Watson Guitars
Idyllwild
California, USA

6-string custom bass (Serial 14B069)
Headless Double-Cut w/Custom Body

Call
951-240-1666. or email us here!

   
Materials: Top: Curly Maple Neck/Core: Wege/Maple/Padouk 7pc laminates
  Body: Mahogany body
Fingerboard: 34" Scale Length, Birdseye Maple 24 fret (using gold frets)
Pickups: Dual Coil w 4-core wiring for coil splitting
Hardware: ABM Gold
Electronics: 4-band EQ - Working on a CUSTOM John East system + Roland GK-3b internal
Options: LED powered side dots plus 12th/24th fret features.
Brass nut. Gold alloy frets.
Finish: Polyester Resin Gloss incorporating custom color treatment
Other:

String Spacing: 18.5mm at bridge, 10mm at nut

  Bass Clef inlay on 12th/24th fret areas

This project will be a 6-string bass with several unique features. As one of our priorities, we want this bass to be lightweight and well-balanced for the player. Also, we want a very dynamic and full-bodied sound. Discussions with our customer pointed us to a Wenge/Maple/Padouk core which has always yielded good results. It has a beautiful Maple top and Birdseye Maple fingerboard. It boasts some complicated inlay and fiber optic installed features. I am used ABM hardware so that I can establish the optimum string spacing.


Highslide JS
One o fthe first challenges with the space will be routing these Roland wires (13 of them) up and around the upper edge of the East control board. I may have to remove a tiny bit more material from the cavity - we will see.
(11/9/17) Left: In this photo I am working with one of the largest East boards in an effort to run all the Roland output wires past the upper end so that they are safe and out of the way. (11/8/17) Right: Text and photo coming.
Highslide JS
I was able to cut and solder all the ground wires to the common ground of the control cavity. Good to get those out of teh way..

Highslide JS
Working from bottom up - doing the grounding of the copper wires to the cavity shielding
(11/6/17) Left: Task at hand right now is to get all the copper grounding wires solidly soldered to the cavity shielding which is my common ground. (11/8/17) Right: I got all eight ground wires shortened, cleaned up and soldered to the shielding in the control cavity. This cleans things up quite a bit - on the the next phase.
Highslide JS
I was able to cut and solder all the ground wires to the common ground of the control cavity. Good to get those out of teh way..

Highslide JS
Text coming soon.
(11/1/17) Left: Since it's time to get the remaining wiring done I need to get the neo magnets installed in the remaining two covers so that I can close them up. (11/3/17) Right: Retaining magnets installed in battery and control cavity covers. I need to remove protective tape from one and add copper shielding to the other.
Highslide JS
GNeo magnets are now in both the remaining covers.

Highslide JS
This should allow a good fit on the cover. I will sal the back before we're done but right now just want to get these wires under control!.
(10/24/17) Left: This is the Roland board cover with the recesses machined out to create a little room for the wires to exit from the board. More assembly now. (10/28/17) Right: Quick photo of the cover on the bass doing it's job retaining board and the many wires that run from it. One step closer to making sound on this bass!
Highslide JS
Happy to say I hav that circuit board area closed up and the cover fitted on!.

Highslide JS
Great news - all these little MIDI wires have been extended - my eyesight may never be the same but this job is done.
(10/17/17) Left: Starting on the East System install. I want to be careful as I proceed not to compromise any of the wiring and keep things as orderly as possible. (10/20/17) Right: Cover marked out for some machining to create clearance for wiring coming off Roland board. I want to have this area sealed off and done.
Highslide JS
I have to be careful not to compromise the cover but I do need to cut out a little vertical clearance for the areas where the Roland wires bend 90 degrees to exit the cavity..

Highslide JS
Great news - all these little MIDI wires have been extended - my eyesight may never be the same but this job is done.
(10/12/17) Left: I did a little cleanup of the copper shielding in the control cavity before I start adding all the additional pieces of electronic hardware. (10/14/17) Right: We are definitely getting there! I'm almost done with the Roland system requirements and connections and now preparing East preamp parts.
Highslide JS
Great news - all these little MIDI wires have been extended - my eyesight may never be the same but this job is done.

Highslide JS
Those Rolaand wires add up to a pretty big bundle do I have made the channel between cavities quite a bit bigger.
(10/7/17) Left: This is the Roland board area with the enlarged channel for all the connected wiring. I can now finish up this little cavity area and move on. (10/9/17) Right: Although I have to wait until East System is fully installed (at least physically) I spent some time testing and grouping the fiber optics for LED connections.
Highslide JS
Great news - all these little MIDI wires have been extended - my eyesight may never be the same but this job is done.

Highslide JS
I have three magnets to securely hold on the Roland cavity cover. We should never really need to go in there once the instrument is finished.
(10/2/17) Left: I added magnets to the covers and Roland cavity so that I could test the fit and clearance of the wires especially in the cavity with the Roland master board. (10/5/17) Right: The Roland MIDI circuit board is fully wired and connected and I have all the exiting wires grouped according to where they travel within the cavity!
Highslide JS
This is what the Roland MIDI board looks like with all its wiring connected. I will be able to package and isolate this piece in the separate cavity.

Highslide JS
Some surgery needed between Roland cavity and the main cavity due to the collective volume of wires going from one location to another from the board.
(9/28/17) Left: I removed the Roland board so that I could cut more material out of the transition between the two cavities. LOTS of wires! (9/30/17) Right: I have to mark out areas where the wires need a little clearance (along edges) and then cut that relief into the bottom of the cover!
Highslide JS
I don;t want to have pressure on the wires exiting the Roland board so I need to cut a little relief in the back of the board before I can finally fit it. I also had to deepen the channel between the two cavities to accommodate all the wires!.

Highslide JS
Roland wiring all on my diagram. Because East wiring and pots are solid state the connection between Roland and East may reaquire some research but so far so good.
(9/25/17) Left: For anyone interested, this is my updated wiring diagram - it still doesn't include all the East wiring but Roland wiring is all accounted for. (9/26/17) Right: I'm going to need power to everything so I will be connecting three battery terminals, one to each battery to distribute power to Roland, East and LEDs.
Highslide JS
One of three battery conections I am adding the thebattery cavity.

Highslide JS
Getting all the wires connected to the board so that I can see what I'm dealing with space-wise.
(9/21/17) Left: I have been using the instruction paperwork from the Roland hardware to get the main board wired so that I can fix the cover on that part of the cavity! (9/23/17) Right: Had to cut out a little more clearance between the cavities to accommodate all the wires! Great to have this part of the wiring done!
Highslide JS
This photo shows all but two wires running out from the Roland control board.

Highslide JS
I now have connectivity between the Roland output 13 pin terminal and the main Roland board. This is great - now to assemble all the other stuff!.
(9/17/17) Left: Great news - the wires fit and I will be able to pack them into the lower sides of the control cavity. I'm very encouraged to get these parts conneted together - I can see the light at the end of the tunnel! (9/19/17) Right: I'm now able to make some progress getting the Roland components set in the cavity.
Highslide JS
Great news - all these little MIDI wires have been extended - my eyesight may never be the same but this job is done.

Highslide JS
Ugh!
(9/13/17) Left: I'm about half way though all the soldering work. It takes a long time to strip these tiny wires, prep the ends, clean up, solder and shrink wrap. Some need done more than once. (9/15/17) Right: DONE!!! MIDI output wires have been extended. Took all the micro-soldering skills I have to get it done!
Highslide JS
Great news - all these little MIDI wires have been extended - my eyesight may never be the same but this job is done.

Highslide JS
This will be a super step forward and closer to being DONE. These two wire clusters are the main MIDI connection in the system and cables are too short. I was unable to locate longer versions on the internet so my only choice is to extend them. I'm using color coded ribbon to make sure I get everything connected correctly.
(9/11/17) Left: I'm cutting and extending some of the MIDI cables a couple of inches longer so that I can connect the Roland outputs to the MIDI board. Very precise work - will be glad to have it all done! (9/12/17) Right: These joints have to be as small and clean as possible. I'm actually adding 4 inches to the overall length.
Highslide JS
I am starting on what will be a tedious task. 28 solder joints - widh me luck!

Highslide JS
Half a day's driving but I got what I needed to extend the wires from Roland socket to the circuit board!
(9/7/17) Left: these are most of the wires that come and go from the Roland board. My task is to make them all fit, get the lid on and make sure there's clearance for the outgoing wires. (9/9/17) Right: A lot more electronics in the cavity now. I am trying to asemble in order so there is room to move wires around and make connections.
Highslide JS
Half a day's driving but I got what I needed to extend the wires from Roland socket to the circuit board!

Highslide JS
This is only party of the whole diagram. I want to get the board itself all connected up so that I can take it out of the firmula and concentrate on the other million cables!
(9/3/17) Left: I'm reviewing the Roland installation instructions and identifying which sets of cables go to which inputs on the main board. Also working on cable extensions. (9/5/17) Right: I have started working on the two main cable connections running from the 13-pin output boards to the main Roland circuit board.
Highslide JS
There are a lot of cables running from the Roland board to other parts of the control cavity.

Highslide JS
I need to lengthen these cables (yes all of them) to reach the Roland board.
(8/27/17) Left: These two sets of cables connect the boards on the 13-pin output to the main Roland board. I need to extend these about 2.5 inches. (8/30/17) Right: ...and - here is the likely solution - I drove to my nearest electronics supply ceter and picked up connectors that will allow me to stretch the Roland cables.
Highslide JS
Half a day's driving but I got what I needed to extend the wires from Roland socket to the circuit board!

Highslide JS
The volume/balance board, LED switch and mid controls are hard up against each other but the did go in. So far so good!.
(8/20/17) Left: This photo shows how tight these components will be - the circuit boards, knobs and switches will be up against each other! (8/23/17) Right: I'm hooking up wires to the selector switches and also starting to map out the paths to all the other East and Roland wires. Also establishing common ground location.
Highslide JS
I'm in the middle of charting out wiring paths so that I have a record for me, my customer and anyone else I need to sgare it with. More elements to be added but this should be our recipe for success!.

Highslide JS
Switches are recessed on the back and now installed in place. Actually looks pretty good!.
(8/15/17) Left: I got the three switches recessed a little into the back of the cavity in order to expose a little more of the thread on each one. (8/17/17) Right: These are the switches which I recessed from the back and are now in their final resting places. Quite a tricky job and I had to re-apply new shielding in the cavity in those areas.
Highslide JS
It may seem insignificant but getting these switches in the last remaining space in the cavity was a BIG achievement.

Highslide JS
I'm in teh process of installing the Roland program buttons and the three selector switches. These items sit on the lowerst level in the cavity so should be installed first so that the wiring can fill the space above.
(8/11/17) Left: This photo shows how low-profile the Roland program buttons are so they will not get in the way of the operation of the stacked preamp controls. (8/13/17) Right: Switch on the left will be the one that controls Roland features, the one on the right (lower) will control LEDs for lighting. 3rd one will be East System.
Highslide JS
Switches being installed, I may countersink them on the back just a little as they don;t have a lot of thread. So far so good though.

Highslide JS
All holes established, and I am sure with knobs and switches in place the bass will not look as busy from the front as it really is inside! It's been a long day.
(8/4/17) Left: I have now verified and drilled out the holes for the three selector switches. It was a fairly delicate job based on very limited space. (8/8/17) Right: Test fitting all the components together. These all have to fit in the cavity in order for wiring to get run. Fiber optics and LEDs will have to work around everything else!
Highslide JS
Probably one of the most delicate machining jobs I have ever done - I hate nachining and already finished instrument - so many things can go wrong!!!!.

Highslide JS
The existing East hardware only allows me a couple of very tight spots for the three switches. One is East active/passive, one is Roland related, and one is for fiber optic LEDs activation.
(8/1/17) Left: The huge quest to fit a mountain into a molehill is almost resolved. After hours of testing with neighbouring electronic hardware these are the only 3 viable locations for the selector switches. (8/3/17) Right: Electronics removed for drilling purposes. There is literally NO room for error or parts will not co-exist.
Highslide JS
I have already drilled pilot holes - I just have to drill to 1/4 to suit switch diameters.

Highslide JS
I haven;t fitted the eselector buttons in yet but this photo shows their placement. They are very low profile so they do not get in the way of the knobs..
(7/25/17) Left: I wanted to show a quick photo of the results of the recent machining and how the program up/down switches looked next to the knobs. They won't interfere because the are on very different levels. (7/29/17) Right: The last holes to go into the control cavity are the three holes for the three toggle switches.
Highslide JS
Not much space left - but these are the LAST three objects to jam into the control cavity!!.

Highslide JS
I'm setting up to cut two holes for the Roland selector switches.
(7/17/17) Left: Bass now up on CNC for some extremely careful surgery. I can't afford to have the surface take any damage from a normal drilling operation. Doing the work here gives me the best chance for cleanest results. (7/21/17) Right: Very very delicate operation creating holes for the Roland selector buttons!
Highslide JS
Probably one of the most delicate machining jobs I have ever done - I hate nachining and already finished instrument - so many things can go wrong!!!!.

Highslide JS
Both outputs are set in the instrument - I just need to add retaining screws.
(7/9/17) Left: I had to take the bass back to my shop to get the program switches and toggle switches installed in areas which are now free after East system install. (7/13/17) Right: It has been decided on the location of the Roland program up/down switches. The holes will need to be very carefully drilled on the CNC machine.
Highslide JS
Both outputs are set in the instrument - I just need to add retaining screws.

Highslide JS
Now ready to take this beast to my electronics guru. Will update as soon as I have news.
(6/30/17) Taking this very complex musical instrument to my electronics expert in Palm Springs. I completely trust his abilities and we will work together to get all the internal parts connected together and working in harmony. There will be some custom cabling work he has to do and there may be a few calls back and forth, but it will all come together and I am glad we are here! I, along with my customer, am looking forward to the results.

Highslide JS
Both outputs are set in the instrument - I just need to add retaining screws.
(6/25/17) Left: Adding neodymium magnets to the three back cover plates so that when I get the bass back I can test fit them and cut any relief necessary. (6/27/17) Right: Good news is the bass is now strung up and adjusted close enough to yield the source signals for my electronics guy. It's been a hard journey but looking good.
Highslide JS
Both outputs are set in the instrument - I just need to add retaining screws.

Highslide JS
I put Schaller locking strap locks on the bass. One on the upper horn and two on the back of the bass so it can stand safely when not on a dedicated music stand.
(6/22/17) Left: Just wanted to show the bass with its strap buttons installed - so much going on electronically that I forgot to add these! (6/24/17) Right: Working on the refinements of the nut so that I can get the strings on. My electronics expert will need it fully strung and tuned to test all the various output options on this bass.
Highslide JS
Both outputs are set in the instrument - I just need to add retaining screws.

Highslide JS
Some tough choices here. I tried to locate a suitable momentary toggle for program up/down but could not find anything rated for the Roland specs. I have dcided to install the two program up/down buttons next to each other as shown. The two remaining toggle switches will occupy the remaining spaces in the cavity.
(6/19/17) Left: Switch holes are set and I have to decide now whether to include the two program up/down push buttons for Roland or substitute those with a momentary toggle switch. (6/21/17) Right: Re-assembling the tuner hardware which I had to remove during electronic assembly since the bass needed so much handling.
Highslide JS
Tuners going back on.

Highslide JS
Very little remaining room to play with in the interior of the control cavity. I will end up using ALL the available space.
(6/15/17) Left: Now that I have all the boards installed I have secured them in place. I now need to carefully choose a couple of locations in the remaining spaces for the toggle switches. (6/17/17) Right: Adding locations for the toggle switches, a delicate operation as we have to avoid getting too close to internal or external hardware.
Highslide JS
This is a critical decision. I need to place an active/passive switch for the preamp. I also have controls for the Roland system that take up space including two program up/down buttons. I am trying to find a toggle momentary switch to substiturte for these rather large Roland buttons.

Highslide JS
the oversize board is seated in its final resting place.
(6/13/17) Left: Very happy to not here that I successfully installed the extra board in its new and final location. It is a very delicate job removing material from the base of the cavity and if I go too deep I would break through the front face!! I didn't allow that to happen but I almost had a heart attack wne my cutter hit one of the fiber optic cables!! Thankfully no damage but it highlights the level of risk in these final stages. All good - moving forward!!!!!!

Highslide JS
Configuring electronic hardware is a monumenbtal ltask for this bass. I'm on the final lap where I just need to get 3 or 4 switches squeezed into the remaining space and make it look OK from the front.
(6/12/17) Left: I have had these electronics in and out of the cavity so many times due to the geometry of the hardware and the locations they need to occupy. I am FINALLY in a place where everything fits! THIS will be my final layout and I now have to add the selector switches for the active/passive and LEDs on/off. Once that's done I need to add EITHER a program selector switch for MIDI or the two rather large buttons that came with the Roldand kit

Highslide JS
I hade to remove quite a bit of material to get the board to sit deep enough for its top surface to be relatively flush with our top surface.
(6/8/17) Left: I have removed the hardware from the control cavity and carefully cut out material from the bottom surface to fit the larger circuit board. (6/10/17) Right: Added more copper shielding and then re-assembled the preamp hardware into the control cavity. Now getting the rest of the components into the remaining space.
Highslide JS
BIt was tricky to cut out this extra material without comp[romising the control recesses. Looks like we were successful!.

Highslide JS
Due to the four large circuit boards of this preamp I am having to be very careful about setting up physical locations for everything to fit in the cavity. I still need to leave room for switches, Roland wiring etc and also fiber optic connections and LEDs.
(6/2/17) Left: This preamp is significantly physically larger than any system I have worked with. I'm trying to secure all these circuit boards in place and leave room for other stuff. (6/5/17) Right: Getting inside the cavity with a small dremel tool to deepen one area for the larger circuit board. Wish it was the same size as all the others!!
Highslide JS
This circuit board can only live in this location so I have to excavate some material from the bottom of the cavity to make it fit.

Highslide JS
installing boards from the back forwards. I'm hoping this will work out space-wise and that everything will fit - very challenging.
(5/26/17) Left: This is the passive tone pot installed alongside the board and potentiometer for the bass/treble controls. They are set in and I'm moving on to the next set of components. (5/30/17) Right: Wires for our three batteries are routed to their locations in cavity just need to add the contact clips. Cover magnets also in place.
Highslide JS
BBattery wires from control cavity to battery compartment.

Highslide JS
The Rolad board is connected top several different controls. I will recess the small lid for this area slightly to allow more space for these plugs and cables. ZThe wiring is complex, but the fitting of all the hardware and wiring is the biggest challenge!
(5/17/17) Left: There are numerous wires that need to come and go from the main Roland board. I wish I could have it located closer to the pickup but there is absolutely no spare room. (5/22/17) Left: Getting the two output plates finally installed so that I can get the rest of the wiring routed around the existing circuit boards.
Highslide JS
Both outputs are set in the instrument - I just need to add retaining screws.

Highslide JS
Insulated the bottom of the recess for teh Roland board as a precaution against the likelihood of any shorts.
(5/17/17) Left: I'm insulating the bottom surface of the recess for the Roland card with a non-conductive material to make sure nothing shorts out in this area! (5/20/17) Right: Electronics installation looking good so far. I am installing as much hardware as I can before I hand this challenging project over to my electronics Wizard!
Highslide JS
I am adding hardware components from the back forward in an effore to make everything fit. I have to be mindful that we will have at least three LED sources running in this cavity also.

Highslide JS
Thi instrument will be spectacular - beautiful colors.
(5/11/17) Left: The curcuit board for the Roland now fits in place and can handle the ribbon cables that will need to be connected to it (some will have to be lengthened!) (5/13/17) Right: Carefully following the instructions from the Roland paperwork to get the MIDI components hooked up together so that we can complete connections.
Highslide JS
Working on connecting all the Roland connections for the MIDI system.

Highslide JS
Thi instrument will be spectacular - beautiful colors.
(5/7/17) Left: While I am working on the inter-connection of electronic parts I keep the bass in a safe place (out of the shop!) Looks beautiful! (5/10/17) Right: Based on the size of the Roland board and its need to be hooked up to so many cables I had to re-machine the little cavity larger. Had to be VERY careful to avoid neighboring features.
Highslide JS
I had to make the cavity for the Roland board just a tiny bit larger.

Highslide JS
Work continuing on electronics and other parts of the bass.
(5/2/17) Left: I'm getting the string retainer fully fixed on and also cutting the string slots. Hardest part is filing the brass nut to finished width while avoiding damage to side of fingerboard!! (5/4/17) Right: This is the wiring of the two boards with the newly acquired cabling connecting them together. I had to be careful to match connections.
Highslide JS
I can now get the separation I need to position these two components inside the control cavity.

Highslide JS
I was able to find and purchase a set of female to female connectors for the internal wiring. The ones that came with the preamp were too short for our purposes.
(4/26/17) Left: I received the much anticipated set of electronic connectors to allow me to hook up the internal circuit boards in their current configuration. (4/29/17) Right: Got the string retainer fitted to the end of the neck and have the string slots established in the nut. I'm will now be able to get strings on the bass for some testing!
Highslide JS
Working on the six nut slots and I will then attach the string retainer unit.

Highslide JS
Working on grounding components to common cavity ground.
(4/22/17) Left: Back of the bass with various wire groups separated so I have room to work in there. Getting some of the grounding done. (4/24/17) Right: Connecting up the power cables from battery compartment to preamp and fiber optic supply. I anticipate using two colors of LEDs so two of the batteries will be used for that.
Highslide JS
Running power wires for MIDI and seperate LED light sources.

Highslide JS
The cable connection the col/bal and bass/treble boards is only 4" long. I had to order one 6" long to reach the terminals in the other board. Always the unexpected!!
(4/19/17) Left: the only reasonable cricuit board layout is the one I ended up with in the last image. However I had to order a longer connector cable to reach to the terminals on the next board.(4/21/17) Right: Some of the pots are in and I'm busy filing the nut to correct height and then I will establish the six slots in the nut for the strings.
Highslide JS
Work continuing on electronics and other parts of the bass.

Highslide JS
It was a very trick job getting the first three units installed as I am constrained not oly by cavity space but by the numerous connections between the various circuit boards and switches.
(4/14/17) Left: I managed to get the vol/balance, bass/treble and mid controls located in the three lower holes that I enlarged for the potentiometers. (4/17/17) Right: It's a very difficult job fitting everything in so that nothing gets compromised. I still have to get LEDs on the fibers, three circuit boards, switches and one more pot.
Highslide JS
Slightly closer here as I secure in some of the hardware components. Problem is I will have to extend many of the multi connector cables.

Highslide JS
Due to the many connections to the Roland board I am planning to locate it within the main cavity somewhere where the other boards don't interfere. I'll put one of the East boards in the remote cavity.
(4/10/17) Left: The Roland card has so much plugged into it that I may have to relocate it inside the main cavity in exchange for a East board! (4/12/17) Right: Fitting the East system parts. It's bigger than any preamp I have used and I need to be careful to leave room for fiber optic LED light too! Opening holes up to match pot diameters.
Highslide JS
First stage of getting this monster into the cavity is to open up the holed for the various potentiometers so that I can get them to sit the most space efficient way.

Highslide JS
I had to tape the preamp components to a card to prevent things from tamgling up - They will go in as I size the control hoes in the body for each component.
(4/4/17) Left: MIDI output hardware installed! 1/4in output installed! Next is getting the East System fitted into the cavity - wish me luck! (4/6/17) Right: Did some work inside the cavities on areas not tinted. I wanted them to blend with the rest of the body so I coated these cavities with a matching paint for a more complete look.
Highslide JS
Cavities all ready for electronics.

Highslide JS
Not much useful data out there on optimum location of GK3B pickup from bridge. Manual says maximum is 50mm. Data from users of the system out there say best results between 20 and 30mm. I settled on 25mm.
(4/1/17) Left: I cut, shaped, fitted and installed the nut for the bass, now I need to cut the six string slots so I can get the strings on!! (4/2/17) Right: I spent a lot of time getting the MIDI output hardware correctly located and set up in the cavity.The internal hardware needed a lot of clearance! I custom cut the mounting plate.
Highslide JS
Getting the MIDI output hardware assembly set in place was a time-consuming job. I think we're good now.

Highslide JS
Installing the nut.
(3/29/17) Left: Installing a nut. It's going to be 1/8 thick brass bonded with carbon fiber on the headstock side. This will perform just like a brass nut would, but gives us an area that will help prevent unwanted string vibration. (3/31/17) Right: I need to custom-cut and fit a mounting bracket for the Roland MIDI output socket!
Highslide JS
Next objective is mounting plate for MIDI socket.

Highslide JS
Not much useful data out there on optimum location of GK3B pickup from bridge. Manual says maximum is 50mm. Data from users of the system out there say best results between 20 and 30mm. I settled on 25mm.
(3/25/17) Left: I'm now in the middle of installing the circuit boards and other internal hardware. I've spoken to my wiring expert and we're preparing to get the insides of this bass connected up! (3/27/17) Right: More on the internal assembly. As you can see we have separated fiber optic to LED connections to make for the fingerboard!
Highslide JS
Power being run from battery compartment to control cavity. Fiber optics separated based on fingerboard location.

Highslide JS
Getting the output plug assemblies fitted into the body.
(3/21/17) Left: Time to get the two output plugs fitted and installed. I'm having to remove some overspray to achieve the fit I had before finishing but got it all set in place. (3/23/17) Right: One of today's tasks was to cut templates for these covers and mark and drill holes for magnets that were aligned to those in the cavities.
Highslide JS
I'm in the process of adding magnets to the backs of the cover plates to hold them in placxe.

Highslide JS (3/17/17) Left: I really like the fact that I was able to drop the logo in this location so that it can be fairly large, but at the same time artistically subtle! Catches the light very nicely. (3/19/17) Right: I did a lot of research on the exact location requirements of Roland pickup from bridge. Manual only says Maximum is 50mm.
Highslide JS
Not much useful data out there on optimum location of GK3B pickup from bridge. Manual says maximum is 50mm. Data from users of the system out there say best results between 20 and 30mm. I settled on 25mm.

Highslide JS
Working on installing pickups with clearance for wires and holes for adjustment screws.
(3/14/17) Left: I'm in the middle of a big task of getting pickups installed and making clearance for the pickup wires. Takes a lot of work and patience! (3/16/17) Right: Pickups have been set, adjustment holes drilled and they are now installed semi permanently until wiring is complete when I will put in the finished set of gold screws.
Highslide JS
Pickups in and set for height adjustment.

Highslide JS
Fitting pickup covers so I can establish the vertical adjustment screws.
(3/10/17) Left: Time to get these really beautiful pickups permanently installed in the body of the bass. I have to drill adjustment screw holes and run wires to the cavity. Other pictures coming, still in my camera! (3/12/17) Right: Pickups are installed into their respective wood covers and will now be permanently installed in instrument.
Highslide JS
Got the pickups mounted in their pickup covers.

Highslide JS
All tuner assemblies permanently attached.
(3/5/17) Left: All the grounding wires went in successfully and I have attached all six ABM tuner units to the body so that task is thankfully done. (3/8/17) Right: The inside of the control cavity with ground wires from both pickup cavities and all 6 bridge units. Also wire for the Roland pickup. Next is to install our two custom pickups.
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Some of the wiring so far - lots more to come - it's going to get a little crazy.

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These are all the holes for the tuner assemblied and the grounding wires.
(3/1/17) Left: I'm in the middle of extreme busy-ness but wanted to post this pic to say that everything is fine - things are coming together nicely!!!. (3/3/17) Right: I am pulling copper grounding wires through the body to connect to each bridge unit. I have special tools for this because it is very difficult to do. I can then add all the tuners.
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Grounding all the tuner units to the common ground in the cavity.

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Time to get the tuner hardware installed. Setting up the positions for the outer units - then drilling holes for screws and grounding wires!.
(2/26/17) Left: I am now working on the mounting of the tuner assemblies. Outer two installed first based on extended neck reference lines marked on body. Remaining four evenly spaced between. (2/28/17) Right: Working on the holes and physical connection wires running between the tuner assemblies and the control cavity.
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Tuner assemblies have been evenly spaced at the front end and I'm now doing the same at the back end to guarantee even distribution. Also marking for grounding wire holes.

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All shielding is done (happy to say - it's tricky work) and I have the Roland pickup unit installed!
(2/21/17) Left: All the copper shielding has been installed in cavity and pickup recesses. Also - I have seated and located the Roland pickup - just have to screw it to the body now! (2/23/17) Right: Ground wires have been connected between pickup cavities and control cavity. Roland pickup wiring has been run to control cavity.
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The Roland pickup has been oriebnetd (it has to go on a certain way) and its wiring has been secured nd run through to control cavity. I also soldered grounding wires into the two cavities so that they could be commonly grounded with the control cavity.

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Working on areas inside pickup recesses. Protection of the finish in local areas is absolutely necessary.
(2/17/17) Left: I need to finish a channel for Roland pickup wiring, line cavities with copper and electronically connect pickup cavity shielding with control cavity shielding. (2/19/17) Right: Shielding pickup cavities and have just sucessfully fitted the Roland pickup which I will fix on the body as soon as the copper shirlding work is done.
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Pickup shielding oing in. Roland pickup has been wired through - will install after shielding is done..

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Installing Neo-magnets for the cavity cover.
(2/15/17) Left: I'm getting some of the electronic components installed. Outputs for magnetic pickups and MIDI. (2/16/17) Right: In this photo I am fitting and positioning some of the hardware. Bridge units need to be attached based on scale length and knobs need to fit nicely into their recesses. Good looks good with the body colour.
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Planning out the fitting of the gold hardware.

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Getting the Roland positioned to establish mounting holes.
(2/11/17) Left: The first task in getting the electronics in this bass is to get the shielding done. I have to shield all the cavities and the pickup recesses too. Keeping things moving here!! (2/13/17) Right: In this photo I am installing the neodymium magnets for the cavity cover. I need to do this before the remaining copper is attached.
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Installing Neo-magnets for the cavity cover.

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Pickups being fitted into their fabce covers.
(2/8/17) Left: Next task is to get the two pickups fitted in their respective covers. I need to be careful that they are the right ones to match the top wood grain! (2/9/17) Right: I am now working on getting the Roland GK3B pickup located and fitted and the slightly harder task of threading the pickup cabling through to the control cavity.
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Getting the Roland positioned to establish mounting holes.

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Bass just newly home and I'm going over everything deciding on the best forward course of action!.
(2/5/17) This is part of the back of the instrument - a beautiful blue wrapped round from the front face. Brings everything together very nicely! (2/6/17) Right: My first job after finishing is making the covers fit again - doing some cleanout for overspray first, then I will get the pickups installed into their respective pickup covers.
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Working on getting the covers all fitted again.

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Finishing process under way.
(1/25/17) The bass is still at the finisher but he sent me this photo which I am happy to share to show off the amazing color treatment he is doing!!! (2/3/17) Right: I just got this bass back in my careand I am admiring how nice it turned out. The blue and green take on different hues depending on the light - it's a beautiful fiinish!
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Bass just newly home and I'm going over everything deciding on the best forward course of action!.

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Finishing process under way.
(1/9/17) After some discussion with my finisher the instrument is now in his capable hands. Should be a huge transformation when I get it back! If at all possible I will try to get a photo from him of the "in process" work so that we can get a glimpse of his process. We're doing a linear blue to green sunburst on the front where the green will me more or less in line with the fingerboard. The blue will wrap around the back of the bass. Should look very impressive!

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Last minute addition of some custom laser work.
(12/25/16) Left: I had a request from my customer to add a feature on the instrument so I got the body carefully set into me Laser machine and did some last minute engraving. (1/4/17) Right: The instrument just prior to going out for finishing. I have to protect the cluster of fiber optics so that they survive the finishing process!
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Instrument is now prepped for the finishing process.

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Getting the three cavity covers prepped for finishing - making sure they are flush with body surface and prepped for finishing process.
(12/8/16) Left: One of the last tasks I need to achieve is to make a cover for the extra cavity and then get all the back covers sanded flush with the back body surface. (12/11/16) Right: I have been final sanding over the past couple of days gettig the complete instrument ready for its trip to finishing. All my fingers hurt! Serial number in!
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Most of sanding done.

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Extra cavity has been established and I'm busy creatig a matching mahogany cover plate.
(12/1/16) Left: This is the extra cavity for the circuit board. There is just enough room between the back surface and the cluster of fiber optics below to nest this Roland board in place! (12/5/16) Right: Sanding the body to get it down to at least 320 grit if not better so we have everything ready for finishing. Starting to feel good.
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Sanding work being done to get body, pickups and cover plates ready for final finishing.

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I decided to go for it and cut an extra circuit board cavity in one of the few remaining spaces on the back of the bass. Safer to do so than hope that everything will fit. Worst case it can be used to store picks or chewing gum!!!.
(11/29/16) After much deliberation and a few addtional bench tests I decided to machine a remote cavity for the extra GK3B electronics. I have fitted the Preamp and MIDI hardware a few times but due to the physical size of each system there isn't a perfect or practical solution for making everything fit happily together. This extra cavity space will allow on of the bigger circuit boards to live remotely. I will have to extend several ribbon cables!

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The only hardware I can't fit in cavity is the circuit board for the GK3B so I will cut a recess for it next to the main cavity and add a small cover.
(11/23/16) Left: While the planning and programming for the extra cavity is going on I have had to resign myself to a LOT of sanding to get the bass prepared for finishing! (11/26/16) Right: I have created a wiring channel for the GK3B pickup which will be placed between the ABM bridge units and the bridge pickup. Also pickups drilled.
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Pickup covers are sanded and drilled and 100% ready for finishing. I also established a channel for the GK3B pickup wiring.

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Arm relief on the upper bout of the body .
(11/17/16) Left: Quick photo of the arm relief area - just breaking the edge for player comfort. This maple is going to come out really beautiful! (11/20/16) Right: I have to find a space for this rather large curcuit board. I will create a quick pocket where it is placed since I have mahogany from which to make a suitable cover extension.
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The only hardware I can't fit in cavity is the circuit board for the GK3B so I will cut a recess for it next to the main cavity and add a small cover.

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Holes and recesses have been cut.
(11/11/16) Left: I have cut the holes and recesses for the knobs. I will probably leave holes for switches until after finishing for safety since I have to consider hardware. (11/14/16) Right: This photo of a very elegant bass shows something close to the color scheme we are looking for. A little more blue on the outer edges, green center.
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Our color scheme goal on this bass will be close to this bass (Pedulla I think) but we will have more blue on the outside and do a linear sunburst rather than around the perimater.

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End of the neck is pretty much done - just enough of a volute there for your left hand to feel like it's the end of the neck.
(11/6/16) Left: I have machined the end of the neck flat so that it can bond well with the string retainer. The headstock area has been shaped to suit the mating part. (11/9/16) Left: With very great care and many internal and external measurements I established locations for the East System pots and MIDI pot and drilled pilot holes.
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After a lot of experimenting with different configurations - I believe this is the bes control layout we have available.

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After a lot of experimenting with different configurations - I believe this is the bes control layout we have available.
(11/3/16) Left: This is the final knob layout (not including switches etc) based on 2 things. My customer's wish not to have vol/bal too close to treble pickup & bridge, and the physical restraints of the hardware itself. There are not very many options given the large curcuit board components in this system so I truly believe this is the best compromise. Top row Bass/Treble, Hi Mid/Lo Mid and Volume/Balance, bottom row MIDI volume and Passive Volume.

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I need to get a hole drilled for the cable running from the Roland MIDI pickup to the control cavity. The black tuner dows not belong to this bass, just didn't want to unpack the gold ones prematurely!
(10/23/16) Left: I am getting ready to drill control knob holes. Also creating a wiring hole for the Roland pickup to the control cavity. (10/29/16) Right: I put a lot of time into the control layout options and I thing I have everything in the best possible location. I need to drill and establish all the holes to actually test fit everything!
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I have put in a lot of time in trying to distribute controls based on my customer's preferences and the physical size and geometry of the hardware.

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A scale drawing of the relative sizes of electronic hardware I need to install in this bass.
(10/17/16) Left: This is a scale drawing of all the hardware (not counting fiber optics) that need to co-exist in the control cavity. I'm going to use these to figure out their distribution. (10/20/16) Right: This is a better view of the electornics hardware as it all related to the control cavity. Two PCBs on the left still need a place to go.
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This photo shows the electronic hardware to scale as it all related to the available space in the cavity. This does nopt include a lot of wiring and ribbon cable! The two PCBs on the left may have to wait till the end so I can find places for them.

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Mono Vertigo case for this bass (guitar size!).
(10/12/16) Left: Just a quick note on the case for this bass. I will be using a Mono Vertigo case as requested by my customer. They have a very good reputation. (10/15/16) Right: The layout for knobs is complicated due to the combined mass of preamp and MIDI processor circuit boards, pots, switches, lights and wiring!
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This is an ideal layout for knobs, however the actual placement will depend of the physical interaction of the circuit boards inside the control cavity.

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First operation on the Roland socket.
(10/9/16) Left: Got things going on the first (Roland) socket recess in the bass. This is the clearance hole through the wall, now to do the recess. (10/10/16) Right: This is the end result of all the machining. We have a MIDI output recess and also one for the Neutrik locking jack. Moving on the control placement!
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Sockets for both outputs are machined into the body.

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I'm set up to machine the two output sockets.
(10/8/16) I have now decided on placement of the two output plugs and have marked out the body accordingly. I am setting the body up on the CNC to firstly cut the recess for the MIDI plug on the Roland electronic package. I want to get that machined with a suitable recess before I machine for the Neutrik locking socket because they will be pretty close together and mistakes are expensive and time-consuming! Should work out perfectly fine!

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All this electronic hardware has to end up fitting inside the control cavity!.
(10/5/16) My task before me is to arrange the hardware inside the control cavity in such a way that the actual controls on the front of the instrument are not only logical in their functional distribution but still look aesthetically pleasing! I am ready to cut the two recesses in the side to accommodate the two output plugs and with those two out of the way I can make the best decision on the rest of the internal hardware so that I can cut control holes!

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Planning for hardware placement so I can drill and cut the required holes.
(10/3/16) Working on two things. One is the proper and most efficient placement of the two output connectors, the other is the placement of the numerous preamp and MIDI processing knobs, switches and internal hardware. I did make the control cavity quite large in anticipation of some of this although the East Preamp has a lot harware processors I wasn't able to plan for. Should be ok, just needs some careful thought and foresight!

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Finalizing the neck profile.
(9/29/16) I have been doing some close to final sanding and shaping on the back of the neck to get to the point where the contour and thickness of the neck feels just right. I am very close with this and at this stage you don't want to remove a lot of material at a time. While I was doing this I was admiring the structure of the neck. It came out looking really nice - just wait till the finish goes on!!! Won't be long till that happens.

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The pream as I removed it from packaging - it's all modular but I do have to find room for all these little circuit boards!.
(9/27/16) My goodness - enough electronics here to make any luthier run for the hills! There are all the modular pieces of the John East preamp which does so many things I can't list them all here. My immediate goal right now is to lay all of this stuff out with the Roland package and try to come up with a control layout plan that is logical for the player and somehow all fits together in the control cavity! Should be very interesting!

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John East Preamp system has arrived - more on this soon!!.
(9/25/16) I'm jumping a few days ahead in photos, but I just received the much anticipated preamp package from renowned electronics guru John East in the UK. This package, which I have yet to open, has some VERY custom refinements and capabilities and I know it is unlike any other preamp I have come across. I need to get it unpacked and inspected because I have to fit this and the Roland hardware inside the body of our bass!

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Roland GK3B system broken down for installation evaluation.
(9/15/16) In anticipation of the receipt of our John East custom preamp package I am now evaluation the required installation challenges for both that and the Roland MIDI system, both of which not only require internal space in the control cavity but also holes through to the upper surface for the various controls. In this package there is one potentiometer, one switch and three buttons although I think one of them does not have to be surface mounted.

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Working on the readius and edge break details.
(9/12/16) I am now working on the edges all the way around both the top and the back of the instrument. I want to get them all blending nicely together and make the whole instrument feel like one flowing piece of art. Once I have created the blends I will be doing quite a lot of sanding to bring the surfaces down to a condition where they are ready for the finishing process. I still have a little work on the neck/body blend and around the headstock.

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More sanding and carving on the back to get the last of the extra material off the instrument.
(9/8/16) I had the bass body out in daylight today so that I could remove more material from the back of the neck. I need to get it close enough to be able to feel with my hands and then carefully remove the last of the material with hand tools. While I was at it - I removed a little more in the body cut area. I have to now sand these areas and when that's done move on to creating edge break radii all the way around the body and the arm relief.

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Gluing the logo panel into place.
(9/4/16) I have a few little gluing operations to get done and this one is securing the brand nameplate onto the little area at the base of the fingerboard. Not only is it a suitable place for the logo but it also provides a little extra stable protection for the network of fiber optic cables not far underneath. Once the tinted finish goes on this are will look very impressive. I'm also getting started on body contours and radii and some final neck shaping.

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WG Logo nested into the base of the fingerboard.
(9/1/16) While I have been working on the back of the neck and other external features I was also recreating the logo panel which in made from the same top wood and now thin enough to sit flush with the top plate itself. I also went ahead and inlaid the plate with the same shell that I used in the fingerboard so that it blends in really nicely. It will look good when the final tinted finish is applied! Staying busy - more photos coming!

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Making sure back profile suits the ABM tuners.
(8/26/16) Since I am finalising the outer profile of the body I wanted to re-establish the scale length and check the placement of the tuners so that I know I have removed enough material at the back. My next pass at the body profile will be the last before working on the surface finish to get it to a condition suitable for the tnit and lacquer. I will be applying radii and edge breaks around the top and bottom of the body so need to know shape is complete.

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Evening out the surfaces around the sides of the body in preparation for sanding work.
(8/22/16) The front and back of the instrument are fairly well sanded in terms of flatness so the main objective in getting the body closer to a finished condition is to work around the sides of the body. I am starting ny making sure the surfaces are flat so I am going around the entire perimeter with a variety of sanding and filing tools to establish that. Once I am happy with the flatness and contimuity of the sides we'll start on increasingly fine sanding grits.

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The Logo is now nice and flush with the top plate in response to my customer's preference.
(8/18/16) I re-engineered the area around the end of the neck so that I could still accommodate the Watson name tag there but at a much lower profile so that we are still maximizing the gap in that area between the strings and the body for different playing styles. I wanted to get this done expeditiously so that I can move on the finishing up the profile and contour details of our instrument body. Also will be refining neck profile and transition to body on back.

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Photo coming soon!.
(8/15/16) The profile of the body is getting some extra sanding and while I am attending to that I am also starting work on some of the shaping of the body details. I'm putting a nice subtle radius all the way around the body on the top and the back and I will be relieving the upper body in the area where the player's arm meets the instrument body. I also have plans to do a little sculpting to the upper and lower horns as an added aesthetic feature.

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This will end up being a busy control cavity!.
(8/13/16) I will be working hard inside this control cavity pretty soon. It will have to accommodate the bundle of fiber optics which I am guessing will be fed by 3 LEDs. We will have the John East Custom preamp in here plus the electronic package from the Roland MIDI kit. I think we have room for everything so somehow I will make it all fit. I don't want to cut control holes for everything until I have test-fitted the hardware.

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Watson logo being planned for the base of the fingerboard.
(8/10/16) I'm adding a little nameplate with the Watson logo at the bottom of the neck. I chose this spot because it works well with the instrument design (no headstock) and the fact that we have so many fiber optics right under that area I didn't want to engrave into the parent wood. I will inlay this little piece with one of the shells I used on the neck and when the blue and green finish is finally applied it will blend in and look great!

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Getting ready to do some machining for output plugs.
(8/7/16) I'm just finished doing some cleanup on the edges of the lower half of the body so that I have a nice clean perimeter into which I will now cut the hole and recess for the jack plug socket assembly and the output assembly for the Roland GK-3B kit. Before I cut I need to make sure I have the best possible locations for the internal hardware and that there will be no issues internally with the available space inside the control cavity!

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Getting much closer with the shaping of the neck profile and thickness.
(8/3/16) More carving on the back of the neck today. The best policy for critrical areas like the back of the neck is to start with aggressive material removal up to a safe point - then resolve the surfaces with filing and sanding. I then inspect the whole neck for the next stage and repeat the process. The allows for a controlled material removal (no mistakes) and assures me that I am seeing, testing and feeling the end result through to the finished profile.

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Doing some body carving on the back of the instrument.
(7/30/16) I spent some time outside (where it is way too hot) carving the back of the neck, the neck and body transition and part of the belly cut. All of these features need to be carved progressively so that I can watch and feel until I get to exactly the right place with the shaping. Right now everything is fairly oversize but I removed a good amount of material in this process and the instrument feels lighter as a result. More to come but it's taking shape!

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Both pickup cavities have been machined to full depth.
(7/26/16) The two pickup cavities have now been machined to full depth and I can now shift my attention back to details on the body itself. I will be working on the body contour itself, the cutout for the tuners, the back of the neck, the transition between body and neck and the belly cut among other details. I also have some machning to do to the pickup covers themselves. Things are taking shape and it looks and feels good!

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Just set up to machine out the pickup cavities.
(7/23/16) The bass is now up on the CNC so that I can machine out the two cavities for the pickups. I want to have this operation done because I have the two pickup covers to fit and that will complete the features on the top. I want to get the control knob/switches laid out so that I know how to distribute the comntrols and drill the appropriate holes. I have a Watson logo to engrave and inlay and carving on the back to do - lots going on!!!!

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A different looking body after the tuner relief has been cut out of the back.
(7/20/16) I have spent some time on the contour of the body mainly to take the top plate and the body material flush and work almost all the way in to the body template profile. Once I have that where I want it I will move to the back of the body and work on the contour of the back of the neck and the transition points between the neck, body and headstock area. The objective is to get the entire instrument feeling just right and ready for sanding all over.

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A different looking body after the tuner relief has been cut out of the back.
(7/18/16) This is the body of the bass after I very carefully cut out the clearance area for the tuners. I have to place the tuners exactly where the scale length demands and at the same time leave enough clearance at the back of the body so that the tuner knobs are back enough to avoid accidental adjustment when handling the bass. The cutout has to be just a little deeper than the knobs - which I have achieved. Now for more body sanding!

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I'm getting the pickup covers ready to machine out the internal space for the bobbins to occupy.
(7/15/16) I am currently marking out the body so that I can remove the section at the back for the tuners. In the meantime however I need to get back to the pickups and finish off the outsude details, flip them over and machine out the insides so that I can fit the pickup bobbins themselves snugly into the pickup covers. I will also be working on the back of the bass to do more carving and establish a belly cut and the neck-to-body transition.

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Gluing of top plate was successful and now I'm getting ready for some work on the body.
(7/12/16) We now have a more complete bass guitar with a very securely attached top. I checked all the joints when it came out of the vacuum press and it appears that all my preparation was worth it. Fibers intact and a good joint integrity all around! Next operations will be some cleanup and then body shaping. I'll probably also re-test all the fibers to make sure nothing bad happened in the clamping process. Looks good so far!

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This is the top plate being glued on and secured while adhesives cure in the vacuum press.
(7/9/16) This operation took me all day to carefully set up as there were many variables. The top had top be accurately aligned with the centerline of the instrument. I had to use two different adhesives in the same setup. I had to devise a system to protect the extending fiber optic cables from clamping stresses, I had to make sure the pressure was sufficient to close all the gaps and I had to get everything done before the adhesives started setting!

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Just about to commit to gluing the top plate onto the body of the bass.
(6/15/16) The instrument has now been prepared for the fiarly critical task of gluing the top onto the body taking into consideration the correct clearances and potting for the fiber optics and the necessity of gettin a nice clean joint all the way around. I will be doing this in the vacuum press as it is best suited to this job. I will need both wood glue and special epoxy in the one operation. I have rounded all corners and protected the fret ends with tape.

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Cutting wiring channels in the top of the body.
(6/11/16) The bass is now on the CNC to cut the wiring holes and other channels required in the interior of the instrument. This will clear the path to getting the top glued on to the body. When the top is attached I will also remove the body contour area for the tuning knobs since I'd rather do that once the assembly is complete. I also have a small insert at the base of the fingerboard where I will attach the Watson logo!

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Marking out some of the machined features for wiring and chambering before the top gets attached.
(6/7/16) I am marking out some critical features on the placement of the wiring holes and hardware locations so that I can accurately machine channels for pickup wiring, battery power feed and grounding wires between the individual string tensioners. Top and body now fit well together so I am able to gather all my tooling for that operation and get it done. I may do some chambering too, although there is not much more material I can remove!!

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I am getting all the fibers potted into the fiber optic channel.

(6/3/16) This is the top of the body where I have been finishing up the potting process to create a continuous flat surface onto which I will attach the assembled top plate. I have also marked out the wiring channels so that I can get those machined before the top goes on. I am also assembling all the tooling I need to get the gluing operating set up and taken care of. I am going to test all the fiber optic cables again before I commit to the final gluing operation.


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I'm carefully fitting and carving underneath the top plate to clear the cluster of fiber optic cables.
(5/31/16) I have been busy working on the back of the top plate assembly in an effort to achieve a nice clean clearance fit between the top and the body. I have to be careful that there isn't any clamping pressure on the cluster of fiber optics when the top goes on. In the assembly process the glue will fill any spaces between the woods and the fibers. For final fitting I wet the fibers so that they mark the back of the top plate for carving.

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Fibers have been trimmed to stay safely inside the cavity while work is being done on the bass
(5/28/16) I am now able to trim the fiber optic cables back to a common length that will allow them to safely reside inside the control cavity. I may add some shrink tubing and other protection before the finishing process to further safeguard them from handling. I need them inside the cavity while I am working on the body parts. I took more material off the back of the neck and at the neck/body transition and was pleased at how light this bass weighs!

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Doing some carving work on the back of the neck!
(5/27/16) While I have been fitting the top plate onto the body I have also been spending time getting some work done to the back of the bass - specifically the back of the neck, the headstock area and the transition between the body and the neck. I had left extra material in these areas and now I have to remove that and get the shapes and transitions between then cut closer to final dimensions. Going well so far.

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Back of the bass with all the fiber optic cables sticking out!
(5/24/16) A quick look at the back of the bass. I was working on the shaping of the back of the neck and the neck to body joint and thought it might be informative to show the resulting fiber optic cable bundle as it currently runs through the control cavity. These will very soon be cut to lengths that will fit nicely into the cavity space. I will probably use a couple of different colours of LEDs to feed the light to the fingerboard - should look great!

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Fiber optics all in and I am now working on fitting the top around the cluster of fibers so that it's safe to glue it onto the body
(5/22/16) Just documenting here that the fiber optics surgery has been completed and I am in the process of getting the top fitted. There were so many fibers in this neck that it took more time than I had planned but we are back now in woodworking-mode and will keep things rolling forward as fast as possible. I'd like to get this top on as quickly as I can as I have a lot of carving and shaping to do once that part os completed!

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Just about DONE with the fiber optic work - will be fitting top plate on soon!
(5/20/16) Right now this bass goes everywhere with me so that I can keep this fiber optic work moving. THis evening I'm at my girlfriend's house and fortunately she doesn't mind me working on basses on her dining room table! I am down to four remaining fibers which I will finish in the morning and that will feel good! I will then finish potting and leveling the channel in which the fibers are secured and work on fitting the top plate.

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My apologies to my valued customer but this process is detailed and time consuming. Dozens of little gluing and clamping operations but all worth it in the end.
(5/19/16) I'm close to the end with the fiber optics. So much gluing and clamping required dealing with these rather fragile fibers one at a time. If one breaks the retrofit would be a lot of work so I really want to avoid any accidents! As I pot in the cables they are encased in epoxy and when I get the last one done I will use a special filler epoxy and fill all the remaining gaps so that the whole thing is solid state and pretty much indestructible!

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Gluing and clamping cables from neck to control cavity.
(5/17/16) I am now very busy with the multiple gluing tasks in getting all of these cables secured through the instrument body. They don't really like turning tight corners so I have to heat them very carefully with a heat gun to the point where they just give enough to turn the corner without too much internal stress. It's really only safe to do one or sometimes two fibers at a time. It seems to be going fine so more news when this is done!

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I'm now trying to get all of the fiber optic cables through the channel to the control cavity. They have to be securely fixed in with adhesive.
(5/16/16) Fingerboard successfully attached and now I have to work with each of these fiber optics to get them routed safely through to the control cavity area. So far I have captured and subdued four of them. I'll keep on this task until they are all packaged in the right place and I will then pot any remaining gaps so that there's no chance of movement. The goal is to yield a flat surface on the top so that I can attach the top plate.

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The fingerboard is being clamped and glued onto the neck. Yes, I remembered to include th etruss rod!.
(5/15/16) One rubber band may be fairly insignificant, but 100 of them can apply an impressive and evenly distributed pressure on a glued joint assembly. In order to maintain control of fit and alignment I chose to use this system to attach the fingerboard to the neck. I have extra adhesive with a special filler mix so that when clamped down, all the voids around the fiber optics will be filled in the gluing process. Tricky and stressful but all good so far!

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Doing a final pre-assembly check before gluing - no going back from here!!!.
(5/14/16) I had to get hold of some moldable putty to put in the recesses and then press the fingerboard down to let the fiber optics make an imprint on the putty. I was impressed that my recesses on the neck were just about 100% correct. I did some additional grinding for safety since I know the adhesive with the filler added will close up all the internal gaps. I am now ready for the gluing operation so I'm selecting all the related tools!

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Gathering all the supplieds I need to get the fingerboard glued onto the neck.
(5/13/16) I have checked each one of the 26 fiber optic cables to make sure they send light through and therefore have no internal damage from my assembly process so far. They are fragile and until I get them all in the cavity with the top on I worrry about accidental trauma to them. Right now I am collecting fixturing and supplies to get the fingerboard glued on. It's very hard to rush a complex job like this but we have a tight time schedule.

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Neck's upper surface has been relieved in the locations where fiber optic cables extend slightly beliw the joint surface.
(5/11/16) I spent the day carefully carving the fiber optic relief and I now think I have it in a place where I can get the fingerboard safely glued on! I will now get all my clamping apparatus prepared and double check the fit on the fingerboard, install the truss rod and then apply adhesive and glue the fingerboard in place. It will probably need to sit overnight so that I can be confident my adhesive has fully cured.

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Ready to fride away clearance for the forward facing fiber optics.
(5/10/16) I am now using a teplate I cut on the laser to transfer the locations of the areas I need to relieve for those fiber optics that have the 90 degree corners in order to face dorward. My goal is to carefully grind these areas to the point where the fingerboard fits snugly onto the top of the neck surface. I will also need to do some material removal at the body end where the fibers exit so they have some clearance there too. Moving as fast as is prudent!

Highslide JS
Trying to make sure that all our physical components land in the right places before fingerboard is attached.
(5/8/16) There is so much to think about and consider when a bass is in this stage - enough to make your head explode sometimes! Here I am assembling all the components relative to the nut and bridge locations to make sure everything falls into the right place. I have to leave room for our GK3B pickup and also have to add wiring holes and remove material at the bottom end of the body - I was waiting until the fingerboard went on to commit to that end cut.

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Both cavities and some of the magnet holes have been machined.
(5/6/16) This is the back of the bass after I have machined both the control cavity and the battery cavity and also added 6 of the 8 magnet holes for retaining the cover plates. I now have to attack the upper side of the instrument wher I will be machining channels for ground, battery and pickup and piezo wires. That itself will take a little careful planning! Meanwhile the final stages of the fingerboard preparation are under way.

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Control cavity has been machined, will do battery cavity next.
(5/5/16) I have now machined the control cavity into the body (and top) of the assembly. While I have this setup on the machine I will probably go ahead and machine the battery cavity also. This will take care of a lot of the work on the back of the bass and let me layout and cut the internal wiring holes prior to the top going on permanently. I will add magnet holes and need to find a suitable location to put the serial numer on the instrument.

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Gluing second veneer onto the bottom of the fingerboard.
(5/3/16) I am now gluing the 2nd protective (and decorative) veneer onto the bottom of the fingerboard. I am hoping that using the foam base will allow the pressure to be evenly distributed to the glued surfaces and at the same time allow for the areas where the fiber optics extend below the glued surface. It looks good but I will know more when I unclamp the assembly and inspect everything. Keeping fingers crossed.

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Setting up tp cut the copntrol cavity.
(5/2/16) While the busy-ness with the fiber optics is going on I am also doing some machining operations on the body of the bass to prepare it for the upcoming assembly process. I have to nachine out the control cavity with the top temporarily attached so that I can cut the cavity to full depth. This will take some material out of the under side of the top plate to complete. I can then separate them to thread all the fiber optic cables through.

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Last veneer of maple about to be attached to the assembly.
(5/1/16) Last task related to fiber optics is to add a veneer of maple to the bottom of the fingerboard. Not easy since all the forward facing fibers protrude down from the fingerboard surface as they curve 90 degrees to point forwards. I cut the veneer on the laser to allow for all the front fibers. Next challenge was how to clamp a veneer onto a non-flat surface. I decided to use a sawn up section of floor foam to compensate. Should work fine - will update!

Highslide JS
Adding wood veneer on the bottom surface.
(4/28/16) I am adding a layer of dark veneer over the assembly of potted fibers for a couple of reasons. One is that it separates the glued and potted areas from the joint surface and privides a decorative pin-striping consistent with the rest of the bass. The other is that it allows me to normalize the flatness of the final surface is there are high points om the fiber assembly below. It is always time-consuming with fiber optics but worth the effort.

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We will be using a John East custom preamp system.
(4/26/16) We have some big plans for the sound processing in this bass. Not only are we using first class quality dual coil splittable pickups, but we are going to be running those through a custom pream system built by UK electronics wizard John East. This will allow many active and passive features to co-exist on the instrument. Beyond that we will be installing a Roland GK-3b internal MIDI processor which means it can play anything from Brass to Bagpipes!

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Gluing some veneer onto the back of our fiber optic lower joint face.
(4/25/16) Here we are back in the less-glamourous side of instrument building where so many different things need to be glued together. Right now I am gluing some veneer to the fingerboard which serves as a decorative stripe but also resolves any surface inconsistencies created by installing the matrix of fiber optic cables. Net result will be a nice flat joint surface that will allow me to glue the fingerboard assembly onto the neck section of the bass.

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Machining the slot for the fiber optics as they go from the neck to the body.
(4/24/16) Back to the recess for the fiber optics. I decided since there are so many cables that I shoul dcut the recess in two sections so that I can run the lower end of the slot deeper to be sure I have space for the fibers. I'm happy with this step now and need to do some machining at the end of the neck where there will be a need to relieve the material there to make room for the exiting cables. Now need to get truss rod in and fingerboard glued on!

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Working on getting the pickup covers sanded, drilled and machined so that they can go to finishing with the instrument.
(4/23/16) I'm working on the two pickup covers. As you can see I have attached them to base blocks to build up the complete height of the covers. I am sanding the edges flush so that I have reliably flat surfaces to hold in my fixture when I machine out the insides of these covers to acommodate the pickups themselves. These pickup covers need to receive the same tint and finishing process as the maple on the body.

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Fibers in - have to swap out two as they didn't quite measure up. They are extremely sensitive in this state and the forward facing ones need to be bent at just the right angle to retain output. I wasn't happy with one which I will be replacing.
(4/22/16) In this photo you can see all the fiber optic cables exiting the back of the fingerboard. I have installed all of them and went ahead and checked the output of every one of the fibers using an LED. I was happy with all but two. One had slipped during gluing which in the photo I am now replacing, the other had too tight a bend (forward facing are always very trick) so I am going to have to remove and replace that one too. Otherwise all OK so far!

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Instrument body is set up on CNC to establish some internal features.
(4/19/16) With the fiber optic installation almost done I have a better idea of the collective volume of fibers exiting the fingerboard that now need to be reouted through the body of the instrument. To that end I need to do two machining operations. One is to cut a channel between the neck and first pickup location so that these cables can reach the control cavity. Second is to temporarily affix the top and machine the control cavity.

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Getting to the back end of the fiber optics now - will be glad when this is over!.
(4/17/16) On the tail end of the fiber optic installation and so far so good. As the fibers multiply it gets harder and harder to work in the remaining available space. This is the most (24) fiber optics I have ever tried to install in a bass neck and since it's a somewhat delicate operation I am cautious about not rushing and dropping or breaking something! When I'm not working on this I have been working on pickup covers and body geometry..

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Working on a few of the forward facing fibers.

(4/16/16) I'm past the 1/2 way mark on the F/O cables. I'm potting the channels behind me as I move toward the heel end. The forward facing cables take the nost time because they have to incorporate a 90 degree bend as they go through to the front face of the board and that has to be a separate gluing operation. Many of the builds I do are very custom - this one is a good example. Always breaking new ground so I have to be patient!


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Sketching and programming a recess for fiber optic cables going to control cavity.
(4/15/16) While other work on the fiber optics is proceeding I am getting the body ready to have a recess cut out for the fairly large collection of cables exiting the neck. They need to be routed to the control cavity and potted into the body in a similar way to the back of the neck. The shaded area will be cut - probably only around 6-7mm deep. I also have to machine the control and battery cavities before the top goes on - will explain when it happens!

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Moving along with the fiber optic installation - i'm about half way done at this point.
(4/14/16) I am now at about the half-way point with the fiber optic installation. Each one needs proper placement and setup and then gets glued locally in place. Once I have a few fibers collected together I use a different type of epoxy to "pot" all the gaps so that I have a solid-state assembly under the fingerboard. I then level and scrape off the excess adhesive and the net result is a nice flat surface. It's frustratingly slow though!

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Installing fiber optics one at a time (it's the only way). Messy, delicate, and slow but so far so good.
(4/13/16) Right in the midst of installing the fiber optics. I have to handle them very carefully but at the same time the need to be retained in their respective channels so a lot of light clamping going on. Although it's not a job I can rush I am making good progress and I tested the first few side and front lights and they look great. While I am working on all of this I am also marking out the channel in the body that these cables will run through.

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Making an agressive start on fiber optic cable installation.
(4/11/16) Left: I'm busy installing the fiber optic cables which require patience, accuracy and good eyesight. I have the first four set into in the side dot positions. It's quite a work-intensive process. (4/12/16) Right: Pickups are glued to good solid bases and I'm machining the sides flush so that I can start cutting the insides.
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Machining the pickup covers.

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Doing work under the fingerboard to make sure teh installation of fibers goes as expected.
(4/9/16) Left: I now have to do some work under the fingerboard to make sure everything that I am going to glue in here will fit inside correctly. I have 16 sleeves to fit in specific locations. Right: I have two sleeves ready to install on the dots of the bass clef. Similarly at the 24th fret I have another pair there. Very detailed work.
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Two of the fiber optic support sleeves going into the face of the board.

Highslide JS
Gluing pickup covers onto solid bases so that I can get the internal machining done asap.
(4/8/16) I am now gluing the harvested pickups covers onto solid bases so that I have complete pickup covers. When these are set I will trim and sand the sides flush and then machine them from the underside to create the right sized pockets for the pickup assemblies to fit comfortably in. I have several operations running concurrently on this instrument as I have very little calendar time to try to get it complete. More as it happens....

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Pickup covers successfully harvested.
(4/7/16) Moving things along as fast as humanly possible here. Got the pickup covers cut out of the top plate which is very helpful. I am also working on getting all the sleeves and fiber optics embedded in the fingerboard because I can't put the fingerboard or top on until that task is done. I will use the two pickup covers to construct complete pickup assemblies which will need machining on the insides to house the pickups.

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Setting up on the CNC to cut out the two pickup cover pieces.
(4/6/16) I am now ready to get the two pickups covers cut out of the top plate. Based on my layout in the previous picture I am going to cut both pickups in one operation based on on the center point of the two pickups. I have the top squared up and centered and I'm ready to start cuttiong. I will have to do part of the machining from the top and part from underneath as a second operation. Will post more when it's done!

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This is a snapshot of the relative positions of pickups to other features.
(4/5/16) This is my proposed layout for the pickup positions. It allows space for the GK3B unit between the bridge pickup and the bridge assemblies, it also leaves a respectable amount of room between neck pickup and the end of the fingerboard for slapping access to the strings. Pickups also should be far enough apart to provide good diversity of tone. I need to move ahead to get the covers harvested out of the top plate, time is very short.

Highslide JS
Plotting out the locations for the two pickups so that I can remove pickup cover material.
(4/4/16) Next operation on this machine will be to harvest out the two pickup covers from the parent material of the top plate. I just wanted to check relative linear positions for the hardware and pickups so that I was sure everything would fit in place correctly. Since I have a GK3B pickup involved I'm going to have the bridge pickup about 1/8" forward that the 1/16 scale length nominal position. I want the Roland unit to get a good strong signal.

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Machining channels for fiber optic cables.
(4/3/16) In this photo I am half way through the machining operation that will create channels for the embedded fiber optic cabling. The ondividual channels at the narrow end of the fingerboard converge to a larger area at the heel end so I am creating this geometry in two operations so that I can use two different milling cutters. This will give me recesses for the upward and front facing fiber optic cables. Many more operations to come!

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Machining the fingerboard for side dots.
(4/2/16) This is the first stage of the work being done to the back of the fingerboard. I am machining slots in the upper edge of the fingerboard which will be used to house the short pieces of protective tubing through which the fiber optic cables for the side dots will run. Once these are cut to the correct depth I will get a program ready that will allow me to machine the recess pattern for the fiber optic cables as they run to the bottom end of the fingerboard.

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The fiber optic setup in this instrument is very complicated.
(4/1/16) There are a LOT of fiber optic cables in this project and I am working hard to get them organized in an array that will work under the fingerboard. I have side facing and forward facing lights to consider and they each need a different treatment. I'm trying to get them arranged in such a way that they do not interfere with each other when I install them! Time consuming but it has to be done. Probably three machining operations.

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Set up has now been done for the fiber optic work.
(3/30/16) The fixture for the fingerboard is now set up on the CNC machine. I now have to output the program for the fiber optic channels and if all looks good I will cut everything I need to to move ahead with the installation. I will probably run two programs. One will be for the side dots using a cutter that matches the diameter of the protective sleeves I will use. The second operation will be cutting path for the cables themselves to run the length of the board.

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All the frets are installed and I am now setting up for machining for the fiber optic cables.
(3/29/16) I have now successfully installed all 24 frets and I now need to get this fingerboard set up on my CNC machine in order to start cutting out all the recesses into which the fiber optic cables will reside. I am doing some work on the computer right now to create a program that provide the accurate machining necessary to get this done. I will be creating the side dot locations in the same setup so I'm going to be busy!

Highslide JS
Dual coil pickups which will be mounted in continuous grain covers.
(3/28/16) These are the dual coil pickups that are going into this bass. They will allow me to select series, parallel and single coil configurations and are very high-end! I will be using measurements from these pickups to establish the harvested top material for the continuous grain pickup covers which have to be done before the top goes on. I am also working on body details and frets and fiber optics on the fingerboard. Every moment counts.

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Making a careful start on the installation of frets.
(3/26/16) I am now carefully installing the bent and cut fretwire into the fingerboard starting from the back and working forward. I have to cut the fretwire with a small abrasive blade in a dremel tool because it is much harder than standard nickel fretwire. So far things are going pretty well and I will have all the frets in very soon. Once that is done I can set the fixture up on the CNC so that I can cut small channels for the fiber optic cables.

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Fixture for fret installation and fiber optic channeling.
(3/24/16) This fixture will provide two functions for me. Firstly, I need to bend, cut and install the fretwire in the 24 fret slots and it will provide me with adequate support while the frettting work is done. Once the frets are in I will do some rough cleanup on the length and then flip the fixture over so that I can access the underside. I will then set the assembly up on the cnc and machine out channels for the fiber optics. Lots to do!!

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Just received a delivery ofr much-anticipated gold bass fret wire.
(3/22/16) I was very happy to receive this batch of gold fret wire in my nail today.This wire will match the gold hardware beautifully and as an added bonus it is almost as hard as stainless steel wire. Best of both worlds and should look really nice on the completed instrument. I am going to hurry to get this wire installed in the fingerboard as it is much safer to do that before all the fiber optics are installed than after. Stay tuned!

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Machining to release the battery and control cavity cover material.
(3/19/16) I am now machining out material to release the two covers I partially cut on the back of the bass. I will do this for both the control cavity and the battery cavity and keep the covers for later assembly. While this is happening I am also working on the fiber optic installation under the fingerboard and doing some work on the top plate so that I can harvest out the two continuous woodgrain pickup covers. Lots happening!!

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Battery cover has now been machined.
(3/17/16) The drawing I did for the battery cover fits fine on the back of the bass. I got that programmed and cut today so that the body is ready fdor me to do some further machining from the top side. This will allow me to remove the two covers so that we can use them later. I need to now get back to the top plate so that I can harvest out the two pickup covers. I will re-check pickup positions as they relate to the GK3B just to be sure!

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Cutting the profile of the control cavity lid.
(3/15/16) I can now run the cavity cover lid program on the instrument body. I will cut deep enough to allow me to harvest out the lid which I want to be continuous grain with the back of the instrument. I will then repeat this operation with the correcponding cover area for the battery cavity. Once I have those two cuts done I can machine from the other side to release them. I won't cut the actual cavity until both o fthese have been done.

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Have the geometry for control and battery cavities established, now have to start machining!
(3/13/16) As a result of the calculations below I have now added a control cavity geometry and a battery compartment. I am using two batteries for the preamp and a third to run the LEDs. As long as I am careful about distribution of hardware in the cavity everything should fit together. I can now use these vector components to create programs and the fist objective is to harvest out cavity lid material from each area.

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Working on the control cavity geometry based on all the electronics it will have to house.
(3/12/16) I need to establish a control cavity that will accommodate all the requires wiring and electronics. I looked at the GK-3B package which includes a circuit board assembly and some dedicated lights, controls and wiring. I have to consider that, combined with the Audere preamp pacakage and also the presence of numerous fiber optics which will require more than one light source. I may move thing saround a little but I think the cavity will be OK.

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Doing some profiling around the body to bring it very close to final shape.
(3/11/16) I am sanding around both the top plate and the body to bring both to the template profile as maked in red. This will allow me to flip the instrument over and design suitable control and battery cavities on the back of the bass. There will be some machining to do related to those features which will immediately follow. Also in a case where I have fiber optics I need to machine control cavity to full depth before top is glued on!

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Ready to cut a recess in the top plate to allow it to fit onto the heel of the neck.
(3/9/16) The top plate is now set up on the CNC and I will be machining a section out of the front of the plate which will exactly match the contour of the end of the neck as it overlaps the body. This will allow the top plate to sit snugly in top of the body and will in turn allow me to calculate for other operations. I will also be able to start work on the more accurate shaping of the body profile since I have the top and body in one assembly.

Highslide JS
Making a number of critical calculations to make sure instrument geometry is on target before I start cutting the top plate.
(3/7/16) I took a little time today to measure the main features of the instrument based on the scale length. I'm just about to cut the recess in the top plate that will define the location of other features on the instrument so I want to be very careful that all the math works out. Everything seems to be on target and I will now get set up to do the machining that will allow me to fit the top plate onto the instrument body.

Highslide JS
My body profile template showing some of the upcoming shaping to the instrument contour and top plate.
(3/4/16) This is the body template that gives me the outline for the body perimeter. It also shows some of the areas where the top plate will be contoured (see on upper horns and arm-rest area top left). Thirdly, the photo also indicated the area I will remove to provide player access to the six tuning knobs on the AMB tuners. One of my next upcoming tasks is to cut out the neck end recess in the top plate so that I can fit it to the body.

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Created a milling fixture so that I can cut the fiber optic channels.
(3/1/16) I have now cleaned up the back face of the fingerboard to expose all the through holes I drilled in the last operation. I then created a fixture which I attached to the board so that it will be securely and rigidly supported for the machining of the fiber optic channels. It is now ready for me to attach and square up to the machine table so that I can get that operation underway as soon as possible. Right now I'm working on the program.

Highslide JS
Fingerboard separated from support material and ready for machining of channels for fiber optics.
(2/26/16) In order to further the work on the fingerboard and the fiber optic installation I removed the fingerboard from the support material it has been attached to. While it is separated I dropped it on the neck of the bass to see how it looked on the instrument! Seems pretty nice even at this point! Next step is to make a fixture that will securely hold the fingerboard while I do the machining of the numerous channels for the fiber optics.

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Gold AMB bridge / Tuner assemblies for this bass.
(2/21/16) I wanted to show a quick glimpse of the gold ABM hardware that I will be using on the body of this bass. The gold finish is very elegant and will look great against my customer's color scheme for the body. Right now I am creating a fixture that will enable me to do that machining on the underside of the fingerboard so that we can get the fiber optic cables into the assembly. That will also help me move other things along!

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Establishing through holes for the fiber optic cables on the front surface.
(2/17/16) In this photo I am establishing the through holes which will allow the fiber optic cables to come through to the upper surface of the fingerboard. Once I get this operation done I can remove the fingerboard from itsbase material and start machining channels for the fibers on the lower surface. I'm trying to get this fairly work intensive stage done so that I can get the components of the bass assembled together as soon as possible.

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Creating sleeves for the fiber optic cables in the bass clef "dots".
(2/12/16) I have four fiber optic locations that are basically dots on the fingerboard. In order to give these adequate support in such a tiny space I have made bushings that will act as sleeves for the fiber optic cable ends. I'm planning to insert these into the fingerboard and then work on establishing the other front facing holes on the CNC. All very tricky and accurate work but no doubt it will look awesome on the finished instrument!

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Working in istalling the pieces of the yin-yang inlay.
(2/7/16) I am working on the little inlays on the fingerboard. There are four shell pieces to each inlay and they are very difficult to assemble because of their small size. I have been doing two at a time (which is about as long as the working time on my adhesive!) but I have more than half the work done so it should all fall into place. I don't normally wear glasses but this job requires magnified vision and a lot of patience! Almost there.

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First stage of detail inlay where I am inserting angles spacers.
(2/2/16) The Yin Yang inlays are probably the most tricky part of the construction of this bass so far. Because they are to be lit in the center of each one I am starting by inserting small wood spacers which will allow the inlay to sit at the an angle matching the fingerboard radius. Also - the center hole in each will accommodate fiber optic tubing and at the same time allow me to drill through to the bacl of the board for accurate fiber placement.

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Clamping and gluing the top plates together.
(1/27/16) I am now gluing the two top plate halves together so that we can yield a beautiful figured and bookmatched top. This will allow me to trim both the body and this top plate much closer to the finished profile shape of the instrument body. Once that is done I will also be able to machine out the joint area that will allow the top to fit snugly around the heel end of the neck. This Maple will look really beautiful with the final finish applied!

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Setting up to cut precise joint faces on the two top plates.
(1/22/16) While I am busy on the laser and the bench adding the yin-yang inlay pieces I am also working on there areas of the instrument. In this photo I am setting up a machine to accurately cut joint faces in the curly maple top plates so that I can joint them together into one piece. Although I can't drop the top plate on the bass until the fiber optics are all installed I can assempble the bookmatched top and get the pickup covers cut out.

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First of the inlays (bass clef pieces) have been put into the fingerboard.
(1/15/16) I added the bass clef inlay pieces firstand now I will be moving onto the timy little yin-yang symbols which are a lot more work since they have to be cut, pre-assembled and sanded to fit perfectly before they are installed. I also have to take care to maintain the center hole structure since the fiber optic cables will be fitted into the center of each sub-assembly. No doubt it will look very impressive on the finished neck, but will be glad when this part is done!

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Applied a light coat of sealer to stabilize the top surface of the fingerboard.
(1/10/16) Since we will be installing inlay items on a light colored wood I took the precaution of protecting the maple with a light coat of sealer before I work on gluing inlay components into the top. This prevents any possibility of glue contaminating the upper surface of the board while the installation of the inlay pieces is being done. Typically on a maple board I will do this before fret installation anyway. More photos to follow!

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12th and 24th frets get a bass clef inlay.
(1/4/16) While I am working with the smaller inlay pieces I also cut the larger bass clef onlays for the 12th and 24th frets. These will probably end up going into the fingerboard first as I don't have to pre-assemble much. The two holes will end up housing two of the fiber optic lights - and there will probably be a third one in the center of the top of the clef. The upcoming fiber optic work will be pretty involved but wprth it as the results should be impressive!

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Finally an inlay prototype - looks like this will work.
(12/26/15) After a number of approaches I found a combination of inlay geometry that works for the small parts of this inlay piece. Allowing for the width on such a small laser cut, I had to size the components independently so that I was not losing material between inside and ouside cuts. I think I now have a good comination Dark shell is a black/gray. The fiber optic cable will be located right in the center of these little designs.

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Cutting shell for the circular inlay pieces.
(12/18/15) I ran a few tests on the laser and was able to get the inlay pieces cut quite accurately. In the photo you can see the components just as they were cut. When the edges are cleaned up this will look really nice in the fingerboard. Next step is to assemble these and drop them into the recesses that have been cut in the fingerboard. I also have to cut the shell for the bass clefs but they should actually be easier because of their size

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These are the designs that will be added to the top of the fingerboard.
(12/14/15) This screenshot shows the geometry of the two inlay elements I will be adding to the top of the fingerboard. I have a dark neutral and a white shell and these will work very well for the bass no matter what color we end up choosing for the body. Because of the geometry of the Yin-Yang design those will be a little fiddly to construct but I am hopeful that my eyesight will hold up and these will come together beautifully!

Highslide JS
All the cutting has been done on the top of the fingerboard.
(12/8/15) This is the fingerboard after I ran the second operation which established the bass clef designs and the holes that will accommodate the fiber optic cables on the small dots. I can now get some of the work started on the inlay pieces, some of which will be fairly detailed. The dots will be tai-chi symbols and will have a fiber optic cable in each center. I will also have fiber optic side dots so this will be a very busy fingerboard!

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Recesses have been cut for inlay pieces on the upper and lower edges of the fingerboard.
(12/5/15) I have run the program for the "tai-chi" dots on the upper and lower edges of the fingerboard. I will be making small plugs for these inlay pieces to accommodate the fiber optic cables. Next operation I have to do is to change to a slightly smaller cutter and establish recesses for the Bass Clef inlay whic will apper on frets 12 and 24. Those too will have fiber optic cables attached so the process will be a little work-intensive!

Highslide JS
Prepping the fingerboard to get the inlay and fiber optic work started.
(12/1/15) I'm setting up the fingerboard which i previously shaped and slotted for some more machining operations related to the inlay features. I want to get the recesses cut for the inlay so that the fingerboard is ready to accept the shell inlay that I will have to cut separately. I also have fiber optic cables to integrate into this fingerboard so there will be a few upcoming operations and a lot of detail work in our near future!

Highslide JS
Top halves are on the vacuum press.
(11/22/15) The two top halves are in the vacuum press having some dark veneer added to the bottom faces. As soon as this is done I will trim up the pieces, removing the excess veneer and repeat the same operation with maple veneer. This will result in an impressive double pinstripe around the base of the top plate. As soon as that is done these two plates will be glued together to create the complete top piece.

Highslide JS
Cutting veneer to add to the back surfaces of the top halves.
(11/20/15) I am going to attach two decorative veneers to the back surfaces of the two top halves before I assemble them into one bookmatched piece. This will keep the pinstripe theme going through the bass and will look very nice on the completed instrument. I will glue these on in the vacuum press because it applies a very even pressure and I need to guarantee a consistent joint for each of these laminates. More pics coming!

Highslide JS
All the component parts of this bass in one place.
(11/17/15) These are all the component parts of our bass. I'm checking a few dimensions based on the nut location and now moving on to adding veneers to the back surfaces of the body halves and also getting the fingerboard ready for inlay and subsequent fiber optic installation. There's plenty to keep me busy right now! I have hardware on the way and will also be planning for pickups in the next few days.

Highslide JS
Top plates have now been drum sanded flat on both sides.
(11/15/15) I have now sanded both the front and back faces of the two body halves to a flat and clean finish in the drum sander. That operation was necessary before I start gluing decorative veneer on the joint surface of each piece. Once that has been done I will machine the joint faces (down the center) so that they are very accurate and clean. That will then allow me to join the two top plates together.

Highslide JS
Roland GK internal pickup kit arrived!
(11/12/15) Finally received the very difficult to get hold of GK3B pickup kit. This is a pickup and a host of electronic gadgets that go together to create a 13-pin MIDI output fron a bass guitar. I wanted to get hold of this kit before I committed to a control cavity size and shape so that I could evaluate the space needed for the internal electronics. I will be posting more on this capability and installation soon. Glad it's finally here!

Highslide JS
Body shape has been cut out of top material.
(10/24/15) After making sure the orientation is correct I refined the outline and went ahead and cut the two top halves out of the top material. The grain matches up very nicely and I can only imagine how impressive this will look after finishing. My next step here will be to do some sanding to make sure they are perfectly flat. I will then add some veneers to the lower face of each plate. Once that's done the can be glued together.

Highslide JS
Laying out rough body profile prior to cutting.
(10/19/15) I am using both the template and the actual instrument body to make sure that when I rough cut the pieces for the top plate that they are a reasonable amount oversize all around. I also wanted to see the maple in the best possible light so that I could decide which of the 2 possible ways the boards should be bookmatched and also which end should be that back of the instrument body. Having established all that I can get it cut!

Highslide JS
This curly maple is insane! Love it!.
(10/16/15) I have to admit that the maple I have for the top of this bass (and pickup covers and headstock) is some of the best I have seen in many years. This will yield a spectacular finished top and a truly beautiful instrument. I am in the process of sanding this material so that it is ready for rough cutting. My initial objective here is to get both pieces bookmatched together so that I have one single piece to work with. More info coming!

Highslide JS
Roland GK-3B kit has been oredered for this bass.
(10/11/15) I am ordering a 13-pin MIDI kit from Roland Corporation for this bass. It is version of the GK-3B synthesiser kit but rather than being bolted onto the outside of a bass, this kit is designed to be built into the instrument itself thereby avoiding the large external hardware unit that would otherwise have to be clamped on to the instrument. It promises to be a great way to feed a clean 13-pin signal from a bass, looking forward to trying this out.

Highslide JS
Finalizing body shape and location of hardware.
(10/5/15) While I am working on the preparation of the top plate I have been also prepartng for artwork that will be added to the fingerboard. We will have the standard fret dots on the front face of the bass but also a bass clef logo at the 12th fret. I would like to get these details done before I flip the fingerboard over and start all the machining necessary to create channels for the network of fiber optic cables that will live in there.

Highslide JS
Beautiful piece of Curly Maple just in for the top plate.
(9/23/15) Top plate material was ordered and has come in. I searched through many of my suppliers' stock and came up with this set after some extensive work looking for a light colored but very highly figured curly maple set. This one is definitely top of the line and will serve us very well when we end up applying a color tint to the bass. The wood will look amazing! I will be sanding and cutting this material very soon so we can start on the top.

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Machining top of bass in preparation for top plate.
(8/15/15) Next job in the schedule is to machine carefully around the heel end of the neck to the depth I need for the top plate. That is a delicate job but once done, I can machine the remainder of the top surface to the same level thereby creating a complete and continuous machined top surface that is flat and correctly aligned for the top plate joint. I am noticing already that this bass feels quite lightweight which is a big factor for my customer.

Highslide JS
Compund radius now generated on fingerboard.
(8/9/15) I have now finished machining the compound radius on the upper surface on the fingerboard. I gererated the curves using a special cutter on the CNC machine. When complete I sanded the machining marks off the surface so that we end up with a nice smooth and clean surface. This fingerboard will have fiber optic cables running through it so I am about to manufacture a fixture that will allow me to machine the undeside of the board.

Highslide JS
Fingerboard profile has been machined.
(8/5/15) Outside profile of fingerboard has been machined so it is now at the correct width at both ends and also correct length for the instrument. Next step is to cut the compound radius on the top of the board to achieve the desired geometry on the upper surface. While this is going on I will also have some other work to do to the body in terms of removing extra material and getting body and neck a little closer to finished shapes.

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Setting up fingerboard machining on CNC.
(8/1/15) I am now setting up the fingerboard on the CNC machine so that I can cut the outside profile, the compund radius, nut slot and fret slots. The fingerboard is currently attached to a straight and stable base and that will allow me to do tha machining, and subsequent fret work without worrying about the material bending under stress. This fingerboard will look very nice oon the finished instrument!

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Marking out critical dimensions for further machining.
(7/21/15) Now that the sides are attached and we have a complete instrument profile to work with I have to do some measurements to establish the location of the bridge based on the scale length and based on that make sure I know where the fingerboard will end. I now have these plotted on the instrument and I will use that for the ongoing operations. Next I will probably cut out the lower recess for the tuner knob access.

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Gluing the 2nd body half onto the core section.
(7/17/15) Time to get the second body half glued onto to the core and finally create a complete looking instrument. Getting this piece assembled will allow me to start the process of shaping the outer perimeter. I'll be cutting the fingerboard next and will be hopefully working on the top plate. My goal is to create a bass that generates great tone but remains lightweight for the player. So far it's all looking good,

Highslide JS
Gluing top body half onto the core section.
(7/12/15) I'm now gluing the top body half of the instrument onto the core section. Previous to this I machined the back face of the core section so that I had a nice flat surface to use as a reference. My hope and expectation is that the back surfaces of the core and body half will match perfectly and thereby minimize the sanding I'll have to do after gluing. I will leave this assembly overnight to guarantee that the glue has completely cured.

Highslide JS
Gluing veneers onto core section.
(7/7/15) In this photo I am gluing a maple veneer to one of the sides of the core piece. I will repeat this on the opposite side and that will give me all the decorative work I need between the core and the body halves. I will them attach the upper and lower body halves, probably doing the top bout first so that I can make sure the body and neck are properly aligned relative to each other. Body placement will affect bridge location.

Highslide JS
Final veneers going on body parts.
(6/28/15) Almost done now with body veneering! Once I get these two pieces attached to the core section of the bass I will have a complete body profile which I can then modify and refine in cone complete piece which is always easier. I can also hold and feel the instrument as I am removing stock so that I get an idea of the balance, weight and propotions. It will also be nice to see this instrument as one piece instead of lots of separate pieces.

Highslide JS
Gluing maple veneer onto the joibt faces of the body halves.
(6/26/15) In this photo I am adding another of the veneers onto the joint face, this time of the lower body bout where we are adding a maple veneer. The veneering process is a little labor intensive and time consuming, especially on a neck or core section with a lot of laminates, but well worth it for the beauty it adds to the back of the bass! I still have a few more veneers to deal with but we are moving ahead.

Highslide JS
Gluing maple veneer onto the joint faces of the body halves.
(6/23/15) I'm currently gluing one of three veneers that will enhance the joint area between the core of the bass and the body. I will alos be applying a maple veneer to the core section and setting that off with a darker veneer added most likely to the body halves. This will give us an impressive looking triple pinstripe which will be very noticeable on the back of the instrument. I'm anxious to get these parts all assembled together.

Highslide JS
Machining joint faces on the two back body halves.
(6/16/15) The body halves are on one of my machines getting the joint faces machined square and flat so that they will make perfect joints onto the core section of the instrument. I machined both halves and cleaned them up - next step is to get some decorative veneer applied to the joint surfaces. I will probably apply other veneers to the core section before the sides go on - depends on what looks best.

Highslide JS
Birds Eye Maple fingerboard blank.
(6/11/15) This is the very nicely figured Birds Eye Maple fingerboard material which i have just sanded flat and will be preparing for subsequent machining. This board will look very nice along with the Koa on the top plate. I will be attaching this board onto another piece of material to maintain its stability during the several machining processes it will go through. We are also planning to incorporate fiber optics along the upper edge.

Highslide JS
Body halves rough cut.
(6/5/15) The tow mahogany body halves for the back of the instrument have been rough cut so that I can continue with the task of getting this bass assembled. I can now get the joint faces prepared and veneered so that I can glue these onto the core. That will provide me with a body i can contour closer to the final shape. I have some Curly Koa I will be sawing up to create a bookmatched top plate so there's plenty happening right now!

Highslide JS
Getting set up to cut the two body halves.
(5/29/15) I have a fairly accurate idea of the body shape and I am getting things set up here to rough cut the body halves so that I can get them machined and attached to the rest of the instrument. I will leave a little room for adjustment in that they will be cut a little oversize at this stage. I am also working on cutting out the material needed for the top plate so we should be seeing a more complete looking instrument very soon!

Highslide JS
Curly Koa ready to be cut for the top plate.
(5/23/15) This is the Curly Koa I will be using for the top of the bass. I have a piece of this material I bought years ago when it was available on the market. It is now very rare to find in this quality and usually prohibitively expensive! I am finishing two basses with this material and this bass will be one of them. The color will be a dark gold and we are considering adding a subtle Sienna Sunburst to make it even more jaw-dropping!

Highslide JS
Tentative body profile, subject to a few possible minor changes.
(5/17/15) Although it's still undergoing some minor refinements, this is more or less how we will be shaping the body of this bass. I will be cutting blanks for the upper and lower bouts (back of bass) but since those are cut oversize, any revisions to the profile of the body can still be incorporated. Since it is a headless bass I will need to recess the back to allow access to the tuners. Should end up looking very elegant.

Highslide JS
Planning to use a really nice piece of Birds Eye Maple on this bass.
(5/14/15) My customer asked me if I could incorporate a Birdseye Maple fingerboard on this bass. Fortunately I had one planned for a future instrument which I was able to assign to this one. Although you can't see it all through the saw cut, this is a beautiful piece and had very intense figure in it. I had this piece hand-picked by a friend at a wood supply company! I will get started on preparing it for being part of this bass.

Highslide JS
Body halves have been machined flat adrum sanded for thickness, now they are ready to be cut to shape.
(5/8/15) I have machined and sanded the tow sides of each of the body halves so that they are pefectly matched for thickness. I will now mark the body profile on each piece and rough saw them close to the finished size. This will then allow me to machine a joint face on the edge of each piece and once I apply some veneers I will be able to attach the two pieces onto the core section and we'll have something that looks like a bass!

Highslide JS
Mahogany blicks that will become the upper and lower body halves of the bass.
(5/6/15) These are the two mahogany billets that will become the upper and lower body halves of this bass. It is very good grade mahogany, old stock and in this case chosen because it's not too heavy and will help us keep the weight of this 6-string beauty to a minimum. Right now they are sawn to length and will now need to be surfaced both sides. I'll cut them to shape and prepare the joint surface so that they can be added to the body.

Highslide JS
Machining joint faces on both sides of the core to allow the body halves to be attached.
(4/24/15) The core section of the bass is up on the CNC this time to have the two edges machined flat and square to the tapered surface. These two surfaces will match up with the edges of the upper and lower body halves. Now that we have very accurate machined faces I can start adding veneer and getting things prepared for the body halves to be cut and surfaced. It will look much more like a bass guitar once the body has been established and attached!

Highslide JS
We're planning to use a beautiful Curly Koa for the top. getting very rare these days.
(4/16/15) This Curly Koa is one of our options for a very impressive top-wood. We may use this or possibly a Curly Maple with a color tint. Right now I am formulating a custom body shape based on a couple of designs suggested by my customer. When we have that approved I will start by cutting the mahogany back pieces and attaching them to the instrument core section. No matter which top we use it will be a spectacular looking bass!

Highslide JS
Gluing the carbon fiber rods into the neck.
(4/1/15) I am now gluing the two carbon fiber rods into the slots I previously cut in the top surface of the neck. These are being installed using an aerospace grade epoxy with cured very hard and has a very string bond. The addituion of these rods will make an already stable neck mor rigid and theoretically more resistant to humidity changes that otherwise often cause problems and require frequent neck adjustments.

Highslide JS
Gluing headstock material onto the end of the core section.
(3/23/15) Next step in our progress is to glue on a little extra material to accommodate the extra width of the headstock. I use the same material that I used for the sides of the neck so that everything would match beautifully. This will give me enough surface material to either use my standard headstock or incorporate a headstock design that my customer prefers. I'm happy with everything so far, neck feels nice and resonant!

Highslide JS
Getting a good amount of the machining doen to the core section.
(3/17/15) I have been busy on this project. Top surface is nmachined flat and ready for fingerboard joint. Outer perimeter of body core and neck have been machined to final sizes. Neck to body angle has been generated on the top of the body area of the core section. Headstock angle has been machined. I also machined the geometry required to house the truss rod and provide access to it when the assembly is complete.

Highslide JS
Setting up the core section for several machining operations.
(3/11/15) Now that I have the core complete I am getting it on the CNC machine to create the all the critical surfaces such as the fingerboard joing surface, the headstock angle, the neck to body angle, the profile of the neck and body and the slots for truss rod and carbon fiber inserts among a few other things. This is a big step in any instrument I make as so much gets done in one big operation. Looking good so far!

Highslide JS
Last laminate of the neck and body core being glued on.
(3/5/15) Making some good progress on this instrument. In the photo I am gluing the last of the 7 neck laminates together and when glue on this assembly sets we will have acomplete body core. That will allow me to move onto the numerous machining processes that will bring the instrument together. It's always nice to get all these laminates together, saves me dealing with groups of component parts! More news soon!

Highslide JS
Ready to glue the outer Wenge pieces.
(2/26/15) I'm now ready for the final assembly of the neck/core components. Everything has been appropriatel;y veneered and I am now going to glue the two Wenge outer sections to the center section which has already been glued up. This will result in a pretty lightweight and resonant neck. Weight is a consideration for my customer so I am keep that in mind all the way though the building process.

Highslide JS
All 7 laminates of the core section are ready to assemble.
(2/19/15) I have been gluing veneers onto laminates as fast as possible and now have all the pieces ready. The center three laminates have already been glued together and they look great. My next task is to glue the two outer pieces of Wenge onto the first three pieces so that I have a completed neck/body core. Once that is complete I can get started on the various machining operations that will turn this into a bass guitar.

Highslide JS
Machining tapers on the two Maple core laminates.
(2/6/15) I have the two curly maple laminates set up on the CNC machine right now. I want to get these cut and cleaned up so that I can get them added to the combination of parts I have already glued together. I do these in pairs so that I can be confident that the tapers match on each piece of the respective pairs of woods. The outside pair (in this case Wenge) do not need to be machined as tapers - they will be machined to size later.

Highslide JS
First three laminate sections are ready to be glued together.
(1/30/15) I now have Wenge and Padouk stringers tapered and veneered and ready to be assembled together. I'll get these assembled while I finish off the taper cutting on the two curly maple stringers. These will all come together to create a very nice and very strong neck for this bass. Takes a little more time on a 7-piece neck but the end result is always worth the effort! Also will be selection back and top woods soon so we can make a body!

Highslide JS
Gluing veneers to tapers and starting to glue tapers together.
(1/23/15) I set up a couple of stations for gluing all these veneers and laminates together for this bass since there are quite a few operations like this in a 7-piece core for a bass. I have another two setups just like this and for the first time I remember I was running out of clamps!!! The goal here is to get to a place wher I can be gluing the veneered laminates together and once that core section is complete all the machining work can get started.

Highslide JS
Ready to glue maple veneer on padouk laminates.
(1/19/15) I have prepered the surfaces of these laminates for a maple veneer which will be added to both sides of each piece. I have cut suitably sized pieces of maple veneer and will probably glue two sides at a time in the vacuum press. Once these are done I may choose another contrasting veneer for the side that will go against the neighbouring Maple laminate. Depends how the veneers stand out against the woods they are next to - we will see..

Highslide JS
Machining the two Padouk tapered laminates.
(1/16/15) I now have the two Padouk laminates on the CNC and like the wenge I have a specific taper to machine these pieces to so that they look just right and combine perfectly with the other laminates. Once these are cut I will apply veneer to the two sides and while I am busy with that I will me machining the two curly maple laminates for the same process. These woods will not onl;y look great together but are a very good recipe for bass tone!

Highslide JS
Gluing decorative veneer onto center laminate.
(1/11/15) It is now time to start gluing contrasting veneer onyo yje joint surfaces of each of the machined core veneers. Here, we are adding a maple veneer to each side of the center Wenge laminate. The maple and padouk laminates that combine with this piece will have contrasting veneer added to all the joint surfaces so that when the instrument is complete the pinstriping that went into the formative work on the bass will look amazing!

Highslide JS
SCenter neck laminate has been machined to final size.
(12/30/14) The machining of the center laminate has been completed. The blank material which was areound 3/4" thick has been machined down to about .200 to .650 thick. This piece will become the central strip running through the entire instrument as viewed from the back. All the other laminates that combine to create the core section have their own unique tapers, and once they are all glued together they will match the natural taper of the neck.

Highslide JS
Setting up one of the neck laminates to machine taper.
(12/21/14) I have sanded the various laminate pieces that will come together to create the core section, now it's time to start machining these pieces to pre-defined tapers. This Wenge piece happens to ve the center laminate in our 7-piece neck so it's a good place to start. This piece, plus each of the remaining pairs has a specific taper that will be machined and the combination will come together to match the natural taper of the neck.

Highslide JS
All the laminates for the core of the instrument have been rough sawn and ready for sanding.
(12/11/14) I purchased one hand-picked (by me) quality Wenge for this project and have marked it out with my profile and sawed out the various blanks i will be using for the neck construction.It looks like a lot of wood right now but it will all combine beautifully into one multi-laminate core section which wioll make the instrument look as beautiful from the back as it will from the front. These pieces are all rough right now. Next step is drum sanding!

Highslide JS
Just cut some Padouk which will be used in the core section of the bass.
(11/26/14) This is a blank of Padouk which I will be using as part of the core of the instrument. I will probably split this piece into two of the seven neck laminates that will come together for this instrument's core. This will give me a very strong and stable center core for the bass. We are paying attention to the end result of the bass, and want to maximize the correct tonal qualities through the best choice of woods.

Highslide JS
Two of the Curly Maple laminates have been cut from very nice stock material.
(11/19/14) I did some small modifications to my template before selecting some nice curly maple for two of the laminates in the core of this instrument. I was not sure at the time whether these would be the outer laminates or not so I chose an unusually nicely figured wood just in case. I will have Wenge laminates to cut in the same way and possibly Padouk in order to arrive at the 7-piece laminated neck for this instrument.

Highslide JS
Just bought some nice wenge for the project.
(11/12/14) I visited a couple of my local wood vendors in search of the right wenge for this project. I was looking for a tight linear grain and had to sort though a lot of material to find some that fit the criteria. I now have what I need to get the core section components all cut and sanded. Once that is done I will be setting up the CNC mill to establish the tapers on each of these core laminates. Lookig forward to seeing this one take shape!

Highslide JS
Getting ready to cut some neck laminates.
(10/28/14) I wanted to get the actual cutting of this project started so I got my template and marked out a couple of curly maple core section laminates which I will be cutting to get the basic parts of this bass under way. I spent some time previous to this drawing out the bass in a vector program so that I have an accurate 100% size representation of what I am going to be building. Much of that technical background work is now done.
Last update April 8, 2014