Bass guitar design advice

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Steve Sawyer
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Re: Bass guitar design advice

Post by Steve Sawyer »

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.
==Steve==

John Clifford
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Re: Bass guitar design advice

Post by John Clifford »

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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Steve Sawyer
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Re: Bass guitar design advice

Post by Steve Sawyer »

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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Steve Sawyer
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Re: Bass guitar design advice

Post by Steve Sawyer »

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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David King
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Re: Bass guitar design advice

Post by David King »

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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Steve Sawyer
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Re: Bass guitar design advice

Post by Steve Sawyer »

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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David King
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Re: Bass guitar design advice

Post by David King »

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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Steve Sawyer
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Re: Bass guitar design advice

Post by Steve Sawyer »

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

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

Post by Bob Francis »

1/4 is what old Fenders used.

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Steve Sawyer
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Re: Bass guitar design advice

Post by Steve Sawyer »

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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Mark Wybierala
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Re: Bass guitar design advice

Post by Mark Wybierala »

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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Steve Sawyer
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Re: Bass guitar design advice

Post by Steve Sawyer »

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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Mark Wybierala
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Re: Bass guitar design advice

Post by Mark Wybierala »

I've played around a lot with short scale basses. I took up playing bass (faking it) about twelve years ago and now that's what I do. Some short scales work really well while others fall short. The good ones I remember were a Gibson EB-1 and the fairly inexpensive current Gretsch Junior Jet Bass. I've had a couple Bronco Basses on my bench which were sometimes decent also. The two basses I built for myself are 32.5 scale instruments both using ash telecaster guitar style/size bodies - one fretted and the other fretless.
Something that helps is to not have sharp break angles between the string ball-end anchor and the saddle or where the E-string goes over the nut. Especially on the fat E-string, the more the string can achieve a straight line as it leaves the saddle and the nut slot, the better you avoid the intonation issues that sometimes cause grief on short scales. Consider trying to position your bridge to make the most of the available length of the intonation screws. As a short scale, its typical to employ heavier gauge strings to keep the tension up and these don't relax as easy as they go over the saddle or through the nut slot.
The lower tension of the short scale also makes the strings slightly more susceptible to magnetic interference if the pickups are too close but your EMGs should help with this. If you get less than optimum sounding fretted notes up past the 12th fret, consider lowering the pickups.
Sometimes you run into grief buying short scale strings. Dano builds a short scale bass with the most inappropriate tuning machines that have holes too small for most bass strings. I have needed to modify strings to taper down the diameter to allow the string to go through the tuner post.

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Steve Sawyer
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Re: Bass guitar design advice

Post by Steve Sawyer »

Thanks, Mark. I'm using plans for an Alembic short-scale as the starting point for this design. It specifies a 15° angle on the headstock. Sounds like you're recommending something less. Would appreciate your thoughts on this. In looking at that Gretsch Junior Jet you mention, it looks like maybe 10°? Hard to tell from the pictures, but it's visibly a gentler angle.

As to strings, I love flat-wound, and have identified three as possible candidates. La Bella makes a set for the "Hoffner" style bass (.050, .065, .080, .100), their "Deep Talkin'" short-scale bass set (.043, .060, .082, .104) and "low tension" flats (.042, .056, .075, .100). The only bass I have (and the only one I've ever played) is a Bass VI and have a set of La Bellas on that.
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Mark Wybierala
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Re: Bass guitar design advice

Post by Mark Wybierala »

I recall another post I made quite some time ago concerning short scale basses and those very same strings were recommended by someone specifically for a short scale. I get to play on a lot of client instruments at the shop. Flats have their place but I go back to roundwounds eventually. I did not like the Fender Black Tape wounds at all and had them installed for less than a week. They were dull with no boom. I use the D'Addario Bright Flats on my fretless and GHS Boomers on the fretted.
As far as the headstock, I don't have any information as I tend to stick with Fender style with no angle. The angle from the tuning post over the nut can be somewhat manipulated by how you wind the string on the post. It wouldn't hurt to look at the resulting string angle on paper full size. I generally build by the seat of my pants without full size plans but I have a head for that sort of thing and I don't suggest it for others. I don't believe I could find a compass in my workshop. I did a Ric type of bass some years ago and I think the angle was 12 degrees. It was modeled after a Ric 330 guitar but was a 34" scale. Again, you can tweek the nut angle via the method of winding the string to the post.

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Steve Sawyer
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Re: Bass guitar design advice

Post by Steve Sawyer »

Thanks again, Mark. It would seem that any angle would work (I kinda like the angled headstock) as long as I'm sensitive to the issue you raise. My Bass VI has a flat Fender-style headstock, and can use the over-nut angle on that as a guide to the minimum.
==Steve==

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Peter Wilcox
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Re: Bass guitar design advice

Post by Peter Wilcox »

Angles on a fender style headstock I made long ago (using x=arctan0.5/d, using 1/2" as the headstock drop from the nut and d = the distance to the tuner from the nut) are E=15, A=10, D=7 and G=5 degrees. The last 2 need a string tree, so I would say around 10 degrees is a good angle. These angles of course are to the base of the tuner peg, not to the string wind, so in actuality are less, but the same would be true on an angled headstock, and as Mark mentions above you can tweak this by how you wind the string.
Maybe I can't fix it, but I can fix it so no one can fix it

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Steve Sawyer
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Re: Bass guitar design advice

Post by Steve Sawyer »

Peter Wilcox wrote:Angles on a fender style headstock I made long ago (using x=arctan0.5/d, using 1/2" as the headstock drop from the nut and d = the distance to the tuner from the nut) are E=15, A=10, D=7 and G=5 degrees. The last 2 need a string tree, so I would say around 10 degrees is a good angle. These angles of course are to the base of the tuner peg, not to the string wind, so in actuality are less, but the same would be true on an angled headstock, and as Mark mentions above you can tweak this by how you wind the string.
Thanks for doing the math, Peter!! :D
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David King
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Re: Bass guitar design advice

Post by David King »

I do most of my headstocked basses at 8º.

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Steve Sawyer
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Re: Bass guitar design advice

Post by Steve Sawyer »

David King wrote:I do most of my headstocked basses at 8º.
Ok - Thanks, David!

I see I'm going to need to come up with a different method of sawing the scarf joint! I used a tenon jig for my last build w/a 14* headstock, and the 10" blade was cranked right to the top of its range to get through that, and the neck was only 11/16" thick! :)
==Steve==

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