Watson Guitars
Idyllwild
California, USA

6-string Headless Multi-Scale Bass (Serial 12B054)
Single Cut body style

Call
951-240-1666 or email us here!

   
Materials: Top: Koa Back: Mahogany Core: Maple and Bubinga
Fingerboard: Macassar Ebony
Pickups: Watson
Electronics: Piezo in Bridge. Audere 4-band. GraphTech MIDI-Capable
Bridge/Tuners

ABM Black finish - string spacing 16mm

Options: Scale 35-32"
Finish: KTM Satin finish

This bass is an unusual 6-string beauty. We're building the neck out of Curly Maple and Bubinga. Both these woods provide different qualities to the bass. Maple adds a bright top end and bubinga adds sustain and defined low end. Top is a beautiful curly Koa - a wood that's hard to get hold of these days! This will be out first single-cut with a multi-scale fingerboard geometry.

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This is the Acousti-Ponic board coupled with the Hexpander board.
(11/14/14) We have been putting a lot of time into the best way to make the MIDI processorand the pream work together as they were designed to. After much research, technical conversations, and hard bench time it's looking like the advantage of the 9v powered Acousti-Phonic will boost the piezo signal back up to its normal level and allow me to feed that through the preamp. I'm really looking forward to wrapping this up with a solid technical solution.

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Adding a Graph-Tech Acousti-Phonic card.
(11/7/14) In our efforts to optimize the pizo output both for the Graph Tech system and the preamp it was decided (after much consulting with electronic experts) to agg the Graph Tech Acousti-Phonic board and some of its periperals to the onboard system. This additional card allows some modeling of the piezo input but more importantly for me it provides a powered signal source which is expected to allow me to more easily bridge between the two systems.

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Cavity cover finally in place despite a million wired lurking underneath!.
(10/18/14) These has been a LOT of work going on related to the electronics of this bass. I have been consulting with the respective manufacturers to come up with the best way to marry the hexpander and the Preamp together - both of which require a pure signal from the 6 piezo saddles in the bridge units. I'm close - and feel like an electronic pioneer sometimes but things are coming together day by day. managed to get the cavity cover attached!!

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hexpander board (not placed in final location) with piezo wires attached.
(10/13/14) I have had to do a lot of R&D to establish the best way to interface these two electronic systems together. Both rely on the signals coming in from the piezo saddles to do their job. I was running into problems based on how to satisfy both systems by somehow splitting between the two. Graph Teck hexpander demands 6 unique inputs but Audere system needed one summed input. Photo shows piezo cabling in Hexpander board.

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Piezo wires consolidated into a summing block.
(10/6/14) Back inside the cavity we are now taking all the piezo wires and bringing them all together into a summing block. This consolidates the piezo signals into one source that I can then run to the Audere EQ and to the MIDI Hexpander. Very happy to get this done - it was tricky. You can also see the potentiomener below the Piezo wires - this is the MID out mixing pot which will go to the 13-pin connector next to the jack socket.

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replacing the connector ends to the piezo wires.
(10/4/14) So here are the 6 piezo wires coming from the bridge units on the top of the bass. In order for these wires to be threaded through the body to the control cavity the little plastic plugs on the ends have to be removed as per the manufacturer's instructions. They are easy to remove but I have discovered on re-assembly that they are incredibly difficult to replace. I got them all back on eventually but it took a LOT of work to do so!

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More wiring action - new parts added and connected.
(10/3/14) Left: Starting to put in some of the Graph Tech MIDI hardware. Pickups are just about to be connected. Working on the 6 piezo wires to re-attach their connector ends. I need to then attach a summing block to connect those all together Right: Finished photo of the new hi-tech string retainer assembly.
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The new and improved string retainer assembly.

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Small modifications necessary because of new (upgraded) string retainer design.
(10/1/14) I used larger set screws in the string retainer in this build so that I can get a stronger thread and hence a more positive lock on the strings. Those larger set secres require more space to move and I need to compansate a little for that. Had to machine retainer and reconfigure acces using a carbon fiber block.
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New CF retainer end being fitted.

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Getting more of the wiring done in the cavity. Complicated.
(9/30/14) Just a quick update on progress. The wiring marathon continues and I an shortening and consolidating groups of wires in an effort to make room for the MIDI wiring that will follow very soon. I also connected all the 18v power wires to their various locations and ran the six piezo wires through the body to the cavity. There is also now a single ground wire in the mix which is a common ground for the six bridge units. Phew!

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Top of bass with black hardware in place.
(9/28/14) Quick glamor shot with the tuners installed. The small hole at the bottom center is for an LED status lamp. I put the knobs on too see how all the black hardware looks together - nice! Now it's back to wiring and getting MIDI installed, I have a lot of internal configuration to do in the control cavity before I can get sounds through from the pickup to the output jack - this is a pretty complex setup but once it's done should be great.

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Piezo wiring is done and ground wires have been run between each bridge unit.
(9/27/14) After a couple of hours of painstaking work I got all six piezo wires threaded through to the control cavity and the small network of grounding wires that loop in and out of each hole. I can't just run one ground wire across all 6 bridges because it would be visible between the separate pieces, therefore everything has to run internally. I am now in the process of bolting all these units down in place.

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Channels machined in top, now running wiring.
(9/27/14) Got the machining of the relief slots done and now the piezo wiring should have a straight run to the control cavity. While I am working on threading these wires through I will also add a grounding wire to connect all the individual bridge units to the common ground. This is delicate work because although the first wires go easily enough, as the channel fills up it gets harder to get them all to co-operate. It will work out though.

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Getting the wiring organized - this has been a big job.
(9/27/14) Wiring is progressing although it is a very complicated system. I'm being careful to lay things out so that the MIDI components still have room to fit. Unfortunately I have to machine slots under the ABM hardware so that the piezo cables can run under bridges and into body. Getting that done asap.
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Setting up CNC to run slots under ABM bridges for piezo wiring.

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Machining ABM bodies for piezo wires.
(9/27/14) I have to modify both the ABM saddles and bridges to allow for the passage of the piezo wires through the bridge assembly and into the body of the instrument. I set this up on my CNC and ran them this morning. Hopefully I can now reassemble with the Pizo saddles and get those cables run through to the control cavity!
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Bridge and saddle units machined.

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Wiring continues but moving ahead.
(9/26/14) I have cut, shortened and reconnected more tiny wires than I can count but now have most of the EQ controls fitted. I also set up the power supply and threaded that through the body so that is ready for hooking up. Im moving ckusters of wires from the stock jack socket to the neutrik locking socket, so I'm doing that methodically to make sure I get all the right wires in the right places. One mistake and it won't work!

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NShortening and organizing the internal wiring.
(9/25/14) Even although we have an oversized control cavity, there are so many wires that they have to be shortened and organzed to take up less space. In this shot I am cutting and reconnecting the wires from one of the stacked pots. It will also yield a much tidier cavity when all the work is done. Thirdly - it makes the ongoing work easier for me as I don't have a huge nest of wires to wrestle with. I think I figured out what all the wires do - complicated!

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New challenges with the piezo wires.
(9/25/14) Here are the disassembled components of the bridge units. The piezo saddles have a wire that exits from the bottom. I will have to drill the bridge pieces to accommodate this wire. I will also have to cut some kind of slot along the base of the main housing so that the saddle can remain adjustable around the wire. Thirdly I will have to modify the wood below the bridge units to increase clearance and allow this wires to run easily into the body slots.

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Fitting the components of the active electronics into the cavity.
(9/24/14) While I am working on getting external wiring through from the pickups and the piezos in the bridge pieces, I am also working with the internal electronics. I really don't want to permanantly install these until the piezo wires are through because it would make things even more complicated, but since I have very little time I may have to do that. This is a general layout, which DOES NOT yet include the Hexpander and associated wiring!! Scary.

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Attaching all 6 tuners to establish placement/string spacing.
(9/24/14) Both the top and bottom units have been secured in place and I have marked out the location of the remaining four tuners. I will drill those retaining holes today and make sure all parts are well located. Once that's done I will remove them and start working on getting the piezo and ground wires through to the control cavity. This is going to be fairly work-intensive. Also putting retaining magnets in cavity covers.

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Pickuops in and bridge locations established.
(9/23/14) Pickups are now mounted into the body and should be able to stay there. Maybe some minor adjustment for string height. Also, I have taped the critical areas around where the bridge units go and maked out where the outer two units will need to sit. I want to the top and bottom units securely bolted down so that I can then distribut the remaining four in the right places. They will all have to come off again to get the wires threaded through.

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Locating bridge units and getting the wiring set up.
(9/23/14) I spent last night figuring out how to remove and attach the tint little piezo plugs on the ends of the saddle cables. Also positioned the bridge units, worked on nut slots, created custom spacers for pot height adjustment, and studied the Audere and Graph-Tech manuals to seek more clarity in the upcoming wiring marathon. So far, depite a few steps backwards, we are still moving forward. Last stages of a build are always the hardest!

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Setting up the bridge/tuner units with piezo saddles.
(9/22/14) I need to mark out exact positions for the six tuner assemblies. Once they have been spaced correctly I will drill the clamping holes into the body. When I am satisfied with that I will then swap out the standard bridge saddles and insert the Graph Tech Piezo saddles (as seen in the photo). I have to remove the miniature pin plug from he cable, run the cable through the bass to the cavity and add the plug back on the end six times!

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Pickups pre-assembled and ready to be put in the instrument.
(9/21/14) I assembled the pre-potted pickup bobbins into their respective custom covers. These are now ready to drop into the body and become part of the instrument. I also completed the rest of the copper shielding in the control cavity. Holes for potentiometers have been prepped. Ground wires from pickup shielding and bridge locations to control cavity established. It is an incredible amount of detail work at this end of a build.

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magnets and copper foil have been added.
(9/20/14) Moving forward - I have secured neodymium magnets into the holes I recently drilled for holding down the two cover plates. These will have corresponding magnets in the plates themselves. I also lined the control cavity with copper shielding so that I can start getting the controls permanently placed in the cavity. The holed for the pots have also been carefully reamed out to suit the individual pot shaft diameters.

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Switch and magnet holes have been drilled.
(9/19/14) More holes in the bass - I drilled for the two MIDI switches and also established holes for the neo magnets which will be used to hold the cavity covers securely in place. I think we will be calling this the swiss-cheese bass! I will glue the magnets in and then coat the entire control cavity with copper shielding. The plates will have thinner magnets in corresponding locations mounted in the underside of each.

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Getting some of the copper shielding done.
(9/19/14) Time to (among other things) start putting the copper shielding into the instrument. As soon as I get this stuff in I can get the pickups installed into the body which will be one step closer to getting sounds out of this bass! One thing is for sure: sleep, relaxation and peace of mind are all things that a luthier trades for getting the final stages of a bass done. Fortunately it's all worth the effort when we are done!

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A little custom enhancement - super curly Koa cavity covers.
(9/17/14) There are so many things going on with this bass right now. I thought I would highlight the use of some of the bast Koa I have in my shop whicj i used to create matching covers on the back of this bass. They reglect the grain on the front of the instrument. I had kept this Koa for a small instrument project but it seemed perfect for this application so I thought5 I might as well use it. Can't get Koa like this any more :-(

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Establishing holes and counterbores for the five control knobs.
(9/14/14) Now that I have a layout for the internal electronics (based on hardware, knob placement and many other factors) I can get the actual holes and counterbores for the knobs established. I coudn't do this earlier as I didn't know how the various systems interacted physically and electronically, so i waited until that was safe. I will add the switch locations manually. Now I am able to add shielding and get these installed!

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Audere active electronics ready to be installed.
(9/12/14) This photo shows only the EQ and preamp components which I will install first. Tha main reason I will do this package first is that it contains most of the control pots (and therefore knobs) so I can arrange the placement of these controls based on what will be visible on the front side of the bass. I will make a template and then use that to establish hole locations for each of the potentiometers and switches.

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Ready to get some of this wiring configured.
(9/8/14) I put all the electronic components into the control cavity just to show how much 'stuff' needs to be installed in this area to get the bass working. Fortunately when I made the control cavity I was anticipating this and I am sure there will be enough space to accommodate everything. We are installing a 4-band EQ, a piezo buffer and controls, custom noise reduction circuitry, a MIDI processing system and 18v battery supply.

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Installing string retainer into headstock.
(9/1/14) This is the curtom brass string retainer ready to be installed into the ned of the neck behind the headstock. The six set screws will sit inside the holes I drilled in the end of the headstock. Once this piece is installed and the bridge/tuners are bolted on I will be able to string the bass up and see how it really feels. From here forward most of the work will be assembly. When it's all together there will be adjustments and testing.

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Inserted low viscosity protective rings for the string holes.
(8/28/14) I put protective rigs into the holed for the six strings mainly to provide protection for the wood. It allows the string to bend into the hole without allowing the string tension to pout pressure directly on the wood. It could probably do perfectly well without this precaution but I think it's a good safety provision. I have the nut ready to install next and then we will move to bridges and electronics.

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Machining the hole and recess for Neutrik jack socket.
(8/26/14) I re-adjusted my set up and cut the hole and recess for the jack socket assembly next door to the MIDI output. This keeps the two sockets as close together (from a cable management point of view) as possible in the event that the player is using both outputs at the same time. It is good to get this done so that I can plan the distribution of electronic hardware and wiring inside the control cavity.

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Hole and recess for MIDI panel has been machined.
(8/25/14) I carefully measured the dimensions of the MIDI output module and set that up so that I could machine a very accurate recess into the side of the instrument. I had to be careful to make the cut exactly on the tangent of the centerline so that the depth of the recess would be balanced at both sides. Everything went well and the module fits in there perfectly. Next challenge is to cut the recess for the Neutrik jack next to it.

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Installing the 13-pin MIDI output connector.
(8/24/14) Looks like the best place to locate the 13-pin output socket for the MIDI signal is in this location, above the 1/4 jack output which will be right nect to it. You want them next to each other in the event that you are using regular bass output and MIDI together on stage, but chances are the 1/4 socket will be more often in use so it should be in th e typical location for that unit. Also - the midi plate is flat so I need to use an area of the body that's flatter.

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Adding successive coats of lacquer to the wood.
(8/23/14) I am putting several coats of lacquer on this bass in order to build up a strong protective coating. It's a lot of painting on and rubbing flat then repeating, but I can tell that the resulting finish is beautiful already. Fortunately it dries relatively quickly so I can get at leats a coupel of good coats on in a day. Lots of sanding but I am encouraged by the very nice looking results. More news coming on this very soon - we are finishing everything up.

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This is what the controls will be doing on the bass!
(8/21/14) This is a layout of the function of the various controls that are being built into this bass. Actual location of the controls may vary slightly but I'm setting them up in the most logical way. I als plan to leave room in the cavity for additional features (we have discussed USB output) should we decide to build that in. Right now it's a question of making everything fit and making the very best use of the internal space!

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Audere Electronics' excellent product!
(8/18/14) At the risk of being too detailed, I wanted to show a photo of the Audere electronics package which will be going into this bass. This is how I receive it and I keep it in their excellent packing until I need to install it. This is a very unique unit and a definite technical first for this instrument! My quality standards are very high and I have had excellent results and success with every Audere Electronics product I have used!

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In the finishing department getting the last filler coat rubbed down!
(8/17/14) This is the bass receiving serious amounts of TLC as I finish the last filler coat with fine paper and steel wool. This is all in preparation for the application of the finishing compound which will be the permanent hard coat. I am very happy with how it looks and feels. I want to get the top coat on so that I can start fitting pieces together. I was to see my customer gigging with this instrument as soon as possible!!

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Graph Tech Advanced Midi kit which is going into this instrument!
(8/12/14) This bass will have a 13-pin MIDI output which is triggered by the Piezo saddles in the bridge units. The goal here is to facilitate a connection with sound modules and/or computer software so that the player has the ability to tap into other types of sounds in live performances, and also a means to interface with studio software. This has required a great deal of research and planning to combine the right components!

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Audere has gone out of their way to custom configure the onboard preamp and EQ system!
(8/11/14) In the electronics department we are breaking quite a lot of new ground. I have been able to have my good friends at Audere Audio configure a custom system for me. This includes a buffered input for the Piezos with a separate Volume control, a 4-band EQ system AND a brand new built in noise-cancelling system all in one system all running on an 18v power supply. I do not believe anyone has offered something like this!!

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Black ABM tuner/bridges will look awesome on this bass!
(8/10/14) Just a quick review of the hardware and electronics we will be using on this bass. The bridge/tuner combinations are made in germany by AMB. They are very high quality but are hard to get hold of in black finish. When I ordered six for this bass - I got the last 6 in the country. I am retrofitting these with compatible Piezo transducers which act like an 3rd pickup and also serve as source signals for the MIDI system we will install.

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Pre/grain filler done - now we tackle the lacquer!
(8/7/14) The last coat of pore filler has been applied and dried and subsequently sanded off again. I have graduated to the finer sanding grits now and the instrument is luxuriously smooth all over. A little more sanding with the finest grits and I will stat the application of the lacquer. Can't wait to see this bass with its finish applied! I expect to be putting on at least 4 coats - we'll see how it progresses as we move ahead!

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Applying sucessive coats of pore and grain filler.
(8/3/14) I'm busy applying coats of pore/grain filler to the entire instrument, letting it dry then scraping and sanding back to the wood surface again. This process, when repeated enough times, fills the natural pores in the wood so that I can achieve a truly flat surface on the instrument regardless of the angle of the grain or the porosity pf the woods. Once that is achieved I can prep with very fine sandpaper, clean and apply final finish.

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Holes have been drilled through headstock for strings.
(8/1/14) Just for the record, this is the other side of the headstock once the pilot holes were drilled through from the retainer. I will wait until finish is complete and then insert small metal bushings which basically protect the wood from the strings. I have a nut that is almost ready to be set into the nut slot. That pretty much complete all the work on the headstock area until the instrument is strung up for final adjustments

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Drilling holes through the headstock for the strings.
(7/30/14) Time to drill through the top of the headstock this time to create access holes for the strings from the dront of the instrument. First thing I do is securely attach the retainer and headstock face to a flat piece of wood so i get clean holes, then I drill through the retainer itself from the back, This guarantees alignment. Once this is done I will need to clean up the holes from the other side and insert eyelets.

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Some nocturnal sanding - I think every instrument gets some of this!!
(7/28/14) It was too hot in the house in the late evening so I brought the sanding process outside for part of the evening. This is fine for areas that are visible by artifical light such as around the edges and the back of the neck, but to do the details in between you need the luxury of daylight. This photo is just to illustrate that a luthiers hours are insane so we must love what we do!! Sanding is time consimung so I do it whenever there is time!

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Got a very nice fit for the string retainer.
(7/23/14) The string retainer will live permanently in the back of the headstock. The profile of the retainer and the recess it lives in were very nicely matched. I had to remove some glue from the joints after the front plate went on but otherwise I was very pleased with the union of these two important features. I will do a final assembly with this piece after the finishing process is complete. Moving on!

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Drilling holes for string retainers on the end of the headstock.
(7/19/14) This operation was pretty tricky. I needed to setthe instrument up so that I could cut six holes in the end of the headstock which will be our access to the set screws which retain the strings. I had to make some very accurate measurements of the recess and the brass insert so that I would be able (and confident) to machine each one in the right place. The CNC was the best machine for positional accuracy.

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Admiring the figure in the grain of the Koa!.
(7/6/14) As the sanding process continues there are features on this bass that start to stand out as I start to use the finer grain papers. The wood on this bass is really nice and I expect it will be a very visually impressive instrument. As I sand away I am also potting pickups, working on grounding channels, and making plans for the final stages. I am anxious to get this beauty into my customer's hands!

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Sanding continues on the hard to reach parts.
(6/26/14) At this stage of the game there are literally hours and hours of sanding. The large surfaces are resolved relatively quickly but the final shaping of the neck profile and all those area when shapes meet other shapes takes a great deal of time and patience to prepare so that the blend throughout the instrument in as smooth and seamless as possible. I sand until I get blisters then do it all again the next day!!

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Testing tuner access.
(6/15/14) As part of the sanding process I am checking the interaction of the tuners and the undercut geometry. Since I haven't done a bass with this feature before, I want there to be sufficient clearance for turning the knobs without having the undercut section look too obvious. The plan was to have it blend in nicely, which I definitely feel it does. I have some edge sanding around that area to do which wil also help access.

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Headstock has been assembled, carved and sanded.
(6/11/14) Although there is still some surface sanding to be done in this area I wanted to show the result of some painstaking fabrication that was done on the headstock end to house the string retainer and provide trim and detail consistent with the rest of the instrument. The retainer drops into the slot. I created a volute at the end of the neck for the player's hand. Feels good and look s good! Glad that part is over though!

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Koa end piece being glued onto the front end of the headstock .
(6/1/14) I am gluing a decorative piece of Koa onto the end of the headstock as a finishing piece. This will serve a couple of purposes. One is to retain the brass string retainer, and also it will house access holes to the set screws which hold the strings at the headstock end. It will also create a very nice finished end to the instrument. Once the glue has dried I will trim all the edges flush to the rest of the instrument.

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Tapping the threads into the retainer block.
(5/28/14) Text Coming Soon!

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The cutout for the area below the tuners is being glued in place.
(5/28/14) I decided it was safe to add the piece of the top that we harvested for the area below the tuners. I made sure the part was well sanded as it will be difficult to access once it is glued in place. Due to its geometry it was quite tricky to clamp so I had to get a little creative. Looks like everything is nicely set together. I want to get the preimeter of the bass fully sanded but could not complete that without this piece in place.

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headstock veneer on.
(5/23/14) The Koa headstock veneer has been added to the headstock. It is still a little longer than requires because I have a decorative Koa piece to add on the front face too. I just have to machine in or der to drop the string retainer in place and establish a few holes. This material came from the same piece as the top of the body so its matches nicely with everything else. I'll put neodymium magnets in there to hold the cover on.

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Gluing headstock veneer onto headstock area.
(5/21/14) The act of gluing the headstock veneer onto the small headstock proved quite challenging. Nevertheless I got it attached using a variation of clamps and a block in between to keep everything flat. Looks like it will turn out fine. I'll make sure the adhesive is well cured before I take the clamps off. The plate is still oversize on the edges by design. I'll trim that flush after the clamps come off!

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Fitting the tuner recess material.
(5/14/14) After some custom sanding of the area where the tuners will live I feel that it is time to glue in the piece we harvested from the top. I wanted to be sure I was able to do all the sanding and shaping around the recess before this piece went in because it will be harder to sand after its insertion. Our goal here it to allow for access to six tuners while we keep the more traditional curve of the instrument body.

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Headstock is cut.
(5/10/14) I had to change my setup because of the way the angles on the headstock lined up - I ended up using this setup configuration. It is slightly unconventional to have the instrument under the table rather than on top but in this case it appeared to be the only way to get the task done. Anyway the headstock area is now nicely machined and ready for parts to be added and attached to it.

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Cutting the truss rod cover from the heastock plate.
(5/8/14) The headstock plate has been thicknessed to the optimum size and now I am ready to cut out the truss rod cover. This will create a discrete and continuous grain cover that will look like an integral part of the instrument. It will be attached to the neck using a couple of neodymium magnets. I can now glue this plate onto the rest of the bass and trim it to the shape of the neck and headstock.

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Cleaning up the headstock area on the CNC.
(5/4/14) I have a quick setup to do on the CNC in order to establish the geometry for the headstock area. This will in turn allow me to get the top plate attached. I left the edges and front face slightly oversize but now it's time to finish those. While this is going on I am cutting out the truss rod cover (photos to follow). Nice to get these little details taken care of. I'm preparing a nut to drop into the slot at the end of the fingerboard.

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trimming and preparing the headstock veneer.
(5/2/14) The plate that will be added to the headstock area of the bass has been sanded to the finished thickness and cut a lot closer to its finished size. I am now going to mark it out for machining so that I can remove the piece that will be the truss rod cover before the plate gets glued on. Not I also cut the excess material off the neck of the instrument. The angled end will be finish machined once the string retainer is set.

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Back view of headstock plate (still oversize on length).
(4/26/14) This is the back of the headstock veneer. In order to match the body detail I had to apply three veneers to the bottom of the plate. I also rounded off the bottom of the joint face to create a good fit with the geaometry of the headstock. Now I can run this piece through the CNC to cut out the truss rod cover. While all of this work is going on I am shaping body and neck details and sanding where necessary.

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Headstock veneer being manufactured.
(4/23/14) This is the (albeit oversize) slice of curly koa that will be going on the headstock area of the bass. It is wider andf much longer than it's finished dimensions right now. I have it sanded down to the correct thickness and have veneer to apply to the joint face. Once that's done I will cust the truss rod access cover either on the CNC or the laser. That will then allow me toapply the piece to the headstock and trim everything to the correct size.

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Ready for headtock veneer and shaping.
(4/19/14) Due to the geometry of the nut angle I need to make sure the surface where the string retainer will live is flat. This requires some careful sanding to make sure I have a ggod joing face. I'm cutting a headstock veneer with a truss rod cover out of Koa so that it will match the rest of the instrument. This will be machined and glued onto this surface. I'll load the brass string retainer from the back.

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Working on access and fit for the tuner knob area.
(4/15/14) One of the challenges in creating a multi-scale bridge array on a bass that needs to have a more standard looking continuous curve at the back of the body, is that the user's fingers have to be able to comfortably reach the tuner knob furthest from the body perimeter. To do this I have offset the parent material of the top wood to a lower level to create some finger space below the tuner. Right now I am sanding and shaping to make it all feel right!

Highslide JS
Doing the final shaping to areas of the body and neck.
(4/12/14) Much of my time on this bass is going into sanding right now. You can shape a bass like this pretty close with machinery and hand toold but it always comes down to hours of sanding with increasinly fine papers to make it all blend together. One of the toughest areas is the transition between the body and the neck. I have pretty much sanded all I need to with 60 grit - now I can graduate to 80 and 100!!!

Highslide JS
Pickups are wound and ready for potting.
(3/27/14) The two pickups for this bass have been assembled and wound to hot specifications. They should sound very good based on the readings we are getting from them. Next thing I have to do is set up the potting process and get these impregnated with the wax. That will physically stabilize them and protect the copper windings from potential damage, and the wax serves to eliminate any "tinny" sounds and the tendency to feedback.

Highslide JS
Refining the shape of the back of the neck.
(3/19/14) The back of the neck on any stringed instrument is a critical area and varies quite a bit based on customer preferences. I had already shaped this neck to close to where we wanted it to be, but now that the body shape is closer to finished it is a good time to check yhe 'feel' of the instrument. The profile was close but I needed to get back in there and do some subtle adjustments. That bubinga is HARD!

Highslide JS
Brass string retainer being machined.

(3/14/14) Since parts for headless basses are rather scarce on the market I have a formula for creating the string holding device at the end of the neck. This component is drilled and tapped in such a way that the string ends can be easily threaded through the headstock and secured in place using a set screw. This block is inserted from the back of the neck below the Koa headstock veneer. They have worked well and allow for quick string changing.


Highslide JS
Cutting the brass material for the string retainer.
(3/7/14) I purchased some brass material for the string retainer on this bass. I want to get the retainer machined so that I can carefully fit it into the space on the headstock of the instrument. Typically there's not much space to play with so I'd rather have the insert machined and ready before cutting wood to creat the pocket in which it will be seated. I machine all 6 sides and then establish the six sets of two intersecting holes.

Highslide JS
Working on the back contours of the body.
(3/5/14) As the shaping work continues I am refining the fit and feel of the instrument. I ectended the "belly cut" on the beack of the body a little further forward and I am in the process now of sanding that to a noce even surface. I'm also doing some hand sanding on other areas, specifically the area where the neck meets the body, which is always a slow process. Also I will be doing some final shaping work to the back of the neck.

Highslide JS
Recess for tuners has been cut into the body.
(2/26/14) I am in the process of rough shaping the contours of the body of the instrument - both front and back. At the same time I am fitting the continuous grain insert below the tuner area. This involves running veneer around the joint edge and making sure the piece fits in the space perfectly. Before I finally glue it in I have more shaping to do to the immediate area and I have to run gounding wires for the bridge pieces.

Highslide JS
Getting ready to do some machining on the end of the body.
(2/17/14) I am setting up the bass on my CNC table in preparation for machining the area at the back of the body where the tuners will be located. I have never done this before but my lan is to cut the recess below the tuners to a greater depth and then glue in the piece I harvested out earlier so that I not only create space for the player's fingers to use th etuners, but add continuous grain top wood so that the profile of the instrument appears continuous.

Highslide JS
Serial Number has been installed.
(2/4/14) I gave this bass its identity today by installing its serial number. I set the body up on the CNC and cut a slot in the battery compartment. I then cut and engraved the serial insert on the laser and installed that in the slot. I need to do a little finish sanding and ultimately this will be sealed and finished. My next task is to flip the instrument over and machine the clearance for the tuners and the recessed area where the cover plate will sit.

Highslide JS
Battery compartment and lid recess now complete.
(1/15/14) The machining for the 18-volt battery compartment and the recess for the cavity cover have been machined. This allows me to start moving towards final shaping. I can now carve the belly-cut knowing where the outer edge of the cavity lid will be. One of my next operations will be to cut and insert the serial number above the little rectangle where the batteries live. Also have a hole and recess to cut for the locking jack socket.

Highslide JS
Setting up to cut a battery compartment.
(1/12/14) We have been discussing with our customer whether it's an option to add a MIDI capability to the bass. I have already cut an oversized control cavity with this possibility in mind but as an added precaution I decided it was wise to machine an additional battery cavity into the body. This will give me a remote 18v power source and I will still have room for additional power if a third battery becomes necessary.

Highslide JS
Fingerboard now part of the bass - cleaning up the joint areas.
(12/24/13) The gluing of the fingerboard to the neck of the instrument went very successfully. We now have this bass in obe piece and can now move on to establishing some finished sizes, shaping the neck etc. Since we are going to allow for a possible MIDI system sometime in the future of this bass my next move will be to machine a battery cavity in the back of the body so that we can choose to use that as a power source.

Highslide JS
Gluing the fingerboard onto the instrument.
(12/23/13) Now that the parts have all been prepped it's time to glue the fingerboard onto the instrument. I use the vacuum press for a job like this because it applies a very even clamping pressure across the entire area of the fingerboard which ensures a nice clean joint. I typically leave a setup ;ike this in the press for half a day in order to make absolutely sure the glue has cured completely.

Highslide JS
Cutting the control cavity in the back of the bass.
(12/14/13) I had some time on the CNC machine between other jobs so I decided to cut the control cavity into the back of the body. Since we have been discussing the possibility of adding extra electronics to this instrument, I made the cavity slightly larger than standard so that I would have a little extra space. If we don't opt for MIDI I may be able to include the battery system in this area. We'll see.

Highslide JS
Fitting the fingerboard to the body.
(12/3/13) The fingerboard has been fretted and all of the frets have been dressed on both ends. It's much easier to do the fret dressing while the fingerboard is separate from the instrument! I want to be certain all the joints that go together between the board and the body are a perfect fit before I commit to gluing. I also had to do some prep work to the body of the bass to ensure that the parts will work together.

Highslide JS
Pickups bobbins ready for winding.

(11/14/13) Here are the bobbins for the two pickups. In this particular case I am using 5/16 diameter poles in order to maximize output. Each pickup bobbin has poles at a different center distance so that they perfectlymatch the string spacing at their respective positions. Next step for these bobbins is to have insulating tape and eyelets attached so that the copper wire can be wound. I will post images of the final results.


Highslide JS
Pickups have been machined.
(11/3/13) Not a great photo but it shows the two pickups which have now been machined from the back to accommodate the pickup assemblies that will reside inside each. They still need a couple of adjustment holes in each one but I can add those any time. I'll also sand and radius them before everything is completed. I'll keep these on the shelf until the pickups are assembled and wound and we'll put it all together.

Highslide JS
Setting up to cut pickup cover recesses.
(10/26/13) The pieces of the top plate I havested out earlier have since been glued onto blocks of similar wood and trimmed to size and thickness. Now that i have the data for the pickup bobins and thereby the innergeometry of the pickup covers, I can get these covers set up on the cnc and machine out the recesses where the inner workings of the pickups will live. It takes a little care to get this right as the covers dont have a large wall thickness.

Highslide JS
Pickup geometry established.
(10/20/13) I am now looking at the pickup geometry for both the flatwork and the solid wood covers. Thes are always complex because they are customized for the multiscale geometry of the instrument. They are slightly different from each other by virtue of the postion and angle they occupy and also because of the difference in string spacing at their relative positions. I am ready to burn the flatwork on the laser and cut covers on the cnc.

Highslide JS
All the frets have been bent and cut.
(10/3/13) While some of the other work has been going on the the background I pre-bent the fretwire and then cut all 26 slightly oversize so that we are ready for installation. I'll probably check all the fret slots again to make sure there is no debris in there and then install all the frets. This fingerboard will look pretty inpressive from the audience's point of view! Once they are all in I will file down and dress all the ends flush wuth teh fingerboard.

Highslide JS
Side dots have been machined and installed.
(9/7/13) The next step in the fingerboard process is to drill a pattern of holes at .080" diameter for the side dots. Once these are drilled I insert a bone colored pin of the same diameter into each hole with adhesive. When the adhesive has set I clip the insert close to the edge of the fingerboard. They will stay in this condition until the frets are installed. In the process of finishing the fret ends these pins will be sanded flust to the fingerboard edge.

Highslide JS
Working on the fingerboard - nut slot is in.
(8/20/13) Work has been progressing steadily on the fingerboard. I have cut it to shape - machined a compound raduis along its length, cut the angled fret slots and a recess for the Fleur De Lis inlay. Having sone that I also cut the inserts for the inlay on the laser and carefully fitted those into the neck and finished the artwork. I will post a photo of the results on this page to show what was done there.

Highslide JS
Top of the bass glued on.
(8/1/13) Our next task is to fit the Koa top onto the bass and when we are satiffied with the fit - to permanently glue it in place. This requires some careful alignment but I use the vacuum press to secure the glue joint because it puts an even amount ofclamping pressure against the entire top surface thereby guaranteeing a nice tight and even joint. Doing this allows me to start work on the fingerboard.

Highslide JS
Cutting the channels for wiring.
(7/26/13) After calculating the exact location of some of the features on the top of the bass, I was able to mark out the top surface of the body and proceed to cut the various slots and channels that will accommodate the pickup wires, ground wires and piezo connections from the bridge saddles. These have to be places fairly accurately to ensure that the wiring process on the finished instrument goes relatively easily!

Highslide JS
Custom inlay on the fingerboard.
(7/15/13) We will be doing an inlay of a Fleur-de-Lis on the body end of the Macassar Ebony fingerboard. Current plan is to use some of the curly koa I used in the top and in turn, inlay that with some shell. I cut the recess for the inlay today on the CNC, and as sson as I have time I will cut the mating parts on the laser so that they all fit perfectly together. I will complete the inlay process before I install the frets.

Highslide JS
Harvestiong pickup covers from the top plate.
(7/10/13) This is the top with the pickups and the tuner relief machined out. I will keep these harvested pieces separate and use them later in the building process. While I am working on the bass itself I will glue extra material onto the backs of the pickup tops and machine out the recesses on the backs for the pickups to fit into. The triangular section at the back will also be re-used later in the construction.

Highslide JS
Harvestiong pickup covers from the top plate.
(7/2/13) It's time to do some work on the Koa top so that we can get it ready to attach to the body. Before that happens there are three parts that we need to cut out for later use. Two pickup covers and a piece at the back of the body that will be relieved for the tuners and then re-used as aveneer when the body work is complete. This is the first time I have attempted something like this, but I am confident the results will look just fine!!!

Highslide JS
Cutting the fanned fret slots in the fingerboard.
(6/6/13) The fingerboard is up on the CNC for a few critical operations. Firstly I cut the perimeter of the board to establish the width at both ends and the angles for the nut and the end of the fingerboard. Once that's done I cut a compound radius on the top surface of the board based on my customer's preferences. I then sand that machining marks off the surface and proceed to cut the fret slots (26 in this case).

Highslide JS
Cutting the pocket to fit the top onto the bldy and neck geometry.
(5/26/13) After doing some very careful calculations I was able to establsh the layout of the geometry for thecutout of the top so that it will perfectly fits its mating parts on the body of the instrument. This cutout not oly has to be the exact size so that it's a comfortable press fit - bit it also has to be exactly square to the centerline of the instrument. I cut a test piece to be sure before i committed to the actual Koa top!!

Highslide JS
Machining the top face to prepare for the Koa top.
(5/20/13) The bass is back on the CNC for three quick operations. One is to accurately machine the end profile of the neck so that we can achieve a perfect fit for the Koa top. Once that is done, I machine the rest of the body top to pre-determined depth from the fingerboard joint face. Lastly I will cut some slots in the body top which will ultimately accommodate the internal wiring of the instrument. Then it will be ready for the top!

Highslide JS
Fingerboard ready for machining.
(5/16/13) The fingerboard has now been drum sanded both sides to ensure flatness and a good surface finish. I then rough cut the board to an oversize condition based on the string spacing and scale length variables. Once that was done I glued the board onto a substrate of MDF so that we have rigid support during the subsequent machining operations we will be doing. We are now ready to get this onto the CNC machine.

Highslide JS
Macassar Ebony fingerboard blank just showed up today.
(5/14/13) Just received a beautiful Macassar Ebony fingerboard for this bass. It's always challenging to find a piece of wood with just the right grain for the application, plus Macassar Ebony has gone up significantly in price over the last few months, so I feel very lucky to be able to secure a piece wide anough for a 6-string fanned-fret bass!! This material will also blend beautifully with the other materials we are using for the instrument!

Highslide JS
Gluing the bookmatched pieces of the top together.
(5/11/13) The two halves of the top plate have been veneered (three times) and have had their joint faces prepared. It's now time to join the two pieces together and create a complete top for this bass. To make sure this works out perfectly, I use ablock with a melamine top so that I can clamp the two pieces seciurely down and apply lateral pressure all without the danger of the assembly sticking to the melamine surface.

Highslide JS
Adding some maple veneer to the top plates.
(5/7/13) I have rough cut the top and bottom halves of the bookmatched top and they are now in the vacuum press getting the first of three veneer laminates attached to the separate top plates. I'll do all of this before I attach the two plates together. This will create a very impressive pinstriping effect between the Koa top and the mahogany body material. All this extra work will pay off when we see the finished product! Stay tuned!

Highslide JS
Nice Curly Koa top being prepped for this bass.
(4/22/13) I chose some nicely figured curly Koa for the top of this bass. This piece has some great deep color and a very defined figure in the wood so it should look really nice on the finished instrument. I will be doing some machining operations to the profile of the top, then gluing some veneer onto the lower side of each. When that is done we'll prep the joint faces and stick the two pieces together to create the bookmatched top.

Highslide JS
Body halves are now on the bass.
(3/25/13) Here we have completed the assembly of the two body halves onto the core of the bass. The two pieces are still quite a bit oversize so that I can refine the profile of the instrument closer to the stage where the top is ready to go on. Now that we have a one-piece assembly I can also move on to shaping and carving the back of the neck and the area where the neck joins the body. We are now ready to cut and sand the Koa top!

Highslide JS
Gluing the first of two body halves onto the core section.
(3/20/13) Now that I have glued decorative veneer onto both the body halves and the core section, I can start gluing those pieces onto the instrument itself. I do them individually so that i can guarantee alignment and accurate positioning for each piece. In the photo the upper bout is being attached to the center core. Once this has cured I will move onto attaching the lower bout in a similar setup. Looking forwatd to seeing a complete assembly!

Highslide JS
Gluing veneer onto the body joint faces.
(3/5/13) Before the two body halves are attached yo the core of the bass we are allpying contrasting veneer to both sides of the joint faces. One veneer goes on the body halves and one goes on each side of the center core. This will continue the decorative pinstriping effect across the back of the instrument. Similarly - we will apply a double veneer between the top plate and the assembled body so that this theme flows through the entire instrument.

Highslide JS
Machining joint surfaces on body core.
(3/1/13) Next step is to machine joint surfaces for the body halves onto the body end of the core section. This has to be done accurately in order to blent the machined surface with the already machined neck profile. I clean up areas on both sides of the core so that we have reliable flat surfaces for our body halves. I will repeat this operation on the two mahogany body halves so that we will have nice clean joints between the parts.

Highslide JS
Machining back surface of body core.
(2/27/13) Before we attach the body halves to the core we have a couple of machining operations to undertake. Firstly, we locate the core section on the CNC using the angle surface we generated as a datum surface. This will ensure that when we machine the back surface of the core, it will be parallel and square to the previously machined surface on the opposite side. We remove enough material to establish what will be the finished body thickness.

Highslide JS
Body halves have been roughed out.
(2/20/13) With the core section complete we can now move on to creating the two body halves which will be visible from the back of the instrument. In the case of this bass these will be made from Mahogany. The upper and lower bouts have been cut out from our template. THis bass will be my first multi-scale headless bass incorporating a single cut body style. It looks like the geometry will work well and I'm excited to see how this one develops.

Highslide JS
Machining slots for carbon fiber rods.
(1/17/13) The next step in the machining process is to cut the slots into the top surface of the neck section. The truss rod slot runs the entire length of the neck and have a specific geometry which perfectly fits the size and shape opf the truss rod. Once that is cut I cut two slots either side of the truss rod which will accommodate the two carbon fiber re-inforcing rods which alos run the full length of the neck and serve to add extra rigidity to the neck.

Highslide JS
neck core up on CNC for machining.
(12/27/12) The core section has been mounted on the CNC machine. First step was to establish a perfectly flat top surface which will be the joint face for the fingerboard. Next, we machined the critical body angle surface. Then we cut the entire perimeter of the neck to its finished dimensions. Finally we generated the headstock angle at the end of the neck. This area will contain the string retainers and access to the truss rod end.

Highslide JS
Last part of the neck/core being glued on.
(11/22/12) We have been gluing decorative laminates onto the various stringers in the neck assembly and progressively gluing the various pieces together to create the central neck/core of the instrument. We now have a very rigid assembly which can now be cleaned up and become the very solid cors for our bass. Next step is to get this assembly set up on the CNC machine and start establishing some critical dimensions.

Highslide JS
Getting started on the gluing process.
(11/15/12) We're currently busy gluing the multi-laminate nack/core section together. In this case we are creating a 5-piece neck using tapered laminates of Bubinga and Curly Maple. These two woods will yield tons of tone and sustain. I only glue one laminate at a time and I let the adhesive cure overnight. Strong joints are critical for a perfectly balanced rigid bass neck. We will have a lot of tone and sustain on this instrument!

Highslide JS
Gluing decorative veneer on one of the tapered stringers.
(11/14/12) Here we have one of the neck laminates in the vacuum press. In this case we are gluing Lavoa veneer onto one side of the center maple stringer. This will be repeated for the other side. On the darker stringers (Bubinga) I do the same thing but with maple veneer. When we glue the stringers together we have dark veneer against light woods and light veneer against dark woods - double contrasting pinstriping. Always looks good!

Highslide JS
Core pieces have been sanded and machined to tapers.
(11/10/12) Each of the neck laminates has to first be sanded to establish smooth flat surfaces. Once this is done I set them up on the CNC and machine the center strips to pre-determined tapers based on the geometry of the guitar neck. Once that is done we are almost ready to glue these pieces together. Before that I glue contrasting veneers onto the laminates which yield a very attractive pinstriping effect on the finished product.

Highslide JS
All of our core pieces have been rough sawn.
(10/30/12) Now that the template for this bass has been established and specific dimentsions calculated and confirmed I was able to get busy on the bandsaw and rough cut the various components for the neck and core of the instrument. We have curly maple on the outer edges of the neck and down the center of the neck, and two tapered stringers of bubinga. Both these woods are great for tone and rigidity so we know it's gonna sound good!

Highslide JS
A small part of many layers of vector file I use for each instrument.
(10/15/12) At the beginning stages of every new job I create a scale drawing of my project. if it's a repeat job of a previous build I don't really have to do many additional calculations but if there are changes specific to the new customer it's well worth making sure the geometry all works out. In this case we have som custom string spacing and body geometry so I'm making sure all the numbers add up befor I commit to cutting expensive wood!

Highslide JS
Comparing a couple of the laminate blanks against the body template.
(10/1/12) We're getting things started on this bass by cutting some of the center laminates that will make up the neck and the core of the body. This will be my first headless single cut bass, so there will be some new desigbn considerations involved. Right now I am evaluating the body template against the scale lengths to see if I need to compensate for access to the upper frets. Looking forward to seeing this bass take shape!
Last update November 27, 2012