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Fretless Acoustic Bass Guitar Build

Fretless Acoustic Bass Guitar Build

Quick links:

Design
Build
Finished bass
Demo video

Design

I wanted to use A-frame bracing design with asymmetric soundhole, and carefully analysed the shape of four such instruments:

I compared upper/lower bout ratios, waist height, waist depth, cutaway curves, squareness v. roundness, and came up with a design that I felt combined all the attractive aesthetic elements of those guitars, while avoiding aspects that didn't appeal to me as much.
I also came up with a wave motif that I wanted to use for the headstock, bridge and fingerboard end.
For a number of years I built jigs, molds, woodworking equiment, and practiced the craft with less demanding projects. At the beginning of 2020 I decided it was time to jump in.
I chose to make a fretless as my first build for a number of reasons:

Disasterpiece

My preparation was to watch a series of DVDs on guitar building, plus a few YouTube videos and various forum posts.
I had no mentor during the build, and managed to make just about every mistake it is possible to make, plus a few that you might think aren't possible.
Each of these has been meticolously written down, and I believe that if I press on and build another, it'll be a much smoother ride.

The build

Scarf joint jig for my (self-adapted) table saw

Cutting the neck scarf joint

The neck pieces glued up

Cutting the truss rod slot in the neck using another jig

Cradle to hold the fingerboard blank for cutting bevels

Cutting bevels in the fingerboard prior to sanding in the radius

Neck and fingerboard components

Neck and fingerboard after initial shaping

Pantograph jig for my Dremel router to cut the headstock veneer inlay channel

Headstock veneer

Side pieces milled

Bending the sides

Bending the recurve for the cutaway side

Sides after bending

Laminating the sides

Laminated sides in the mold

Glueing the tail block

Glueing the neck block

Neck with and headstock veneer

A jig for making kerfed linings. I really need a bandsaw, this jig is not safe!

Kerfed linings

Gluing the kerfed linings

Kerfed linings done

Butt-joining the book-matched pieces of the soundboard

Soundboard and back after butt-joining

Glueing the bracing to the soundboard and back

Soundboard and back with bracing

Attaching the back

Side braces

Attaching the soundboard

Soundboard attached

Back attached

A disaster with the router opening the access port

(Partial) recovery from said disaster

Binding channels - back

Binding channels - front

Access port fitted, bindings bent

Attaching the bindings

Binding attached

Sound hole cut

Shimmed and bevelled toungue for neck fit

Glueing the neck

Trimming the fingerboard

Glueing the fingerboard

Shaping the bridge

Attaching the bridge

Taped up ready for finishing

After initial French polishing sessions

Utter idiocy drilling for lead jack

Cover up for stupid mistake

Glueing in the pickup

Shaping the nut

Glueing in the marker dots

Marker dots after cleaning up

Lowering the bridge

Finished bridge

Fixing neck backbow - heatlamp method

Fixing neck backbow - clamping method

Low action nut & truss rod cover

Strung up and ready for first play!

The finished bass

Demo video:

There are only two songs that can be used to demonstrate an upright-like acoustic bass sound.
One of them is "Fever", I chose the other:

(If your browser doesn't support/allow embedding, here is a direct link to the YouTube video.)

Final Verdict

I am simultaneously embarrassed by how many n00b mistakes I made, and delighted with how the bass has turned out. The bass is - to my inexperienced hands - eminently playable, the acoustic sound is lovely, and the pickup works exactly as it should, making it gig-worthy and recordable.

 

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All content Copyright 2017 Trevor Magnusson