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New build: The Saltire Bass

PostPosted: Tue Oct 10, 2017 9:09 am
by Markku Nyytäjä
Long time, no show. Yep, I've been away for quite a while and it does feel good to finish new builds again after a lengthy break. I had some health issues such as the carpal tunnel syndrome - in my both hands. My hands were so numb that there was a great risk of cutting off pieces of myself instead of wood. A couple of years ago I had two surgical operations within half a year and convalescence that never seemed to end. My hands are still not what they used to be, but at least they're not getting worse and I can live with the current level of numbness. To see the light side, now I have an excuse if my builds don't meet the expectations.

I'm more or less actively working on 4 unfinished guitars, a couple of pickup projects and there are former builds waiting in line to be improved. None of these have a strict deadline, so I'm working on them when I have the time and the energy. The week before I was spurred by a birthday-formed deadline into finishing a bass guitar for a friend who turned 50. He has studied literature at the University of Glasgow and he's a a devout friend of Scotland. A year ago, encouraged by a few wee drams, he humbly wished to some day have a bass with a Saltire cross on the body. Now he has one.

The bass is a little like a wedding dress: something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. The bridge is a Fender P-bass bridge, the fretboard is from an Ibanez bass and the pickups from a damaged and dismantled new Samick bass.

Here are the specs:

Body alder, colour candy blue with white pearloid celluloid cross, acrylic lacquer finish
Bolt-on neck maple 864 mm/34", rosewood fretboard 22 frets, white pearloid fret markers, bone nut, dual-action truss rod, sealed tuners,
Neck pickup Samick PB with ceramic magnet 7.5 kΩ, bridge pickup Samick Jazz bass pickup with ceramic magnet 7.0 kΩ
2 volume pots 250 kΩ, 1 master tone 250 kΩ with 47nF cap, electronics grounded through LifeSaver filter
Vintage style Fender chrome bridge, chrome hardware

He she is, in a frontal pose.

Her sweet posterior here.

Re: New build: The Saltire Bass

PostPosted: Tue Oct 10, 2017 9:13 am
by Markku Nyytäjä
Body from the front...

...and from the rear

The headstock with 2L2R sealed tuners and my logo

Re: New build: The Saltire Bass

PostPosted: Tue Oct 10, 2017 9:28 am
by Markku Nyytäjä
Close-up of the body...
...and the neck joint.

So, the instrument has a Fender type body, bridge and pickups, but the neck is an bit unorthodox, as the headstock is angled and has the tuners on its both sides instead of all being on one side. The birthday child did not mind my little trespass but accepted the gift without further ado and seems genuinely pleased by his new bass. It's nice to play and it sounds good. When I had temporarily assembled the bass for setup before painting it I was delighted to notice what a long sustain it had. It did become a good instrument and the new owner is happy. That's the main thing.

I took work-in-progress photos of most stages of building the instrument and I'll post them a little later.

Re: New build: The Saltire Bass

PostPosted: Tue Oct 10, 2017 11:17 pm
by Jason Rodgers
Markku, you've been missed! Sorry to hear of the CTS woes, but I'm glad you're in the shop again. Fun first showing on your return. Can't wait to see the others.

Re: New build: The Saltire Bass

PostPosted: Wed Oct 11, 2017 6:08 pm
by Beate Ritzert
That bass reminds me to the first bass i bought - a Vester Witch. Same color, also 2L+2R angled headstock, also PJ with pretty much identical pickup positions, and pickup impedances. I love mostly the split coil and must admit to find bridge pickups that close to the bridge a bit problematic, if played alone. But that's truly a matter of personal taste and preferences.

In summary: a really nice bass, and it is fine to hear that You friend enjoys it.

And all the best for Your health.

Re: New build: The Saltire Bass

PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2017 9:25 am
by Markku Nyytäjä
Thank you, Jason & Beate.
It truly is good to be back in the saddle. Next week I'll continue working on some of the unfinished projects. I assembled one build with an H-S-S pickup constellation already and test-played it before taking it apart for the paint job. I was quite pleased with the sound and the playability. Now I'm waiting for a package of reflective paint powder to arrive. I planned to make a candy yellow finish, but had some trouble getting the tint right. The silver paint that I spray the transparent yellow over is blueish and the final colour closer to green than yellow - unless I add red tint to the yellow and get a brownish orange tint instead. That's not the colour I'm after. Quite clearly the paint layer under the yellow has to be neutral white to yield a clean yellow. The reflective paint powder I ordered is the kind used in traffick signs and safety gear. If I spray it over silver, add a transparent yellow and top it with several layers of clearcoat, the result should be really nice. At least I hope so. ;)

Here I'm trying the temporarily assembled guitar out. A combination of a reflective yellow body, black pickguard & binding and yellow pickups & knobs should look cool enough.

On Tuesday I assembled a pair of humbuckers with coils wound around rail type polepieces. The magnets are 3x5x50 mm neoydymium bar magnets and the coils wound up to 4-4.8 kΩ each. The neck pickup resistance is 8.38 kΩ and the bridge pickup is 9.35 kΩ - traditionally moderate windings. I've used neodymium magnets in my pickups before and grown to like them, as I get high output without overwinding the coils and sacrificing the high end of the sound.
Not being able to fix the coils to the baseplate with screws I glued them in place with silicone paste. The silicone has set by monday, then I can wax the pickups and wind some tape around then coils. I can't wait to install these babes into a new guitar and hear them sing. :D

Newly assembled Bladebuckers, yet to be waxed.

Re: New build: The Saltire Bass

PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2017 9:34 am
by Markku Nyytäjä
I promised to post work-in-progress pics of the Saltire Bass. Here they come.

I usually start a build with the neck. This time was no exception. I had a laminated bass neck blank with an angled headstock that I chose to use.
I have never liked using rasps for shaping necks. I prefer sanders and scrapers, like the belt sander here...
...or the sanding drum for more accurate work.

Re: New build: The Saltire Bass

PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2017 9:49 am
by Markku Nyytäjä
Buying tools and parts from the USA can be expensive in Finland due to high postage fees, customs and taxes, but I have purchased some useful tools like this Safe-T Planer from StewMac. It makes levelling neck heels a breeze.

I used my curved caul and several clamps to glue the fretboard into place. The two-way truss rod was secured with silicone paste to prevent rattling.

With the fretboard in place I continued to shape the neck - with the belt sander.

Re: New build: The Saltire Bass

PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2017 9:58 am
by Markku Nyytäjä
I made a P-Bass body template using a plan I purchased years ago. The body blank was alder, 3 pieces glued together. I cut the body out of the blank with my band saw.

With the template screwed to the body I routed the edges flush using a table router.

The body edges needed some levelling after the router, so I grabbed my good ole belt sander...

... and the sanding drum for the less accessible parts.

Re: New build: The Saltire Bass

PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2017 10:05 am
by Jason Rodgers
I have a bass build finishing up with some interesting blade style pickups using neos. Another two guitars have neos on the slug side of some hybrid humbuckers. I'm liking the sound of the neos under the hood.

Re: New build: The Saltire Bass

PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2017 10:07 am
by Markku Nyytäjä
Prior to routing body cavities I remove most of the wood with a forstner bit on a drill press. Neck pocket being drilled.

I have made templates for quite an array of neck heels and tenons. Routing the 17 mm deep neck pocket using a template here.

Here a pickup cavity gets forstnered...

...just to get routed right thereafter.

Re: New build: The Saltire Bass

PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2017 10:19 am
by Markku Nyytäjä
I used the table router to round off the body edges. First the frontside...

... then the back.

Since I didn't use a pickguard the electronics had to be accessed from the back. First I forstnered the cavity...

... then I routed the rest using a template.

The pickup wire channels between the pickup cavities and the electronics cavity had to be drilled.

Re: New build: The Saltire Bass

PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2017 10:40 am
by Markku Nyytäjä
The procedure was needed for both pickup wire channels.

The main decorative element of the bass was the diagonal white cross against a blue background, as in the Scottish banner, the Saltire. I decided to make the cross 12 mm wide using two strips of 6 mm wide white pearloid binding glued together. I routed the 1.5 mm deep channel using a piece of plywood clamped to the body as a guide.

Och aye!

The electronics cavity needed a cover flush with the body surface. So I routed a 2.5 mm deep recess around the cavity.

The cover had to fit snugly. I made a template for it first and routed the cover flush with the template.

Re: New build: The Saltire Bass

PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2017 10:57 am
by Markku Nyytäjä
I fine sanded the body with a plane sander and 240 & 400 grit papers.

With all the woodwork basically finished I assembled the bass to set the neck, the bridge, the action and the intonation. It was very pleasing to my ear to hear the endless sustain. The woods and the neck joint must have been just what they were supposed to be.

Having found the bass just short of the paint job finished, that's where I proceeded next. I disassembled the instrument and started painting. The first step was a coat of primer, followed by acrylic putty to fill all dents and uneven spots - and then another coat of primer. At the same time another build, the Alligatrix is getting sprayed with primer. The paint job usually takes longer than any other stage of the building process, but it's worth it.

Coat 1.
Coat 2.

Re: New build: The Saltire Bass

PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2017 11:19 am
by Markku Nyytäjä
Initially I had thought of making the Saltire cross with 12x24 mm pieces of MOP, but to get an even cross I ended up using celluloid binding instead. As celluloid dissolves in acetone, it's easy to glue strips of binding together. I just taped the strips side by side and applied generous amounts of acetone to them with a narrow artist's brush. The pieces stuck together really nicely. After spraying the body with silver paint I waited for the paint to dry and glued then cross to into the channels with acetone, securing it with masking tape and clamps.

Glueing strips of celluloid binding together.

Spraying silver paint made with silver powder and 2-component clearcoat diluted in a 1:1 ratio with thinner. I use 1 tbsp of silver powder to 250 millilitres of lacquer and spray it with a 6 bar pressure, keeping the spray gun in a constant whirling motion to prevent the silver from setting at the bottom of the container.

When the silver paint was dry, I glued the celluloid cross into place and masked it with 12 mm wide masking tape before spraying another coat of silver to hide any acetone residue and uneven spots.

Another coat of silver.

Re: New build: The Saltire Bass

PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2017 11:39 am
by Markku Nyytäjä
The silver paint is half thinner and it dries very quickly, so I could move on to spraying the transparent blue tint. I use the Color Tone liquid tints from StewMac. It took me long time to find good transparent tints and now I'm sticking to these ones. They dissolve almost in any solvent, give a beautifully transparent and even tone and are easy to apply directly on wood with a rag diluted with water or sprayed mixed with thinner and 20% clearcoat.

I'll make you blue.

The transparent tint dries almost immediately and I can proceed to clearcoat right after spraying the tint. I use different spray guns for primer, metallics, tint and clearcoat, so the tint gets to dry before I have mixed the lacquer and set up the spray gun. Now I usually start finishing the neck as well, giving it the first layer of clearcoat.

Spraying clearcoat.

After spraying a coat of clear lacquer I let it cure overnight and wet sand it with 800 & 1200 grit papers, both by hand and machine.

When the lacquer on the neck was dry I put my transfer decal logo on it and sprayed another coat.

Re: New build: The Saltire Bass

PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2017 11:45 am
by Markku Nyytäjä
The following steps are new coats of clearcoat and wet sanding between them, like there's no end to it. The neck was sprayed 4 times and the body received 5 layers of lacquer. And an equal number of wet sandings.




Re: New build: The Saltire Bass

PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2017 12:09 pm
by Markku Nyytäjä
The final wet sanding was done with 800, 1200, 1500, 2000 and 2500 grit papers. The lacquer was then polished to a mirrorlike shine with a compressed air driven random orbital sander, a polishing sponge and Farécla compounds. The tricky parts were polished with a buffer wheel attached to a drill extension. First I buffed the neck an the body three times with Farécla grade 3 paste and then twice with grade 10 polish, wiping the dry residue off with a micro fibre cloth as I went on.
I also polished the frets with a Dremel-type grinder, a felt buffer wheel and polishing wax.

Polishing the body. Of course I had forgotten my workshop camera at home when I finished the bass, so the images here are taken with my telephone.

Polishing frets.

As I couldn't have a camera on a tripod and self timer and as I needed my both hands to assemble the bass I don't have any pictures of the final lap. I suppose you all know how it looks when a neck is rigged with machine heads and attached to the body with screws or how installing pickups looks like. If not, you'll just have to imagine it all. ;)
Anyway, I did finish the bass around 10.00 PM and was home before midnight. And there was still another week to the birthday party. Phew!


The next day at home I finally heard the tone through a 40W bass amp. Nice!

Re: New build: The Saltire Bass

PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 3:46 pm
by Bob Francis
Great thread!

Re: New build: The Saltire Bass

PostPosted: Fri Dec 15, 2017 8:10 pm
by Gerry Beckles
Lovely bass....I love the color and that headstock shape. Simple but elegant.