A 5-String Multiscale ‘Headless’ DIY Bass

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

Post by Dave Higham »

Now I cut the slots for the carbon fibre stiffening bars on the ‘router table’ in the same way as the truss-rod slot. The bars are1/8” wide and ½” deep and are partially let into the fingerboard as well as the neck. As the neck is mostly light weight mahogany, I thought it might be a good idea to stiffen it as much as possible, hence the ½” deep CF. I’ve used 1/8” x 3/8” CF in the past but two ½” deep bars are 2.37 times more resistant to bending than two 3/8” bars. I stuck the fingerboard blank to a piece of plywood exactly the same width as the neck blank, using double sided tape. This ensured that the slots in the fingerboard matched those in the neck blank exactly. Here the slots have been cut and one of the CF bars is in place being marked for cutting off the surplus.
HFN MIMF 010.JPG
Here are both bars, trimmed and in place. I cut and shaped the ends of the bars using hacksaw and files. I try to minimise the amount of CF dust floating around.
HFN MIMF 011.JPG
You may have noticed that the line where the face of the headstock intersects with the face of the neck is at right angles to the neck’s centre-line and not parallel to the nut. That’s because I didn’t skew the headstock as most people do on multi-scale sloped headstocks. There’s another way of dealing with the problem. First I cut a piece of the surplus which was cut off the other end of the neck blank.
HFN MIMF 012.JPG
This was then glued onto the surface of the neck, overlapping slightly the neck/headstock intersection and the nut position.
HFN MIMF 013.JPG
I then planed it down flush with the surface of the headstock. This photo might be slightly confusing as it’s taken from the other side to try to show the result more clearly. The difference between this method and the skewed headstock is that the surface of the headstock veneer will be closer to the top of the nut on the treble side than on the bass side, but it shouldn’t be close enough to cause a problem (I hope; I’ve never done it before.)
HFN MIMF 014.JPG

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

Post by Mark Swanson »

Excellent work Dave!
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Dave Higham
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Re: A 5-String Multiscale ‘Headless’ DIY Bass

Post by Dave Higham »

Thanks Mark.

Now to move on to the headstock veneer.

I started by cutting out my headstock inlay using a jeweller’s piercing saw.
HFN MIMF 015.JPG
Managed to cut it out without breaking it (or the blade!).
HFN MIMF 016.JPG
But the problem now is that this MOP is just about the same colour as the maple, so I inlaid it into a disc of darker wood to make it show up better. Then I inlaid the disc into the head plate. Actually, it doesn’t seem to show up very well against the darker wood either. I think that, because it’s thin and rather translucent, the dark wood is showing through. I should have painted the back of the pearl white or stuck some foil on the back but, for some reason, it didn’t cross my mind. Oh well…
HFN MIMF 017.JPG
Before gluing the head plate on, I milled an access slot for the truss-rod. Although the colours should change when it’s finished, at the moment the head plate looks almost the same colour as the mahogany, so I sandwiched a dyed black veneer between the head plate and the head when gluing it in place. You can’t see it; it’s in the shadow.
HFN MIMF 018.JPG

I then made a truss-rod cover from a bit of the headstock veneer. As you can see, it’s held in place by a couple of small neodymium magnets. The magnets don’t quite touch the truss-rod nut, which means the cover is constantly being pulled against the plate and shouldn’t rattle.
019
HFN MIMF 019.JPG

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

Post by Dave Higham »

Here it is in place.
HFN MIMF 020.JPG

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

Post by Mark Swanson »

Don't worry, that inlay will jump out just fine under the finish. And I have used the magnet trick before myself, works great...again, good work!
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Dave Higham
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Re: A 5-String Multiscale ‘Headless’ DIY Bass

Post by Dave Higham »

Thanks again Mark. Here's a bit more.

I bound the fingerboard as I think it’s more in keeping with the ebony ‘framing’ of the tuner block and pickups so before binding it I had to cut the fret slots. To do that I made this jig following the instructions given by Jeremy Fullerton on the Australia/New Zealand Luthier Forum.
As you can see, the adjustable guide has 3 neodymium magnets embedded in it, so that the saw ‘sticks’ to the guide. There are 2 clamps to hold the fingerboard securely whilst the slots are cut. There’s a strip of wood attached to the saw with double-sided tape to act as a depth stop; not as easily adjusted as a fret slotting saw with adjustable depth-stop, but much cheaper.
HFN MIMF 021.JPG
Here’s the jig clamped to the bench with the fingerboard in place and the first few slots cut. There has to be some space under the guide to allow for difference in thickness of fingerboards so, to make sure the guide was perfectly aligned with each new fret line, I replaced the saw with a flat scraper blade which I could slide down until it touched the fingerboard surface to check that the guide was perfectly aligned. Then I replace the scraper blade with the saw and cut the slot.
HFN MIMF 022.JPG
Slots nearly finished.
HFN MIMF 023.JPG
When all the slots were cut, I gave each slot a couple of swipes with a triangular section needle file. This helps when pressing the frets in and, in the event of having to take them out, makes it less likely that the barbs will cause the surface to chip out. I made some ebony binding strips (from an old ebony ruler would you believe?) and glued purfling strips of maple veneer to them.
HFN MIMF 024.JPG

I tapered the fingerboard, cutting most of the surplus off on the bandsaw and then using a plane and a sanding board brought it down to its finished size, i.e. width minus two thicknesses of binding and purfling.
After carefully mitering the corners, I glued the bindings to the fingerboard using thin CA.
HFN MIMF 025.JPG

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

Post by Dave Higham »

Then planed and scraped the bindings flush with both sides of the fingerboard.
HFN MIMF 026.JPG

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

Post by Jason Rodgers »

I scan the ANZLF regularly, but haven't seen that adjustable fret slotting jig. That's one to steal!
-Ruining perfectly good wood, one day at a time.

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

Post by Dave Higham »

It's here Jason; it was some time ago.

http://www.anzlf.com/viewtopic.php?f=24&t=2094

By the way, Jeremy makes some beautiful instruments. Have a look at his website.

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

Post by Jason Rodgers »

Sweet.
-Ruining perfectly good wood, one day at a time.

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

Post by Dave Higham »

The next job was to fit the backstrap veneer. First I need to take the headstock down to its finished thickness by removing the bulk of the material on the bandsaw.
HFN MIMF 027.JPG
Then I sanded it down to finished thickness on my home made ‘Luthier’s Friend’.
HFN MIMF 028.JPG
Here it is finished.
HFN MIMF 029.JPG
I made up another pair of book-matched off-cuts as seen earlier on in this saga and trimmed them to a rectangular shape big enough to cover the rear of the headstock. (No photo). The book-matched veneer is 1/16” (1.5mm) thick, so it’s not going to follow that curve without some help.
Below is a simple bending iron. It’s a piece of steel tube with a 150w halogen bulb inside it. It has the bottom of a Coke tin wedged in the top; partly to keep the heat in and partly so it doesn’t blind me when I switch it on. I plugged it in and let it heat up and then did a test on the little piece of maple you can see in the photo. The result was quite good. The curve wasn’t quite perfect but could easily be persuaded to match the curve of the headstock.
So then I went ahead and bent my book-matched piece. This bent quite willingly too, but then I noticed that where it was bent the glue line had separated and the two halves had shrunk away from each other by about 1/16”!! Aaaaarrgghh!!!
HFN MIMF 030.JPG
I didn’t take any photos. I almost threw it away and started again by trying to find an off-cut big enough to make a one-piece veneer, but the other off-cuts have quite a lot of staining and aren’t very pretty. So I started wondering if I could salvage it. I sawed the two pieces apart and then rubbed what should have been the matching edges down on a sanding board until they met up again. Then I glued them together again. This was a bit tricky, because the veneer was already at more-or-less finished thickness.

In this photo, there’s a caul and a clamp holding the flat part of the two halves in alignment. Behind that are two long tapered pieces of maple. Behind them is another block nailed to the base (but you can’t see it). By sliding the tapered pieces against each other, the two pieces of veneer are forced together. The little spring clamp is holding the ends of the curved sections in alignment, with the aid of two small cauls (you can see the one above) and the miniature clamp is forcing the curved sections together.

And it worked! What a relief. I forgot to take any photos again.
HFN MIMF 031.JPG

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

Post by Dave Higham »

So now I could glue it onto the back of the headstock, and thereby hangs the tale of the second minor disaster involving this accursed bit of wood!

To make sure the 1/16” maple (and the thin black dyed veneer I’m going to put under it) is pressed hard against the back of the headstock in the curved area, I need a caul with a slightly resilient surface. So I made a caul, allowing for the different thicknesses being clamped and glued onto it a sheet of cork. Then I glued up the veneers and clamped the whole assembly together.
HFN MIMF 032.JPG
This is what the caul looked like when I took it apart. If you ever make a clamping caul with a cork surface, make sure the cork isn’t a load of crap. Mine was! The dark coloured bits are a lot harder than the rest, so when I clamped it up nice and tight the hard bits were forced into the maple and the surface looked as if someone had clog-danced on it. I was so disgusted that, again, the thought of taking photos didn’t even enter my head.
HFN MIMF 033.JPG
I’ve never tried steaming dents out of wood, but I gave it a try using a soldering iron and damp kitchen paper and it worked! And this was the result.
HFN MIMF 034.JPG

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

Post by Dave Higham »

Well, the 'VIEWS' count keeps going up, so I suppose someone must be watching. Actually, I find it a bit annoying when I see there are new messages on a thread I've been following, so I click on it and wait for it to download, only to find that the new message is 'Awesome'. So I very rarely add that sort of comment myself and I only use the word awesome if I am really in awe. Nowadays it seems to mean 'that's nice'. I was rather disappointed to hear my 10 year old granddaughter using it this summer. But then, I've known for some time that I'm now a fully paid up member of the grumpy old farts club. but I digress...

So, onward and upward…

I made a template for the headstock shape. It’s held in position by dowels in pilot holes for the string anchors.
HFN MIMF 035.JPG
I cut out the headstock shape leaving about 2mm extra all round.
HFN MIMF 036.JPG
And routed the finished shape. This was done face down on the router table. It’s really worth making a simple router table for this sort of job. Using a hand-held router for this is a bit risky, as it’s too easy for the router to tilt and ruin the outline. On the router table 'c’est du gateau'. (A piece of cake, yes, the French say it too.)
HFN MIMF 037.JPG
The strings are held in ferrules with Allen setscrews (grubscrews). These are the access holes for the grubscrews.
HFN MIMF 038.JPG
Before gluing the fingerboard on, I set it up on the milling machine and ran a cutter through skimming the end of the fingerboard and the edge of the headstock veneer. This should give me a perfectly square and parallel slot for the nut.
HFN MIMF 039.JPG

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

Post by Dave Higham »

Then I glued the fingerboard on. This is just to show you what it looks like when I don’t tidy up for the photo.
HFN MIMF 040.JPG
On to the next minor disaster…

When I glued the fingerboard on I masked off the neck and fingerboard and the nut area to make it easier cleaning up glue squeeze-out. The fingerboard was prevented from moving around by the CF bars in their slots and I drilled two tiny holes for panel pins through the zero-fret slot to prevent it moving lengthwise. You can perhaps see two holes in the clamping caul in the last photo.

I wasn’t careful enough pulling out the first of the two panel pins (even though I’d already thought that the zero fret was too near the end of the fingerboard) and this is what happened. (grrr!)
HFN MIMF 041.JPG
But I had one small stroke of luck. I hadn’t removed that last bit of masking tape. There were bits of fingerboard, a bit of purfling and a bit of binding all stuck to it.
HFN MIMF 042.JPG
So I carefully pressed it all back into place and applied a couple of drops of water-thin CA.
HFN MIMF 043.JPG
Peeled the masking tape off, gave it a rub with a sanding block and it looks as if it never happened. Mind you, when it comes to installing the zero fret, I think I’ll file the barbs down and glue it in. ;-)
HFN MIMF 044.JPG

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

Post by Jason Rodgers »

Dave Higham wrote:Well, the 'VIEWS' count keeps going up, so I suppose someone must be watching. Actually, I find it a bit annoying when I see there are new messages on a thread I've been following, so I click on it and wait for it to download, only to find that the new message is 'Awesome'. So I very rarely add that sort of comment myself and I only use the word awesome if I am really in awe. Nowadays it seems to mean 'that's nice'. I was rather disappointed to hear my 10 year old granddaughter using it this summer. But then, I've known for some time that I'm now a fully paid up member of the grumpy old farts club. but I digress...
Ahem... I believe I said "sweet." ;)

I look forward to seeing how this headstock and the string attachments work. It's not so much "headless" as "miniheaded."
-Ruining perfectly good wood, one day at a time.

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

Post by Chuck Tweedy »

Awesome!
Ha! Made you look!
Likes to drink Rosewood Juice

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

Post by Dave Higham »

Ya got me Chuck! :lol: :lol: :lol:
(Is English Breakfast tea bad for keyboards?)

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

Post by Chuck Tweedy »

Keep it coming Dave. Your work is so clean and precise it is awesome to witness.
there it is again

Also nice to see I'm not the only one with bits of fingerboard replaced and CA'ed back home. I keep my shop floor very clean so it is easier to find these pieces when they try to run away! You know, headstock corners, heel-cap pieces, bits of binding, etc.
Likes to drink Rosewood Juice

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

Post by Dave Higham »

Chuck Tweedy wrote: You know, headstock corners, heel-cap pieces, bits of binding, etc.
Funny you should mention that Chuck. When I started working on the other end of the neck, I dinged the headstock so many times I had to modify it slightly. For the next few operations it looked like this.
HFN MIMF 046.JPG

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

Post by Chris Richards »

I love looking at this thread, it's so interesting seeing the methods used and the accuracy. The skills and tools used are far more aligned to metal working, whereas I'd use a saw and chisel to cut a nut slot I see a milling machine in extensive use. My brother is the metalworker in our family and it amazes me what he builds, where he uses micrometres and callipers I file it until it fits!

So interesting... Keep it coming

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