Watson Guitars
Idyllwild
California, USA

Alex Watson Artwork (Serial 12B051)
Fretless
.
Call
951-468-4004 or email us here!

   
Materials:

Top: Amboyna Burl Back & Sides: Figured Walnut
Neck & Center Section: Wenge with Padouk Stringers

Fingerboard: Ebony
Electronics: ABM saddles - custom ABM/Ebony hybrid using piezos
Tuners

Hipshot - Gold hardware

Options: Shell inlay on neck - bridge, headstock and more!
Finish: KTM Lacquer or similar- nice satin
Scale Length: 33" scale
String Spacing: 17mm at bridge, 9mm at nut

This bass will be 6-string beauty. The wood choices are great options for good tone, and they will guarantee a beautiful instrument in every way. The bass will also have some amazing inlay -werewolves, moon phases and Wolfsbane flowers!


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Doing some sanding and measuring so that I can connect the sides to the neck of the bass.
(6/20/17) Left: Text and picture coming. (6/25/17) Right: Text and picture coming.
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Doing some sanding and measuring so that I can connect the sides to the neck of the bass.

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Side dots being installed along the edge of the fingerboard.
(6/12/17) Left: I'm putting in the side dots along the upper edge of the fingerboard since it is something that should be done before the frets go in. (6/15/17) Right: Side dots are installed and clipped off - I need to clean up the ends by carefully sanding them all flush but I am happy this task has been done. Moving on....
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Side dots have been installed along the fingerboard.

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Doing some sanding and measuring so that I can connect the sides to the neck of the bass.
(6/4/17) Left: In this photo I am evaluating the body profile and its physical match to the top and bottom plates. I'm going to be attaching neck, fingerboard and sides together. (6/9/17) Right: Once the joint areas have been established I will be doing some custom modifications to the support cross pieces.
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Doing some sanding and measuring so that I can connect the sides to the neck of the bass.

Highslide JS
Doing some sanding and measuring so that I can connect the sides to the neck of the bass.
(5/27/17) Left: I'm now working on some of he final shaping (and a little bending) of the curve at the lower bout for neck access. (5/30/17) Right: Attaching the block that joins the lower side panel to the curved neck relief piece. I need them attached as one piece so that I can plot positions for joining to neck.
Highslide JS
Doing some sanding and measuring so that I can connect the sides to the neck of the bass.

Highslide JS
Doing some sanding and measuring so that I can connect the sides to the neck of the bass.
(5/6/17) Left: Just a quick fingerboard update to the bottom end of the fingerboard with the lower Wolfsbane flower completed. (5/17/17) Right: I'm taking a photo of the end of the fingerboard as it sits in place on the top plate and shoundhole art. I want to include some of the soundhole art at the end of the fingerboard.
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Getting some critical measuremenst between the top, neck and fingerboard. Want to make sure they all end up the the right places.

Highslide JS
Doing some sanding and measuring so that I can connect the sides to the neck of the bass.
(5/1/17) Left: This is he bottom inlay with all my little shell pieces laid inside the recess - I now have to secure them in there and give it a strong sealer coating. (5/3/17) Right: Bottom inlay now part of the fingerboard. I'm going to level it off with some filler so that it's protected and clean. Have to add the last moon now!
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Got the wolfsbane inlay in the fingerboard.

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Substrate ready to go into bottom inlay and the last moon phase location.
(4/25/17) Left: I cut the substrate material for the bottom inlay of the fingerboard and I am working on getting that installed in the recess so that I can add the shell. (4/30/17) Right: Shell now cut for the bottom inlay pieces and I'm ready to get them installed and sealed. This fingerboard and the soundhole will look great together!
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Getting started on this fairly small and intricate inlay.

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Aside from a surface finish to the wood/inlay which I will do later - the fingerboard is complete except for the small area at the heel which I am now working with.
(4/14/17) Left: Upper edge of the fingerboard has been finished and cleaned up. I'm now looking at finishing up the last inlay on the end so that I can get the frets installed. (4/19/17) Right: Drawing out the inlay at the lower end of the fingerboard so that it matched that of the ring around the soundhole. Needs to be accurate!
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This is the last of the neck inlay!.

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Up on CNC machine to cut side dot holes.
(3/28/17) Left: This photo shows my setup to establish the set of side dot holes into the upper edge of our fingerboard. (4/4/17) Right: I am now installing dot material into the holes drilled in the edge of the fingerboard. I'm using white material to yield the best contrast against the ebony material. Looking good so far.
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Side dots are in and now I will be filling these holes with a contrasting material.

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I got the support material removed from the fingerboard assembly.
(3/14/17) Left:: This is the fingerboard with the support material trimmed. I have inlay and side dots to get set up and done now. (3/22/17) Right: I cut the shell fo the Wolfsbane inlay at the body end of the fingerboard. Just need to get this inset. I have also drawn out the Wolfsbane flowers at the corners to blend with the soundhole.
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Doing some sanding and measuring so that I can connect the sides to the neck of the bass.

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Preparing fingerboard for shell inlay.
(2/29/17) Left: I'm working on some of the body parts so that I can get the sides of the body joined up to the neck component. That will move things along nicely. (3/7/17) Right: Calculating a nice transition of artwork from the fingerboard to the soundhole. Getting some dimensions set the will cut off FB support material.
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I have two more pieces of Wolfsbane to add to the heel end of the fingerboard. Doing all the measurements to get that done..

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I'm scraping the protective filler to yield a nice flat protective finish on the fingerboard.
(2/13/17) Left: This is the fingerboard with the mooon phase and central inlay filled and being leveled. The whole board so far looks great and I am now ready to do some final inlay on the heel end. (2/22/17) Right: Filling the final inlay pieces with substate material and I'm ready to cut the shell pieces for this section and drop them in place.
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Preparing fingerboard for shell inlay.

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Just got done with a very demanding inlay piece but it looks really nice in the fingerboard.
(1/30/17) Left: This werewolf inlay piece was probably one of the hardest I have ever done. Very tricky from a handling point of view but it's in now! (2/5/17) Right: This is the main inlay with the moon phases set in up to fret 17. I will now be working on getting a protective filler added and leveling everything off on the top surface.
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Main inlay and moon phase pieces have been inset.

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Preparing fingerboard for shell inlay.

(1/18/17) Left: I have most of the fingerboard prepped for inlay and I have al the inlay cut. All substrate pieces are shaped and completed. (1/23/17) Right: I'm working my way up the fingerboard with the moon phase inlay. I have to cut them pretty carefully then secure them in their recesses so that they sit just right. The big inlay is next.

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Have the moon phase inlay done up to fret 9. Need to fill those flush with fingerboard and then get the big central 12th fret inlay seated. That one is VERY tricky!.

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Gluing the base pieces into the inlay recesses.
(1/5/17) Left: I have sanded down the substrate pieces and I'm now setting up to start gluing in the moon phase inlay pieces. (1/11/17) Right: First two moon inlays have been fixed into their inlay recesses. The first one is now part of the fingerboard and have applied special filler to protect the top which I will level when set.
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Getting the shell installed - this is the forst of the moon phase inlays.

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Got the shell cut without anything going wrong. It's a very tricky and delicate job and I will be glad when it's set and sealed in the fingerboard!.
(12/19/16) Left: Shell has been cut and I now need to very carefully fit it and if nothing breaks I will install it permanently! My goal is to make this fingerboard really look impressive! (12/24/16) Right: I'm now working on the moon phase inlay which involves several components and two pieces of shell for each moon. Looking good so far!
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This is one of the moon phase inlay pieces. I'm setting up to get them all

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Preparing fingerboard for shell inlay.
(11/29/16) Left: I'm actually going to drop in the werewolf inlay first. This is what the recess looks like before the shell goes in. Should look really nice. (12/3/16) Right:I test cut the werewolf artwork to make sure that everything will fit correectly on top of my substrate piece. It looks good although the shell will be more fragile!
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Testing shell geometry before cutting the shell itself.

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Preparing fingerboard for shell inlay.
(11/24/16) In this photo I have cut the substrate material for the werewolf inlay and fitted it into the fingerboard. I now have to do some sanding and that will ultimately allow me to get the shell inlay pieces into the fingerboard. It's all a little tricky due to the complexity of the inlay inself but it will look great. Once the shell is in I will use a special filler and level everything. When that's done I will re-establish fret slots and then install the frets.

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Working on the more complex areas of the inlay.
(11/19/16) In this photo I am working on the shape that will be occupied by the shell on the center Werewolf image. It's a complicated and detailed piece and I am testing the fit right now between the recess and ithe inlay material to make sure everything fits and I don't waste any of the shell material in the process! Once this is done I will carefully cut the substrate material andthen I will get the whole fingerboard ready for the inlay process. It will look great!

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Working on the more complex areas of the inlay.
(11/12/16) I am now working on the support material under the actual inlay pieces. These have to be raduised to match the curve of the fingerboard so this is a very hands-on task. I will then start on the moon phase inlays and get them installed in the board. I'll leave the werewolf artwork until the moons are done and will finish things off with a couple of Wolfsbane flowers at the heel end of the fingerboard once I know where the hole geometry falls in.

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I'm starting inlay of the moons, first thing is to add a substrate that I will use to match fingerboard radius.
(11/5/16) Machining of the fingerboard was quite successful and now I am in the process of cutting filler material that will allow me to match the inlay to the natural coupound radius of the fingerboard surface. I have everything ready to cut the actual shell so this work I'm currently doing is just to provide the right geometry for the material to which the shell material will be attached. It's a multi-task process but will produce beautiful results.

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Macining some of the details with a .023" cutter!.
(10/26/16) In this photo you can probably see I'm working on the werewolf and wolfsbane inlay areas. I'm part of the way through here - I have to cut these recesses with three different cutter sizes to get the kind of detail I want to yield in the final artwork. The end result will be worth the effort though! There will be two woflfbane leaves that i will do later as they have to be oriented with the inlay around the soundhole.

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Cutting the recesses for the moon phase inlay.
(10/22/16) In this photo I am almost all the way through establishing the recesses for the moon phases. They have varying depths because of their locations across the curve of the fingerboard. I had to be careful to make sure the pattern was exactly aligned with the fret slots which worked out fine. Next step in the process will be to run a few roughing cuts on the werewolf and wolfsbane artwork. That's another setup following this one.

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Getting all the tools set up for the cutting of the recesses.
(10/17/16) The cutting of the inlay recesses will involve a few different operations and cutter sizes in order to yield the detail I want to get out of the artwork. My canvas is also a radiused surface so I have to be a little creative about how I cut the recesses depending on how close each feature is to centerline or the edge of the board. I have everything programmed so it's just a case of getting it done. Should be interesting!

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Back on CNC for getting the inlay set up.
(10/11/16) Fingerboard back up on my CNC machine and this time to get all the inlay recesses cut so that I can add all this beautiful artwork to the instrument. My biggest challenge here is to make sure everything is accurately places with regard to the locations of the fret slots. I measure everything off fret zero so it should all work out OK. My goal is to make this a really beautiful instrument, a tool for music but also a work of art too!

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Verifying relative positions for artwork on soundhole and fingerboard.
(10/4/16) I laser cut the exact shape of my fingerboard to establish critical relative locations for the artwork. This will allow me to make sure everything on my program for the fingerboard inlay is correctly distributed. I'm goping to finalize the program and get this board up on my CNC to get the inlay recesses cut. I can't install frets until the inlay has all beein installed! Looking forward to seeing the results on the fingerboard!

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Cutting fret slots in the fingerboard.

(9/25/16) The fingerboard is up on the CNC in order to have all the fret slots and the nut slot established. In order to best guarantee relative placement I like to have the fret slots (but not the frets) established on the board first. I'm cutting them to finished depth and will then cut the nut slot and remove the board so that I can double check the inlay placement before cutting that. I want it to be a great compliment to the other inlay on the top!


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Slight overlap of artwork blending soundhole and fingerboard art together.
(9/15/16) This is how the inlay on the fingerboard has finally worked out. I have all the same content as I used around the soundhole and I wanted to make sure the artwork on the fingerboard was distributed not only for aesthetic considerations but also to work best with the fret placement. I believe the combination of fingerboard and soundhole will be pretty impressive and I have plans for more related inlay on headstock and maybe bridge too!

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Sanding the board to remove machining marks.
(9/8/16) The inlay on the fingerboard will interact with that of the soundhole. I discovered from laying the fingerboard geometry onto the top plate that it would be a nice feature to try and show some continuity by having the Wolfsbane overlap just a tiny bit. Current goal is to get all the fret slots and nut slot into he board because that established the critical linear relatioship between neck and soundhole. Inlay going in right after that!

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Sanding the board to remove machining marks.
(8/26/16) I am now working on sanding the ebony fingerboard with a very straight sanding block to remove the machining marks from the compound radius. It takes quite a bit of persistent sanding but the fingerboard always looks so good after the surface is brought to a nice flat and accurate surface. My goal here is to get everything nice and smooth so that I can then get the board back up on the CNC in order to cut the fret slots.

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Fingerboard back on the CNC for fret slots.
(8/17/16) This is the fingerboard with much of the initial machining already done. It has already been on the CNC machine to be cut to its outside profile, it has had a compound radius established and a nut slot machined. My next goal is to sand smooth and get all the fret slots cut into it because they have a relationship with the fingerboard inlay and it is very helpful to have those in place as the artwork for the inlay is established. Nice piece of quality Ebony!!

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I will be doing some neck and fingerboard work so checking dimensions f1rst.
(8/11/16) Back to my 100% scale drawing to verify several important dimensions I will need for the neck and fingerboard of this instrument. Right now the objective is to get the fingerboard cut, radiused and get all the inlay done on the upper surface. Once that is achieved I can install the frets. I will have to allow for the soundhole geometry at the end of the board but I can deal with that when the other features are done.

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Soundhole inlay all set - some cleanup required noe and we'll be working on the fingerboard!.
(8/1/16) Two good things to report here. One is that I got all the remaining inlay done around the soundhole and I'm now putting a special sealer on there to keep the surface nice and clean. Haven't done the final surfacing yet so there are still a lot of glue marks which will be gone when done. I revised and prepped the fingerboard inlay and wrote the required programming to get the recesses cut and thereafter get the inlay established to match the soundhole.

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Some of the shell is inset - and I am getting the other locations ready too.
(7/27/16) This is my progress so far on the Wolfsbane flowers. My first one went relatively well but I had to be very careful about the placement of the pieces (working with a toothpick) to make sure they sat right in the recess while the initial adhesive set enough to lock them in. I will admit I will be glad when this part of the work is done! It will be a beautiful soundhole decoration and even more impressive since the fingerboard will match too!

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Getting the ebony fingerboard roughed out.
(7/24/16) I am in the process of machining the fingerboard blank from an excellent piece of Gabon Ebony. I will cut the blank to the final shape and size based on my scaled vector drawing and the neck blank. Once I have that done I'll generate a compound radius on the top surface and in the process will establish the fingerboard thickness. I will leave the large end slightly oversize so that I have the option of shaping that to conform to soundhole.

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Doing the very delicate inlay for the wolfsbane flowers.
(7/21/16) I have been cutting shell pieces for the Wolfsbane flowers which are very small and delicate. Each flower have 5 or 6 pieces and I have to use magnifying spectacles plus a big magnifying glass to be able to place and arrange them. The will definitely come out looking really nice and I have set up a separate well-lit area to try and get all these pieces fixed in. I'll probably do one flower at a time as they are all slightly different. More photos coming!

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Got the green shell cut for the leaves - moving onto the flowers next.
(7/10/16) Left: I have now cut the green shell for the leaves at the bottom of each Wolfsbane plant. I'm busy fitting these into the recesses. (7/15/16) Right: The fingerboard for this bass is attached to a solid substrate and ready for some machining. Once the perimeter and radius are cut I can start work on the fingerboard inlay.
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Fingerboard now ready for machining.

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Fingerboard sanded and ready for machining. I have to be off for a few days but will pick up the project as soon as I return (family emergency)
(6/4/16) Now that I have a formula for the werewolf and wolfsbane elements of the design I'm going to get the fingerboard under way using the same theme and elements. I have the ebony board which I just surfaced on both sides and will now attach to a substrate to support it during its upcoming machining. I do already have a layout for the fingerboard art which I will repost here when I have updated. Right now I need to get the board cut and ready.

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Finally got the recess machining done for the wolfsbane flowers. I'm happy with the results and looking forward to seeing the inlay in place.
(5/25/16) Left: The Recesses for the Wolfsbane flowers have been cut! I'm now preparing artwork for cutting the shell inlay pieces. (5/30/16) Right: I have spent a little time cutting out the shapes. Quite tricky to do the inlay in one shot because parts are so small so I'm going to do leaves and stems first and work my way up.
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Starting with the leaves and working up.

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This is the Wolfsbane layout in vector form.
(5/19/16) Left: On the programming side these are the wolfsbane flower recesses I will be cutting in this operation. Thank heavens for the "Merge" control in Illustrator! (5/21/16) Right: Turned out to be a very time-consuming and rather complicated machining process, mainly to achieve the level of detail. 3 different operations!
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Now machining the recesses for the Wolfsbane. I needed three different cutters, smaller being 0.023 inch!

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I'm set up for cutting wolfsband flowers and leaves
(5/17/16) Time to get this top set up on the CNC for the rest of the top inlay. I need to hold the top plate pretty flat so I can guarantee a good degree of accuracy in the depth of the cuts i will be making. I will be using some very miniature cutters so that I can get the detail required (in the leaves for example) but I think this can all be achieved by just being careful. The goal is to cut al the required recesses, inlay will be done after that operation.

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Shell inlay around ring is complete except for a final coating.
(5/9/16) Almost done with this part of the inlay, I have to drop in a little surfacing sealer and then I will move on to the Wolfsbane flowers. (5/11/16) This is the ring inlay so far with everything leveled. I have now transferred the artwork I hd for the rest of the content to program files and I'm going to cut all the additional recesses.
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Outer ring complete and leveled.

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Choosing a shell for the outer ring.
(5/6/16) I tried several colors of shell for the ring around the soundhole - some of the brown/honey ones didn't stand out much, the darker grey was too much like the dark color of the ebony. I chose the blue of the werewolves that contrasts well with the woods and looks good against the other colors, bearing in mind we have a lot of green and purples in the flowers. I'll cut all the shell and take another look, but I think this one will look very nice.

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Slot has been cut fopr the decorative inlay border around the ebony.
(4/30/16) I have now machined a slot which is .125" wide all the way around the outer edge of the soundhole. This will be a purely decorative feature but it will ad some dimension to the artwork that we're putting on here because some of the Wolfsbane flowers will be inlayed over this border. I'm now going to get the shell carefully cut to fit and get the pieces installed all the way around this recess. Next stage will be the flowers and leaves.

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I created a special fixture for this machining operation. I can now start machining the inlay that extends outside the sound hole ring1.
(4/28/16) I have done a lot of suface preparation on the top and followed up with a good amount of sanding. The top feels great and seems very rigid and solid which allays aome of my fears that the burl would not have a lot of structural integrity. I am now going to get a border machined around the soundhole into which I will place another shell inlay. When that's done I will do the flowers and leaves - anxious to see how that looks!

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Headstock plate showing off its colors.
(4/22/16) I wanted to add a photo of the headstock plate with some denatured alcohol on it to show how amazing this wood is. The colors are really nice and the grain is beautiful and it gives us a hint at what the top of the bass will look like with its final finish applied. In the meantime I will get this little plate shaped closer to the headstock profile. It will also have a truss rod access cover machined out of this piece, should look very nice.

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Gluing headstock plate together.
(4/18/16) The headstock veneer is being glued together to make one bookmatched piece that will match the material on the top of the body of the bass. As soon as this has set I will do some additional sanding to clean up and then add decorative veneers to the bottom of the assembly. The headstock will eventually match perfectly with the top of the body - and I may even end up adding some of the inlay features if there is space!

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Text Coming Soon.
(3/29/16) In this photo I am preparing to permanently fix the cutaway curve to the lower body half using the walnut component I prevoiusly machined and shaped for this purpose. The solid walnut piece has two functions, one being to join the two side components at just the right angle, the other to provide a good sturdy and solid end piece at the joint of the undercut to provide structural strength. Tricky to clamp but it will be fine!

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Doing some surface treatment on teh top plate before I get the inlay work under way.
(3/15/16) I am ready ro run some more inlay work on the instrument top plate but I decided first to add another couple of coats of sealer which helps stabilize and strengthen the grain, and then rub it all down to yield a nice clean surface. It's quite a lot of work but I need to have an almost finished surface in which to drop the upcoming inlay artwork so the preparation is very important in this area! I'll start by cutting a circular perimeter ring.

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I will be bookmatching these pieces together for the headstock front plate.
(3/11/16) This is the material that I have prepared from offcuts of the top plate which will become the laminate for the top face of the headstock. The goal is to create some nice continuity by having the headplate match the top of the instrument. I will also be carefully cutting a small truss rod access cover out of this same piece of material before it it attached to the headplate. This will look very impressive on the finished bass!

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Successful assembly of soundhole ring.
(3/6/16) This is the assembly just out of the vacuum press - not really much to see but we achieved a nice solid assembly which only needs a little cleanup mainly for squeezed out adhesive. My next task on this area is to apply more stabilizing grain filler to the top so that it is as prepared as possible for me cutting into it with the ongoing inlay features. I will then cut an outer rin and inlay that, then work on the flowers and leaves!

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Getting the ebony soundhole ring fitted into the top plate.
(3/4/16) The ring is now oriented and installed into the top plate and the assembly is being glued inside the vacuum press. Once this is done I'll do some more surface prep on the top. I have also done some of the programming which will allow me to cut the recesses for the wolfsbane flowers and leaves. Looking foward to seeing that come together, plus getting started on the matching theme of the fingerboard artwork.

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All set for gluing the ring in place.
(2/25/16) After some very careful sanding of the back of the ring and also a surface cleanup on the top of thetop plate wood I have been able to test fit the ring into the top. I wanted to make sure the upper surfaces were pretty accurately alighned when the two parts were together. I can now get a little setup together and get these parts assembled so that I cen move ahead with the rest of the inlay in this area.

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Getting the ebony soundhole ring fitted into the top plate.
(2/22/16) I am in the process of fitting this ring into the top plate so that it's depth and orientation are correct. Once I have that set, I will cut a recess around the outside of the ring into which I will inlay some shell. I may do this in the inside too depending on how everything looks in terms of space and artistic balance. Once these outer rings are inlaid, I will start work on the Wolfsbane flowers which I am sure will look awesome!!

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Very delicat work but I successfully removed the soundhole ring from the backing plate.
(2/15/16) I just wanted to show that the ebony ring was successfully removed from its support base and cleaned up and I am now doing some preparation for getting it glued into the soundhole ring of the top plate. I am just making sure the fit is right and the depths match well. Once this is glued into the top I can get that set up to do some more delicate machining. I'll be adding the Wolfsbane flowers and probably an inner and outer border around the ring.

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Shell inlay being installed.
(2/3/16) Left: I'm in the process of installing some of the shell inlay features. I'm being careful - this is the only big ring of Ebony I have! (2/6/16) Right: Happy to say I got all of the first phase of inlay installed and finished. Looks great and the work on the detail paid off - and there's MORE to come once ring is installed in the top plate!
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THis phase of the inlay process is done - I now have to remove the ring from the MDF and install it into the instrument top plate!.

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Some more of the artwork going into the soundhole ring.
(1/28/16) I cut some shell for the werewolf artwork and although it is extremely delicate and fragile I think I can make it work. I'm going to get these permanently set in the ebony and then remove the ebony ring itself so that I can install in into the top plate. When it is secured there, I will cut and inlay the wolfsbane features that extent outside the ring. Delicate work but although I though it might be too much getail - seems to be working!

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Moon inlay going in around the soundhole ring.
(1/22/16) I was able to successfully cut the shell for the moon phases around the soundhole. These were cut from a brownish gold shell that works really well for a moon color. There are very delicate and hard to handle but I am ready now to carefully embed them in the ebony and get them sealed up. I will cut the werewolves next probably using some of the grey/blue shell I have - shoul dlook really nice although those will be even more fragile!!!

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Machining recesses for some of the inlay work.
(1/11/16) I'm now in the process of machining some of these fatures into the soundhole ring. I had to change a few of the elements to make sure they either fit right or my smallest end mill (.023") could access the details. I now think everything will be ok and I'm cutting the recesses around the ring. So far everything is going as expected. This will take care of werewolves and moons. I will do the inlay and move on to the next set.

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Getting started on the first phase of the inlay process.
(1/6/16) In the enlarged photo you can see the features I am cutting and inlaying first. Those are the elements that are constrained inside the soundhole ring itself. Also you can see the cutter paths that I am programming and at the bottom an image of the micro endmill -the shat is only 1/8 diameter and the cutting edge is .023" This will get the first stage done and that will allos me to embed the ebony ring into the top plate!

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Soundhole artwork which I am now breaking down to separate operations.
(12/28/15) This is the inlay that will be going around the soundhole. I have all the shell on hand and I now have to plan the strategy to get everything looking right. Since the wolfsbane flowers flow out onto the top surface of the instrument those, and the two circular outer rings will be done last when the assembly is inserted into the top plate. I'm going to do the moons and werewolves first while the ring is out of the instrument.

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Pre-treating the top surface in preparation of the upcoming inlay work.
(12/13/15) Because the inlay that will surround the soundhole will be overlapping onto the actual top of the instrument, I am taking the precaution to pre-treat the wood so that it is a little more stable. It also protects what would otherwise be a very porus surface from absorbing any of the adhesive or other products I may be using when applying the inlay. I'l lput a couple of coats on this - rubbing between applications and we'll be ready.

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Wolfsbane inlay tests have been done. This one came out pretty well!
(12/7/15) I have been busy working with the inlay to see how our wolfsbane flower would come out. I tried a couple of different approaches but the inlay at the top of the photo worked out best. The one below was a previous attempt! It's hard to photograph because the purple colors change as you move but it at least shows what the assembly will look like. I will probably mix the purples among the flowers. Now on to the actual inlay!

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Inlay componebts have been cut - now to test my eyesight in assembling them!!
(11/29/15) These are the pieces of colored shell that I cut to create the test flower and see if it can be successfully assembled in the recess I just cut. It will also tell me if the color combinations are going to work. I have other shades of purple and violet but the ones I cut were my first choices. Now I have to get the microscope and surgical tweezers out to see if I can get the parts assembled in the recess. If it all works it will be awesome!

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I cut the inlay recess on a piece of ebony - now to see what happens when I drop the shell in there!
(11/26/15) I ran the inlay recess on a piece of ebony I had in the shop. As expected the cut was pretty clean and should accept the inlay quite well. I made this test at pretty much the same size as those that will surround the soundhole area. Next step will be to separate a few pieces of shell and see if I can get them pieces together in the available space. If all goes well this should look really impressive. Pictures coming!

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3 stages of reducing flower artwork to a machine toolpath. Now to see how it looks in reality!
(11/22/15) After working on the actual details of the soundhole artwork I am now programming and cutting a test Wolfsbane flower to see how the inlay will look before we brop them on around the actual soundhole. On the right you can see the flower based on the colors I plan to use. Center image is the shape of the recess I have to cut for the shell. On the left is the toolpath for a .038 diameter end mill. Scale is pretty small but should be interesting!!!

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Close to settling on inlay around the soundhole.
(11/16/15) I have some photos to post of previous operations but thought I should include this image which shows our basic plan for artwork around the soundhole of the bass. It includes the flowers and leaves from the Wolfsbane plant, plus moon phases and some werewolf imagery. Also. I'm planning to add a werewolf image visible through the soundhole attached to the backplate. This will all combine nicely with out fingerboard artwork.

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Preparing to cut the colored rings.
(10/20/15) The soundhole ring is up on the cnc with the initial task of cutting the colored lines around the outer and inner edges of the ring. I want to get these established firs as some of the flower inlays will be running through these areas so its best to get the rings done and then cut through for the other features. I just need to be very careful here to make sure my setup is exactly centered to the ring geometry. Everything else shoudl be fine!.

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Ring for soundhole now at correct thickness and ready for some inlay.
(10/4/15) I have thicknessed the ebony soundhole ring to suit the depth of the recess in the top plate. I now have a couple of minor operations to do to the ring itself. I will firstly cut the inner and outer decorative ring channels into the ebony. This will give me the area into which i will drop the shell for the borders. When that is done I will fit the ring into the top. The remainer of the inlay work will be done with the ring (at least temorarily) in place.

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Testing the bond and application process of carbon fiber material to a burlwood surface.
(9/22/15) I found this photo of my R&D work where i was testing the best way to add a Carbon Fiber substrate to what will be the bottom surface of the top plate. This is actually the third test I did and I was very happy with the results. I used a special epoxy to achieve the right bond and the trick was to use just the correct amount to let it soak fully into the woven fiber without pooling on the outer surface. The bond is great and it all feels like one solid surface!

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Ebony soundhole insert has been machined. Ready for some inlay work!.
(7/14/15) The Ebony blank has been attached to the MDF support and I have cut the outer and inner diameters to match the recess that I cut into the top plate of the bass. Next step will be to work on the artistic layout of the inlay that will exist on the ring itself. We have some promising ideas using the Wolfsbane flower, moon phases and the werewolf outline. Once the arrangement is settled i will start cutting the ebony and the shell.

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Preparing material for soundhole ring.
(7/7/15) This is the blank for the soundhole ring. It is solid Gabon Ebony and has been sanded down to just over the theickness I will need to embed in the top plate. Before that happens I am going to secure the somewhat fragile plate onto some MDF so that I can machine the ring and get much of the inlay taken care of while it is securely supported. The MDF is easy to remove once I have done all the detail inlay work.

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Doing some carving to the headstock area of the neck.
(6/25/15) Back on the neck and headstock today - I got my grinding tools out because I wanted to get the heardstock area and especially the volute behind the nut carved closer to a finished size. I won't finish the neck profile until the fingerboard goes on but I need tohave this neck section ready for attachment to other parts of the instrument body. Holes will be drilled when the headplate goes on. Feels better already!

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Just received some more shell from my Hawaii supplier for the inlay.
(6/18/15) I ordered a selection of colored shell to match the colors of the Wolfsbane flower. I neded some choices since the inlay will probably consist of three colors per flower and also greens (which I already have) for the leaves and stems. I have created some of the artwork in a vector program already so one the design elements are finalized I will get that portion of the work underway. Should look great against the ebony!

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Top braces have been shaped and ready for assembly.
(6/11/15) I have four of the top plate bracing strips prepared for assembly, the photo here shows two of them, whose purpose it to strengthen the area round the soundhole and keep that area flat. There will be two more similar braces applied to the top plate at the front and back of the body. With a 6-string bass it's important to maintain a good amount of physical support for the areas under tension!

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Getting some artwork set up for soundhole.
(6/7/15) Working on a lot of different aspects of this bass project at the same time. One is the concept and artwork that we want to incorporate in the ring around the soundhole were we can use some themed artwork. We have been developing a theme of Werewolves and moon phases on our fingerboard and I'm hoping to reflect that around the soundhole a too. My customer also suggested this "Wolfsbane" flower as a possible addition.

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Starting on the bracing under the top plate.
(5/28/15) I am cutting and shaping two of the bracing strips for the underside of the top plate. These have to be located close to the soundhole leaving room for the soundhole support ring which will be glued in place after these two braces are set. This will set the stage for the back bracing and all the support structure that goes under the bridge area.Objective is to create a strong platform for our 6-string bridge to sit on!

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Preparing body parts for assembly.
(5/22/15) I have to get some of these body pieces assembled together. Firstly I will be cutting parts of the sides so that they fit correctly at the neck area. I will then cut a slot and recess in the neck to allow the neck and sides to seamlessly join together. I will be attaching the undercut portion of the lower bout to achieve this. Sounds complicate but it's really more about just being really careful and doing it in the right sequence!

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Soundhole and recess for border around the soundhole are being machined.
(5/13/15) In this photo we can see the soundhole and the border have beoth been machined. I may take a little more out of the rosette area in oder to give me a good enough depth for the anticipated inlay. The rosette area is wide enough for me to create some nice artwork but not too big as to look out of place on the top of the instrument. I think we arrived at the right formula. Now I can start work on the inlay and get the bracing attached.

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Setting up CNC for soundhole and rosette work.
(5/11/15) The top plate is now on the CNC machine for two oprtations I want to do at the same time to guarantee concentricity. Firstly I will cut the soundhole all the way through and remove the center piece. I will then run another program that will cut the area dedicated to the soundhole artwork, This will be a concentric ring around the soundhole into which we will be adding the inlay which will reflect the themed artwork on the fingerboard.

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Bending the wood for the cutaway section.
(5/5/15) I was able to defy the laws of physics and get the end under the neck cutaway done using the same material as the rest of the sides of the bass. I decided to try sanding the side material down to about .100" and then running a pattern of laser cuts on the back side about .025" deep. This relieved the tension on the outer edge and allowed me to bend tigntly enough to get the job done. This will be handy for future jobs too!

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pre-assembly check to make sure all out parts are set to fit together properly.
(4/24/15) Back in the shop I'm preparing the various pieces I have to machine for the upcoming work. First task is to cut the soundhole and the recess that will house the 'rosette' artwork. The soundhole will be 4" diameter and I have plotted out its centerpoint on the top plate. I'm just checking to make sure I have no interference with other parts before cutting (Measure twice, cut once!) and then I will set up on CNC.

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Measuring the parts that will go together to make sure everything will land in the right place!.
(4/17/15) This is what the picture below (on computer) looks like in real life. First thang is to be sure the body meets neck beyond the weight relief cutout. Next - measure from nut to 24 fret position. then position hole to suit the fretboard length. Ultimately the fingerboard will be curved at the end to intersect nicely with the soundhole. All the math seems to work out. I am now able to establish locations for top bracing!

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Making sure I have the soundhole placed in the right location before cutting it out of the top plate.
(4/9/15) Now that I have a complete to that is sanded to the desired thickness I need to take the scale length and the body profile into consideration in placing the soundhole at the best location, keeping the internal construction in mind. I have to make sure it doesnt conflict with the locations of the top bracing or any mechanical requirements of the neck-to-body joint. As always - its best to view it to scale and measure accordingly!

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Amboyna top looks awesome. Can't imagine how nice this will be with the finish applied.
(3/23/15) This is the beautiful Amboyna Burl top just recently released from its clamping setup. I sanded and scraped the two sides to remove the slight glue seepage and we now have a nice complete bookmatched top which is ready for the next few operations. My next couple of tasks will be to clean up the perimeter closer to the body template and then, based on scale length and several other variables, establish the soundhole location.

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Some of the shell that will be used for the artwork.
(3/14/15) I have some inlay to get working on. We are going to have a werewolf and moon-phases theme and I wanted to have a few colors on hand to make that work on the instrument. I have other colors on hand too so we will see how things come together. There will be inlay on the neck, the headstock, around the soundhole and possibly on the bridge piece if these is a little room on there to work with. Big plans!

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Gluing the two halves of the top plate together.
(3/6/15) I set up these two top halves today and made sure the joint edges were a good fit to each other. I then carefully attached them to a flat baseplate, applied the glue and clamped the pieces down. I used three long clamps to apply the lateral pressure. With thin and relatively fragile material like this you have to be fairly careful about applying pressure. All looks good at this stage and I'll post another photo of the glued top.

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Joint faces on teh two top plates are now ready for assembly.
(2/27/15) Edges of the two top plates (shown sandwiched together) have now been machined to give me straight and square edges that will permit me to glue them together. I want to get them attached to each other soon. Once they are one piece I will be able to get some top work done such as cutting the sound hole and the recess for the rosette also. I also have carbon finer sheet to add to the botton of the assembly!!

Highslide JS
Setting up tocut the joint face on the top plates.
(2/25/15) I have both top plate sections sanded down to the optimum thickness and it's a good policy to get them assembled together so that the joint areas don't suffer handling damage (easy to do on burl wood!) I am setting the plates up on the CNC machine so that I can generate a nice straight edge for gluing the two top plates together. I have bracing ready for adding to the assembly to keep it stable.

Highslide JS
Working on the inner radius for the cutaway.
(2/12/15) I'm now working on the block that will be carved and shaped to provide the tight curve underneath the neck/body joint. I will mark out the portion of the profile on the wood and machine the inner (exposed) curve on the CNC. Once I have that I will remove the extra material from the inner surface and the parts will be ready to fit together. It's a little more work than bending but the walnut will not bend to this radius.

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Machining joint areas in the cutaway block.
(2/5/15) I have to do some machining on the block that will connect the sides to the cutaway on this bass. Initially I cut the joint recess for the end of the lower bout, as seen in the photo above. Next I will shape the insert so that it have the correct curve between the lower bout and the convave cutaway. Once that has been finished I'll machine a second joint recess and the three parts can be assembled together.

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Making a transition piece which will become the sharp end of the cutaway under the neck.
(1/29/15) I'm building a portion of the sides right now that will serve as the point of the cutaway area below the neck. To do this I have to create a transition piece that will joinn the opposing curves together. It's fairly complicated geometry-wise but will do an excellent job, will look good and also adds a little structural strength in that cutaway area. I was able to use a nice piece of wood with complimentary grain structure.

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Amboyna with a little Danatired alcohol sprayed on.
(1/11/15) Working on the sanding process to get top plates down to just the right thickness. In the process I hit the Amboyna Burl with some dnatured alcohol to give the wood the 'wet' look as an indicator of what it may look like with its final finish applied. It was awesome although these pics do not do it justice in real life!
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There will be a HUGE difference in the wood color once the final finish is applied. This Amboyna is very colorful.

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Top plate halves have been rough cut prior to final sanding.
(1/3/15) In preparation for making this beautiful top one solid piece and getting bracing and carbon fiber sheeting applied, I have rough cut the instrument profile from the material blanks so that I have less surface area to deal with as I sand this top down to its final thickness. I also need to check calculations for the exact soundhole position so that I can place the bracing in the best possible locations.

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Cutting blanks for internal bracing (under the top plate).
(12/23/14) Since the structure of the top plate is my current goal I needed to start work on some of the necessary bracing pieces that will be needed in the assembly. This requires a light but strong wood which i am machining and sanding to the correct profile. I will probably have three cross-members under the top and there will also be some shorter pieces whose purpose will be to stabilize parts of the sides of the body interior.

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Getting the top halves rough cut from the parent material. I think there will be enough residual for the headstock veneer too!.
(12/14/14) The top plate now needs to be rough cut so that I can move things forward a bit further. I am in the process of marking out the body profile a little oversize so that I can cut out the upper and lower halves. Once these are rough cut I am going to run them through the drum sander again to achieve the optimum thickness all over. I will then carefully establish a clean joint surface on each and glue the two together.

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The top surface of the instrument - really beautiful wood.
(12/4/14) I have been sanding these top plates to get them to the ideal thickness, bearing in mind that we will be adding a little high-tech engineering to these by laminating some carbon fiber onto the back surfaces for stability and rigidity. The sanding requires me to reduce the thickness of these panels from around 1/4 inch to about .100".
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The disty and messp process of drum sanding the top plates to the required thickness.

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Gluing the second side piece to the back block.
(11/16/14) I am now gluing the lower side bout onto the recess I machined in the back block. I clamp down on a surface that I already know is flat (and the glue will not adhere to) and that guarantees that the joint will remain nice and flush between the two joint surfaces. I also have to be careful that I apply the right amount of lateral pressure before clamping so that the end of the side plat is securely located into the machined slot.

Highslide JS
Using bracing to guarantee joint strength between interior panels.
(11/11/14) I cleaned up the joint area and glued a strip of internal bracing material along the inside of the joint to further re-inforce what was already a very solid joint. This is the same bracing that will be used to join the top and back plates to the sides so it's great for an application like this. The trick is to add strength without subtracting resonance from the body, but here at the heel block end we are in pretty safe territory!

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Top side and back block are now assembled.
(11/4/14) This is the joint as see from the back of the instrument. It is very strong and well aligned. I will now move ahead and support the joint with some internal bracing material. I will then repeat this process with the other half of the body so that we have a more complete assembly to work on. I need to also carve out a cistome piece which will serve as the inner curve for the relief on the lower bout. I have to find just the right piece of material.

Highslide JS
Attaching one of the body sides to the back block.
(11/1/14) I am now gluing the two individual bent sides to the center block at the back of the instrument body. Each one fits into the stepped recess I cut into the back block, so I know I will have a very strong wood-to-wood connection. To supplement this I will also add some bracing material which will further re-inforce the joint area. It is always very exciting to get started on building the actual body of the instrument!

Highslide JS
Gluing decorative veneer onto the ends of the side pieces.
(10/26/14) In this photo I am in the process of gluing a maple veneer onto the end of the lower body half. I am also dfoing the same thing to the upper body half. This will maintain the accents I have built into the other jointed components of the assembly. I can then attach the two sides to the back block and will re-inforce the joint with other structural material so that it is a very stront assembly of pieces.

Highslide JS
Body sides trimmed to template and heel block requirements.
(10/22/14) After some careful matching to the template and the top material I went ahead and marked the excess material that needed to be cut off from the back end of each bent side. This has to be done carefully so that we retain the required squareness between the respective parts. This clears the way for a few things. Next, I will glue more decorative veneers onto the two joint surfaces so that I can assemble these three components

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Getting the top ready for further cutting and machining.
(10/14/14) I pulled the top wood from my storage today in order to do a few things. Firstly I wanted to look at the grain structure and select the best possible orientation for the top since it could be configured a couple of different ways. I drew the body contour on the top surface so that I have that as a reference when cutting. I will now start sanding the material to the correct thickness allowing for the application of a carbon fiber substrate.

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I an ordering Carbon Fiber to add a small layer below the soundboard.
(10/5/14) This may seem like a strange photo to post, but the reason behind it is to highlight our plan to add a stabilizing rigid layer of carbon fiber on the underside of our burl wood top. This will provid some added mechanical stability and rigidity to the non-linear grain of the burl wood, and it should, for the same reasons, contribute to the tonal output of the finished instrument. It can't be too thin or too thick, but we hope to yield good results!!

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ready to start on top plate.
(9/17/14) I have a unique template for the body of this bass because of its scale length. I'm now preparing to do some rough cutting of the top plate so that I can get everything aligned properly. I spoke with my customer about applying a thin carbon fiber layer under the top plate to support the structure of the burl wood. That will be applied to the top befor the structural braces are attached. Always pushing the envelope here!

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beautiful Ambona Burl for the top. Very happy to have this in my hands!
(9/8/14) I have more production pictures to post but I just received the top material for this bass which is a very rare and hard to find species called Amboyna. Even dry (raw wood) the grain is very nice and I know it will look spectacular when it is finished. Right now I have to decide which way it look sbest bookmatched and then use my template to rough cut the two top plates. I also may be adding carbon fiber to the underside of the top!

Highslide JS
Using the heel block to define where I need to cut the sides of the bass.
(7/18/14) Now that I have updated the bending of the instrument sides I need to calculate the exact locations of the cuts I will be making at the back of the upper and lower side sections. I;m using my template to make sure the body parts are correctly located. The heel block is placed on template centerline and I mark the locations of the two cuts. You can see the indents in the heel block where the ends of the sides will eventually fit.

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Doing a check of the bent material before cutting.
(7/3/14) I revistited the side bending today simply to make sure the upper and lower pieces were matching the template. I re-bent a couple of areas just to tighten up the fit. I want the sides to be faitly close to target before I trim things to size and attach the end block etc. looks pretty good right now so I will mark the areas I want to cut and I will trim carefully to allow for the end block and additional decorative veneer.

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Setting up to cut the truss rod slot.
(6/12/14) I want to get the truss rod slot done so that I can prepare the top surface of the neck for the fingerboard once that's ready. I trued the neck up on the cnc and I will be running three separate operations to create the geometry for the truss rod. It's good to get this feature done while I have room on the CNC also! Sometimes I wish I had two of these machines. The rod is a high quality double acting rod - very strong and well built.

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Some of the fingerboard artwork we are considering.
(6/3/14) I thought it might be a good idea to post what we are proposing to do on the fingerboard of this unique bass. We are planning to have a werewolf theme not only on the fingerboard but also on the sound hole area and most likely p[art of the headstock. The picture shows the pases of the moon and a werewolf centered on the 12th fret area. This would be done in shell on an ebony fingerboard, so it will look really beautiful!

Highslide JS
Heel block ready for further assembly.
(5/12/14) The heel block has been machined both sides and the raduis between the two angled cust matched that of the back of the body. I can now pull my template and make sure the top and bottom sides still conform to the outer perimeter. I expect to make a sub-assembly of the two sides with this heel piece in the center pretty soon. I try to make sure there is little or no stress in the sides when they are fitted.

Highslide JS
Cutting joint areas in the two sides of the heel block.
(5/9/14) I have to machine a couple of steps in the back block to allow me to nest and glue the ends of the side panels. In doing so I also need to generate a curve on the back face of the block such that it follows the outside profile of the back or the body. I'm in the process of cutting those combined features which I do in two separate machining operations. This results in a very clean and accurate geometry on the finished part.

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Heel block is being machined to finished dimensions.
(5/1/14) Back to work on the end block. I sawd off most of the excess material from the top and bottom and I am now setting up to machine top and bottom faces of the piece to its finished height. This will then allow me to relocate the block and machine the channels into which the ends of the sides will fit. There's a little bit of math involved as I have to account for the radius of the back of the instrument but "measure twice, cut once"!!!

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Setting up for trimming the sides to fit!
(4/26/14) I am now getting ready to trim the bent side material so that it can be attachec to the block at the back of the body. This involves some careful marking out of the component parts so that I cut in the right place. Once the side material is glued to the back block I will work forward to the front where I will have to do some careful cautting at that end too. This will give me a pretty reliable profile for further assembly!

Highslide JS
Machining the rear support block.
(4/19/14) In these photos we are machining the support plate that will be installed at the back of the body to support the structure of the bass. On the left it is being rough machined, on the right the machining has been completed. I have left extra holding material on the top and bottom for the time being.
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Machining the rear support block has been completed.

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A good example of the Amboyna wood we'd like to use for the top of this bass.
(4/9/14) With my customer's approval, this is the top I would like to put on this bass. It is a wood called Amboyna (I think from Africa) and its burl grain is typically found at the very base of the tree. This results in a compressed and contrasting figure and looks nice on any instrument. Amboyna is dense enough to be an option for the top plate of an acoustic bass, although we have been discussing adding a thin layer of carbon fiber underneath.

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Heel block has been assembled and is ready for some machining.
(3/26/14) I put this heel block together a while ago but I need to do some machining work to it so that it can fit with other components that are in production. This block's purpose in life is to provide a very stable mechanical support for the sides, back and top of the bass and allow some material to house the output jack. Also - it is carefully assembled to exactly match match the laminates at the end of the body so it will look beautiful!

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Gluing carbon fiber rods into the neck.
(3/19/14) I trimmed the carbon fiber rods to fit and mixed up some of my aerospace grade epoxy. It's important that these rods are a relatively tight fit with the wood of the neck, and I want to make sure all surfaces are prepped with the epoxy before the rods are inserted. Once they are in a clean out the excess adhesive and secure the rods with clamps. This stuff needs 12 hours to cure but does the job really well!

Highslide JS
Cutting slots for carbon fiber rods.
(3/6/14) It's time to embed two carbon fiber rods into the neck assembly. Their purpose it mainly to stabilize the neck so that it can better tolerate changes in humindity, but they also add strength and rigidity to the neck. Being laminated, the neck is already very strong so the carbon fiber is mainly a safety measure. The will fit tightly into two slots and will be secured using aerospace grade epoxy. This has been a very successful formula.

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Lower bout material has been bent.
(2/29/14) I got set up for the second side of the body. The bending process went very well and I'm happy with the results. Usually the bends will settle overnight and I may have to tweak them a tiny bit the next day, but if not I will trim them up and start work on the relief area below where the neck joins the body. That is the tightest bend on the whole instrument and needs special treatment! Looking good though.

Highslide JS
Bending the material for the sides.
(2/22/14) I set up the bending apparatus and started work on creating the sides for the body. This is a slow process as you never know how well a new piece of material is going to respond to heat bending. The only way to get there is to let the wood itself pace the work, and it takes as long as it takes. It had to be bent to fit a pattern I have for the instrument. Ultimately we ended up with a successful upper bout - now I have to bend the lower side.

Highslide JS
Gluing end block together.
(2/5/14) I'm in the middle of gluing veneers to the sides of the back block and gluing the respective veneered pieces together to create the completed item. Lots of little steps but the only difficult part here was making absulutely sure each piece was the right thickness before it was used in the assembly. Too large or too small and they won't match the laminates on the back plate. Everything is going well here though!

Highslide JS
Gluing end block together.
(2/2/14) All the pieces of the end block have been sanded to exactly the right thickness to match the laminates at the nack of the body. I then added the appropriate decorative veneers to each piece to match the body components exactly. Now I am gluing the first three of the individual pieces together. When this is complete it will serve as structural reinforcement for sides and top and give us a solid platform to mount strap button and output jack etc.

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Starting work on the end block.
(1/27/14) I cut up some Wenge and Padouk so that I could start building and end block for the instrument. This piece will be carefully machined and assembled to perfectly match the orientation of the woods at the bottom end of the body. I will match the thickness of the laminates so that when this block becomes part of the body assembly it will be a continuous flowing component of the design. More pics on this to follow.

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Starting work on the Gabon Ebony fingerboard.
(1/19/14) I received a nice piece of Gabon Ebony for the fingerboard recently. I had time today to run both sides through the drum sander and establish flat surfaces on both sides. I want to get this fingerboard secured onto s substrate so that i can start machining all its features. We have some elaborate inlay plans for this instrument and much of it will be featured on the fingerboard. First stage is to get this stuff sanded to the right thickness!

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Body sides ready for bending.
(1/10/14) The sides for this bass are ready to be bent. I spent a lot of time carefully sanding these down to the correct thickness. They have to remain flat and parallel and you can't sand off too much at a time. I finally got both panels down to exactly where I want them. I now need to mark them up against my template so that I have marks on each to tell me where to bend and in which direction!! Looking forward to the results!

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machining the back of the neck.
(12/27/13) Machining some more fatures into the back of the neck joint area. This will allow me to turn the neck over and also cut in some channels that will accommodate the truss rod and a couple of carbon fiber reinforcing rods. I'll do some more carving of the heel area when I can test fit this piece into the body section. The neck feels very light and resonant already - two good things I always look for at this stage of the build!

Highslide JS
Working on the joint area of the neck.
(12/19/13) While other operations are being done with the sides and body parts, I am also working on the preparation of the neck. In this photo you can see that I removed some of the excess material from the area of the neck which will reside inside the body of the instrument. This is mainly for weight relief and I leave sufficient material to guarantee the strength of the neck joint area once the neck and body are joined together.

Highslide JS
Getting the side material ready for bending.
(12/11/13) I now have to perform one of the less exciting tasks of building an acoustic instrument: sanding the remaining material off the sides so that I can start the bending process. Previously the sides where bandsawed, then sanded, then planed to a manageable thickness. Now I have to run these two plates through my drum sander to achieve a thickness of just ober .100" This takes time, and it's laborious and dusty but I'm getting close!!!

Highslide JS
Setting up for more work on the neck.
(11/27/13) We're at a point here with the build where we have to take some of the physical aspects of the instrument and bring them together. The neck has to meet the body with just the right overlap based on the scale length. The soundhole has to end up being in just the right place. The body top needs to join the neck at the 14th fret position, the bridge has to be located in just the right place baed on scale length and internal bracing.

Highslide JS
Working on shaping the neck.
(11/19/13) I had left about 1/4" of excess material on the back of the headstock and the back of the neck during the glue-up process. Now it is time to start carving much of that material away to get closer to our finished neck profile. I also machined tha back surface of the headstock to create a finished thickness. The neck volute will be carved as we get closer to the finished profile. I also plan to apply a nice veneer onto the headstock.

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Back bracing complete.
(11/14/13) The third of the three bracing pieces has been securely attached to the back plate assembly. This results in a remarkably strong and stable component and at the same time remains very lightweight. We'll come back to this sub-assemble soon when the sides of the instrument are bent and we need to line the mating parts up for assembly. We'll now move on to preparing the material for the sides and working on the neck details.

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Second brace being attached.
(11/9/13) Moving along with the construction of the back plate. Here I am gluing the second of three braces to he assembly. These have two purposes. One is to impart stability to the overall structure of the acoustic body of the instrument - the other is to constrain the profile of the back plate in a slight convex curve. On the finished instrument this will be a subtle but important visual feature.

Highslide JS
First of 3 back braces ready to fit.
(10/28/13) The first of three back braces have been machined and sculpted and is ready to fit onto the inner surface of the back plate. They are cut from a light but very strong wood and they are carefully shaped to hold the back plate in its correct cross section. Once these three are secured in place the back itself can be more accurately shaped. So far the back section has come out strong and light. Looking good so far!

Highslide JS
Cutting up material for back bracing.
(10/22/13) I pulled some of my stock of bracing material today. I need a few pieces to carefully cut and fit to the back profile of the bass. I will cut a set of three of these to match the width of the back. Next I will shape the joint surfaces to perfectly fit the inside surface of the back plate and angled in such a way as to impart just the right compound angle to the assembly. These are designed to add strangth and stability to the structure.

Highslide JS
Gluing the first of two back panels onto the core.
(10/15/13) This is the first of two gluing operations to assemble the back plate of the instrument. It's a little tricky in that the two faces that are being joined need pressure in two axes so that everything glues together cleanly and accurately. When dealing with such thin material it can be a delicate process. This first setup seems to be quite successful and I am anxious to get the second plate glued.

Highslide JS
Body perimeter marked out.
(10/8/13) Next step on this project is to us my body template and mark out the perimeter of the body. This allows me to properly position the 3 parts together before gluing. I'll probably go ahead and trim up the edges and remove the cutaway section before I glue things together. When they are assemvled as one piece I'll be able to do some sanding to make sure the outer surface is clean and level. This is going to look great.

Highslide JS
Cutting the center of the backplate.
(10/4/13) I calculated the correct angles for the overlap between the back plates and the center core piece and set the material up on the CNC. This way I have very reliable precision on the cuts I make to create the geometry that will fit these three pieces perfectly together. I need to cut just deep enough to match the thickness of the walnut. This will create very strong joints between the components of the back.

Highslide JS
Nice contrast between the walnut and the maple veneer.
(9/27/13) Back on the bench for gluing additional veneers onto the joint face. I'm putting a darker veneer on which will create a nice contrast on the finished assembly. Once this has been done to both sides I'll set the center strip up on the cnc and cut two very accurate channels into which these two plates will fit. I may trim and cut the body profile before that, adding the cutaway section on the lower bout. Will decide when the parts are ready!

Highslide JS
Nice contrast between the walnut and the maple veneer.

(9/19/13) A thing of beauty. First of two veneers has been glued onto the joint faces of the back panels. I'm going to repeat the process with another slightly darker veneer. Once that's done I'll start the machining work that will allow for the assembly of the back plate. I love the grain in this wood, looking forward to seeing it come together with the other components. I'll post more photos as soon as the 2nd veneer is on.


Highslide JS
Gluing maple veneer onto the joint faces.
(9/15/13) Now that we have straight and square edges on our back plates we can start adding the decorative veneers to the joint faces. In the photo you can see one of the back plates secured to a perpendicular surface and clamped to a maple veneer. When both plates have had the maple added - I will repeat the process with a second wood veneer. This will maintain the double-veneer theme throughout the construction of the instrument.

Highslide JS
Machining joint faces on the Walnut plates.
(9/4/13) The two plates that will be the main parts of the back of the bass have been sanded to finished thickness. In order to get them ready to assemble into a complete back I have to forst machine the joint edges perfectly straight and square. The most reliable plqace to do that is on the CMC machine. I stacked them on top of each other and ran a spiral flute cutter aling the edges until the material cleaned up. No time to add veneer!

Highslide JS
Back plates are now sanded to finish thickness.
(8/19/13) In order to assemble the back plate of the bass it is necessary to first bring the main panels down to their final thickness. This rewuires quite a bit of creative sanding on my drum sander. I spent the evening progressively sanding these pieces down to just the right thickness making sure they stayed nice and flat. Next I will assemble them together with the center piece and create bracing to support the structure.

Highslide JS
Preparing the heel of the neck for further assembly.

(8/4/13) Time to machine off some of the extra material that was left on the outer edges of the neck. I needed to machine finish surfaces that blend with the profile of the neck. This establishes the points on the neck joint where the upper and lower sides connect with the neck. Now that this has been done I can do some shaping to the neck profile and also plan for machining truss rod and carbon fiber channels.


Highslide JS
Working on the headstock geometry.
(7/26/13) Next thing I needed to do to the neck was draw out the headstock profile on the neck blank and rough saw and then sand it closer to finished size. I also removed a good amount of excess material from the back and sides of the neck to reduce the material I need to remove ny hand. Soon I will be working on the opposite end of the neck in order to prepare all the joint surfaces for subsequent assembly.

Highslide JS
Back plated being perpared for machining.
(7/17/13) I have spent some time sanding the back panels down to the optimum thickness, now I have to plan for the sub-assembly of the back. Initially I will use my template for the body to cut the upper and lower pieces closer to their finished shaped (the bottom panel has the cutout) and them carefully machine and veneer the various joint faces. That done I should be able to finish sand and glue the parts together.

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beautiful grain on the upper and lower side pieces. Getting them thicknessed so that we can start bending!.
(7/8/13) Doing some more work to the panels that will become the upper and lower sides. This is also a gorgeour piece of bookmatched walnut. I had to choose this wood carefully to have beautiful grain and color properties but also to make sure that the grain structure is fairly linear so that we don't run into problems when heat-bending these sides. I good consistent linear grain structure will bend without flat spots.

Highslide JS
Gluing back laminates together.
(6/22/13) The center section of the back plate is being glued together. This completed piece will be the backbone of the instrument and aside from giving strength and support to the structure it will combine with the neck to make a beutiful looking piece of artwork. These woods are perfect for the acoustic properties we are looking for. I will combine this center section with the two curly walnut wings to create the complete back plate.

Highslide JS
cutting the laminates for the back plate to specific tapers.
(6/17/13) Each of the strips that make up the center section of the back of the bass has to be machined to a specific taper so that the combined assembly perfectly matches the back of the neck when everything goes together. Once the edges of these pieces have been cut to tapers. I'll glue on the decorative veneers and proceed to gluing them all together. This will look very impressive on the finished instrument!

Highslide JS
Core laminates for the back plate - ready to get machined.
(6/14/13) This may not look like much but it is the product of a lot of sawing and sanding leading up to the assembly of the center core of the back plate. These thinner laminates need to be machined to very excat tapers, and then have veneer applied to their joint faces, then carefully glued together to create a core section that continues the neck tapers perfectly to the bottom end of the instrument. This will be more obvious on future photos.

Highslide JS
Laying out the rough pieces for the back.
(5/22/13) I am preparing the materials I need to construct and brace the back of this bass. All these pieces are oversize right now but they will very soon be glued together to make a beautiful back. The center section will be tapered to extend the tapers running through the neck - this will look awesome when complete. I need to drum sand these center pieces and then cut them to their respective tapers, add decorative veneer and assemble.

Highslide JS
Back of headstock cleaned up - more carving to follow.
(5/7/13) Right: time to machine a parallel surface for the back of the headstock that establishes the headstock thickness. Left: After rough machining I did a little carving to blend some of the surfaces. More shaping and carving to come but I can now get the headstock shape cut. I'll be adding a decorative wood on the front of the headstock.
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Just rough machined off the excess material from the back of the headstock.

Highslide JS
Cutting the headstock angle.
(5/1/13) Here I am cutting the face of the headstock relative to the top surface of the neck. The angle was already rough cut on the glued blanks but it is necessary to generate a nice clean and flat surface on the CNC that is guaranteed to be square and co-planar to the top surface of the neck. This takes any risk of error out of subsequent operations. Ultimately this headstock surface will have a veneer of a matching decorative wood.

Highslide JS
Neck assembly is up on the CNC for some work.
(4/30/13) The neck of the bass is up on the CNC for several machining operations. First step it to clean up the top face which is also the joint face for the fingerboard. Then I will machine the headstock angle and cut the perimeter of the neck by milling off the excess material. Finally I will machine a slot for the truss rod and two carbon fiber re-enforcing rods. At that point I can remove the neck from the machine and stat shaping the neck profile.

Highslide JS
Walnut back plates have been resawn from the parent material.
(4/12/13) I was able to get the solid piece for the back plates up on a band saw today and saw from that piece the two bookmatched back panels. They are still a little oversized in profile and thickness but will be sanded closer to seze very soon. The grain on these pieces is very impressive. I now have to fabricate the center section of the back plate which will comprise of tapered laminates of Wenge and Padouk.

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This is the Padouk for the center section of the back of the body.
(4/8/13) I have thicknessed a piece of padouk in preparation for building the core section for the back of the instrument. This section will match the colors and tapers of the neck section to create a beautiful match between the back of the neck and the back of the body. I will section this padouk up and sandwich it with similar pieces of wengeto create the center panel. It will then be attached to the two Walnut back plates. Should look awesome!

Highslide JS
Material for sides has been roughed out.
(4/1/13) These are the two walnut pieces that will be the upper and lower sides of the body. The have very nice color and grain which match the back pieces but although that is hard to see in this photo. These pieces are currently rough sawn, I now have to sand them down to their final thickness so that they are ready for bending into the body shape. Once we have them both to the right thickness we'll start the bending process.

Highslide JS
Cutting some of the Walnut for the back plates.
(3/26/13) I have been keeping a very nice piece of figured walnut aside for the back of this bass. It has a lot of beautiful color and figure in the wood which the camera does not do justice to. I cut out the rough shape i will need to these bookmatched pieces. I'll have to establish an accurate straight and square edge at the bottom so that I can then carefully bandsaw the blank into two bookmatched pieces. Looking very nice so far!!!

Highslide JS
Neck is glued up.
(3/1/13) The gluing process has gone very well qand we now have a completed neck blank comprising of Wenge and Padouk with veneered pinstripes between the tapered laminates. Also - I have glued extensions onto the headstock area so we havespace on the neck blank to create our headstock profile. I'll be doig some cleanup on this assembly and then I'll have it set up on the CNC nmachine to get some of the features established.

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First of the laminates assembled.
(2/12/13) Here we have the first three laminates of Paudouk and Wenge glued together. The constracting veneers on the woods go togther to create and double-pinstriping effect which we will illustrate later. This constrution technique also yields a very rigid neck which will benefit us in terms to tone and stability. The wood ahesive we use bonds at the molecular level so these joints are remarkably strong and relaiable.

Highslide JS
Gluing the first of the neck laminates together.
(1/27/13) It's now time to get the neck section assembled. Typically I will start the fabrication from the central laminate outwards. In this photo I am gluing the first two together. I use a lot of clamps because the integrity of the joints in the neck is especially important. I also leave these setups at least 12 hours to cure so that I know the joints will be perfect. This will result in a very stable and rigid neck. Should look very nice too!

Highslide JS
Detail shot of veneer on a core laminate.
(1/20/13) I thought it would be helpful to post a shot of the veneer on the core laminates in more detail. The tapered laminates are machined very flat, so they have a good quality surface. That surface is compressed onto the veneer inside the vacuum press. The whole assembly is held under very even pressure onto the flat base of the press. Result is a prefectly flat and tight joint which would be much harder to guarantee using mechanical clamping.

Highslide JS
Gluing pinstriping veneer onto the neck laminates.
(1/18/13) I am getting started with the Padouk laminates. I cut maple veneer to match the laminate and glue the two together using a vacuum press. This process guarantees that the veneer and the laminate will go together with a perfect joint. After a few hours I will remove these, clean them up and repeat the same process with the maple veneer on the opposite side of each piece. When that's done I will also repeat the process on the wenge parts.

Highslide JS
All neck laminates have been finish tapered on the CNC.
(1/12/13) All five core pieces of the neck section have been machined accurately to specific tapers. We are now ready to add decorative veneer to each one which will show up as pinstriping between the various laminates. This is quite a bit of extra work but the end result is very much worth the effort. Net result will be a truly beautiful neck which will also be very rigid due to its multi-layered construction.

Highslide JS
Machining neck laminates to the correct taper.
(12/19/12) One of the appealing visual features orf these basses is that the combination of neck and body laminates all combine to make a beautiful compound tapered assembly in both the neck and the back of the body. This angle is designed to match the natural angle of the neck and is continued right through the entire instrument as a "core" section. Here I am machining the pre-determined tapers onto the various nack components.

Highslide JS
Neck components ready for machining.
(10/27/12) We have cut the various blanks for the neck laminates out of Wenge and Padouk. These blanks are currently oversize with enough material to allow us to machine each one to a specific taper. When these tapered laminates are combined they will accurately follow the natural taper of the neck of the instrument. Both of these woods are very well recognized for their excellent sound qualities in bass instruments.

Highslide JS
Some beautiful walnut for the back and sides.
(10/11/12) The back and sides of this bass will be constructed from Walnot. I wanted to find some really pretty material with good color and figure. I ran into some the other day which will make a beautiful bookmatched back. I also have some walnut from the same tree which will woirk very well for the bent sides of the bass. I'm looking forward to see how these woods combine - should be very nice! More photos soon!

Highslide JS
First three neck blanks are rough cut.
(9/26/12) With the use of our template I selected the most suitable parts of the Wenge and Padouk woods and cut the first three neck blanks for this bass. I will actually cut two more out of Wenge for the outer edges of the neck and center core of the instrument. Following that I will move on to cutting the various pieces required for the center section of the body. These will all need to be sanded, tapered and veneered so we're going to be BUSY!!!

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Getting ready to cut neck blanks.
(9/18/12) We have recently purchased some Wenge for this project so the first step is to get some of the basic pieces cut so we can create pieces of the neck and the body. I chose this Wenge out of many others because of its straight and tight grain structure. I am using my neck template to select the best options for cutting out the neck blanks. I will need to do the same thing with the stringer material too.

Last update March 5, 2013