Watson Guitars
Idyllwild
California, USA

7-string Multi_Scale Headless AND Fretless bass! (Serial 14B064)
Neck Through

Call
951-240-1666. or email us here!

   
Materials: Top: Curly Koa Neck: Maple and Wenge
  Body: Swamp Ash
Fingerboard: Ebony - 26 fret positions - walnut "fret" lines
Pickups: Watson - Hot Single Coils with Audere 4-band active EQ
Hardware: Gold - w Dunlop flush straplocks
Options: Audere 18v 4-band active circuitry
Finish: Satin / Matte Natural - with slight Sienna tint round front profile and over back.
Other: Tuner/Bridges - ABM Gold
  scale lengths 35-32" - string spacing at bridge 17.5mm

This one is another first. A multi scale fretless! I'm giving it a slightly extended range to 26 fret positions just to allow for a little more upper range. Should be an awesome lightweight instrument.

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Neo magnets have been installed to hold the covers in place.
(6/4/17) Left: Text and picture coming. (6/10/17) Right: Text and picture coming!
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Neo magnets have been installed to hold the covers in place.

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I'm using shims to make sure the two pickups are perfectly aligned before I establish the screw holes for vertical adjustment.
(5/25/17) Left: Pickups are in the process of being aligned and installed. Once they are in it makes the wiring process much easier. (5/30/17) Right: OK - four out of seven tuners are grounded, aligned and mounted on the instrument - only three more to go! When they are all installed I will test electrical continuity of ground wires.
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Just past the halfway mark on tuner installation.

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I managed to weave seven little copper wires through the body to the control cavity..
(5/13/17) Left: It may not look like much but getting 7 individual ground wires from each of the tuners to the cavity is a tricky and time consuming job. (5/19/17) Right: I have now added grounding wires to the pickup cavities, assembled the pickups and I'm about to get the two pickups installed into their respective recesses.
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The ground wires have been added to the pickup cavities, and I'm getting things ready to get the pickups installed.

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Using carefully slected dpscers to evenly distribute the tuner assemblies.
(5/5/17) Left: Back to the finishing up of the bridge/tuner installation. Tricky job if you want it to be perfect but going well. Spacers are necessary to guarantee even positioning. (5/7/17) Right: Ths is the end result of all the positioning and aligning of the tuners to create their retaining holes. Also a set of holes down the center for ground wires.
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All the holes for the tuners and their individual grounding wires have been established.

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Neo magnets have been installed to hold the covers in place.
(5/5/17) Left: The magnets required to retain the cavity cover and the battery cover have been installed. Now to get the rest of the copper attached. (5/7/17) Right: Copper shielding has now been added to complete the coverage on the control cavity. I am also adding additional copper to the back of the cavity cover plate.
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All the copper shielding is now in the control cavity after the nmagenet install.

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Almost ready for wiring and the last of the copper shielding!.
(4/27/17) Left: The holes for cavity cover lids have been drilled to correct diameter and depth for magnets. I have to do this and install the magnets before the last section of copper shielding is put in place. (5/2/17) Right: I now have to get the center five tuners installed in such a way that their relative spacing is nice and even.
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Working on gtting all seven tuners installed with the correct spacing at front and at back..

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Establishing locations for cover retainer magnets.
(4/18/17) Left: I'm marking out the locations for the holes for the magnets that will retain the control and battery cavity covers. (4/21/17) Right: Audere 4-band preamp is now ready to be fitted into the cavity - I will fix the control unit to the cavity wall and lock in the pots. After that it's djust a case of cleaning up all the wiring inside.
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Preparing for the pream install.

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Marking out exact locations of outer two tuner assemblies.
(4/10/17) Left: I'm now in the process of securing the two outer tuner assemblies onto the body to establish the correct string spacing. (4/14/17) Right: Now that spacing is set I am marking out and drilling seven individual grounding wire holes which connect with a channel inside that I machined before we attached the top plate.
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Getiing the seven tuners spaced evenly and grounded.

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This bass just keeps getting nicer!.
(4/4/17) Left: Both pickup cavities shielded and also completed the shielding work in the control cavity. I am now soldering continuity connections between all three. (4/6/17) Right: Getting the nut installed and then I will need to position and secure the seven tuner/bridge units in place. Will also be drilling holes for grounding wires.
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Copper shielding under way.

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Sienna tint over the back of the bass in a satin finish.
(3/30/17) Left: This photo shows off the back of the bass. We put a light Sienna tint around the front and wrapped that color round the back of the instrument. (4/1/17) Right: I'm preparing the control cavity for copper shielding. I will also shield the two pickup cavities just to be safe. This is a beautiful bass - can't wait till it's done!
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Copper shielding under way.

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The bass now has an incredible satin finish all over.
(3/30/17) My finisher applied a gloss finish to the bass and I was so impressed with how it looked when I picked it up, I forgot that I had asked for a satin finish per my customer's preference. We re-did the finish and it is now a very beautiful satin finish all over. I have to admit it looks and feels great. It's going to be a really nice bass!
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Another view of the satin finish on the instrument.

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Most of the sanding is now done.
(2/14/17) Left: I took the bass and its cavity, truss rod and pickup covers to my trusted finisher. They will be treated like royalty and I know the end results will be beyond beautiful. (3/6/17) Right: I was able to talk my finisher into sending me a progress photo and I have to say I'm VERY impressed with his results!
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This is the bass in the finishing shop - at our request we put a subtle sienna sunburst around the Koa top. The colors look fantastic.

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Final details on the profile of the back of the neck.
(2/4/17) Left: Nameplate cut and in the process of being sanded and sealed so that I can fill the engraved areas and get it installed in the instrument. (2/7/17) Right: I'm gluing the nameplate into the recess in the back of the headstock. It is made of the same Koa as the front of the bass and will look quite elegant on teh finished bass.
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Gluing the nameplate to the headstock.

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Final details on the profile of the back of the neck.
(1/23/17) Left: Down to the final stages of sanding at 320 grit. It's a messy job but somebody has to do it! Quite satisfying though because it feels so smooth! (1/28/17) Right: In this photo more of the sanding has been done to the body and in particular the edges around the body which always take a lot of sanding time!
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Most of the sanding is now done.

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Headstock completed for finishing.
(1/13/17) Left: Completed headstock assembly and I'm now sanding that area to get the surfaces completed and ready for the finishing process. (1/17/17) Right: Working on the overall sanding to get this beauty ready for finishing. The goal is to get through 100 grit to somewher around 320 grit. At that point I can get finishing scheduled!
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Very busy right now getting this bass sanded.

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Headplate being attached.
(1/2/17) Left: Among many other things that are going on I am now attaching the headplate to the headstock which will make this feature almost complete! (1/8/17) Right: Getting the back of the neck to just the right shape and thickness is one of the most demanding jobs in building. I am pretty happy with where we are on this one!
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Final details on the profile of the back of the neck.

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These parts will all be embedded in the headplate.
(12/16/16) Left: One of the last jobs I need to do to this bass is to assemble the components of the headstock. I'm installing two support plates and then the Koa headplate (12/21/16) Right: The area under the actual headplate is getting some additional strength from a couple of support plates that can handle the tension of the 7 strings.
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Got the support plates installed.

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All the jeck socket geometry completed.
(12/5/16) Left: This is out jack socket recess after the rectangular section was machined in. I can now get to work finishing the instrument edges. (12/11/16) Right: Time to get the control knob holes and recesses cut on the top of the bass. This will pretty much complete all the machining operations on the instrument. Lots of sanding coming!
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Cutting th erecess for the jack socket.

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Working on body refinements prior to final sanding.
(11/24/16) Left: Right now I am busy cleaning up all surfaces on the instrument and getting the edge radii established all around the body. (11/29/16) Right: In this photo I am establishing the hole and recess for the Neutrik locking jack socket assembly. I prefer to get this feature cut before establishing the control knob placement.
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Cutting the recess for the jack socket.

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Machining the back surface of the headstock.
(11/13/16) Left: I'm in the middle of machining the back of the headstock so that I can complete that area of the instrument. (11/18/16) Right: Holes drilled in the headstock that are carefully located to align with the string retainer. This allows me to get the headplate glued on so that I can get this rather complex area completed.
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Got the 7 holes drilled through the lower portion of the headstock.

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Holes for adjustment screws have been established in pickup covers.
(10/29/16) Left: Pickup covers now have adjustment screw holes and counterbores established at the four corners. (11/6/16) Right: I have added some structural features to the headstock area to help counter the tension of 7 strings. This brass plate under the wood headplate will support thr string ferrules when the bass is complete.
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Adding a structural brass plate in the headstock assembly.

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Pickup covers machined and ready for pickup bobbins.
(10/15/16) Left: The two continuous grain pickup covers have now been machined to remove material so that the pickup bobbins can fit inside them. (10/25/16) Right: These are the pickups that have been configured for this bass. They are very custom and have been wound with the fretless configuration in mind. Should be awesome!
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A couple of hot pickups in their custom bobbins.

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Drilling pilot holes for the set screws in the string retainer. No mistakes allowed!
(10/1/16) Left: I need the string retainer finished up so that I can use it to finalize its assembly and fit into the headstock of the bass. Drilling set screw holes.. (10/9/16) Right: I had an opportunity to get the two pickup covers onto the CNC so that I could router out the insides in preparation for the pickup assemblies.
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Setting up to machine the pickup covers.

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Setting up CNC to cut the covers.
(9/22/16) Left: I was able today to get the two plates for the covers marked and set up on the CNC to get them cut out for the recesses on the back of the bass. (9/23/16) Right: This is the completed control cavity cover. I wanted to be very careful to match the grain to the back of the bass. Now to repeat process with battery cover.
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Completed control cavity cover - now to cut battery cavity cover too.

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Custom pickups have been wound and are ready to go into their covers.
(9/19/16) Just finished with the two 7-string pickups. They are very high end hand built and will certainly do an excellent job for this bass. Very happy with these. I now have to get them fitted to the machined interior of the wooden pickup covers and at that point the covers will have their adjustment screw holes established and everything sanded and ready for the finishing process. I need to get the two covers cut so they can catch up too!

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Working on a few operations to create the string retainer.
(9/12/16) This is the string retainer with its through holes established. My next setup for this piece will be to set up to drill the holes that will be threaded and house the set screws that are used to lock the strings in place. I now have to machine the back of the headstock to a finished thickness and add a recess for a retainer that will keep the string retainer locked in place. I will post more photos of that as it develops. The end is in sight!

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I am ready to cut the cavity covers from parent material.
(9/7/16) These are the two pieces of swamp ash I harbested earlier on in the process so that I would have matching covers for the back cavities. I have sanded them nice and flat and I will be machining them to the exact sizes of the two cavity recesses so that these two covers can go with the rest of the instrument to the finisher and have the matching coating applied. I am also getting the pickups completed and cutting covers to fit them into!

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Getting the string retainer moved on so that I can use it for a drilling fixture.
(8/30/16) While the work on the headstock is going on I had to move the string retainer job forward because the holes that I establish in this piece for the strings in turn allow me to drill through the headstock material. I cut and fot the retainer today so that it is snug inside its recess. I will now set it up on the CNC and pilot the 7 string holes very accurately through this piece. Once they are drilled I will use that to drill holes through behind the headstock.

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On the CNC to cut the truss rod cover.
(8/26/16) Things are now set up on the cnc to cut the truss rod access cover out of the headplate. I need to use a tiny little milling cutter so that I don't lose too much material. Once this is removed I will finish shaping the headplate and get it attached onto the headstock. I will use the string retainer itself to establish the through homes so that I can guarantee that the are property aligned all the way through.

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Headplate being shaped to fit.
(8/21/16) I have run the headplate through the drum sander to get it to the right thickness and applied a decorative Maple veneer to the bottom sirface. My task now is to shape the plate to fit the geometry of the headstock area and when that is done I can get it set up on my CNC where I will use a very small milling cutter to cut out a cover that will provide access to the end of the truss rod. Once that's done I will glue this piece on and clean up.

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Starting work on our pickups.
8/15/16) Getting things rolling on the pickups for this bass. I cut the flatwork on the laser for tops and bottoms of each pickup (they are both different shapes based on angled locations and string spacing) and I am now getting the 14 magnets installed into each of them. Once the assemblies are complete I will have them wound, wired, sealed and potted and we will have a couple of great custom pickups for our instrument!

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Shaping the back features of the bass.
(8/6/16) Back to shaping the back of the neck and the two transition areas (headstock and neck-to-body. I'm trying to get all the detail work done so that the bass can get some of its final shaping and sanding done prior to finishing. I have done a lot of grinding and shaping plus sanding of the profile of the neck to bring it closer to finished thickness and radius. There's quite a bit of hand sanding in the immediate future but getting closer to finishing!

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Just about to glue veneer onto the headplate.

(7/26/16) Headplate for the headstock has been thicknessed and is now ready to get some quick machining to create the access cover for the truss rod. Before I do that I an gluing a couple ofdecorative veneers onto the bottom of the plate so that the joint treatment matches the rest of the instrument construction. As soon as that's done I will get the part shaped correctly for its location and cut out the truss rod cover.


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Getting set to cut pickup flatwork.
(7/21/16) It's time to get the pickups done and added to the formula. This image is taken from my 100% vector version of the bass and my next task is to cut the flatwork from the pickup material so that I can not only get the pickups assembled and wound, but also complete the machining on the pickup covers so that they are 100% ready for the pickup assemblies. The other time-sensitive factor is that the pickup covers need to be finished along with the bass itself!

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100 little jobs to do to get this bass ready for finishing.
(7/14/16) I am getting this instrument ready for the finishing process which is in sight now. While I am working on the little cover for the headstock I have been finishing up some work on the control and battery cover plates. These are made from off cuts of the same piece of wood I used for the body so the grain and grain color should be a pretty accurate match. I'm also working on the pickup covers to get them ready for finishing too!

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Fitting a headstock plate of matching Koa.
(7/8/16) I have cut a top plate for the headstock from the material I used to make the instrument top. This will now be thicknessed and shaped to fit neatly onto the end of the headstock area (it's quite a bit oversize right now) and then I will cut the piece that will provide truss rod access. That will complete the construction of the headstock area prior to finishing. I ned to get the cover plates and pickup covers ready next.

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A few machining operations later we are done for the moment with this work. Going to be gluing some parts on here.
(6/6/16) This is the end of the headstock area with all the machining done to it for this stage. I now have to apply a top piece to match the body material and also cut and shape the back of the headstock to its final dimensions. The top plate will have an access cover for the truss rod adjustment and I will also be establishing the six string holes in both the top and bottom surfaces. I have to now finish up the cavity covers!

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Getting ready to machine the headstock area.
(6/4/16) I have the bass set up on the CNC, this time to do the necessary machining work to the headstock area. I need to cut a recess for the string retainer and also machine the end of the headstock parallel with the end of the fingerboard. Once I get this done I will qadd a small headplate of Koa material on the top that blends nicely with the body material. The big goal here is to get the instrument complete and ready for its finishing process.

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Battery cavity and cover recess are now done.
(5/27/16) The bass has now had its two cavities machined into the back face and I have been back on the task of further shaping the body and belly cut - especially around the newly machined features so that I can keep the ball rolling on this project. I will also get the two lids cut out and carefully fitted into their respective recesses. Pickup flatwork is under way and I will also be finish machining the wooden covers - lots to do!

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Control cavity and recess complete.
(5/20/16) The control cavity has now been successfully machined.There's definitely enough room in there for the preamp and associated wiring I will be installing. I will be drilling the control holes from the opposite side soon. Next task is to set up and cut the battery cavity and it's lid recess. I already machined a channel inside the body through which all the battery related wiring will run (along with ground wires for bridge units).

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On CNC - lid recess cut out, now getting cavity under way.
(5/16/16) I was able to get the lid recess cut so I wanted to get a photo of that up here. I'm now getting ready to run the program for the control cavity itself. While this is going on I am preparing the offcut material I saved from the original billet of Swamp Ash which I will be using to cut our the two respective covers from the back. Lots of activity in my shop so the sooner I can get these jobs done the better! This will be a nice bass!

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Setting up for the machining of the back cavities.
(5/12/16) The bass is now set up on the CNC where I will be cutting both cavities (control and battery) and their respective recesses for the lids also. I'll probably also machine a recess for teh serial number and perhaps a few magnet holes while I am at ot - we will see how things go. In any case it's good to get this part of the machining out of the way and will let me concentrate on finishing up the body in preparation for finishing.

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Preparing to cut cavities in the back of the body.
(5/4/16) I am preparing to cut the control and battery cavities but I decided to establish final dimensions around the body (especially around upper and lower horns) and around the cutout area where the tuners will live. I also cut the belly cut closer to a finished profile. All this allows me to place the cavities in the right locations maintaining the right proportions between all the other geometric features of the bass. Will get these cut asap.

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Preparing to cut cavities in the back of the body.
(4/29/16) Before I carve the body much further I have to get this instrument up on the CNC and machine out both the control cavity and the battery cavity. That will in turn allow me to move ahead with the rest of the carving of the back of the body so that I know all the features fit and blend properly together. There is always an engineering and aesthetic consideration to every operation I do to any instrument. I need to finalize body profile first.

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Some more detailed neck carving going on.
(4/20/16) I removed a good amount more of the material on the back of the neck today. Before going back to that I need to file and sand the profile and inspect it so that I can determine how much I continue to remove material from and also from which specific areas. Always better to approach a neck thickness and profile cautiously as once you remove material you cannot put it back! So far so good - moving on and will soon have a complete instrument.

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Doing some of the basic material removal on the backl of the bass.
(4/17/16) I have spent some time carving away at the back of the neck and body of the bass. Main objective here is to get some of these features from rough-sawn condition to quite close to finished size and profile. I prefer to shape the neck after the fingerboard is attached as it gives me a much better feel for the shape and profile. Also the transition between the neck and body is a pretty critical area too so I have to work my way in carefully!

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The two cavities for pickups have been successfully cut.
(4/6/16) This is the body of the bass after the pickup holes were successfully cut to full depth. It was a slightly involved process because as simple as it may seem, I had to be very careful that everything was aligned so that the full cut exactly matched the existing cuts in the top plate. It was one of these machine operations I had to stand over and adjust all the way through but I am very happy with the results and now have more work to do to the back.

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Getting ready to machine pickup cavities.
(4/1/16) I have the bass up on the CNC for a number of operations that will bring it closer to finishing. Firstly I have to machine out the pickup cavities so that they are both a full depth. Once I have done that I will flip the instrument over and machine out both the control cavity and the battery cavity including their respective recesses for the lids. I already have the material for the lids separated from out original material.

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Pickup covers well under way.
(3/21/16) I'm doing some of the necessary work to the outside surfaces of the pickup covers so that I can then machine them from the other side and create the internal cavities into which the pickup bobbins will fit. To that same end, I am getting ready to cut the pickup bobbins so that I can test fit all the mating parts as we move this part of the construction along. I will also have the pickups themselves manufactured soon.

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Gluing the pickup cases together so that I can get them machined.
(3/15/16) Time to build the rest of the pickup covers. I have the two continuous grain pieces I harvested from the top plate and now I need to add then to some base material so that I can create the full depth covers into which we will be putting the pickup bobbins. I chose to make the bases of the pickups out of wenge as it will match other features on the instrument, plus wenge is fairly stable and will tolerate the thin wall construction.

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Fingerboard being clued onto the neck of the bass.
(3/9/16) This is the bass with the fingerboard being attached. The truss rod went in before the fingerboard was placed on. I am now gluing the fingerboard in place and clamping it down in place using rubber bands which are very good at evenly distributing the downward clamping pressure onto the fingerboard surface. I will leave this clamping assembly overnight to ensure that the glue has fully cured. Looking forward to seeing this complete!

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Getting set up to attach the fingerboard.
(3/2/16) This is the instrument after having done quite a bit of sanding and shaping around the body profile to get the body shape just where I want it. I also spent some time on the back of the bass working on the neck profile and the belly cut area too. I need to now establinsh the linear portion of the fingerboard and get that attached. I typically refer back top my 100% scale vector drawing for this. Ready to glue fingerboard on!!

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Working on the body profile to make it look and feel just right.
(2/21/16) Busy right now working on getting tyhe profile of the instrument just right. Because it's a 7-string I want to make sure the body is somewhat proportionate to the neck but at the same time compace and comfortable. I went back to my template and compensated for the extra string and I think it's starting to look just right. I will post a picture of the results as soon as they are ready. Next will be a belly cut on the back.

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Test fitting the fingerboard for assembly onto the neck.
(2/14/16) I removed the fingerboard from the support material it was attached to and cleaned up all the edges and the joint face. The board is now ready to be attached to the neck which I hope to do in the very near future. After that I'll return to some final body shaping and get the control and battery cavities established. Once the fingerboard is on I can also get the back profile of the neck finished up. Looking forward to seeing this one complete!

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Working on the body profile using the spindle sander.
(2/2/16) Now that the top plate is securely attached I can start work on the profile of the body shape. I'm starting by roughing in the sides so that the top and the body blend together. I will then use my body template to mark out the final profile shape and dring everything pretty much to finished dimensions. Once I'm happy with that we have a couple of machining operations to do to establish cavities and full pickup recesses.

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Top and body being attached in the vacuum press.
(1/20/16) This is the instrument inside the vacuum press where I am gluing the top plate onto the upper surface of the body. The vacuum press is great for this type of job as it applied and even clamping pressure all the way around the instrument making sure that the integrity of the joint is really good. I leave assemblies like this under pressure for most of the day so that I know the glue is fully cured. Next I need to clean up the sides.

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Ready to fit the top onto the body.
(1/13/16) As you can see in this photo the two pickup cover pieces have been machined out of the top plate. I also ran another operation to remove the material where the top plate joins the neck heel. Cutting out that material allows me to fit the top onto the body and test for alignment. Everything fits nicely together so I am now going to prepare the body and top plate for assembly together. Looking forward to seeing that gled together!

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Top plate set up on CNC for harvesting pickup covers.
(1/6/16) I am now ready to cut the pickup covers out of the top plate. This will give me two beautiful covers whose grain will blend perfectly into the wood grain of the top of the bass. It's always extra work to make this happen but the visual effect of doing this on the finished instrument is well worth the effort. I have just written a program to cut these out so as soon as this is done the top can go onto the body which is also good progress!

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Plotting locations for pickups on the top plate.
(12/30/15) I spent some time calculating the best geometry and locations for the pickups on this bass. I had to the locations established now because the next step in the manufacturing process is to get the two pickup covers harvested out of the top plate. Once that is done I can get the plate attached to the body of the instrument. I needed to be sure about the size and location of the pickup cover goemetry so that I can get the covers cut!

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Machining all the wiring channels in the top of the bass body before the top goes on.
(12/21/15) In this photo I have just machined out the wiring channels that will allow me to run wiring for both pickups, ground wires from bridge units and battery power fronm the battery cavity on the upper body half. I wanted to get these features machined in so that I could move ahead and get the top plate secured to the body. Doing that also allows me to then get the fingerboard attached! Looking forward to seeing this one coming together!

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Recess for the end of the neck section has been cut from the Koa top.
(12/10/15) This is the top plate after the section has been cut out for the end of the neck. I have to check my records but I think I am harvesting out the pickup covers from the top plate so that we can make continuous grain pickup covers. I'm also going to mark out and cut channels in the top of the existing body of the bass. These will create channels inside the instrument for wiring after the top is glued on.

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Calculating some of the linear dimensions to accurately place some of the upcoming machining work.
(12/5/15) I have the body parts on hand right now because I am measuring the location of the various features (bridge location and end of fingerboard) so that when I do further machining everything falls in the right location with respect to the multiple scale lengths. I take almost all the initial measurements from the nut and work back from there. This will allow me to accurately place the cut in the top plate that fits around the end of the neck.

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Some cleanup around the neck jpoint to prepare for the fitting of the top plate.
(11/30/15) I am doing some profile finishing work around the body of the instrument. The goal here is to bring the outside profile fairly close to the finished size of the instrument. The spindle sander is usually the best way to cleanly work on the outer edges and keep everything smooth and square. After the top plate goes on I will be able to do the final finish work around the body. Once the top goes on the fingerboard can go on too!

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Gluing the two halves of the top plate together.
(11/19/15) In this photo I am clamping and gluing the tow top plates together. I always use a non-stick flat surface to glue on and I not only clamp the top plates laterally to put pressure on the joint, but I also clamp down on the reference surface at the same time to guarantee that the back of the assembly will be nice and flat. This really helps when we are gluing the top onto the body. The top should look awesome, that Koa figure is really nice!

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Top plate joint faces now machined and ready for gluing.
(11/11/15) All the veneers have now been added to the underside of the top plates. I also cut the two joint faces on the CNC so that I would have perfectly straight and square edges for a clean bookmatched joint. Next task will be to get the two halves securely glued together to complete the top. I may do some cleanup around the edges at that point to bring the top plate dimensions closer to the body profile. Want to get this onto the instrument!

Highslide JS
Gluing dark veneer onto the previously attached light veneer.
(11/2/15) Second operation of decorative veneering underway. I'm now gluing a dark veneer onto the light maple veneer so that we have a dual pinstriping that will run around the body along the line where the top meets the Swamp Ash body. As soon as this is done I will clean up all the edges and then machine the two joint faces so that they are ready for gluing into the complete bookmatched top plate. Should look really nice!

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Top halves in the vacuum press getting decorative veneers attached.
(10/27/15) Before I can attach the fingerboard I need to get the top plate glued together. In preparation for this I am gluing decorative veneers onto the bottom joint durface of the two top plates. I will probably do two contrasting veneers this way. When that is done they get trimmed up and I machine the joint face down the centerline so that I can bookmatch glue them together. Looking forward to seeing that. More soon!

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Koa top halves now cut and ready for decorative veneers.
(10/16/15) I marked out and rough cut the Koa material for the top because I want to get this part of the bass processed so that I can get the fingerboard on! First stage was choosing the best grain orientation, then marking out oversize. Now that it has been cut I can clean up the edges and get a couple of veneers attached. Then I will cut and prep the centerline hoint and glue the two pieces together to create a rare and beautiful bookmatched top.

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Koa top plate halves have been rough sawn.
(10/7/15) This is the Koa material which has now been resawn to create the bookmatched set that will become the very impressive top for this bass. It's hard to show the depth of the grain and the color in a photo like this but as we progress I will post images of this wood "wet" and it will bring out the beauty of the wood grain! Right now the next task is to get these pieces drum sanded flat and glue the pair together into one piece.

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Sawing up the Koa for the top plate.
(10/3/15) I'm now sawing a couple of slices of my big block of Koa to get the top plate of the bass put together. This is very nice curly stuff which is VERY hard to get these days. It will have a beautiful deep golden color and will look great on the instrument. Takes a little while to saw through the big billet and I have to be careful in order to not let the saw blade go off-target. Both pieces cut very consistently (new blade) and now ready to sand.

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Fret markers are now installed in the fingerboard.
(9/24/15) Walnut markers have been installed in the fingerboard. Looks like they will work out well - not too dark but not too bright and obvious. They are a little brighter in the photo than they will end up because the walnut will darken with the finish applied to it. We have a very nice looking ebony fingerboard and I'm going to get in finish sanded and prepped for assembly onto the neck. I also have Koa top parts in the works!

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We decided to use walnut veneer to create the lines on the fingerboard. Subtle.
(9/12/15) I'm using a walnut veneer as a fret marker material and I have used a little Denatured Alcohol to show what the woods look like wet. We didn't want the lines to be too prominent with the ebony fingerboard and I think we are achieving the right compromise here. Just light enough for the player to be able to navigate but dark enough not to show as a major feature on the whole instrument. I'm pretty happy with this result.

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Side dots have been installed, now to clean up ends.
(6/27/15) The holes for the side dots are now filled with the appropriate side dot material. Since this is a fretless bass they are located right on the fret line as opposed to between the frets on a fretted instrument. They are inserted and glued in and then snipped off close to the fingerboard. I will then dress the sides of the fingerboard to bring everything flush. While this has been going on I have also been working on the Koa top for the bass - photos coming!

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Establishing all the side dots along the upper edge of the fingerboard.
(6/14/15) In this photo I am busy establishing side dots along the upper edge of the fingerboard. Because we have a multi-scale instrument it is very important to make sure these dots are very accurately positioned. Once the side dots are glued in and cleaned up I will start creating the "fret position" lines on the fingerboard. These will be a fairly subtle wood color because my customer doen't want those lines to be too visible (other than to the player!)

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Machining the slots for the fret markers.
(6/7/15) I am currently running the second pass on the slot cutting so that I achieve the correct depth for the slots. Current plan is to get all these fret marker slots cut and then drop in a veneer color that will create fret lines that will guide the player for finger placement but not be too obvious from the observer's point of view. Since we have a Koa top plate I'm considering Koa veneer as a pssible accent color.

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Compound radius has been machined.
(5/27/15) Got back onto this job and set up and ran the program that cuts the compound radius onto the fingerboard blank. This gives me a mathematically perfect surface connecting the two ends of the fingerboard. I will have to clean up the machining marks but as soon as that is done I will be able to run the program that will cut the "fret" slots allowing me to finish this setup and get it off the machine table!

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Getting ready to do machining on the fingerboard.
(5/22/15) The fingerboard blank is set up on the CNC machine and I am going to be cutting its outside profile - the compound radius and the "fret" slots pn the upper surface. I need to make sure everything I cut matches the widths of the neck blank. I am also allowing for 26 fret positions. I will probably leave a little extra material on either end of the board and clean that up after all the slots are in just to make sure everything aligns properly!

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Curly Koa block from which I will be cuttingh the top plate for the bass.
(5/14/15) I thought it would be interesting to post a photo of the actual piece of Curly Koa I will be using for the top plate of this bass. It's the very last bass-sized piece of Koa I have in stock and it's a really beautiful piece with amazing color and depth of grain figure. This will need to be sanded and sawn up to yield the two pieces that I need to bookmatch together to create the top. Quite a bit of sanding and sawing involved but it will look great!

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Fingerboard prepped for machining.
(5/6/15) Not a particularly exciting picture but I wanted to show that the pre-sanded ebony fingerboard is now attached to a stable substrate which will support it through the upcoming machining operations. I am going to get this fingerboard set up on the cnc and get the profile and compound radius cut. Ebony is one of the best materials for a fretless fingerboard an always looks good on the instrument too.

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Ebony in the process of being secured to a rigid abnd flat reference surface.
(5/1/15) While I have been working on the body and neck of the bass getting those areas cleaned up and shaped for further operations, I have cut the ebony fingerboard to a slightly oversize condition and am in the process of attaching that to a solid base so that I have arigid platform upon which to do all the fingerboard machining work. I'll cut this board a couple of inches oversize so that I have the ability to bolt that onto my CNC table.

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Gabon Ebony for the fingerboard.
(4/22/15) Here you can see the Gabon Ebony fingerboard blank which I just recently finished sanding flat. It has become extremely expensive to buy this material and especially at wider widths which are hard to find. My next step will be to cut the tapered profile of the board from this blank about 1/8" oversize and I will secure that to a substrate material so that it is well supported throughout the several machining processes.

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ready to cut the Curly Koa for the top.
(4/12/15) The material I am going to use for the top plate of this beautiful bass will be Curly Koa. I bought a plank of curly Koa several years ago and only have a little left. It's almost impossible to get hold of nowadays because of scarcity and the little that's out there is VERY expensive. This will make a really beautiful top for this bass and I will also use the same wood for the headstock veneer at the end of the neck.

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Gluing the two carbon fiber rods into the neck assembly.
(4/1/15) I made sure we have a good snug fit with the carbon fiber rods and their respective slots. I then mixed up a batch of my aerospace grade epoxy and glued both rods into the neck. I add the clamps to make sure I bleed out all the excess glue for a super-secure joint. This adhesive takes a while to cure so I will be leaving this assembly overnight to make sure it's 100% before I move ahead with other work.

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Getting the carbon fiber rods for the neck ready for assembly.
(3/26/15) I'm busy getting the fingerboard prepared but while that is going on I need to get the two carbon fiber rods installed into the slots that I cut in the neck. These rods are super strong and lightweight and when I glue them into the neck assembly with a very high-grade epoxy, the add a significant amount of stability and rigidity to the already very strong neck assembly. I am just making sure these fit nice and snug - them we'll glue them in there.

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carving out some of the features on the back of the instrument.
(3/17/15) I am doing some rough carving and shaping to the back of the bass to remove as much of the excess material as possible. And yes, it's OK to use an angle grinder as long as you have done this before and are used to handling it for rough shaping. Saves a bit of time. Once it is all roughed out I graduate to files and sanders to refine the varios shapes and blends between the instrument's geometry. Feels a lot lighter!

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Neck/top plate joint machined and top of body has been surfaced ready for the top plate.
(3/9/15) The bass is up on the CNC machine for a couple of operations that require a lot of accuracy. First challenge was to establish the dimensions of the angled portion of the end of the neck and then run a cutter around that shape so that it blended that angle with teh two sides of the neck. This gives me a joint area that will fit the top plate when it is assembled onto the body. I also machined the entire top to create a good flat surface.

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Fingerboard blank ready for sanding.
(2/26/15) I was able to saw my ebony board in half so that I had a suitable piece of ebont to sand down for the fingerboard of this bass. Right now we are a little oversize on thickness but i will run this through my drun sander to achieve the optimum thinckness for a 7-string fingerboard blank and then I will get this component machined on the cnc so that it is ready to attach to the neck once the top plate is glued on!

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Internal features of the neck section have been completed.
(2/15/15) I have now machined and installed the truss rod in the neck and also machined two slots into which I will install carbon fiber rods for linerar re-enforcement. Now that thsi is done I am going to get the instrument back on the cnc so that I can machine the top surface of the body. This will establish body thickness and the correct geometry for the body end of the fingerboard. I can also get back to some more carving and shaping!

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Setting up to machine for truss rod and carbon fiber rods.
(2/9/15) The bass is set up on the CNC machine so that I can route out the geometry for the truss rod and slots that will hold the Carbon Fiber rods that will be embedded into the neck for extra strength and rigidity (as if a 7-piece laminated neck needed that!). Once this operation is done I will need to machine the top surface of the body to make it ready for the top plate going on. When the top is on I can cut the cavities in the back.

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really hard to find these days - Beautiful colorful Curly Koa for the top.
(1/28/15) I have a limited supply of very hard to find Curly Koa in stock and we decided with my customer that we would use this rare wood for the top plate of the instrument. It has a great warm color and a lot of figure and will make this bass look beautiful! I will be sawing this material up very soon as the bass will sson be ready for its bookmatched top. The Koa will look great combined with the ebony fingerboard!

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Awesome piece of Gabon Ebony for the fingerboard.
(1/10/15) I have been shopping for some time for a piece of Gabon Ebony wide enough for a 7-string bass. This material is getting very expensive and particularly hard to find in the kinds of widths that are required for multi-string basses. I was licky to fin this piece which is clean and straight and very black and about 1/2" wider that I need for this fingerboard. I now have all the wood ingredients I need to complete.

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Back of the instrument after some further sanding and shaping.
(12/20/14) The back surface of the bass has been sanded and is ready for further machining operations. I also sanded around the perimeter of the body to get the whole shape closer to the finished profile. Some of the excess core material has been sawn off at the tail end and I have also started rough carving of the back of the neck. At this stage it's mostly just removing excess material, everything will remain a little oversize until more machining is done.

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We now have a complete bass shape! Next I have to select some Koa for the top.
(11/16/14) Both Swamp Ash body halves have been successfully attached to the core of the instrument. Although there is currently a lot of extra material on the neck section, I can tell that this bass will be pretty lightweight when it is completed. Feels good so far. At this point in the process I typically go back to my body template and re-mark the profil;e so that I can start sanding the shape closer to the finished outline.

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Upper body half now being clued onto the core section.
(10/28/14) In this photo I am clamping the upper body half onto the core of the instrument. I'm clamping to try to guarantee squareness, alignment with the lower half and also forcing it to be aligned on the same plane as the other parts. Aside from saving extra finishing time this helps heel the grain pattern consistent and reduces the amount of waste materials. After this operation we will have something that looks like a bass guitar!

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Lower body half is being clued onto the core section.
(10/19/14) I am now getting the first of the two body halves glued onto the core section of the bass. This requires careful positioning and fixturing so that everything goes together cleanly. I am gluing on a non-stick surface and clamping both across the assembly and also down onto the baseplate so that everything will be properly aligned. Nice to see these pieces come together on this bass! Upper body half next!

Highslide JS
Gluing maple veneer onto the body area of the core section.
(10/15/14) In this photo I am gluing a maple veneer onto the Wenge material on the outer edge of the body core. Once I have this veneer on both sides I will be able to get the two sides attached to the core and we'll have something that looks like a bass guitar. There are double veneers between all the joints on this bass and that will look really nice on the finished product. Looking forward to seeing all these parts come together.

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Sides are ready for assembly.
(10/6/14) The dark veneer has now been glued onto the two body half joint faces. I cleaned up the excess material and the edges all the way around and these are now ready for assembly. I will add light veneer to the wenge on each side of the core of the bass and then get these glued on. Once I have the sides attached I can start planning a few other things - cavities, top plate, fingerboard etc. More photos coming!

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Joint faces getting one of the two veneers attached.
(10/3/14) I have cleaned up some of the other surfaces on these two body pieces and I'm now gluing some dark veneer onto the joint surfaces. I will repeat this process soon on the body core so that we end up with a nice contrasting double pinstripe as we did between the tapered sections of the instrument core. I'm also looking through the various options i have for the Koa top, I have some nice curly stuff which I will probably end up using.

Highslide JS
machining accurate joint faces onto the body halves.
(9/27/14) The two pieces that will become the upper and lower back halves are being carefully machined to a flat and square surface along the joint faces where they will attach to the core of the instrument. Now that I have this done I will add some decorative veneer to each of the joint surfaces and then get these pieces glued onto our core. It will be nice to have something that looks like a bass! That Swamp Ash is nice and light!

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Body halves ready to be glued onto core section.
(9/16/14) The material for the sides has now been resawn to thickness, drum sanded and cut closer to the finished size. I will get these two pieces attached to the core section as soon as I have the joint faces prepared and that way we will have a complete shape to work with. The material I sawed off from these blocks will become the covers for the control and battery cavities. Looking nice so far and some exciting stuff to come!.

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Body halves have been rough cut.
(9/10/14) The Swamp ash has been rough cut so that I can move ahead and do a few other body-related tasks. Firstly I will resaw the material to the correct thickness and retain the offcuts for for future cavity cover material since the grain will match perfectly. Then I will saw closer to mu finished profile shape and drum sand to clean up. At that point I will be able to prep the joint faces, add some decorative veneer and glue together

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Swamp ash for the body pieces ready to be cut!.
(8/21/14) I purchased some nice Swamp Ash (which is harder to get these days) and this will provide me with material to make the back body halves. We were going to alos use Swamp Ash for the top but later decided to use a more exotic Curly Koa top which will really make an impact on the finished instrument! I will cut this Ash up so that they back body bouts can be glued onto the body core and we will have something that looks like a bass!!

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Cleaning up the joint faces on the edges of the core section.
(8/12/14) In this operation I am setting up both sides of the instrument body to clean up the rough sides so that they are ready for assembly with the back pieces. I have to hold the core of the bass square to the table and then use a dial indicator to measure and adjust until the angles are all right on the money! At that point I know it's safe to machine off the extra material and the result will be a clean machined surface that is parallel to the core edges.

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Machined core section ready for further operations.
(7/27/14) This is the core section with some of the upper and lower machining already done. The perimeter has been machined to the exact width of the neck and that top surface is now ready for the fingerboard. I have machined the body angle so that when the body halves go on they will be properly configured. Very noticeable even at this stage, the neck is very resonant which is typical for maple/wenge but always nice to touch and feel!

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Getting ready to machine the core section.
(7/19/14) I am now busy setting up this core section so that I can establish the perimeter of the neck and body portions of the core. I will cut the entire length of this blank to its finished dimensions so that it is then ready for assembly to its body components and fingerboard. If I get time I will also machine the carbon fiber slots and the slot for the truss rod. The neck should be quite rigid so one truss rod will work and keep weight down.

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Back surface of the core has been machined.
(7/13/14) The front surface that we recently generated on the CNC to establish neck-to-body angle is now being used as a reference surface allowing us to machine a finished surface on the back of the core section that is square and parallel to the front. This will allow me to accurately align the swamp ash body halves of the bass when they are assembled. Next operation should be profiling the outer perimeter of the core section.

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Machining datum surfaces on the core section.
(7/6/14) Some of the machining has already been done on this core section. I cleaned up the top surface (onto which the fingerboard will attach) and established a neck-to-body angle by machining the top surface of the body at a prescribed angle. I can now flip this core section over and machine the back surface to match. This will allow me to align the body halves when they are ready to be attached.

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Getting ready to start machining the core section.
(7/3/14) We already have a fully assembled core section. I'm now setting that up on the CNC machine so I can establish some critical surfaces and profiles. Firstly I will machine the joint face/plane of the top of the neck - the surface the fingerboard will attach to. Next I cut the body to neck angle. I will probably also cut teh carbon fiber and truss rod slots while the neck is set up here. Now starting on the body parts and the fingerboard.

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4th and 5th laminates being assembled onto the core of the instrument.
(6/19/14) The gluing continues, although we are almost done. I am gluing the first of the two outer laminates of Wenge to the core. Once that's cured I'll do the same thing to the opposite side and we will have a beautiful core for our instrument! I am looking forward to getting this stage done as it frees me up to work on the body parts and start to create something that looks like a bass! Pretty soon I will be machining this core on the CNC.

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$th and 5th laminates being assembled onto the core of the instrument.
(6/11/14) I'm busy getting all the gluing of the laminates done - in this photo I am attaching the 5th of 7 laminates. Starting to look like a an instrument already. One thing you notice at this stage is the weight and resonance of the core. Seems very light so far and tonally looking very good. Wenge and Maple are always a very safe combination of good tone and a nice rigid and stable neck. Looking good so far!

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getting started on assembly - first laminates being glued together.
(6/6/14) Now that the center laminates have been successfully machined on the cnc I proceeded to glue contrasting veneers onto the joint faces. Once that had been done I can finally start gluing the core components together. I glue one at a time because I want to be very sure of correct alignment. In this picture I am gluing one of the wenge laminates to the central maple piece. When that has cured I'll continue gluing outward from the center.

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Two center Wenge laminates are now being machined to their tapered profiles.
(5/26/14) I am now in the process of machining the two center wenge laminates. As with the maple below, I need to cut these two pieces so that I generate a specific taper from one end to the other. Since this neck will have seven laminates it takes quite a bit of planning and a lot of machining work to get all these pieces ready to glue. However, result is always a spectacular looking assemble that is extremely strong!

Highslide JS
Machining center maple laminate.
(5/20/14) In order to get started I have to machine the center laminate to its particular taper. I have sanded the downward side of the laminate and now I have set that up on the CNC so that I can machine th etop face to create the taper. I know from my calculations what the respective thickness should be at each end of the laminate piece. Once it has been machined I clean it up and prepare to apply a contrstic veneer.

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Last two Wenge laminates are ready for machining.
(5/11/14) The Wenge for the center two laminates has now been rough sawn from the plank and also drum sanded so that both sides are smooth, flat and parallel. I can now start machining all five center laminates to their respective dimensions (they are oversize right now). I will start with the center laminates and build from there out. We will end up with a beautiful 7-piece tapered laminate neck core with double pinstripe veneer between each layer.

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Maple laminates have been rough sawn.
(5/2/14) I have cut the three Curly Maple laminates and they are ready to be machined to size and the correct taper. I still have two thinner Wenge laminates to create to complete the 7-piece neck assembly. I just bought more of the Wenge material so I can cut these and get them also machined as soon as time permits. It will be nice to get all these individual pieces shaped veneered and start gluing them together.

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Gluing maple veneer on the joint faces.
(4/22/14) The two initial outer laminates have been drum sanded to achieve a nice flat finish on both sides. Next step is to add amaple veneer on the inner surface of each. These veneer surfaces will combine with others to create some beautiful decorative pinstriping between the tapered laminates of the core section of the instrument. I have other blanks to saw from raw material and these will have to be machined into tapered sections.

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First two core laminated have been cut.
(4/7/14) We got started on this project today - I cut a couple of core pieces out of some prime Wenge stock and ran them through the drum sander so that they have reliable reference surfaces. Now I need to do the same thing with some curly maple and perhaps a third wood that will contribute to our ideal fretless tome we are looking for. I want this bass to have a very impressive visual appeal from the back as well as the front!!
Last update May 7, 2014