Cocobolo Bass

#1
So the fanned fret guitar is nearly finished - I'm doing the electronics today - and the white lace tele needs to be finished before Christmas so that I can bring it over and give it to the friend that I'm making it for. In the meantime, though, I've been planning - and making a start on - my next build.

I don't currently have any more clients for builds, so the next one will be for me. For a long time, I've been thinking about building a 5-string bass, but I haven't actuallly built a normal 4-string yet, and I would play a normal bass more than a 5-string. Therefore I decided to make a 4-string which I hope will become my no. 1 bass. As an aside, the Chapman bass will then be my no. 2 and I intend to sell my Yamaha bass.

With the type of instrument decided, there were two main influences for the look. One is the top - you might have seen the two exotic tops that I bought recently, and I decided to use the cocobolo top. It goes well with a body blank that I made out of a walnut plank. The second influence is Ambler Guitars, where I will be going for a course in March. He makes some very ornate builds, and I had an idea for an interesting neck construction. Here's a picture of the top being glued together.



So the neck is essentially going to be a 3-piece laminate. The outer stripes will be ovangkol, but the middle piece will be a composite piece made from four different types of wood (wenge, bubinga, purpleheart and padauk). Here are the raw materials...



The wenge and bubinga strips, which are already glued (at the top), were left over from the fanned fret guitar - I like to find a use for attractive offcuts! I planed them all down to 5mm thickness and then glued them together.



This made composite strips - I've actually made three of this, here are two of them after they were glued up.



Then I cut them into pieces, at 45 degree angles, and started gluing them together in pairs...



...and the pairs gradually got glued together into larger pieces...



I'm a little further ahead than that but it's not yet finished, and I don't have later photos. I've taken one piece and cut it down the middle, then reglued it to create the chevron pattern. I'm aiming to get a strip of about 25mm that will run down the centre of the neck. The jury's still out on whether this is going to succeed, and I have had some hiccups along the way, but it's progressing.

Earlier this week, I took my existing basses and used them as references to design my own body shape. It's meant to be modern, but still classy. Today I've cut out the top and cleaned it up, and then cut out the body a bit wider than the top - I'll use the top as a pattern to trim it down to size when they've been glued together.

So the last picture for now is the top, cut into shape.



The rest is going to be mostly black. I have a very nice bog oak fretboard, which is black but has a subtle grain pattern in it. The pickups and other hardware are all black, with Bartolini pickups, a Schaller 3D-4 bridge and Sperzel tuners. I found some really nice ebony knobs at Thomann too - they are Harley Benton ones, so they were pretty cheap but they look great.

I'm quite excited about this build because if it all works out, I think it will look great. I want to finish it before I go to Ambler Guitars in March, but for now finishing the other two guitars is the priority, as I have a Christmas deadline. This one is going to take a back seat, and I'll probably just gradually try to get the fancy neck strip sorted out in the coming weeks - once that's done, the rest of the build will be pretty standard.

More pictures will come as progress is made, but it'll probably be a few weeks before there's anything new to show. Sorry for the overlong post! :)
 
Last edited:

Chu

Well-Known Member
#2
Looks flippin' lovely! I could be so tempted with a new bass but then I remember I barely play the one i have!

I'm so skewed regarding 5 string basses, I read everywhere that people can't wait to get back to a 4 string, that they're cumbersome or even that they're an abomination. I've played a 5 string almost exclusively for 20 years, the one i have has very narrow string spacing but i love it. I can't see a reason to play a 4 string bass anymore.
 
#3
Thanks, I love this top so I think it's going to look very smart. I need to work out how best to finish it because I have read that Cocobolo is a very oily wood and doesn't take either oil or lacquer very well - perhaps I will just oil the rest of the guitar, and then put a coat of wax over it all. I'm sure the answer is out there on the net!

I'll try to remember to take a picture with the elements of the neck, because I appreciate that it's difficult to visualise* it from my description.

I pretty much only play bass in Rocksmith, and the game only uses a 4-string bass. Of course, I could play that on a 5-string and just ignore the lowest string, but I think a 4-string will still be more practical. If I make another bass for myself later on, then I suspect it would be a 5-string (possibly with fanned frets).


* I really hate the fact that the forum software automatically 'corrects' the spelling of any word ending in -ise to the American -ize spelling. I insist on going back to change them, but really - is it too difficult on a UK-based forum to have the spellchecker set to the right language??
 
#6
Thanks, I had a look and found it! Let me check some verbs ending in -ise...advise, arise, practise...yup, seems to work!

That aside, here's the promised picture showing almost a finished part of the center stripe - it's not much longer than shown, so I still have to do the rest, and it's two or three millimeters too wide so I need to sand it down. The sides are ovangkol...I'm also wondering whether to add a thin strip of ebony between the middle strip and the sides.

The dark piece is the bog oak fretboard. This is all still a good bit wider than the finished neck. but it's early days.

 

Wade Garrett

I am the projectionist.
#7
Thanks, I had a look and found it! Let me check some verbs ending in -ise...advise, arise, practise...yup, seems to work!

That aside, here's the promised picture showing almost a finished part of the center stripe - it's not much longer than shown, so I still have to do the rest, and it's two or three millimeters too wide so I need to sand it down. The sides are ovangkol...I'm also wondering whether to add a thin strip of ebony between the middle strip and the sides.

The dark piece is the bog oak fretboard. This is all still a good bit wider than the finished neck. but it's early days.

That looks sweet man!
 
#13
It'll be fine. I'm in no hurry, so I can take time over it - and in any case I need to focus on the other guitars first. The more tricky thing at this stage is keeping the whole thing intact - I've already had a couple of breakages in the stripes, particularly when I tried to use power tools, so slow and careful is the way. Once that is finished and I've glued it all together to make a whole neck blank, it should then be the same as working with a single piece of wood.

The other thing I need to think about is the extra ebony strip. I think that I will do that, and I'm musing on how best to do it. At the moment I'm leaning towards gluing a thicker piece onto each of the ovangkol strips and then planing that down to the desired thickness, which shouldn't be too difficult - I might even be able to do that with my thicknesser.

Fun times - it's only a shame that I don't get more than a few hours a week to spend on all of this, but perhaps in a few years' time I'll be able to do more. By then, I might even know what I'm doing! :D
 
#14
Woo hoo, the forum is back online and hopefully I can attach pictures directly again now!

I've been working away on this guitar gradually, even though my main focus is still the other two until Christmas. Last weekend, though, I finally got the neck assembled, with the stripy bit glued into the sides, and even with an ebony pinstripe between the two. It's still more of a roughly shaped blank than a neck, but I have a few days off work at the start of January when I will attack it with rasps and sandpaper.

I also drilled/routed out the weight relief on the body recently, and you can see both the neck and the body (without the cap, which you've already seen) in the picture below. Lastly, I have cut the fretboard to size, and I will use that to cut the neck to match.


CB Neck + body.jpg

I worked out the location of the components, and discovered that I will need the heel of the neck to extend past the end of the fretboard so that I have a decent size of tenon to glue into the body, otherwise the bridge would be too close to the bottom edge of the body. That's going to require some careful planning, but it should work out OK.

In related news, last weekend I sold my Yamaha bass which was my no. 2, so now I only have my Chapman MLB-1 (apart from Sunrise, but I don't play that much because it's fretless). The plan is for this bass to become my no. 1 bass, and the Chapman will be the no. 2, but we'll see how much I like playing it when it's finished!

I'll try to post photos (in their respective threads) of the other two guitars that I'm finishing off before I deliver them into the clammy hands of their future owners...I'm currently racing to finish them before Saturday...
 
#16
Either that or it will all fall to pieces! :D I'm hoping for option 1.

Actually, I'm very impatient to get it carved so that I can see how it's going to look - it's touch and go whether I have enough thickness, and I'm probably going to make the fretboard about 1mm thicker than normal to compensate a bit for the depth of the neck. I think I'm just about OK, but it's yet another lesson that you have to keep the components oversized when you're preparing them because it's much easier to take wood off later in the build than it is to add some on.

The emergency solution could also be to glue a thin layer of something else between the neck and the fretboard, which would show up as a 1mm (or so) stripe between the fretboard and the side of the neck. That could actually look pretty cool but it's extra work, and I think it's an idea that I'd rather keep for a future build.
 
#19
Time for another update...most of the time between the last one and now was taken up by my trip to England, but I had a few days back at home before I returned to work, and this weekend has also been quite productive. The neck in particular is really coming together.

After the last picture, I tidied up the neck in preparation for the fretboard, then I carefully worked out exactly how big the fretboard would be and cut that down to the right size and shape, with a view to using it to trim the neck down after it's glued on. Here I show the fretboard on my neck blank. In case you wonder, I had glued another bit of wood on the top of the chevron pattern because I was slightly lacking in depth, but all of that will be hidden by the fretboard and the headstock veneer.

Neck + fretboard.jpg

The next job was to make the truss rod channel. This almost went perfectly, except that when I was chiselling out the end, where the truss rod is a bit wider and deeper than most of the its length, I managed to chisel all the way through the back of the neck. I wondered (and still do) whether this was going to be a fatal flaw, but I managed to glue the broken piece back in, and then when I glued the fretboard onto the neck, I put some epoxy resin under the head of the truss rod, to try to reinforce that area again. Obviously, this means that the truss rod is never coming out again, but I don't plan on doing that anyway. I very much hope that my fix will work, or the whole instrument will be ruined! Fingers tightly crossed....

Anyway, I duly cut the neck down close to the right size, glued on some wings for the headstock etc. etc. and then glued on the fretboard and worked on the various aspects of the neck and headstock. I've come up with a headstock design that I quite like, and I put a ziricote veneer on the front. Here's the back and front of the neck yesterday, after I'd done most of the carve. There are some white pencil marks on the back where I noticed a bulge that I eliminated today, and on the fretboard there's a sketch up of an idea for fretboard inlays, but I haven't yet decided what to do.
Neck back.jpg
Neck front.jpg

Today's main job was sorting out the neck heel and the pocket on the body. I need to be very careful about this, because as I mentioned earlier I need the heel to be longer than the fretboard, and so it will be glued into the body, and then the cap will be glued over the top. I spent quite a lot of time working out exactly what to do, and then getting everything shaped and routed, and in the end I'm pleased with the result. The neck fits very snugly in the pocket, and I think that the angle is pretty much right for the strings, taking account of the height of the bridge.

Here's the body being prepared for routing out the pocked:
Neck pocket routing.jpg

And after the pocket had been routed:
Neck pocket routed.jpg

And lastly, with the neck fitted in place. It's not yet glued in; this was just a trial fitting.
Neck + body (not glued).jpg

Next I need to finish radiusing the fretboard, and then I can install the frets. I think I'll do that, then glue the neck into the body, then work on the frets before I glue the cap on so that I don't damage the top while I'm filing the frets. It's really coming along now, and hopefully I am well on course to finish this bass before I go on my next course in March.
 

Wade Garrett

I am the projectionist.
#20
Time for another update...most of the time between the last one and now was taken up by my trip to England, but I had a few days back at home before I returned to work, and this weekend has also been quite productive. The neck in particular is really coming together.

After the last picture, I tidied up the neck in preparation for the fretboard, then I carefully worked out exactly how big the fretboard would be and cut that down to the right size and shape, with a view to using it to trim the neck down after it's glued on. Here I show the fretboard on my neck blank. In case you wonder, I had glued another bit of wood on the top of the chevron pattern because I was slightly lacking in depth, but all of that will be hidden by the fretboard and the headstock veneer.

View attachment 35812

The next job was to make the truss rod channel. This almost went perfectly, except that when I was chiselling out the end, where the truss rod is a bit wider and deeper than most of the its length, I managed to chisel all the way through the back of the neck. I wondered (and still do) whether this was going to be a fatal flaw, but I managed to glue the broken piece back in, and then when I glued the fretboard onto the neck, I put some epoxy resin under the head of the truss rod, to try to reinforce that area again. Obviously, this means that the truss rod is never coming out again, but I don't plan on doing that anyway. I very much hope that my fix will work, or the whole instrument will be ruined! Fingers tightly crossed....

Anyway, I duly cut the neck down close to the right size, glued on some wings for the headstock etc. etc. and then glued on the fretboard and worked on the various aspects of the neck and headstock. I've come up with a headstock design that I quite like, and I put a ziricote veneer on the front. Here's the back and front of the neck yesterday, after I'd done most of the carve. There are some white pencil marks on the back where I noticed a bulge that I eliminated today, and on the fretboard there's a sketch up of an idea for fretboard inlays, but I haven't yet decided what to do.
View attachment 35813
View attachment 35814

Today's main job was sorting out the neck heel and the pocket on the body. I need to be very careful about this, because as I mentioned earlier I need the heel to be longer than the fretboard, and so it will be glued into the body, and then the cap will be glued over the top. I spent quite a lot of time working out exactly what to do, and then getting everything shaped and routed, and in the end I'm pleased with the result. The neck fits very snugly in the pocket, and I think that the angle is pretty much right for the strings, taking account of the height of the bridge.

Here's the body being prepared for routing out the pocked:
View attachment 35815

And after the pocket had been routed:
View attachment 35816

And lastly, with the neck fitted in place. It's not yet glued in; this was just a trial fitting.
View attachment 35817

Next I need to finish radiusing the fretboard, and then I can install the frets. I think I'll do that, then glue the neck into the body, then work on the frets before I glue the cap on so that I don't damage the top while I'm filing the frets. It's really coming along now, and hopefully I am well on course to finish this bass before I go on my next course in March.
It's coming along nicely mate.
 
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