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A 5-String Multiscale ‘Headless’ DIY Bass

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Re: A 5-String Multiscale ‘Headless’ DIY Bass

Postby Dave Higham » Mon Nov 18, 2013 9:28 am

Yeah, I'm just an old softy. :)

At this point the body was just about ready for finishing, so back to the neck. I like to use threaded inserts and machine screws to attach the neck. I know that woodscrews will hold a neck perfectly well, but I seem to be screwing and unscrewing quite a lot before finally getting the instrument finished, which isn’t really a good idea with woodscrews.

I install the inserts using a piece of threaded rod and two nuts in the drill press, turning the chuck by hand, and I always do a trial run in an off-cut of the same wood.

When the insert is all the way in I release the threaded rod from the chuck, unlock the nuts and unscrew the threaded rod. I then wick a few drops of thin CA between the insert and the wood and they’re never going to budge.
HFN MIMF 057.JPG

I installed some pearl dots in the edge of the fingerboard. A simple drill guide helps to get them all the same distance from the edge.
HFN MIMF 058.JPG

Fitted the frets. No ‘in progress’ photos but here they are installed with the tools I used to do it. By the way, they’re banjo frets. I thought that if Leland Sklar and Sheldon Dingwall like them combined with fanned frets, I might too. We shall see.
The zero fret is a jumbo one which automatically gives me a small amount of string clearance at the first fret.
HFN MIMF 060.JPG

The tool on the right is a home-made tang nipper. It’s a modified sheet metal nibbler you can get for about $10 on Ebay.
http://www.atxpowersupplies.com/sheet-m ... bblers.php
You have to grind a slot in the top plate to accommodate the fret’s crown. You do this using a Dremel cut-off disc, like so.
Tang nipper 1.JPG

Here it is in operation. It works perfectly, and although I have nothing against Stewmac (their service is exemplary), you can have five of these for the price of one from Stewmac.
Tang nipper 2.JPG
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Re: A 5-String Multiscale ‘Headless’ DIY Bass

Postby Mark Swanson » Mon Nov 18, 2013 9:36 am

Wow, banjo frets on a bass? Well if you don't try it you'll never know...but i know that I like the jumbo frets on my electric guitars. And there is no need to put a taller fret on the zero fret...if the neck is straight a fret like all the others works fine. Still your work is great and I'm sure it'll be a sweet bass!
    Mark Swanson, guitarist, MIMForum Staff
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Re: A 5-String Multiscale ‘Headless’ DIY Bass

Postby Dave Higham » Mon Nov 18, 2013 6:15 pm

Thanks Mark.
For anyone who's never heard of Leland Sklar, he's one of the most sought-after session bass players. He started out with James Taylor and as well as playing on most of JT's albums has played on over 2000 others! Funnily enough, there was a short clip on French television this evening promoting Eddy Mitchell' latest album, (he's an ageing French rock star that very few people have heard of outside France) and there was Lee Sklar in a corner of the studio. You can't mistake him for anyone else.
Check out his selected discography.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leland_Sklar

Oh, and check out Dingwall basses too.
http://www.dingwallguitars.com/
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Re: A 5-String Multiscale ‘Headless’ DIY Bass

Postby Mark Swanson » Mon Nov 18, 2013 6:40 pm

He is great! Check out the ending of James Taylor's "Hey Mister, that's me upon the juke box"...that is so tasty. That's one of my favorite Sklar moments.
    Mark Swanson, guitarist, MIMForum Staff
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Re: A 5-String Multiscale ‘Headless’ DIY Bass

Postby Dave Higham » Tue Nov 19, 2013 7:13 pm

I think we have similar musical tastes Mark. From JT to JT. ;) I'm sure you know who I mean by the second JT.
Another of my favourites is also a JT. June Tabor, do you know of her?
Here's a nice sample with long time collaborator Martin Simpson. I think you'll know the song.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVFpMLE6WIo
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Re: A 5-String Multiscale ‘Headless’ DIY Bass

Postby Mark Swanson » Wed Nov 20, 2013 12:02 am

Dave, thank you! I sure do know all the JT's.....and I am eagerly awaiting the new album from Ian Anderson! I have not listened much to June Tabor, but wow she is great, and that song is great too! thanks for the link. I could listen to music with you all day long!
    Mark Swanson, guitarist, MIMForum Staff
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Re: A 5-String Multiscale ‘Headless’ DIY Bass

Postby David King » Wed Nov 20, 2013 9:56 pm

Well Justin Timberlake's bass player is pretty rad too. ;-)
Edger Meyer plays with James Taylor from time to time. That would also be a treat. I got to meet Edgar before i knew who he was. Funny story...
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Re: A 5-String Multiscale ‘Headless’ DIY Bass

Postby Dave Higham » Fri Nov 22, 2013 6:16 pm

Wow. How come I'd never heard of Edgar Meyer?

Back to more mundane things...

Now to shape the neck, starting with the curve of the volute on the makeshift spindle sander.
HFN MIMF 061.JPG

Here’s the result.
HFN MIMF 062.JPG

On to shaping the neck proper. I do this by drawing a couple of cross sections with facets at 45° and transferring the facet dimensions to the neck. You can just make out the pencil lines drawn on the neck in this photo. I bought a couple of micro-plane rasps and I really like them. You just have to stroke the wood with them and they cut beautifully. Here I’ve cut a facet between the two pencil lines.
HFN MIMF 063.JPG

Then I cut one at the other end.
HFN MIMF 064.JPG

Then join them up.
HFN MIMF 065.JPG
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Re: A 5-String Multiscale ‘Headless’ DIY Bass

Postby Dave Higham » Fri Nov 22, 2013 6:20 pm

I carry on like this, cutting smaller facets and finish up blending them together with sanding boards and abrasive strip in the ‘shoe-shine’ fashion. Then I blend the neck profile into the volute and here’s the result.
HFN MIMF 066.JPG

Here’s the heel finished.
HFN MIMF 067.JPG

That nice crisp edge was formed by fitting the neck to the body and blending the two together.
HFN MIMF 068.JPG
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Re: A 5-String Multiscale ‘Headless’ DIY Bass

Postby John Sonksen » Fri Nov 22, 2013 9:08 pm

Dave Higham wrote:I carry on like this, cutting smaller facets and finish up blending them together with sanding boards and abrasive strip in the ‘shoe-shine’ fashion. Then I blend the neck profile into the volute and here’s the result.
HFN MIMF 066.JPG

Here’s the heel finished.
HFN MIMF 067.JPG

That nice crisp edge was formed by fitting the neck to the body and blending the two together.
HFN MIMF 068.JPG


Wow Dave, you are really putting on a clinic here. I love how you are conveying this information so simply, it is really making all of this look easy. I'm currently enrolled in a CAD/CAM program at a local school and watching you bring this machinists level of precision to the work is really getting me stoked for my program and my building. Can't wait to see this thing finished!
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Re: A 5-String Multiscale ‘Headless’ DIY Bass

Postby Dave Higham » Fri Nov 29, 2013 3:39 am

Thanks John. Before I retired I was a draughtsman using 3D CAD (Pro Engineer) every day . I sometimes wish I still had it. I now use one of the 2D AutoCAD clones for my drawings.

One of the last things to do on the body was to drill the hole for the jack socket and it’s a big scary hole drilled in an awkward place. What’s more, I couldn’t find a Forstner bit of the right diameter so I had to use spade bits. The way I did it was to build a fixture using the routing templates that I won’t need again (waste not, want not) that I could clamp to the drill press table like so.
HFN MIMF 069.JPG

I also shaped a caul to clamp inside the cavity to avoid break out as much as possible. Lowering that whopping spade bit was what I believe is called sphincter-clenching moment but it turned out OK.
HFN MIMF 070.JPG
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Re: A 5-String Multiscale ‘Headless’ DIY Bass

Postby Dave Higham » Fri Nov 29, 2013 3:49 am

I now had to make a few odds and ends to finish off. First the ferrules for anchoring the strings up at the sharp end. I started out with some pieces of 5mm brass rod and cut off some short pieces of 12mm rod, 6mm long with a 5mm hole through them. I also made some similar ebony pieces. Here they all are.
HFN MIMF 071.JPG

I then slid the pieces with the holes in onto the 5mm rods and super-glued them all together! Not really engineering but this way was much easier than turning a solid brass core and the ebony pieces would still have been glued on.
HFN MIMF 072.JPG

I put them in the lathe and bored a 2.5mm hole through and then parted them off and chamfered each end of the hole.
HFN MIMF 073.JPG

I drilled and tapped a hole for a grub-screw in each one using a little wooden fixture as before.
HFN MIMF 074.JPG

Here they are all finished.
HFN MIMF 075.JPG
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Re: A 5-String Multiscale ‘Headless’ DIY Bass

Postby Jason Rodgers » Wed Dec 04, 2013 2:16 am

Ok, dude, you're killing me here: post the next pictures!!! :lol: These little jobbies are nifty, but for the life of me I can't figure out how you stick em on the headstock and what they do.
-Ruining perfectly good wood, one day at a time.
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Re: A 5-String Multiscale ‘Headless’ DIY Bass

Postby Dave Higham » Wed Dec 04, 2013 5:50 pm

OK, OK we’re getting to the end now.
The next things I made on the lathe were these little ebony ‘grommets’ (don’t know what else to call them). They are glued in the holes in the headstock where the Allen key is inserted to lock the strings. I just think it looks nicer than bare holes in the headstock and may avoid the edge of the hole being chewed up when changing strings.
HFN MIMF 076.JPG

I also made some ebony and maple control knobs. I didn’t take step-by-step photos of the process; it was almost all done on the lathe.
HFN MIMF 077.JPG

I couldn’t cut the flutes on the lathe however, but I saw some similar knobs somewhere (perhaps here?) that David (King) had made, where he said he cut the flutes on the milling machine using a dividing head. I don’t have a dividing head. So I made a little gadget instead and here it is. The spacing of the flutes doesn’t need to be accurate to a thousandth of a gnat’s whatnot so this does the job. Release the woodscrew, turn by one increment, tighten the screw and mill another flute.
HFN MIMF 078.JPG

So that’s about it, apart from finishing which I decided to do with Tru-Oil.
However, I got to thinking it might be nice if the tuning knobs matched the control knobs and they’d also be much lighter than those brass ones so I made some more, but I didn’t put the maple inlay in these.
HFN MIMF 079.JPG

Oh, and I also made myself a finishing fixture. Here it is.
HFN MIMF 080.JPG
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Re: A 5-String Multiscale ‘Headless’ DIY Bass

Postby Dave Higham » Wed Dec 04, 2013 5:51 pm

Here it is in action, with a bit of broom handle screwed to the neck.
HFN MIMF 081.JPG
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Re: A 5-String Multiscale ‘Headless’ DIY Bass

Postby Chuck Tweedy » Wed Dec 04, 2013 11:40 pm

You can get Tru-Oil in France!?!

And - yes - that is all I can think of to say right now.
Likes to drink Rosewood Juice
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Re: A 5-String Multiscale ‘Headless’ DIY Bass

Postby Dave Higham » Thu Dec 05, 2013 12:07 pm

Chuck Tweedy wrote:You can get Tru-Oil in France!?!


Well, no I haven't been able to find it in France, but I can get it from the UK via Ebay.
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Re: A 5-String Multiscale ‘Headless’ DIY Bass

Postby Jim Ashby » Fri Dec 06, 2013 3:37 pm

Inspiring and incredibly clearly written (and photographed). I wish some of the luthiery books I've bought had been so well done
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Re: A 5-String Multiscale ‘Headless’ DIY Bass

Postby Dave Higham » Fri Dec 06, 2013 5:13 pm

Thank you Jim, that's very kind.

So I kept putting coats of Tru-Oil on until I’d used the bottle up but I don’t think I put the coats on thin enough. So after dozens of coats using kitchen paper it had the equivalent of brush marks in the surface. I decided to rub it down with 800 grit wet-and-dry and went straight through it! :x !! I’d already rubbed the Tru-Oil on the neck down with 0000 wire wool and wax polish which gave a nice sheen, so the rest of the bass got the same treatment. It’s really quite nice. The only slight regret is that you don’t get the same figure popping effect with a satin finish as you do with gloss but I can put up with that.

So I finally got all the bits together and it didn't work! It was just a minor wiring problem that Aaron quickly sorted out for me. The combination of Aaron Armstrong's custom pickups and the Glockenklang onboard tone controls give it a huge range of possible tones from velvety smooth to out and out twanging. But don't ask me for sound clips. I wouldn't know how and you wouldn't want to hear me playing it.:eek:

So here at the end of the marathon are the glamour shots. Hope you think it was worth it, and (if you have been) thanks for looking.

Full frontal.
HFPH MIMF 001.JPG

Closer up.
HFPH MIMF 002.JPG


HFPH MIMF 003.JPG


HFPH MIMF 004.JPG


HFPH MIMF 005.JPG
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Re: A 5-String Multiscale ‘Headless’ DIY Bass

Postby Dave Higham » Fri Dec 06, 2013 5:18 pm

One or two more photos.
HFPH MIMF 006.JPG


HFPH MIMF 007.JPG


HFPH MIMF 008.JPG


HFPH MIMF 009.JPG


That's all folks!
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