Watson Guitars
Idyllwild
California, USA

Custom 4-string basses (set of 3) (Serials 15B070, 15B071, 15B072)

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

   
Materials: Top: Non-linear zebrawood: unusual stuff! Neck/Core: Wenge and Maple
  Body: Wenge with matching Zebrawood back plates.
Fingerboard: 34" Scale Length, Asian Ebony
Pickups: Duncan Sopabars
Hardware: Hipshot Headless (black) through Audere 4-band Preamp
Options: 2 fretted and one fretless
Finish: Satin Finish
Other: String spacing - Bridge 19mm. Nut 10.5mm
  Unicorn on body and celtic knot inlay for fingerboards

This wasan unusual project where I created a set of three basses which shared common features and wood selections. Two are fretted, one fretless. They are truly custom set of instruments and unlike anything I have built before. They boast some unique inlay work and I did everything a builder could do to keep them consistent so that they look like a complete set. All the tops and backs came from the same piece of wood!

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Both basses in their finaql stages.
(8/24/16) Left: I have been working every day on these two basses to get them tuned up and adjusted for shipping. I'm almost there - just a few adjustment details!
(9/2/16) Right:
I spend some time on the fretless board because it need to be pretty flat iunder tension and also be somewhat wear resistant.
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Getting some work done on the fretless fingerboard - fretted ones are easy by comparision!.

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Basses have been wired up now - ready for testing and adjustment.
(8/13/16) Time to celebrate - both basses have been wired up and I can take off my high magnification glasses and put down my soldering iron and breathe! I need to secure the two jack socket assemblies and then I will string them up and test for sound. I'm expecting to get sound from both, and all being well I can start work setting them up. That means finishing up the nut slots, adjusting the bridge for height and intonation, adjusting truss rod, checking frets etc.

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Hooking everything up on both basses.
(8/8/16) Fretless bass now has output jack connected, grounding wires hooked up, battery connected to preamp (it's not in the picture but fits fine in there), and jack assembly sccured to the body. The other bass is in just about the same condition so I just have to shorten the pickup wires and connect them all to the preamps. I have some work on the two sets of pickups as I need to insert better inserts to provide counter pressure to retaining screws.

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This is the other bass with its pream system being installed.
(8/4/16) This is the other bass where I have been working also on the installation of the preamp and the related wiring. I'm on the third of three potentiometers here and the next tasks will be to hook up battery power, ground everything, connect pickups and connect everything to the output jack socket and get that fitted in place. It's all coming together, I know my valued customer is axious to get these so pushing hard here!

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Electronics time - going as fast as I can!!!!.
(8/2/16) I have both preamp systems in the process of being wired up. If you want it to end up looking neat you have to be a little patient and do things in the correct order! Hoes for pots have been re-sized so I am cleaning up the wiring first before I lock the controls in. I can then connect pickups, grounding wires, battery power and when that's all done replace the jack socket and lock those assemblies in place in their machined recesses.

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Both bridges grounded, reassembled and attached.
(7/27/16) I'm happy to say that I now have ground wires established from under both these bridges to their respective control cavities and have mounted and re-assembled both of the bridges.I will not have to remove these again which feels good! Now I have to resize the holes to suit the potentiometer shaft diameters so that I can get started on mounting the electronics. There will be a few other small jobs to get doen top each but things are moving forward.

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Neo magnets are installed for the cavity covers.
(7/23/16) The retaining magnets are now installed in the two basses. They are glued and predded in so they are pretty well established. There are three magnets in each bass and I just have to make sure the polarity is the same between all three. Now that this is done I'm going to remove both bridges and install grounding wires to each control cavity, then rmount the bridges. After that I will resize the holes for the Audere preamp pots.

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Pckups installed in both remaining basses, now getting all the wiring started.
(7/16/16) Pickups are now installed in the remaining fretless and fretted instruments and I am now busy getting the wiring set up and installing the preamps into our fairly confined control cavity. First job I am doing is getting the neodymium magnets installed around the cavity which will be holding the cover on. After that I will be running ground wires from each of the instrument bridges. Then ream out holes to fit potentiometers!

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Assembly process in progress.

(7/11/16) Installing pickups and electronics in both of these basses. We're getting close to completing everything and I am workig on both basses to get all the hardware installation and internal wiring taken care of. In this photo I am installing the pickups central to the cavities I cut for them. The shims help locate the hardware while I establish the locations for the upper and lower adjustment holes. Next will be the preamp installation.


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Working on the string retainers and nuts.
(7/6/16) I am getting work done on the assembly of the remaining two instruments of this set. Initially I need to get the string retainers fitted at the right level to work in conjunction with the nuts. I will then cut the nuts to the required size, fit and shape them and cut the string slots to the correct depth. This is different for the fretted and fretless instruments. It's tricky work and I will be glad when this part is done!!

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Front view of the completed instrument.
(6/12/16) This is a photo of serial number 072 after I strung it up and added its three stacked control knobs. They are Volume/Balance, Hi-Mid/Low-mid and Bass/Treble. This should give the player plenty of control over the tone of the instrument. It has good sustain and dynamic response and I believe it more than achieved the goals we started out with. I need to now turn my attention to the remaining two instruments and get them ready.

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Just finished up the installetion of the electronic components.
(6/10/16) The first of the three basses is all but complete and I have just finished up the electronic work in the control cavity. The 9v battery has its own dedicated chamber and the "brain" for the EQ system is located forther forward. That left just enough space to add the four stacked pots for the 4-band EQ and all the required wiring for the preamp and power supply. Despite it being a slightly tight space it all worked out fine.

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Bridge, grounding wire, pickups and pickup screws set up on bass #072.
(6/5/16) I have been working both day and night shifts last few days to keep up with my work flow. I managed to get all the bridges grounded to the control cavities. I also spent some time modifying the pickup screw length, leveling and dressing frets and testing the fretted instruments with strings attached. Dozens of tiny tasks to get everything working!The bass on the left is #072 and I will probably be using it to be the guinea pig for all the remaining setup work.

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Getting the pickups centered and set up in the cavities.
(5/27/16) Left: Pickups need to be fitted and I have found that using pieces of veneer to centralize them while I establish the holes is the safest way to go. (6/1/16) Right: Installing another bridge. I put them on to establish position but have to remove it to run a ground wire into the control cavity. At that point it can go on permanently.
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Another bridge going on.

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I am now fitting the bridges onto the bodies. Testing it all on one of the fretted basses.
(5/21/16) Left: I'm fitting the bridges onto the bodies which involves a lot of careful alignment. I'll test this one out and if all is good I'll repeat on the others. (5/25/16) Right: Strings are on one of the basses - this is good because it allows me to test the hardware at both ends. I ran into a little issue with the string retainers - working..
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All strings on one of the basses. I neded to re-machine all three headstocks to lower the retainer assembly slightly. Took a good part of the day!

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Getting the string retainers fitted .
(5/16/16) Left: You'd think fitting the string retainer was an easy job! Turned out out to be a little tricky as I had to eastablish the exit holes for the strings to pass through the headstock. (5/18/16) Right: I'm now drilling the holes for the neodymium magnets that will hold the covers onto the back of the instrument. Three should work just fine.
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Drilling three holes in each control cavity that will house magnets which will hold covers onto the back of the bass.

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This is the fretless bass with the clearcoat on, I think it really helps bring out the colors. .
(5/14/16) Left: This is one of the basses with its matching continuous grain cavity cover in place. Makes the back look pretty good! (5/15/16) Right: Getting the clear coat on all three basses so that I can get started on the installation of the pickups and probably slots in the nuts and installation of the Hipshot string retainers.
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Finishing the finishing process - last couple of coats .

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Getting the final clearcoat applied.

(5/10/16) Left: Happy to say that the finishing clearcoat is now going on all three instruments. As soon as this is done I will be assembling parts! (5/12/16) Right: Finish being applied - you can't put it on thick because it dries very hard, so it requires several thin caots and rubbing between each. Fretless already loooks nice though!

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This is the fretless bass with the clearcoat on, I think it really helps bring out the colors. .

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Final coats of grain filler and finish prep done to all three basses.
(5/9/16) Last of the prep finish going onto these basses and now just two or three coats of the hardcoat final finish to go. It looks like the fretless bass is the leader of the pack and ready first for the final coat so I am getting started with that. After the coats are dry and rubbed down the hardware will be installed, then electronics.
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This is the fretless ready for the final outer coating.

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Back of bass with control cavity shielded.
(5/8/16) The first three coats have been applied to the instruments and I felt it was afe enough to start putting in the electronic shielding in the pickup and control cavities. It comes in a special metal based paintable liquid which provides the same shielding as copper but with better continuity will last longer. Movimg as fast as possible.
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Front of bass with pickup cavities shielded.

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A closer look at the double pinstriping between contrasting core woods.
(5/6/16) Left: I think this is the back of the fretted bass #072 - I just wanted to show the nice contrasts on the back of the neck as I am applying the finish coats. (5/7/16) Right: I am cutting the nut blanks down to size and will be fitting them onto the nut seats on the three basses. When finish is done will attach string retainers.
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Gluing the nut blanks onto the basses.

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Zebrawood starting to look awesome now that we are getting some of the finishing coats applied.
(5/2/16) Left: Now working on the backs of the basses to get a good few coats of grain filler established. Lots of sanding between coats but all for a good cause!
(5/4/16) Right:
I wanted to illustrate the difference between an unfinished bass and on ethat has the grain filler applied. Wood grain and contrast really pop out!!!
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Comparison between raw untreated wood and the same wood with grain filler.

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Preparing to cut recesses for the serial numbers on the basses.
(4/28/16) Left: All the serial numbers are installed and I've sanded the back end of each bass to a point where they are ready for finishing. (5/1/16) Right: Today was a personal day of celebration! The Unicorn basses were complete and sanded enough for me to start the finishing process. I'm starting at the headstock end.
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first coat of finishing mix going on the basses - yeay!!!.

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String retainer and nut being fitted. Also machined the end of the neck to final length.
(4/24/16) Left: In this photo I am fitting the nut and the string retainer after having machined all the areas required to fit these pieces in permanantly. (4/26/16) Right: I decided to locate the serial numbers at the back of the instrument under the area where the tuner knobs will be. This is my setup to access that area on teh CNC.
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Preparing to cut recesses for the serial numbers on the basses.

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Making sure the nut blanks are all the same width - I will then machine the end of the fingerboards to suit.
(4/22/16) Left: Working on fitting the nuts blanks so that I can install the string retainers. I'm using only genuine Unicorn Horn for the nuts on these basses! (4/23/16) Right: This is the fretless bass up on my bench getting sanded to 220 grit and in the process I am resolving any issues with the countless blends between body features.
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Sanding down to 200 grit and working on blends to make sure everything loooks and feels just right.

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Getting into final sanding - anxious to get the finish applied!.
(4/18/16) Left: I am now busy with the sanding process, initially 60 grit and various scrapers and files and graduating to finer grades as we go. I think this photo was taken around 22 grit! (4/20/16) Right: I spent all day today on these basses getting them to the next stage of sanding. They are ready for 220 grit and soon after - finishing!!!
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The bodie have been aggressively sanded and all surfaces are now even and neck and headstock blends looking good. I want to get that finish on them!!!

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Machining sets of three recesses knob holes.
(4/15/16) Left: Just wanted to illustrate the procedure for the holes and give an idea of their placement on the bodies. (4/16/16) Right: Three basses proudly showing off their control recessed holes. I have a little sanding to get done and three nuts to install before I can start the last two processes. finish and assembly.
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Holes complete and moving ahead for last round of sanding.

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Cutting a common dimension for the back of the headstock. I will finish the shaping and trim off the end and this part will be done.
(4/12/16) Left: Machining the back surface of the headstock on all 3 basses to establish a common dimension. Will carve to blend then fit string retainers. (4/14/16) Right: I am now cutting the recessed holes for the control knobs. Three in each instrument for the Audere 4-band EQ system. Should sound awesome!!
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Cutting the recessed knob locations on the three instruments.

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Marking out positions for controls.
(4/8/16) Left: Based on internal cavity geometry and the size of the potentiometers I marked out three locations and drilled pilot holes for the controls. I can now move these to a machine to cut recessed holes. (4/10/16) Right: This is sanding central where I am cleaning up neck profiles, thicknesses and transitions before finishing starts.
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Getting more of the sanding done on the difficults parts! Has to be done but we're close to the end.

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Test fitting the Audere preap into one of the cavities so that I can drill control knob holes.
(4/7/16) I'm now checking the varios components that will fit in the control cavities so that I can choose the best places to locate the three stacked knobs for the preamp system. The Audere system in nice and compact and great for a small control cavity such as this. The battery goes in the rectangular pocket on the right, the control panel is attached to the upper wall and the three knobs will align along the lower wall. Looks like everything will work fine.

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Blending the backs of the necks on 3 instruments to the geometry of the bodies. Not an easy task!.
(4/5/16) The shaping of the backs of the necks is a lot of work in itself. I want to get all three to a point where they are comfortable to hold and play and at the same time remain strong. I now have the thickness established and the current challenge is blending all the geometry where the beck meets the body into one smooth transition. I started with rough grinding toold and have been working down through finer instruments to sandpaper.

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Some of the hardware that will soon be installed on the basses!.
(4/3/16) I am currently working on all three basses mainly on the shaping and finishing of the backs of the necks to achieve optimal thickness and oplayer comfort. I'm also working on preparing the cavities for the electronics that will be installed. I'm working on the seating of the string retainers and the installation of the nuts. The photo shows soem of the hardware I am very close to installing. Very busy time - more photos very soon!!

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Last of the three fingerboards being attached.
(4/1/16) This is the third of the three boards being attached to the neck of the bass. While I have this process going on I am working on the neck profiles of the other two so that they can be brought in to a finished and comfortable neck size and shape. I will then do some machining at the nut end so that the nut and string retainer can be attached. I'm waiting on CNC so that I can put in the holes for control kmobs but that won't take too long.

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Attaching a fretted fingerboard to one of the basses.
(3/29/16) Once again I am using the awesome power of the rubber band to compress a fingerboard onto a neck while the adhesive cures. Before I attached the board I dressed the top 8 frets so that I wouldn't have to do that with the body getting in my way. As soon qas this one is set I'll unclamp it and start working on finishing the back of the neck. I have one more bass and fingerboard waiting for this fixture. Probably do that tomorrow morning!

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Two fretted fingerboards now almost ready to be glued onto the remaining two basses.
(3/29/16) The two fretted fingerboards have had their frets trimmed down close to the edges of the boards and I have also removed them for the substrate material I was using to support then through their manufacture. They are now ready for some final trimming and once that is done they will be glued onto the two remaining instruments. These basses require a lot of work but I am happy to see the end in sight so I can send to my customer.

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Getting tooling ready for attaching the fingerboards.
(3/27/16) Left: I am preparing for the three gluing operations that will attach the fingerboards onto the bodies. Truss rods are in and tools are ready. (3/28/16) Right: This is the fretless instrument having its fingerboard attached. I'm using a rubber band system for even application of pressure. Will need to cure overnight.
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First of the three fingerboards being glued on.

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Installing frets in the fretted fingerboards.
(3/26/16) Here we are hammering frets into one of the fretted fingerboards. This one is now done and I am moving on to the second one. While this is going on I am setting up all my equipment to glue on the fretless fingerboard to its body assembly. I will post a photo of that very soon. I have also been doing much of the final sanding on the bodies. When fingerboards are on and cleaned up I will finish the backs of the three necks.

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Ready to glue on the fretless fingerboard.
(3/25/16) This is the fretless bass of the three sisters. I have prepared the fingerboard for assembly and have a special fixture which I will use to securely clamp it onto the neck. I will install the truss rod and then attach the board using an aerospace grade epoxy. This will make a very solid bond between the components. After some minor cleanup I will finalize the shape and thickness of the back of the neck itself and the transition to the body.

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Cutting and installingh the frets on the two fretted fingerboards.
(3/22/16) Just a quick post to show that the frets are going into the two fingerboards. Once they are in and dressed this will allow me to get the fingerboards attached to the necks and I can finish the neck carving. I'm currently working on the fretless fingerboard getting it attached to its bass neck. Nice to see all this final assembly come together after all the inlay work! These basses will be making music soon!!!

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Quick pre-assembly of hardware to make sure everything lines up correctly.
(3/18/16) This is a nice little glimpse of where we are goinh in the next day or two. I'm busy fitting hardware and making sure that the fingerboards I am about to glue on are well aligned with the bridge hardware. It seems like they are and everything lines up just right. I will glue on the fretless fingerboard hopefully today while I am installing frets in the other two. I need to get all the up quickly on the cnc to cut the three control counterboar holes in each.

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Fingerboards have had inlay and side dots done, now ready for fretting and gluing onto their instruments.
(3/15/16) The work on the Celtic Knot inlay on the three fingerboards is now done. While that was going on I also got the side dots on each of the fingerboards established. The image on the left shows the fretless fingerboard sitting on the neck of one of the basses. My next tasks are to bend, cut and install frets on the two fretted fingerboards, dress and finish frets, and get all three boards attached to their respective instruments.

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Applying some clear hard sealer to finish off the inlay process.
(3/12/16) These are the two fretted fingerboards with their celtic knot inlay installed. I'm letting hard clear sealer set in the top surfaces right now. When that is solid I will blend everything flush on the top surface, apply a top coating and install the frets into both boards. Once all the frets are trimmed and dressed on the ends, the boards will come off the support pieces and and be permanantly fixed onto their respective instruments.

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Some evidence of my initial hardship with the Unicorns! All is well now!.
(3/8/16) Left: By way of a little humor I tought I would post some of the less successful attempts to get the detail cut into the unicorns! (3/10/16) Right: On a more productive note - All the fret markers are in one of the necks and I'm in the process of installing the others. They will get a coating of sealer to blend with the surface.
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Installing all the little Celtic Knot inlay pieces - they are fragile so I have to be careful

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Almost done with the shell work.
(3/5/16) These photos illustrate the final stages of the unicorn inlays. It was a lot of work I didn't really anticipate but I managed to capture most of the detail based on the size and I am happy with the results. The contrast will be even more apparent when the final finish is applied as the wood will be darker and the shell will 'pop' more!
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This inlay is complete except for poilishing and the added contrast with the soon-to-be finished wood.

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All three basses getting their unicorns.
(2/29/16) Left: All three basses are set up on the machine because I need to maintain their respective zero positions so that I can do the secondary machining after inlay. (3/1/16) Right: This is one of the Unicorn inlays already set into the instrument. I will do this for all three and then do the machining process to finish the work.
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Shell goes into the first of the three.

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Starting on the inlay process for the actual instruments.
(2/26/16) Left: I'm setting the three bodies up on the CNC so that I can machine out the recesses for the inlay. Requires two programs and cutters to get the sharp corners. (2/27/16) Right: This is one of the Unicorn recesses that has been machined out and is now ready for me to cut, inset and glue the shell inlay material.
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This is the inlay recess on one of the basses.

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Finally - a complete and successful test - that was a LOT of work!.
(2/24/16) This is the end result of stage two of the unicorn inlay. I glued the shell solidly into the recess and let it set really hard. I then got back on the CNC and reset to the same center point and used a .020" (.5mm) end mill to remove the areas of shell to create the detail. Took a little time because of the cutter size and the nature of the shell material but I like the end result and I am now going to employ the same procedure on each of the three basses.

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Shell inlay being glued into the recess - more machining to come.
(2/22/16) In this picture you can see that I have cut a recess for the entire inlay and dropped shell into the machined space. This shell is being glued in so that it is a solid part of the wood block I am testing upon. When the adhesive is set I am going back in with the same miniature milling cutter to machine out the features surrounding the shell part of the inlay. Once that is done I will be able to decide whether to leave that natural wood or fill for best results.

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Doing some further test cutting to get a nice Unicorn inlay.
(2/20/16) The Unicorn inlay is somewhat complicated based on the requirements we have to satisfy. We only have about 2 inches in height available for space so I'm using as much of that as I can. The inlay is very detailed and my customer wants the inlay to be done in white shell. To that end I am maximizing the amount of white in the inlay itself. I tried a couple of different approaches - this is the early stage of the latest.

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This is the fretless fingerboard next to its parent body.
(2/18/16) This is a quick photo of the fretless bass with its fingerboard placed on it so we can see how it looks against the rest of the body.The maple fret markers came out really well and we decided that we will be putting the celtic knot markers in this fingerboard as well as the fretted ones. That way they will all match even more closely. As soon as my CNC machine is free I will get this board up on there and get the machining done for the inlay.

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Adding maple fret markers to the fretless fingerboard.
(2/17/16) The fingerboards are getting some final work. This picture shows the fretless fingerboard with the maple fret markers being installed. I glue these in and when the adhesive has cured and will trim and sand them all down flush with the top of the board. At that point I will be able to finihh the top surface and add a coat or two of sealer. Should look really nice. I will then add the side dots and at that point the board can go on the bass.

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Unicorn cut into zebrawood as a test.
(2/15/16) I ran the program to see what the cutter and the wood material would tolerate given the detail involved. It took quite a while to machine but it came out clean. My thought after seeing this is to cut the full recess. drop in the white shell and then machine within the shell to create the artwork. I will try that and compare results - should be interesting! This could be done as shown or reversed - but we will be able to compare.

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A challenging machining task but I want this to look right!.
(2/13/16) This is how my CMC programming software interprets the machining of the Unicorn based on the size of the cutter and the siae of the artwork itself. It is fairly intricate but as far as machining is concerned it is do-able so I am going to run it this way and see what I get. I will be posting a few more photos on this. In the meantime inlay has been put in fretted necks and maple veneer into the fretless neck - pictures to follow on that too!

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Testing inlay recess using a micro-end mill.
(2/12/16) I have a piece of the same Zebrawood set up on my CNC with my second smallest cutter. I'm going to run the artwork for the unicorn and see what we get. I may have to switch from a .038 dia. cutter to a .023 to get all the detail in but we will soon know. While I am doing this will also be cutting some shell to see if it will stay together at this scale. Will post results and if it's successful I'll move straight to the basses.

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Unicorn inlay prepped for test - if all goes well will move it all the the three basses!!.
(2/11/16) Our concept for the unicorn inlay is that this image will be engraved and inlaid in the space between the end of the fingerboard and the neck pickup using white shell. I will have to perform a test cut and inlay in similar materials to see if an image as complex as this can be successfully inlaid at the required dimensions. I think there's a decent chance it can be done without simplifying the artwork but I don't want to test on an actual instrument!

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Three fingerboards - two almost ready for frets and one ready for fretless inlay.
(2/9/16) I now have three machined fingerboards and I'm cleaning up the shell inlay pieces so that I can complete the fret inlays on the two fretted boards. I am also cutting maple blanks as inserts into the fretless fingerboard and thopse will be added to that board very soon. While all this is going on I have been working on the body radius work on all three instruments and creating the interface between the neck and the body on each bass.

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Cutting the compound radius.
(2/7/16) In this photo I am machining the compound radius on one of the three fingerboards so that I can get them ready for assembly onto the instruments. While this is happening I am working on Celtic knot inlay for the 2nd fretted fingerboard and optimizing the file for the white shell Unicorn inlay which will appear on all three instruments. I will do final neck carving and shaping after the fingerboards go on.

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Cutting the perimeters of the fingerboards.
(2/6/16) Machining under way on the remaining two fingerboards. Firstly I am running a cutter around each board to establish the finished dinemsions. Once that is done to both pieces I will change cutters and generate the compound radius on both boards. I will have fret slots and inlay to establish on the fretted board. I am also busy with sanding of bodies and getting ready finish up the control cavity covers for the backs.

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Remaining two fingerboards set up to be machined.
(2/4/16) I have been busy filing, shaping and sanding the remaining edges of the three bodies so that we have a consistent redius around all areas of the body. At the same time I put the two remaining fingerboards up on the CNC so that I can cut and radius them. One of them will be a regular fretted neck - the other will be a fretless neck. The instruments are ready to have the truss rods installed and get the fingerboards attached.

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Working on the tapered geometry at the back end of each bass.
(1/30/16) I wanted to take one of the basses and see how it would tolerate adding a radious to the two back features. Fortunately the Zebrawood was thick enough to allow me to get a good looking curve cut at the back. In the photo you can see where the material was removed. No sanding has been done yet but when it is the shapes should blend beautifully together. I have since moved on to the other two instruments. More photos soon!

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Back ends of all 3 bodies shaped to final geometry.
(1/28/16) My web-updating time is somewhat limited these days but I wanted to show the three basses with their jack recesses established and the back end contours all sanded to their final shape. I am now moving on to radiusing around the perimeters of the rest of the bodies and also creating a tapered relief on the top plates at the back ends upper and lower bouts. I also have fingerboards in the works and starting on some of the final sanding.

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One of the jack socket recesses machined into the bass body.
(1/26/16) Left: This is one of the recesses for the jack socket cut into the bottom of the bass into the control cavity. Right: Just to show the end result - I dropped in the Neutrik locking jack socket assembly to show how the recess allows the socket frame to sit flush with the body surface. These are strong and sturdy sockets.
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This photo shows the Neutrik socket set in place.

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Setting bodies up on CNC to get the recess for the jack scocket established.
(1/25/16) This is a slightly strange and elaborate setup but only due to the unusual body angles on these basses. I have to machine a hole and recess for the jack socket assembly and it has to be flush and parallel to the lower straight edge of the body. I was able to rig up an angle plate onto which i am holding the body so that the machined geometry is cut at the correct angle. I am running this setup while working on body shaping details.

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Doing some material removal and shaping at the back of the bodies.
(1/23/16) The next task I have is to finish shaping the back end of the basses flush to the machined surfaces below. There is just a little overhang at the back which I will remove on the spindle sander. This will finish off the top profile and once that's done I will extend the radius edge break around the entore top and back of the instrument. I will then set things up to machine out the hole and rectangular recess for the jack socket assemblies.

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Cutting pickup cavities!.
(1/21/16) I am now machining the bridge and neck pickup cavities in each of the basses. I want to make sure positioning relative to the bridge is nice and consistent between the three basses. They are now starting to look like finished instruments. Not much actual machining left on these instruments except establishing the jack socket recess. Most of th eremaining body work will be done by hand and we'll be ready for final sanding.

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Setting up to cut pickup cavities.
(1/19/16) Here we are back on the CNC again but this time it's for one of the last machining operations. I have set up a program to cut out the two pickup cavities and in doing so the recesses I machine will meet up with the channels for the internal wiring I machined before the tops went on. Once the pickups cavities are done most of the remaining work is sanding, grinding & shaping. Have to establish somehwhere for the serial numbers to go!

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Pickup placement eastablished based on bridge geometry and reserved area for inlay.
(1/18/16) Based on the geometry of the Hipshot hardware and where that puts our 34 inch scale length point, I have calculated what I believe to be the best locations for the bridge and neck pickups. I also have to leave room at the end of the fingerboard for an inlay I am going to drop into the instrument. With all of these factors in mind I think I have come up with the best formula and I am nowready to cut pickup recesses in all three basses.

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Doing some planning to locate pickups and get set up top cut pickup cavities.
(1/16/16) Definitely getting closer to the completion of the machining on these instruments. Right now I am verifying locations for the pickups so that I can get these set up to have the pickup cavities machined out. While all this is going on I have been sanding around the bodies, breaking edges, adding radii, shaping necks, working on fingerboards. It's all happening but things are moving along and results are very encouraging!

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Now set up for cutting control cavities.
(1/14/16) Left: Time to get the control cavities milled out on the backs of the instruments. I got this set up as soon as my machine was free and ran the first one to see how things worked out. I programmed a little enclosure for the battery and the remaining space for the three stacked controls on the Audere system. Should be awesome.
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First of three cavities machined.

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2nd operation doing the opposite side of the v-shaped top plate - the came out looking good!.
(1/13/16) Left: Working on the opposite side of the three tops - the radius comes out really nice along these edges and I am very happy with the outcome. Right: This photo shows the resulting edge break on the upper and lower edges of the top plates. Next is some work on spindle sander to complete profile shaping at the back end.
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Radii established on top and bottom straight edges of top plates.

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Found a good way to get the upper edge radius edge breaks done.
(1/12/16) I went out to the hardware store and bought a radius cutter that i thought could get in between these two pieces of wood to establish the correct edge break I had to modigy it a little but it did work fine. I'm going to run this cutter along all the straight upper edges. All the other areas I can do with other equipment or by hand - but this was the only way to deal with the radius in this area. Want to get this doen so I can machine cavities!

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Cleaning up edges around the bodies and prepping for machining.
(1/11/16) I have been cleaning up all the edges of the three basses. There's a littlle more work to be done to clean up the back ends which I will probably do on the drum sander. I need to find a little radius cutter to break the edges around the top and bottom plates. Next operations will be cutting the control cavities and then flipping the instruments over and cutting the two pickup recesses in each instrument. Also some fingerboard work.

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Third of the three basses getting the zebra top glued on.
(1/10/16) Today I am working on machining the top plates to their final size so that they blend with the rest of the body and come together orrectly at the front end. I have never done anything like this so I'm just approaching it with as much common sense and logic as I can muster. I'm using a 1/2 inch ball end mill to get a nice blend between the top and the little wenge wing sections. I still have to radius all the edges and blend at the fingerboard end.

Highslide JS
Gluing the top onto 2 of 3.
(1/8/16) This is the activity from the last 24 hours - the second and third basses have had their top plates glued on and everything looks good. Great to have all these pieces together. While that has been going on I have been creating a program and setup to allow me to machine the upper edges and the radius to blend the wings.
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Third of the three basses getting the sebra top glued on.

Highslide JS
Gluing top plates onto the bass bodies.
(1/6/16) This is the first of the three setups where I am gluing the top plates onto the bodies of the basses. I have to rely on as many clamps as I can fit in the available space to hold the top plate securely down onto the top body surface as the glue cures. I snspected the joint integrity carefully and it looks like things are working out fine. Once I do this to all three I will do some machining to re-establish the edges of the top plates.

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Cutting wiring channels for the inside of the body.
(1/5/16) I'm busy today machining the tops of the instruments to establish the wiring channels for the pickups and the grounding wires from the bridge to the control cavity. If I don't establish these channels at this stage, its almost impossible to create accurate wiring holes after the top gets secured onto the body. Having cut these channels I am now able to get the top plates prepped and ready for gluing onto their respective bodies!

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Machining out the joint area to fit the end of the neck.
(1/3/16) Left: Tops are up on my machine to have the relief cut out so that they fit the end profile of the neck. This is a job I have to stay on and monitor all the way through because the fit is so critical. Right: After a few hours of careful work and fitting I have three slightly oversize tops neatly fitted to their instruments.
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Three tops ready for fitting on the bodies.

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Bodies and top plates ready to be assembled together.
(1/2/16) I now have all three bodies machined. The neck ends have been established for jointing with the top plates. Top surfaces cleaned up nice and flat so that I am ready in each case to glue the top plates on. Today I also too all three top plates and sanded them so that they are all nice and flat. Next step will be to make sure I have suitable wiring channels established in each and then go ahead and glue on the bookmatched top plates.

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Tops of thye basses have been machined and the end of the neck has been established.
(1/1/16) This is how the bodies look after I have machined the end profile of the neck and cleaned up the top surface of the body. This puts the instrument in a condition where it is ready to accept the assembly of the top plate. I anxious to get those pre assembled top plates on so that we can see more or less completed instruments. With the top plates on I can flip them over and machine out the control cavities and also cut the pickup cavities.

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Setting up to machine top surfaces of bodies.
(12/31/15) Despite some limited shop time due to New Year and all that stuff (!) I got the program and the setup done for the machining required on the top surface of the instruments. This will create a joint area for the top plate, generate a flat joint surface for assembly and establish the position of the end of the neck at the body end. I will then be able to glue the top plates on to the instruments and clean up the overlap. Should look good!

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Machining of the first body profile went well after a few adjustments.
(12/29/15) Left: This photo shows a machined body profile with the cavity cover placed in its location just so you can see what the back of one of these basses will look like.(12/30/15) Right: The machining process was quite involved in an effort to make sure everything came out right. Took more time than I bargained for but all done!
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3 basses with machined bodies.

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Back view of one of the basses with both body halves attached. Still slightly oversize.
(12/28/15) Left:This is one of the bodies with the lower body half attached. Seems like everything is lining up just fine. Right: Next task is to shape the outer perimeter of the body. I was considering doing this by hand but decided for repeatability I should write a program and cut the profie on the CNC. Gives me more control of the result.
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One of the basses on the CNC for profiling.

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Marking out positions so that I can glue the lower body halves onto the instruments.
(12/27/15) Time to start aligning the top and bottom body halves so that they can be glued together. It's important that the two body halves go onto the core in such a way that they fit the body profile. I have cut the joint faces on the CNC machine so that they are flat and square and fit snugly to the joint face on the core. I'm in the process of marking the linear position of the lower body half so that I can go ahead and glue it on.

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Gluing back plates to lower body halves in the vacuum press.
(12/26/15) I had great plans for gluing and assembling today but was thwarted by a nasty flu. Nevertheless I did get some gluing of bottom body halves done (you can see one in the vacuum press) and some marking for machining joint faces and attaching these to the existing body. I have to be careful at this stage to select the correct pieces of Wenge and Zebra based on the matching sets for each! Hopefully business as usual tomorrow!

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APLugs have been glued into the three lower boack plates.
(12/25/15) Left: I have now glued the cavity cover plugs into the back plates of the three instruments and they are now ready to be assembled with their Wenge body center pieces. Right: I started installing the Celtic Knot inlay into the fingerboard of one of the basses. Got most of them in today. Starting to look nice!
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Installing the Celtic Knot inlay in one of the fingerboards.

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Ready to glue plug material into the back plates.
(12/24/15) Left: I made plugs for the recesses in the lower back plates and I will glue these into all three back plates. This will give me solid plates with lid recesses which I can then glue onto the lower body halves. Right: I have now attached upper body halves to all three core sectionsand trimmed back the extra core material.
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All three basses with upper body halves attached.

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Second of the upper body halves being glued on.
(12/23/15) Left: I'm now gluing the top body half onto the second bass core section. I just need to be very careful that the surfaces at the bottom are flus with each other. Right: Top half successfully attached to the first core. I need to do some sending to remove extra glue but the joint looks good so moving ahead!
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Successful attachment of first upper body half.

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First of the body halves being glued on.
(12/22/15) After much measuring and thinking and planning I fastened the fiirst of the body halves onto one of the core sections. I do believe all my calculations are correct but we are continuing to break new ground here so it pays to be a little careful.I am going to let this one set overnight and inspect it carefully in the morning. All being well I will apply the same operation to the other two cores. Moving as fast as time permits - more very soon!

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Cutting the cavity cover out from the back of the plate.
(12/21/15) Left: I have reversed the plates and I'm now using a larger cutter to cut deep enough to meet the cutter path from the first operation and thereby release the cover piece. Right: In this photo yo ucan see the harvested cover and the recess I created by removing it. next task will be to make a plug for that recess and install.
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Cavity cover now safely removed.

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Setting up to harvest out the control cavity covers.
(12/21/15) Left: I'm setting up my CNC to harvest out the continuous grain control cavity cover from the lower back plate. I have to do this before the plate itself is attached to the body material. Right: This is the cover with a very small milling cut going just over half way deep. I will flip over the plates and cut from opposide side.
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First operation of control cavity cover work has been done.

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Making sure the body halves are located in exacltly the right point relative to core section.
(12/20/15) Left: I have to make a very critical decision regarding the placement of the body halves relative to the bridge. I will go ahead and glue on the top halves of the three basses based on these calculations. Right: All three tops have been bookmatched together and will be added to the assemblies when body halves are completed.
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Gluing one of the top plate pairs together.

Highslide JS
Gluing one of the top plate pairs together.
(12/19/15) I'm busy gluing these top plates together which helps me plan ahead to get the rest of the body parts assembled. The tops look really nice with their bookmatched grain so I am really lloking forward to seeing this on the actual instrument, especially after we apply some of the finish! Right now it's all about gluing plates and body parts together. I will post more pictures of the results very soon!

Highslide JS
Doing some machining to align some critical dimensions between the three instruments.
(12/18/15) An unexpected but necessary machining operation today. Since I am working on three identical instruments it is necessary to locate off of a few known reference points and machine the back faces to create a very consistent relationship between the neck angle, body thickness and bridge height. Doing this allowed me to remove any variables I might run into and ulitimately will save me time adjusting later on! Now back to the assembly!

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TRecesses for inlay pieces are now cut into the fingerboard.
(12/17/15) Left: I programmed the profile of the recess that will match the inlay pieces I am making from the shell material and ran the cnc to cut these shapes in the fingerboard.Will post potos of these. Right: Pairing up the top plates and cutting the joint faces onto each so that I can glue the top halves together.
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Machining the joint faces of the top plate pairs prior to gluing.

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Fret slots have been machined into the fingerboard.
(12/16/15) Left: Fret slots are now machined into the fingerboard, now my concern is to establish the design and size of the fret marker inlay. Right: My customer wants Celtic knots so I'm goinh to try and achieve that buy prefabricating a shell and acrylic combination and cutting the artwork on the laser. Hoping this will work!
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This is a sandwicj of green shell and acrylis which I hope I can use to create the inlay.

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Cutting the perimeter of the fingerboard to match neck dimensions.
(12/15/15) Working on the first fingerboard on the CNC now. First task is to cut the perimeter of the board to match the dimensions of the neck. Then I change cutters and run a program that generates the compound radius of the top surface of the fingerboard. When that is completed i will sand smooth and will be ready for fret slots.
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Machining the compound radius on the top surface of the fingerboard.

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Planning out the internal geometry of the control cavity.
(12/14/15) Some computer work necessary since this is a special body shape so everything is new. I want to incorporate a secure area for the battery and keep it separated from the rest of the electronics. At the same time everything has to fit the slightly smaller body size. I will have three stacked knobs which will reduce the number of potentiometers involved. Looks like this geometry will work. Now I have to write some programs.

Highslide JS
Gluing some of the Zebra back plates onto the wenge body core.
(12/13/15) In this photo I am gluing one of the back plates onto the wenge center piece of the body. I can currently do this to the upper bouts of each of the basses because I am going to house the battery for the preamps in the control cavity. I have veneers on all of the back and top plates now, and as soon as my CNC is free I start machining both the fingerboards and the lowed back plates which need cavity covers harvested.

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Using the vacuum press to attach veneer to the back plates.
(12/12/15) I have a lot of gluing going in in my shop. I have 12 top and back panels that require maple veneer attached to their joint faces and I have some of them running in the vacuum press while I am preparing others. While this is going on I am writing programs for fingerboards and cavity covers and doing some R&D on the laser for the inlay work to come. I will also be gluing soem of the Wenge to the Zbrawood for body halves.

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Preparing Asian Ebony fingerboards for machining.
(12/11/15) These are the three fingerboards which I have now attached so stable bases so that I can handle each one through the various machining processes without the danger of them moving. As soon as my machine is free they will be going on there to be nachined to the final dimensions, then have the compount radius machined onto each, then the fret slots and finally the recesses for the inlay we hope to add.

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Using the vacuum press to attach veneer to the back plates.
(12/10/15) Here are two of the back plates in the vacuum press having maple veneer attsched to the joint surface. I want to get all these back pieces glued up as quickly as possible because I have canity covers to harvest out of the lower pieces and that will require a couple of CNC operations. The veneer has to go on first though. I will probably put the battery for the preamp in the same compartment which will allow ne to glue up the top bouts.

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The three bookmatched tops are ready for veneers.
(12/9/15) I just finished sanding both sides of the top plates so I thought I would post a photo of what they look like. Each on is now to final thickness but still rough sawn on the outline. I'd rather keep these a little oversize until the body parts are assembled to give me some room to fit them properly. I love this wood (it looks just like Pale Moon Ebony) and it will really come to life after the finish is applied. Now on to the wenge body cores.

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Asian ebony for the fingerboards - rough sawn and sanded to thickness.
(12/5/15) I gave a lot of thought to fingerboard material. Firstly the material should be compatible with the color scheme of of the instrument intself. Also - since one of the three has to be a fretless and we want them all to match, the material I use should be durable enough to work as a fretless. My best option was asian abony which was a good match and will work well tonally. It will be fairly dark after surface treatment and will look good with inlay.

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These are the six Wenge body half pieces.
(12/4/15) The blanks for the body halves have been rough sawn from a Wenge board. I chose this board because it had a lot of figure on the upper faces and nice straight grain on the sides. When the tops are on the grain in the wenge will still be visible on the two upper horns which is what I was planning. These pieces need to be drum sanded flat and then I'll deal with veneers and getting them glued onto the back plates.

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These are the back plates for the three instruments - sanded and now ready for veneer application.
(12/3/15) Here are the three back plate sets after they have been trimmed closer to the body size and then run through the drum sanding process. They are all now nice and flat and all the same thickness. My next step will be to add veneer to the joint faces. While this is moving along i am also sanding the top plates and preparing the wenge body parts. I'm also working on inlay for the three basses - more on that very soon.

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Rough idea of back configuration. Control cavity will have continuous grain cover.
(12/1/15) Although this image only shows a rough alignment with the unfinished wood surface it gives an idea of how the backs of the basses will look. The fronts will have the full bookmatched top plate but the darker wenge will show in the two upper bouts. All three basses will match really well since all 12 plates came out of the same piece of wood. I have to get busy sawing and sanding all these components!

Highslide JS
Adding Maple veneer to the joint faces on the core sections.
(11/26/15) While the sanding is in progress I am preparing the three core sections for body assembly by adding a maple veneer to each joint face. This will look really nice on the back of the bass when the body halves are attached. I want these basses to have a really custom look and I have a very encouraging vision of the finished products. My next task is to cut some weng for the body parts and figure out cavity geometry.

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All the pieces for tops and backs have been sawn.
(11/21/15) All three bodies have been re-sawn so that I have bookmatched pieces on hand for tops and backs. I will be moving to the drum sander to sand all of these pieces flat and to a consistent thickness. Following that I will cut wenge for the center section of the body halves and sand that to prepare for the body sub-assemblies. Once the body parts are assembled and attached to the cores these basses will be much more recognizable.

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Starting to cut up the top material and bookmatch.
(11/16/15) I used my template to mark out the body profiles on my wood and I was able to cut the wood in such a way as to leave enough spare material for a matching bookmatched back. This will really enhance the look of these instruments as typically a matching back is a very high end feature simply because it demands so much expensive figured wood. I have sawn one of the plates to create the bookmatched top already.

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Body geometry now transferred onto grid paper and will be cut as a template.
(11/11/15) Now that I have a reliable vector drawing I had to transfer that to graph paper so that I can use that physical outline as a template. I was very careful to transfer the outline accurately and I will now be able to cut this body shape and use it in my shop as a template for cutting the wood. I want to get the best yield from my wood because I just discovered I can make matching backs for these basses - they will look awesome!

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Scaled and plotted the body geometry.
(11/3/15)This is the body geometry based on my scaling from representative photographs I had on file. These shapes are created in a vector drawing program and are drawn to 100% scale. I wanted to account for the fact that there is a top plate and a second level plate in the body construction. This vector drawing allows me to scale and place the hardware in the desired locations on the computer.

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Started rough shaping on the backs of these three.
(10/26/15) Following the machining of the side joint faces I did some cleanup work around the body ends and started the rough carving process on the backs of the neck areas. Initially this is mainly to remove excess material and get all three to a similar condition but it also allows me to get a little closer to finished sizes. Next objective will be to get the body halves attached to each unit. To that end I will be adding decorative veneer to the joint faces.

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Machining accurate joint faces for the body halves.
(10/20/15) I now have the cores up on the machine and I'm busy cutting the joint faces so that I generate nice flat and square surfaces to which I can apply decorative veneer and thereafter the two body half pieces. I have material separated for the body halves and I'm anxious to get those parts assembled and also to get the top plates completed. I also have hardware and pickups in the works so there's a lot going on!

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Backs of all three blanks have been cleaned up and sanded.
(10/15/15) machining on backs completed and I have also removed the extra material from the clamping areas, and sanded the three back surfaces so that they are all ready for the next operation. I am now going to set these up on the CNC using an angle plate so that I can generate reliably square sides on the body end of each of these blanks. This in turn will allow me to get the body halves glued onto each assembly.

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Machining the backs of the three core sections.
(10/8/15) I have all three of the core sections up on the CNC right now. The objective is to machine the back surfaces of all three to the finished dimension. I set them all up together so that I could further guarantee that all the physical sizes from the machining operation would be consistent between the three assemblies. Now that this is done I can prep the sides of each core section for gluing on the two body extensions.

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Gluing the carbon fiber rods into the necks.
(9/29/15) I am working on all three core sections to get the two carbon fiber rods installed and glued into eacjh assembly. The photo shows one of them after the carbon fiber rods have been glued and clamped. Once I have all three done I will sand the top surface flush to remove any overspill and we will be ready for the next step which i believe will be preparation of the sides of the cores for the body joints. More photos coming!

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All three core sections fitted with carbon fiber rods.
(9/24/15) I now have all three core sections machined to the same stage and I also have carbon fiber rods cut and fitted into each instrument. These rods will need to be glued into the neck slots using a very high grade epoxy formula. Once that is done there will be a little leveling and cleanup at which point we can prepare for the body parts to go onto the sides of the core pieces. When that is done they will look more like bass guitars!

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Neck cut, truss rod in, carbon fiber slots are done plus seat for string retainer.
(9/16/15) Almost done here with the machining ioperations. I have been running these blanks through the CNC consecutively so that I can repeat the same programs and operations for each one while everything is at hand. It's still a lot of work and time-consuming but I now have all three core sections completely machined with neck profile, body angle, headstock hardware recess, truss rod slot and carbon fiber slots.

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Two of the surfaces have been machined.
(9/12/15) I have machined the top surface of the neck area and also generated the body angle. These are two of the most important reference surfaces on the instruments. Next step will be to cut the actual outside profile of the neck and body portions of the core. I may go ahead and alos machine the seat for the Hipshot headless hardware and cut the slot for the truss rod and two adjacent slots for carbon fiber rods.

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Setting up to start machining work on the three core assemblies.
(9/9/15) I'm at the stage where I can now do the machining to the three core sections. In this pohoto I an busy setting up the first of the three units so that I can get the top surface, neck-to-body angle and headstock angles established. If all goes well I will also cut the truss rod slots and the slots for the carbon fiber rods. It will be nice to get those operations done because that will allow me to start on the body work!

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I now have three complete cores ready for machining.
(8/26/15) All three core assemblies are now complete and that brings me to a point where I need to do a series of machining operations to establish some of the final surfaces. As soon as my machine is free I will get these up and cut the top surface, body angle, truss rod and carbon fiber slots, headstock details and the actual finished perimeter of the necks and body cores. That will keep me busy for a little while!

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Now I am gluing outer laminates to the pre-assembled cores.
(8/19/15) I am now gluing the two outer pieces of wenge onto each of the three necks. When complete I will have three 5-piece core sections which are the heart and soul of the basses. I'll clean those up and get them on the CNC for machining operations. While that is happening I will be cutting body parts and top plate assemblies so I expect to see things come together nicely. Can't wait to see these complete!

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Gluing continues - maple going on to the outer core laminates.
(8/12/15) I haven't been posting too many photos of the laminate/veneer gluing because they all tend to look the same. However in the attached image I am gluing the LAST veneer onto the LAST outer core laminate which means I have achieved 32 gluing operations out of 36!! All I will now have to do is glue the outer wenge laminates to the pre-assembled center sub assemblied I have already created. At that point I'll have 3 complete instrument cores.

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This is our proposed top material - a really nice and very unusual Zebrawood.
(8/4/15) This is a photo of the very unusual non-linear zebrawood that I am planning to use for the bookmatched tops of these basses. The dark stripes in the grain will match the wenge in the core section and the grain on this plank is consistent enough for us to achieve our goal of making all three instruments fairly consistent in overall appearance. As soon as time permits I will get a body template drawn up so that I can cut these tops out!

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One of the Wenge outer pieces ready to get its maple veneer.
(7/26/15) I now have the center three laminates glued together and trimmed for all three instruments. Next step is to drum sand the outer wenge pieces and add a maple veneer to the inner edge. This will complete the neck/core section for each of the instruments. Once the three cores are complete I will move everything to the CNC machine where I will cut some critical surfaces and establish all the final sizes.

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Gluing of the laminates is moving along.
(7/19/15) More progress on the center laminate sub-sets. I'm almost done gluing the central three tapered laminates together for all three basses. It's nice to get them glued together because I don't have all these individual laminates all over my work areas! Once they are glued together the fifteen separate laminates become three easily manageable core sections! Next task will be to drum sand the six Wenge outer laminates.

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One of the three assemblies ready to be glued together.
(7/10/15) This photo shows one of the three sets of maple and wenge tapered laminates that will be glued together to create the core sections of the instruments. There have been so many laminates that I have used up all my maple and lavoa veneer but fortunately have some more on the way from Colorado! Happy with the results so far - things are coming together. These will be very nice resonant necks and should yield great sound and sustain.

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Lavoa veneers being applied to the 2nd side of three of the maple laminate piecess.
(7/1/15) In this photo I am gluing Lavoa veneer on the second side of three of the maple laminates. There will be 12 such operations to get the veneers on the center laminates (and 6 more for the outer laminates) so there's a LOT of gluing going on right now. All for a good cause though, because I am very close to the point where I can start assembling the cores of these three instruments. We will then see the instruments come together!

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I'm busy gluing veneer onto the maple laminates.
(6/23/15) Next task is to get dark veneers attached to all 12 sides of these tapered laminates. In order to handle so many I am employing the vacuum press which saves me using dozens of mechanical clamps to hold down laminates while veneer in curing. In the vaccuum press I can have all six laminates being glued at the same time. When these are done they will get trimmed and I will repeat the process on the opposite side of each laminate.

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All of the maple tapered laminates have been machined to size.
(6/16/15) At last I have completed all the machining of the tapered laminates. Once off the CNC machine I spent a little time cleaning up any machining marks off the surfaces and making sure they all measured consistently. They are now ready for the application of the dark veneers. I am planning to do that process in the vacuum press because I am able to do two or more gluing assemblied at the same time. More pictures coming.

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Almost done cutting all the maple tapers.
(6/11/15) This is the third set of maple laminates which need to be cut to complete the three sets. It's a little time consuming so I will be glad when these are all machined down to size. This is probably the most involved peration on the early part of the building process but it is important that all three seta of maple laminates come out exactly the same size so that we have good consistency between the three instruments!

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Machining of tapers continues..
(6/2/15) I'm busy machining the three sets of maple laminates that need to be cut to specific tapered dimensions. It's a messy job because it creates so much in the way of wood chips but it's nice to see the parts get closer to completion. I just ordered more veneer so as soon as these are machined and cleaned up I will be gluing contrasting veneers onto the tapered components and then gluing everything together. So far so good!

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Machining one of the sets of maple laminates.
(5/26/15) In this photo I am machining a set of the maple laminates for the core setion of one of the basses. I will have three sets just like this to machine and that will allow me to get moving on veneers and getting the three core sections assembled. Consistency is very important so that I can assure that all three assemblies will be dimensionally identical. I have a lot of gluing of veneers and laminates in my near future!

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Gluing veneers in the vacuum press.
(5/17/15) I am currently gluing maple veneer onto the machined taper laminates that will become the components of the neck assemblies. In the photo I am using the vacuum press to apply veneer to the 2nd side of two of the center laminates. While I am busy doing this I will also be machining more of the tapered laminates (the maple pieces) on the CNC. Once they are machined and surfaces they will get a darker contrasting veneer.

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Setting up machining for the next two center laminates.
(5/6/15) In this photo I have the remaining two center laminatesset up and secured in the machine. I will machine them to exactly the same taper dimensions as the first piece. Once these are done I will be able to move to the task of machining all six of the maple laminates. Similarly - when they are machined, they will have dark veneer glued to both joint sides. I have material set aside for body parts and tops now so moving ahead!!

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PFirst center tapered laminate is machined.
(4/30/15) This is the first of three identical laminate pieces. They will all represent the center laminate in each of the core sections I am building. While I am setting up to machin the other two, this first one is being prepared to have maple veneer glued to both sides. All the dark laminates will be treated this way and all the light laminates (maple) will have a contrasting dark veneer applied to both sides. When they fit together - double pinstripes.

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Praparing to machine tapers for the core sections.
(4/25/15) I set up the CNC machine to cut the correct taper on the center laminate of each bass. I will run the first one on its own and then run the other two as a pair. This will give me a finish machined center strip to which I can apply contrasting veneer. I will repeat this process with all the pairs of maple laminates and we'll be able to assemble the three core sections. Wenge and maple always looks and sounds good together!

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Three sets of 5-piece core sections for these basses.
(4/16/15) Here are the three sets of neck laminates which are ready to be run through my drum sander. They are all essentially identical in that they are cut from similar boards and in general have the same grain characteristics. I want to get these sanded on both sides so that i have good reliable flat surfaces to locate from, and then get them all cut to their repective tapers. At that stage they will be ready for assembly.

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This is one of the three sets of laminates I have ready for sanding.
(4/1/15) I am busy getting all the Curly Maple neck blanks cut so that we have 5 laminates for each bass. Right now I have three sets of laminates like the one illustrated. I am moving these to drum sanding so that I can clean up all the critical surfaces. Right after that I will machine three of each set of five to pre-defined tapers so that we have all the pieces cut exactly for the core section assemblies.

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All wenge laminates are ready for sanding and machining.
(3/18/15) In order to create all the blank parts for these three basses I have been busy sawing up blanks for thier respective assemblies. I now have nine W3enge neck blanks and I am in the process of sawing up a further six maple neck blanks so that I have three complete sets to start machining on. The next step for me is to get all these pieces sanded in my drum sander and them set up on the CNC so that I can machine all the tapers!

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More wenge core laminates being cut.
(3/7/15) I have the three Wenge laminates cut for the first bass, and I will be moving ahead to cut the remaining siz wenge pieces and 8 similar laminates in Curly Maple. That will give me all the raw material for the core sections of the three instruments. While all that is going on I will be drum sanding all of these pieces and getting them ready for machinin on the CNC machine where I will be cutting them to pre-determined tapers.

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Cut the first laminate which I will use as my template for the rest.
(2/28/15) I made a special template for the profile of this bass shape and I have now cut one of the laminates top make sure everything is accounted for. This will become my template for the cutting of 14 other laminates that I will need to put these basses together. I have the material now so as soon as I OK this template I will saw up the pieces I will need. The cores of the instruments constitute a good amount of the work involved.

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Hipshot's well engineered bass hardware.
(2/16/15) For reference, this is the Hipshot headless bass system I am planning to use for the three basses in this project. There are some other options out there, but I'd like to retain as much of the character of the reference model as possible so I believe the Hipshot package will be our best option. These units are also lighter in weight and lower in profile than some of the other headless systems on the marketplace.

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Hipshot's string retainer unit.
(2/11/15) This is the Hipshot string retaining unit that will be used on the ends of the necks of these basses. thesy allow for regular strings or ball-end strings if the user prefers. Nice to have the choice. These units are made of brass and have a very hard wearing black finish on them. They will look good on the instruments. I will post a photo of the tuner units as soon as I have them. Right now I am cutting laminate pieces!

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Cutting some of the neck material.
(2/2/15) I checked up on the best hardware for this project before committing to the actual profile. I will be using Hipshot headless hardware on the projects because of their excellent quality and the fact that their hardware matched fairly closely the hardware we are using as a reference. Now that I know the hardware geometry, I'm getting ready to cut the Wenge components for the three necks. Once I do that I will move on to the other laminates.

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Getting a 100% scale vector drawing together which will be my reference for the entire duration of the project.
(1/21/15) One of my first tasks is to get as many of the critical dimensions for the instrument established as possible and use those to create a vector drawing of all the instrument features at 100% scale. This drawing still has to have the body geometry added but it's good to get some of the basics down so that I can get started cutting material for the core sections. I have the material now in stock so I am anxious to get things going.

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Some of the material I will be starting with on this project - Wenge and Maple.
(1/10/15) I got hold of some Wenge and Curly Maple which should work very well together for the core sections of these three instruments. The Wenge/Maple formula works really well for both fretted and fretless instruments so I believe this is a pretty safe choice for the core sections of these instruments. I have a template that suits this project so I will be cutting out the blanks for the core very soon!
Last update April 8, 2014