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Unnecessarily complicated short scale project


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Hello Basschat, it's been a while.

I used to hang around here a lot, but I've been missing it lately, so I started looking through my favourite section; the Build Diaries.

This is on a much more amateur level than most of the projects here, but it has a certain novelty factor that might make it a bit interesting.

 

Pics 1 and 2:

About a hundred years ago, I bought a no-particular-brand short scale bass that had a nice neck. I binned the rest.

You can see how wonky the pickup covers were :D It's not that I didn't notice at the time, it's just that had no illusions of perfection. I was completely new to this thing, even woodwork in general was a new hobby to me at the time, so my tools and general knowledge were poor.

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Pic 3:

Fast forward a bit and I decided to replace the top wood (with some cheap plywood) and the pickup covers and knobs but, more importantly, the fretboard. Which meant doing a fret job from scratch. Also a homemade brass nut.

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Now let's fast forward to some point last year (...I think. Time has lost all meaning lately) and I got thinking about a scratch build, but I decided to do a little practice run on some ideas I'd had and where better to practice these ideas than on my ludicrous little ship of Theseus bass. 

The general concept is one of visual minimalism: I don't like the silhouette of tuning keys on a headstock, but I also don't like the look of a headless bass. I also want to hide the tone controls. And all of this on a budget of loose change found behind the sofa.

 

So, after some sketching and pondering, I got to work. I wish I'd taken more photos along the way but I think I've got all the salient points, and you'll be glad of a shorter slideshow.

First, pickups removed and cavities filled with some random blocks of wood (more on this in a bit)

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Step 2; the headstock. I went through so many possibilities for how to clamp the string ends. Wondering if I would somehow use the little string clamp that came with the headless bridge I'd bought...

In the end, I settled on drilling some tunnels through the headstock so the clamps would be on the back and then inserting the brass pins from electrical plugs. This gave me a ready-made, freely available solution to a complicated problem. A brass block with a hole for the string to pass through and a grub screw to lock it in place. Perfect. 👌

In case you're wondering, I finished this project about 9 months ago and the strings have kept their tuning perfectly. The plug grips haven't let the strings budge one tiny bit.

 

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I don't have an additional photo from this stage but I later added a sort of frame around the plug ends so they wouldn't snag or scrape anything accidentally (you'll see it on the finished bass)

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Now, to the cavity. This took A LOT of sketching but it worked out eventually. The existing cavity wasn't useful so I decided to fill it, BUT, I couldn't be bothered trying to cut a block of wood of that size into exactly that shape.... so I decided to cut off the existing outer wall of the cavity. and fill it with a bunch of small bits. This is just silly. With the wall removed, I had more suitable pieces but at this point I found it funny that this body was more glue than wood, so I just went for it.

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Now I'm sorry I don't have more instructive photos here, but it's not so complicated. The new cavity (and cavity cover) is made in the typical way except that there is an additional partial cavity on the side. This provides a recess for pots to leave the cavity through the side but without the control knobs disrupting the silhouette of the bass when seen from the front. So this goes Volume - Tone - 3 way switch and then the jack in at the bottom.

Incidentally, I went back and forth on this and now, after playing this for a few months, I've decided I'm not putting a volume knob on any more instruments I make. I just never touch them.

 

Edited by alittlebitrobot
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Aaaand skip to the end. I'm very much a wood guy. I love woodwork and things made out of wood, so I don't really go for solid paint finishes. But this time, considering the grotesque Frankenstein-nature of the instrument at this point, and just to learn one more process, I decided to go for a spray finish.

So, lots of sanding and priming (I'm never doing a paint job ever again) and then a couple of coats of Raspberry pink.

Installed the electronics (the original P pickup and a second-hand J pickup I got for a tenner), slapped some strings on it, tuned it up and ....I said tuned it up......

ok...

You may have seen these "overlord of music" bridges on ebay and aliexpress and whatnot for suspiciously low prices. Well now I know why. It's horrendous. It just about works, but by time I got up to around D on the supposed-E string, it became too hard for the coarse screw thread to overcome the tension. So I decided to tune the whole thing two steps down.

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In the end, I am SO glad I decided to try these ideas out here before trying it on a scratch build with nice wood. I learned a lot.

The design I have is for a piezo bridge so there won't be any visible pickups, a bit like a Rob Allen mouse for example.

I am also completely shocked that it sounds (imo) as good as it does. It really has a tone that I love AND the drop-tuning on a 30" scale bass is so much fun that I think I'll do the same with my scratch build project (also 30 scale)

 

There are many things here that could be improved but the biggest negative that I didn't see coming - the headstock is so light, and the bridge so heavy that, sitting on my lap, if I'm not careful, the whole bass wants to swing up and crack me on the head.

Something to think about there for future reference.

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16 minutes ago, SpondonBassed said:

That's a nice combination of ideas.

Yeah, I really like the minimalism of the Ritter concepts, the Rob Allen mouse, Stradi, etc

I'm looking forward to figuring out a way to hide the tuners around the back, as well as having no visible pickups.

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38 minutes ago, alittlebitrobot said:

Yeah, I really like the minimalism of the Ritter concepts, the Rob Allen mouse, Stradi, etc

I'm looking forward to figuring out a way to hide the tuners around the back, as well as having no visible pickups.

@Andyjr1515, @TheGreek: Psilos has hidden controls, I’m sure: didn’t it have a hidden pickup too?

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Love this, @alittlebitrobot   :party:

There's some nice ideas and it looks good too!  I think the use of the electric plug pins has a touch of genius about it!

 

 

And welcome back!  You did indeed used to be a regular :)

 

 

 

Yes, @Daz39 is quite right - with the Psilos, @TheGreek and I managed to hide the controls, tuners, magnetic pickups (it has magnetic and piezo) and even part of the fretboard  :)

 

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2 hours ago, Andyjr1515 said:

Love this, @alittlebitrobot   :party:

There's some nice ideas and it looks good too!  I think the use of the electric plug pins has a touch of genius about it!

 

 

And welcome back!  You did indeed used to be a regular :)

 

 

 

Yes, @Daz39 is quite right - with the Psilos, @TheGreek and I managed to hide the controls, tuners, magnetic pickups (it has magnetic and piezo) and even part of the fretboard  :)

 

 oh wow! Thanks for the tip-off @Daz39. @Andyjr1515 & @TheGreek - that looks gorgeous. It's so difficult to make something that looks so simple. I'm digging through the forum to find a build thread for this 😄

Thanks Andy!

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6 minutes ago, alittlebitrobot said:

dagnabbit, this is exactly the kind of thing I was looking for! Why couldn't I find this thread before I got to work on mine 😭

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It was utterly esoteric and engrossing. Really long and detailed build thread.

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13 hours ago, Richard R said:

I absolutely love the repurposing of the mains plug pins!

That and @Dom in Dorset's idea of using earing studs as fretboard markers are just genius ideas. 

Ha, yeah, it's funny when the solution hits you. Even though I've no metal fabrication skills, I just started drawing the ideal bit of hardware for what I needed, and then eventually realised I'd drawn a plug pin 😁

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36 minutes ago, Badscrew said:

In the end how does it play? It's a nice build, the prototypes are always the most interesting thing to see the progression of.

 

Sounds great (to me) with bog standard nameless PJ pickups and alpha mini pots. The fret job I did was just about good enough so there's no buzzing and the intonation is good, but, the big but.. The weight imbalance. The big heavy bridge wants to tip the bass up when it's on my lap. I didn't add strap buttons because I'm just a 'noodling about in Ableton' kind of player, but I might now. I've tried resting it on my left leg like a classical guitarist but I just can't get on with that position. So, yeah, overall I'm very happy with it, maybe thanks to how low my expectations were 😁

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On 14/01/2022 at 00:26, Andyjr1515 said:

Yes, @Daz39 is quite right - with the Psilos, @TheGreek and I managed to hide the controls, tuners, magnetic pickups (it has magnetic and piezo) and even part of the fretboard  :)

 

lkF5jHjl.jpg

 

My self built headless has the same thing going on, but the tuners are recessed. It also has adjustable string saddles in a handmade ebony base plate.

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6 hours ago, Kiwi said:

My self built headless has the same thing going on, but the tuners are recessed. It also has adjustable string saddles in a handmade ebony base plate.

 

I've been combing through your profile but it's hard to know if I'm seeing the right thing, and a lot of old posts have broken jpegs at this point.

If you have any pics, I'd love to see it. I'd like to see what solutions people have come up with for this kind of thing.

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Oh, that's interesting. My gut feeling is that the weight is so out of whack that I'd need to bolt a substantial chunk of wrought iron on there, but I could be way off.

Tomorrow I'm going to sit it on my lap and clamp some stuff to the headstock to find out how much weight I'd need to make playing it a bit less scary.

Cheers.

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2 hours ago, alittlebitrobot said:

 

I've been combing through your profile but it's hard to know if I'm seeing the right thing, and a lot of old posts have broken jpegs at this point.

If you have any pics, I'd love to see it. I'd like to see what solutions people have come up with for this kind of thing.

Just for you... 

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Credit where credit is due,  the idea was nicked from Ritter but modified by me so the tuners were recessed.  Jon Shuker helped with the actual implementation.  It was complicated because routing at an angle wasn't practical.  So at Jon's suggestion,  I carved out an angled block to fit a cavity and bolted it in place.  The string anchors/tuners were (expensive) ABM units cut and ground to the correct angle.  I probably wouldn't do it this way again,  it added loads of time to the build. 

 

The bridge cover and saddle are from ebony and the sides of the cover are scrap rosewood. 

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Amazing. Thank you!

I had a similar idea to avoid complicated routing by just routing a block cavity and inserting the complicated shape separately, but I had it at at the edge of the body because I assumed that there wouldn't realistically be enough space to access the tuners if it was in the middle. I always find when I'm designing anything ergonomic that my intuition for what will work isn't great. There's no substitute for a real world example. This is great, thanks @Kiwi

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