the headstock. Those pieces were carefully glued together and we them inlayed "The COLONEL" into the upper surface. When that was complete, the entire sub-assembly was glued and clamped to the headstock joint surface of the bass (see the photo to the left). A lot of work but it's always worth making the headstock match the body for maximum effect!!!

Highslide JS
Control cavity and battery cavity complete.
(5/1/10) This is a photo of the back of the bass after I machined the battery cavity. Note that there are spaces for three, not two, batteries as one of them will be dedicated to powering the LED used in lighting the side dots on the neck. Also - the belly cut on the back of the body has been started, and the cut out to allow access to the headless tuners has been established. We still have to make the two cavity covers and do a LOT of sanding.

Highslide JS
Control cavity is now machined into the body.
(4/30/10) After coming out of the vacuum press the body of the instrument has been cleaned up and set up on one of the CNC machines where we will be cutting the various pockets and cavities. First job was to cut the control cavity on the back of the instrument. Since we had the fiber optic cables to deal with, this operation had to be done in two parts in order to avoid damaging them. The end result was good and we can now move on to the battery compartment.

Highslide JS
We are gluing the Birds Eye Maple top onto the rest of the instrument.
(4/29/10) The top has been carefully fitted and is no being glued onto the body in the vacuum press. This method allows for even pressure across the entire surface of the top and will result in a very secure and well-fitted joint. I leave this in the vacuum press overnight so that I am certain that the adhesive has completely cured. Once the top is on we'll have all the parts assembled which will allow us to start machining the cavities etc.

Highslide JS
Securing the fiber optic cables before the top goes on.
(4/28/10) In order to make sure we get a clean and precise joint between the Birds Eye Maple top and the rest of the instrument I have to secure the bundles fiber optic cables into the body so that they don't interfere with the joint. Here we are using some clamps and epoxy to get them located permanently into their channel so that they don't get in the way when the top is glued on. In order to achieve this I had to remove some of the control cavity material.

Highslide JS
Fingerboard is now glued onto the neck.
(4/27/10) This photo shows the bass right after we glued the fingerboard onto the neck. A little tricky since there were 13 fiber optic cables to manage while the glue joint was set up, but all went well and everything went nicely together. Next we have to secure the fiber optic cables to allow the top to be glued on. Then some careful fitting to make sure the top fits snugly onto the rest of the instrument and we'll get the parts glued together.

Highslide JS
Getting started cutting the joint for fitting the top plate to the body.
(4/24/10) We have glued the two bookmatched pieces of brids-eye maple together to create the top plate for the bass. We also rough-cut the body shape and sanded it to a smaooth finish. It is now set up on one of our machines so that we can precisely cut out the section that will fit around the end of the fingerboard. This needs to be done very accurately so that we yield a nice tight fit when the top is pressed onto the body.

Highslide JS
Test fit of the fingerboard on the neck of the bass.
(4/19/10) The neck has now been removed from the support material and we are ready to install the stainless steel frets and thereafter, the fiber optic cabling. Frets first though, as the fingerboard is hard to handle with 13 wilful fiber optic cables attached to it! In the photo to the left you can see the fingerboard in place on top of the neck. When the f/o cabling is done we'll attach the fingerboard and the top plate at the same time.

Highslide JS
Machining the back side of the fingerboard on the CNC.
(4/16/10) Now that the inlay is done we have to flip the fingerboard upside down on one of the CNC machines in order to do some further surgery to the back side of the board. First job is to remove enough of the support material to expose the areas of the back of the fingerboard we need to work on. Then we cut slots for the inlay (side dots) and glue in bone inserts in those slots. We machine the inserts flush and then cut all the channels for the fiber optics.

Highslide JS
Shell inlay has been glued into the fingerboard - we'll clean it all up once the adhesive cures.
(4/14/10) We have cut all the fret slots and also moved on to cutting the fret markers into the fingerboard. This was done with a .040" carbide end mill in order to yield the required detail. Once the recesses were cut into the board we moved on to the laser where we cut a set of inlays (peace signs in this case). The shell was carefully glued into the recesses in the fingerboard and we are now waiting for the whole thing to cure before moving on.

Highslide JS
Cutting the fret slots in the ebony fingerboard.
(4/8/10) We have sawn a piece of ebony for the fingerboard, sanded it to achieve a very flat piece of material and ounted it on a rigid piece of support material for machining on the CNC. We then cut the perimeter of the fingerboard to the exact final dimensions. Following that we cut a compound radius on the top surface. Once that was done and cleaned up, we set up for fret slots. This is done with a very small carbide end mill rotating at high speed.

Highslide JS
The top surface of the body has been cut ready for teh top plate.
(4/5/10) The top surface of the body has now been cleaned up and machined to the correct level to accommodate the Birds Eye Maple top plate when it is ready to go on. We have to calculate the correct depth from the end of the fingerboard so that all the angles line up properly and the strings and the bridge are positioned just right. Since this bass will have fiber optic side dots we will also have to allow for channeling for the fiber optic cables.

Highslide JS
This is the bookmatched Birdseye Maple we will be using for the top.
(4/2/10) Today we resawed a nice piece of Birds-Eye maple for the top of the instrument. This Birds-Eye material is unusual because the grain/figure is much larger and more pronounced than typical B.E.M. Although this bass will be mostly opaque black, we'll make the top a translucent black to show off the beauty of this unusual Brids Eye grain. The material is sawn and sanded and is now ready for edge preparation so that the two pieces can be book-matched.

Highslide JS
Hot off the laser, these are some of the bobbin parts for the pickups.
(3/31/10) Today we created vector files for the layout of the pickup parts. First job is to cut the bobbins for the separate colis in each pickup. We do this in out laser, and cut the bobbins from a special fiber product. These wuill be dual coil pickups therefore we need an upper and lower bobbin for each coil in each pickup. Pole spacing is different on the neck pickup and on the bridge pickup so these are all cut in matched sets and marked accordingly.

Highslide JS
Back of the instrument is now bing cleaned up and leveled.
(3/30/10) The second body half has been successfully attached to the core of the instrument, now we have something that looks like a real bass guitar! At this point I set the instrument up so that I can clean up and level the entire back surface relative to the angles we generated on the front side earlier. This will give me a reliable surface from which to machine other features on the instrument. The body shape is still oversize.

Highslide JS
Top half of the body being glued to the center core.
(3/28/10) After some careful consideration of the location of the Hipshot headless bridge assembly, we made a decision on the best location for the two mahogany body halves, and as you can see in the photo on the left, the upper bout is being glued onto the center core of the instrument. We'll leave this assembly to cure overnight and expect that we'll be able to glue the other half onto the instrument tomorrow. Then it should look like a bass guitar!!

Highslide JS
Getting ready to glue the body wings onto the neck core.
(3/26/10) Now that we have added the carbon fiber, we were able to do some finalmachining to the neck/body core and prepare the edges for the addition of the two body wings. I rough sawed the two body wings from a nice piece of mahogany which will work well with the other woods and will not make the finished bass too heavy. The body parts are sill oversize - I won't take them to finished size until they are attached.

Highslide JS
Gluing the two carbon fiber rods into the neck.
(3/17/10) Truss rod slot has been machined, also the two slots for the carbon fiber rods have been machined into the neck. Now we use a high-grade epoxy to secure the two carbon fiber rods into their respective slots. We have to use numerous clamps to make sure each rod is well seated into its slot and that the very small gap is filled with epoxy. This will guarantee the maximum amount of support and rigidity. This assembly will cure overnight.

Highslide JS
Headstock angle and core perimeter of the instrument has been machined.
(3/13/10) We are moving things along as fast as we can on this project. The head angle has been cut and we have also machined round the perimeter of the neck, establishing the final dimensions at the nut, 12th and 24th fret positions, bridge and at the bottom end of the body. We are now ready to cut slots for the carbon fiber re-inforcing rods and the truss rod. That should be done tomorrow and the neck/body core can be removed from the CNC.

Highslide JS
Machining on teh CNC has officially started.
(3/11/10) The neck/body core of this bass has been secured and squared up in our CNC and I have started the first of several operations I will run while the blank is on on this machine. So far I have cleaned up the neck/fingerboard joint face and now have set up to cut the upper angle of the headstock. Once that is done I will cut the body angle at the other end and then generate the final outer dimensions of the neck itself.

Highslide JS
The neck/body core is now ready to be machined.
(3/8/10) The completed 7-piece neck core is now ready for some machining operations. We are setting it on on the CNC so that we can start by establishing the joint surface of the neck/fingerboard and the relative angle of the body to the neck. Once those faces have been cleaned up we will move on to cutting the perimeter of the neck and the headstock angle, both of which are also done in the same setup to guarantee consistency.

Highslide JS
Gluing the 7-piece neck core together one slice at a time.
(3/7/10) Still busy gluing strips together. In the photo we are on the second to last piece of this 7-piece laminated neck core. We'll have the whole thing completed tomorrow! Due to glue curing times I only get two glue sessions per day. Once these are all combined into one solid piece we will move onto the CNC machine and start establishing some of the important datum surfaces and dimensions. We want to have this ready for finishing April 1st!!!

Highslide JS
Here we have just machined three purpleheart strips to the correct taper.
(3/6/10) The various laminate strips for the neck have now been carefully sanded flat and we are ready to get them on the Ornamental Mill where we machine one side of each to create a pre-defined taper. All five of the center pieces get machined in this way and when put together they all conform to the natural taper of the fingerboard.
Highslide JS
We now machine the two center strips of maple to pre-defined tapers.

Highslide JS
All the maple and purpleheart pieces for the neck and body core have been rough-sawn.
(2/25/10) Today we continued sawing blanks for the laminates for the neck. The three strips in the center of the neck/body core are Purpleheart which is a very hard wood and consequently a lot of slow work to saw up. Nevertheless, this wood will play a big part in the sound the bass will have when we are done. Purplehear will add a lot of sustain to the bass and the maple will keep the tone nice and bright. Should be a nice combination.

Highslide JS
Rough cut maple which will bcome part of the laminated neck core.
(2/24/10) Moving right along - we created a template based on the sizes calculated for the profile of this bass, and used that to rough cut the first three pieces of wood. These three pieces will be sanded and milled down and paired up with similar laminates of purpleheart. They will ultimately be glued together to create a very rigid center section for the bass. We are using maple and purpleheart so that we yield brightness and great sustain!

Highslide JS
The birdseye maple top will just barely be visible through a translucent black finish.
(2/23/10) We have started work on this project. First thing on the list was to eastablish specifications for the bass with our customer. Now that we have agreed upon body geometry we can select and start cutting some of the wood. To do that we draw out the bass to scale and from that create a template which is used for cutting the wood. We're looking at maple and purpleheart for the neck, wenge body and birdseye maple top (see pic).
Last update May 17, 2010