Yesterday I had left a combination of wood glued onto the top horn of my bass, and wrote about the uncertainty I had attempting this technique. No practice run, with real bullets on my first try. The sequence of Maple veneer, Mascassar Ebony, Maple Veneer was shaped this morning and too my surprise it came out better than expected. I’ve attached the second eye that will cover the input jack, and with any luck it will come out like the first. Over the next few days I’ll be reassembling the body and scraping, sanding, and planing. The Bolivian Rosewood fret board has been stickered and weighted down to assume a flat plane. I’ve come along way, but still have along way to go.
Walking around my bench more times than I remember puzzling over one of the coolest touches I’ve seen on a bass guitar. The “Cat’s Eye”, something I’ve only seen on basses made by Carl Thompson. I’m almost sure he invented this trick and if not the technique the name for sure. Unfortunately I hadn’t seen a cats eye until I had already begun shaping my bass and just in my general knowledge of woodworking, this is something that should be done before the rasp even comes out. I’m working a few steps backwards here but, I’m not worried. I can live with some of the imperfections here in this first bass. If I’m careful they will serve as reminders later on.
I was alive in the forest
I was cut by the cruel axe
In life I was silent
In death I sweetly sing
-Inscription on the face frets of an Elizabethan lute
I have a strong suspicion that I’m apart of a vast group of amateur luthiers who pay a daily tribute to the work of William R. Cumpiano & Jonathan D. Natelson. This book which has been accurately categorized as the “Bible of the craft” by none other than C.F. Martin IV, takes an eager mind through every aspect of guitar making one can imagine. It’s safe to assume that many who take up guitar making have some sort of back ground in furniture or cabinet making, and understand grain direction and how to look for a plank that has been quarter sawn from one that is flat sawn. Even if I’m wrong on this, Cumpiano & Natelson throughly explain how to seek out such planks. The book begins with some ideas on the tools you’ll need and some work bench appliances you can build that you will use throughout the project. From here you move through every stage, including finger tapping for tone, building and carving the neck, hand planing the sound board to the correct thickness, making and cutting rosettes, fret work, and the finish. There is much I left out, but hopefully you can get a picture of how complete this book is.
The two guitars being built for the book was steel string,and a classical. How do I find tips on building my Bass from a book like this? The chapter on making and installing a truss rod is one example I’m using now. I could buy truss rod, and a super special router bit that is only for cutting the slot for the truss rod I just bought, all this for about $40 plus shipping/handling. Or I can go buy a piece of 3/16 for about $12. You know the same place that will sell me that truss rod and bit will also make me a pre-slotted, pre-radiused fret board in ebony for about $45! While I’m at it why don’t I just scrap what I’ve poured my soul into and buy a guitar kit! That might work for some people but I’d rather spend my money on some more tools, and rest at night knowing I made this Bass. I use handtools where I can, and believe in making something as far away from a production/factory setting as possible. This idea too was something that I had, and after reading this book I was amazed at how unwavering this thought had become. If you own a copy of this amazing book then by know you’ve already seen the quote up above.