Listen to the Music….

If you’ve been following this adventure from the start I’m guessing that you would like to hear how this thing sounds.  I cranked up my iPad with the Peavy AmpKit application and recorded a couple of quick tracks.

As a first test I dug out the old faithful Strat and just laid down a couple of chord changes.  Over that I laid a nice warm Precision bass style line to see how it fits in

Ok, it sounds really nice when it’s setup to sound like a big old bowl full of warm.  Now let’s see how it sounds cranked up like a full Jazz Bass and see how it responds to a funk slap line

Nice! Now, let’s give it some attitude in full out rock mode.  I cranked the Strat up through a nice 70’s style overdrive and pushed the bass a little hard.

I’m pretty happy with the way this thing turned out.  It is a dream to play and it sounds really nice.  It was worth all the work!

This is certainly not the end.  I have another project in the works. Check back in a bit for mahogany bass cabinet to hold a pair of 12″ woofers and a pair of 5″ mid-ranges to go with this bass.  Plus, I’ve got this little blue guitar…’s just dying to be a black cherry burst….


Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. – Winston Churchill

It’s done!  Woody is ready to play.

Just for full disclosure

Total Cost: $420 and I have the MicroMesh and decal kits for future work

Total Labor: 34.5 hours

Here’s how it breaks down:


Neck, JBass Pickup, Tuners, Bridge & Jack $149
Wood $91
Pbass Pickup $31
Preamp $17
Knobs $9
Strings $30
Lacquer $30
Shellac $10
Brushes $12
MicroMesh $30
Decal Kit $11


Cut & Glue Body 7.50
Design & Cutout Template 4.75
Cutout and shape body, 3.50
Route Pickups and Shape Headstock 1.25
Set Neck 1.50
Dry Assemble for Testing 1.00
Roundover and Sand Body 4.00
Final Sanding & Shellac Grain Fill 5.00
Spray Lacquer 2.00
Final Finish Rub Out 4.00

I’ll be back in a later post with some sound samples, but for now, let me introduce “Woody”.


Finish up the neck!

Finishing the neck is a relatively easy affair.  Since I intend to have my sweaty hand wrapped around this thing while it is being played, a different finish is in order.  I am using a semi-gloss polyurethane varnish for the back of the neck.  The rosewood fingerboard will remain natural.  I chose the poly finish to give it ultimate moisture resistance and a very smooth slick feel for sliding up and down the fret board.

First step is to mask off the fingerboard to protect it from the varnish.

Then on the back, the area that will mate with the socket in the body needs to be kept as pure wood to wood contact.  The piece of wood that held the body in the Bass Baster protected the socket, now we need to tape off the heel of the neck to keep the maple exposed.

The whole neck was shot with three coats of the semi-gloss varnish after a thorough sanding.  I then took a pad of 0000 steel wool (the finest I could get) and smoothed out the back of the neck.  The steel wool knocked down the gloss even farther and ensured a silky smooth feel to the neck.

I decided to make my own custom headstock logo.  I found a product from Testors that is intended to make custom decals for scale car models.  This system consists of two components; an ink-jet compatible printer paper (both clear and a solid white background) and a spray film.  The process is VERY simple.  You design the decal that you want in your software package of choice, print it out on either the clear or white paper, cut it out and spray a very light coat of the film over it.  When the film dries you dip the newly formed decal into some water and slide it into place.  If you have ever built a model car when you were a kid you are familiar with the process.  The trick here is you designed the decal!

I used Word Art in Microsoft Word and colored it with a two color brown and yellow gradient and printed it on the clear paper.  I trimmed it very carefully with an XActo knife to assure I didn’t have excess decal material anywhere.  Once it dried in place I covered the headstock with another three coats of semi-gloss to protect the decal.


Yakutz has been the name of my fantasy football team for years.  Don’t get me started.  It’s a tribe of Mongol warriors…..yadda yadda yadda…

I also named the bass “Woody” and put a decal with the name on the top of the head stock.

It’s time to bolt this thing together and see what we ended up with!





This thing is an Electric Bass, right?

Then I guess we need some electronics!

Way back on June 10th I promised some upcoming details on why the control pots had push-pull switches and hinted at some complex wiring to come.  Well, one trip to eBay and all that changed.  I ran into someone selling an Artec BE-2 Bass Built-in 2 Band EQ. For $16.95 with free shipping!!


That means we can have active electronics in this thing for seventeen bucks!  I has planned on a sophisticated wiring setup that would allow each pickup to have multiple filter capacitors controllable by the push-pull switches on the tone knobs and the switch on the volume knobs would provide parallel/serial wiring options for the two pickups.  With that configuration in place I would have been able to craft whatever  custom tone I wanted out of this bass.  Active electronics takes this a step further and is infinitely easier to wire up.  The switching pots alone in the initial design cost more than the cost of this thing!  I sent them back to Stewmac and used the cash for the BE-2.  With the BE-2 I have both 12db boost and cut for bass and treble.  The preamp also has a blend knob that will provide an infinite mix of the two pickups. All that in a compact little package that is almost noiseless.  Seventeen bucks was the best investment for this bass yet.

Here is the BE-2 as it was being test fit into the holes I drilled for it.  There are 4 pots mounted to the board on the other side that poke through the bubinga.


Here it is all wired up and ready to go.  The plug acts like a power switch for the preamp.  When the amplifier cord is plugged into the jack the power to the preamp is turned on.  This lets you save battery when you’re not playing.  You just need to remove the cord from the bass when you’re done playing.


I’ve got a whole lot of extra room in that control cutout now….hmmm…I wonder what else I can fit in there?

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel…and for the first time in the build I’m convinced it’s not a train coming!

The bass now has 15 coats of lacquer on it.  The depth of color in the wood is fantastic. As is usual for lacquer the finish has areas of what is called “Orange Peel”.  Lacquer is fantastic stuff but spraying it absolutely smooth is next to impossible.  Orange peel is a bumpy texture that looks exactly like the pattern on the skin of an orange.

Here is a picture of the back control compartment panel to show you what the orange peel looks like.

Here is a wide shot of the front with the shop light reflection positioned to highlight the orange peel.

Here is a detail shot of the same area.

Now comes the back-breaking part of the build.  The final sanding and rubbing out of the finish.  When you spray lacquer you need to build up enough coats of finish to allow enough thickness to sand it down a bit and then buff it out.

Once the lacquer has dried for a week the wet sanding starts.  The challenging part is that until you hit the last step, it looks like you just ruined all that hard work you did spraying the lacquer.

You start out wet sanding with 600 grit and go all the way up to 12,000 grit.  It is important to step up in grit VERY slowly as each grit is basically sanding out the scratches from the previous bigger grit and replacing it with smaller scratches.  If you jump too quickly to finer grits they can’t do their job right and you’ll end up with big scratches that won’t go away.  When you’re done with the final tiny grit sanding the finish should look like glass.  I found a product from Micro-Surface Finishing products called Micro-Mesh.  Micro-Mesh is a sanding fabric that uses precision grits and a mesh backing that doesn’t load up with sanding residue when you wet sand.  This stuff is GREAT!  The military uses Micro-Mesh to repair chips and dings in acrylic aircraft windows.  That will tell you how clear the fine grits will polish material.

After an initial sanding with 600 grit wet paper, the progression of Micro-Mesh that I used on this piece was:

  • 1,500
  • 1,800
  • 2,400
  • 3,200
  • 3,600
  • 4,000
  • 8,000
  • 12,000

Here’s a picture of the bass after the 1,800 grit.

Don’t panic!  It’s dull, but it’s supposed to be at this point.

When I finished with the 12,000 grit, the bass was shiny but it still wasn’t the mirror that I was looking for.  Out comes the 3M Scratch and Swirl remover from the auto supply store!

This white cream is intended to be used as the final step in finishing a car paint job.  It makes it smooth!!

After the final polishing I installed the electronics into the body. Details of the electronics install will be in an upcoming post. Here is a picture of the body with the electronics installed so you can see the mirror finish that the swirl remover left behind.





It’s Lacquer Time!

Having spent the last couple of days filling little dots and sanding them back down, I was very happy to see a smooth matte surface all over the bass today!  That means it’s time to put on the first couple of coats of lacquer.  I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now.

I have four coats of lacquer on this thing now and you can start to see what the finished product is going to look like.  Here’s a look at the front.

Here’s the back.

The flame maple and the bubinga are just fantastic.  You can see the depth of grain that was left by sealing the wood with the shellac.


Detail of the front forearm relief.  Look at that maple!


The tail section of the back where the flame really kicked it up a notch


Tomorrow after this lacquer hardens off we sand it smooth again and add another four coats of lacquer to see where we are.



“It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out; it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.” – Rodan of Alexandria

Or in my case…the sand on the sandpaper…

While Maple and Walnut are fine grained wood, it seems that bubinga is a very open grained wood.  If you’re after a glass smooth finish, every little pore on the surface of the wood needs to be filled.  There are many options for doing this.  There are commercial  preparations made to fill grain, you can use pumice with the first coats of shellac and several other faster and more convenient ways to do it than the way I picked.  I have chosen to fill the grain with plain shellac.

The decision came down to transparency of grain.  The bubinga is a very pretty wood and all of the other preparations would somewhat cloud the grain by obscuring the bottom of the pores with the material used to fill the grain.  If you fill the grain with shellac every pore is crystal clear and you get to see the full depth of the color and figure of the wood.

There is a very good tutorial on how to fill grain with shellac on the Hardwood Lumber and More site.

I have been at this grain filling for a couple of days now.  The piece of figured bubinga that I used for the faces is very open grained.  I am on about the 10th or 12th coat and I have the back almost smooth at this point.  I still have a good deal of work to do on the front but the back is close.

I am still working on a couple of little spots around the neck and the two horns, but as you can see, the rest is satiny smooth.

Working on the back I’m down to spot repairs trying to fill in particularly deep pores and then sanding them down flat.  The really deep ones require this cycle over and over.

It is a lot of work, but when they’re done the wood sure does look pretty.