Bass guitar design advice

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Re: Bass guitar design advice

Postby Steve Sawyer » Fri Nov 08, 2019 4:36 pm

Thanks, John. I'm still in the early design stages, so I can make any adjustments needed. And yes, I was speaking in terms of the max thickness, not the "edge" thickness after radiusing.

It sure helped when doing my first two guitars to have some examples hanging on the wall to refer to. I have to drive 45 minutes one-way to get to my local guitar store, unless I go to Guitar Center which I try to avoid like the plague. My preferred store has a huge selection, they don't bug you so you can take your time checking out the merchandise, but they are quite a distance from me.
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Re: Bass guitar design advice

Postby John Clifford » Fri Nov 08, 2019 6:03 pm

Steve Sawyer wrote:It sure helped when doing my first two guitars to have some examples hanging on the wall to refer to. I have to drive 45 minutes one-way to get to my local guitar store, unless I go to Guitar Center which I try to avoid like the plague. My preferred store has a huge selection, they don't bug you so you can take your time checking out the merchandise, but they are quite a distance from me.


Warmoth.com is a good resource for Fender specs. Their standard bass fretboards are 1/4" thick.
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Re: Bass guitar design advice

Postby Steve Sawyer » Fri Nov 08, 2019 6:17 pm

John Clifford wrote:Warmoth.com is a good resource for Fender specs. Their standard bass fretboards are 1/4" thick.

Thanks, John - that's good to know!!
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Re: Bass guitar design advice

Postby Steve Sawyer » Fri Nov 08, 2019 9:44 pm

Since we're on this subject, what advice have y'all for string height?

This will be a bolt-on neck, or a no-angle set neck (depending on whether I decide to glue it or screw it! :D )

My pups (as mentioned above, an active PJ set) are 3/4" tall, and I understand that a 3/4" recess is recommended, so I'm guessing that the pups may extend about 1/4" above the face of the body. The bridge I have (a Hipshot 4-string KickAss) shows a max/min string height of 0.58 and 0.40 respectively. The drawing I'm working on (not cast in stone - it's just a drawing) has the top of the FB (not including frets) at 1/4" above the face of the body. I plan on using some of the fretwire I have on hand - StewMac Narrow/Medium, .080" width, .040" crown - unless this would be unsuitable for a bass.

So it seems that a straightedge laid across the frets with no neck relief will put the line of the fret tops at .290" above the face of the top, for a no-relief action on strings parallel to the FB of .110" based on min string height at the bridge. Not sure if that is too much & maybe I should place the neck a little higher over the body.
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Re: Bass guitar design advice

Postby David King » Sat Nov 09, 2019 3:33 am

Typically the top of the fingerboard (less the frets) would be 3/8" above the body deck with the strings at about 1/2". Over time the heel of the neck will settle (think neck reset) requiring the bridge height to come down by about .050 to .060". I'd make sure you get your neck high enough so that you have the bridge saddles raised by at least that much extra when the strings are just touching the tops of the frets and the truss rod is tightened to the point you have a straight neck with no relief.
Think of it this way, you'll only be lowering the saddles over time to maintain the action never raising it so you'll want to start out in the upper half of your saddle height adjustment range.
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Re: Bass guitar design advice

Postby Steve Sawyer » Sun Nov 10, 2019 9:19 pm

Thanks, David.

So, with that advice, and the specs for the hardware I have in-hand, it looks like I should be good by planning to have the top of the FB 3/8" above the deck, as that should put the bridge saddles a little less than the upper third of their range (see the diagram below). As you mention, that puts the strings roughly 1/2" above the deck. I understand that active pups are placed closer to the strings. Is it acceptable for the pickup mounting ears to extend above the deck? It would seem that would be unavoidable, especially on the neck pickups where the mounting ear is only 1/8" below the face of the pickup.

Shortscale Bass String Height Calculation.jpg
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Re: Bass guitar design advice

Postby David King » Mon Nov 11, 2019 2:12 am

The mounting tab height is just a tradition started by Leo, probably just to make sure that the screw heads were below the tops of the pickups and didn't interfere with the fingers or the strings. I doubt it had anything to do with the depth that the pickup were mounted relative to the top.
Looking over your drawing above I'd say that in twenty year's time when your neck has started to develop the ubiquitous "ski jump" someone will need to come along and file down the top 5-6 frets and put a shim under the neck to get the action at the bridge to go low enough.
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Re: Bass guitar design advice

Postby Steve Sawyer » Mon Nov 11, 2019 10:44 am

So you're suggesting a scrunch more height above the body deck -1/16??

I could also angle the neck.
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Re: Bass guitar design advice

Postby Bob Francis » Mon Nov 11, 2019 4:26 pm

1/4 is what old Fenders used.
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Re: Bass guitar design advice

Postby Steve Sawyer » Mon Nov 11, 2019 5:01 pm

Bob Francis wrote:1/4 is what old Fenders used.


Right. But David is suggesting that the 3/8 he originally suggested might be too low for the bridge I have, and I'm hoping to confirm my thinking that adding another 1/16" might do the trick. That should put the bridge saddles (as he suggests) near the top of their range.
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Re: Bass guitar design advice

Postby Mark Wybierala » Wed Nov 13, 2019 10:33 am

I've have had good success with the pickups you selected and I'll confirm that the Guild Pilot is a very good sounding bass with those pickups installed. A lot of active pickups employ weaker magnets which allow closer proximity to the string without magnetic disruption of the string but with bass pickups, I find that the height interferes with playing style before magnetism becomes a problem -- it gets too easy for a string to actually touch a pole piece which makes a terrible noise just when you find yourself in the groove and start to get funky and explore things beyond your safe zone.

I might suggest just building your neck first and then adjusting the depth of your pocket or joint to suit the result. Use alighment pins for the template you use to route the pocket so you can accurately relocate the template if you need to route deeper. I purchased one pound of 1/16" stainless steel welding rod from McMasterCarr that I use exclusively for alignment pins in all sorts of operations. If it accidentally gets glued in place, my butane torch can heat it up in an instant allowing me to pull the pin. I use alignment pins often.

Precision style pickups are a pain to route for and that includes making the pickguard if you use one. The stewmac routing template is handy but you can do just as well if you can acquire and old P-Bass pickguard. I like the OEM Fender pickup sponges but the ones from Allparts are fine too.
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Re: Bass guitar design advice

Postby Steve Sawyer » Wed Nov 13, 2019 1:13 pm

Thanks, Mark. Great info!!

I just realized that I failed to mention in my OP that this will be a short-scale (30") bass. Hope that doesn't change any of the kind advice I've gotten thus far in this thread! :oops: :roll:
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