Introduction: Electric Upright Bass (EUB)
I play bass guitar and thought the upright bass would be an awesome instrument to learn but the price of an entry level upright bass was well out of my budget so I decided to build an electric one. This bass was made purely off measurements from spec sheets and photos as I have never played or even held an upright bass so I am unsure of the accuracy compared to an acoustic one but it seems pretty good. I used this double bass specification sheet (http://www.alangoldblatt.com/specs/Bass.pdf) for most of my measurements and drew a scaled down version to use as my main plan. Unfortunately due to the fact I wasn't planning on making an instructable about this build at the time I don't have any photos of the build but I thought this would still be helpful to some people wanting to build an EUB so I took some close ups of each finished part. At this point it only has two strings as I am waiting for some new ones to arrive.
- Ash - a friend had chopped down an ash tree about 4 years ago so he had a lot of ash lying around, this was used for the neck, bridge, nut, tailpiece, and body which had an awesome live edge.
- Indonesian hardwood (unknown)- this was pulled from a motorcycle packing case and was used for the fingerboard.
- Bamboo- this was used for the endpin and it seems to work well.
- Strings- I bought the cheapest double bass strings I could fine online for about $20 NZD, this was to avoid the upwards of $100 price tag of the strings that I found in New Zealand. You do end up getting what you pay for and two strings from the first set broke so I am waiting on the next pair to arrive.
- Tuning machines- the original set of tuning machines worked fine but they didn't hold up to the tension of the E string so I need to make sure that all the screws are nice and tight before installing the replacement tuner, hopefully this will prevent it stripping.
- Piezo disk
- 1/4" mono jack
- Screws and nut inserts
- Pipe bracket- In hindsight it would have been a lot prettier to make my own wooden versions but these work well if matched with the right diameter dowel/bamboo.
- Belt /disc sander
- Orbital sander
- Detail sander
- Japanese handsaw
- Drill press
- Hand drill
- Specialized square hole drill bit jig
- Metal hand scraper
- Angle grinder
- Drum sanding drill attachment
Step 1: Neck
I use the spec sheet and my plan to draw the basic side profile onto the neck and then cut it out with a bandsaw. Once this was done I drew the front outline (it is important to cut the side profile before the front as the front measurements would be wrong due to the angle of the neck)and cut it out with the bandsaw, I then planed down the front surface so that there would be a flat surface for the fingerboard to sit . Once this was cut I sketched a design for a basic scroll and cut it out using the bandsaw, this scroll is less of a real scroll and more just a nod to the acoustic instrument which makes it more recognisable. I then figure out the size of the slot in the pegbox and drilled it out using a forstner bit and a drill, I then cleaned it up with chisels and drilled the holes for the tuning machines. I then rounded the back of the neck using a rasp and an orbital sander. Once this was done I figured out what angle the neck needed to be in relation to the body and cut it out with the bandsaw, the original plan was to rout a slot for the neck as it would be in an electric guitar but due to the fact that the body was quite thin I cut a chunk out of the neck and then attached it with bolts and nut inserts.
Step 2: Body
I figured out the shape I wanted for the body which pretty much ended up just being the way that kept the most of the live edge. I then cut this using a jigsaw, at one point on the bottom left I angled the jigsaw so it would carry the same angle as the live edge as there was a knot I wanted to cut off but I wanted to keep it somewhat symmetrical and that seemed to be the best option. I also rubbed dirt on the angled cut so it would match the tone of the bark a bit better. After this I used a rasp and orbital sander to round the edges at the top and bottom.
Step 3: Fingerboard
I researched a lot of different ways of how to radius the fingerboard and what measurements to use for the fingerboard and didn't find an awful lot. Most forums on fingerboards would just say that it depended on the brand and make but wouldn't give ballpark figures. I eventually came across a sketch of a fingerboard and used the measurements from that so the fingerboard at the nut has a radius of 2.5 inches and at the bridge end 3.5 inches. I decided against hand planing the fingerboard as I had nothing to compare it to so I decided to use a router jig that I saw on Petachocks instructable (https://www.instructables.com/id/Electric-Upright-Bass/) this goes very in depth so I would highly recommend checking it out (this is also a good video but it is for guitar fingerboards with a much greater radius https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNm5G84ht5A). The jig is a rectangular box with which has a pivot point at each end, inbetween the two pivot points there is a piece of wood which the fingerboard blank is mounted on. A router is then mounted onto a piece of plywood, sat on top of the box and set to the correct height, once this is done you can screw the pivot wood at an angle and run the router up and down then change the angle and repeat. Make sure that your box is long enough for the fingerboard blank and wide enough so that it doesn't hit the sides when you are pivoting it. The radius of your fingerboard will be the distance between the pivot point and the bottom of the router bit, mine was a compound radius (this means that the radius changes from one end of the fingerboard to the other) of 2.5 inches at the nut end and 3.5 inches at the bridge end.
Step 4: Bridge, Nut and Tailpiece
For the bridge I used a piece of ash which I cut to the correct width on the bandsaw using the fence. I then put the bridge up against the end of the fingerboard and traced along the top radius, I then cut this out on the bandsaw. After this I decided on a design for the bridge, the arc at the bottom of the bridge was cut it out with the bandsaw and cleaned it up with a similar sized spindle sanding drill bit. I then cut the slots for the strings using som tiny rasps and files. Next I used a japanese square hole jig and bit to drill out the cross. Next I made a bridge block, I needed this because it meant I could adjust the height of the bridge without affecting the cross and arch design. I made the bridge block out of a piece of ash and chiselled out a channel for the bridge to sit in. For the nut I took a piece of ash and sat it where the nut was going to be and traced along the sides to trace its width, I then to copied the radius of the fingerboard but up higher on the nut blank. The nut was the cut out on the bandsaw and I used a belt sander to get the radius correct, it gets quite small so make sure you are extremely careful. I then used files and rasps to cut the string slots, I didn't realize this at the time but it is important that the slots are shallowest on the fingerboard side so that there is no buzzing. Another thing to note that I haven't fixed on my bass yet is having the bridge taper in the top few cms to a 1 or 2 mm wide point, this is important to reduce buzzing and can be done with a sander or router. To make the tailpiece I drew a shape that looked like it would put a good angle on the strings over the bridge and cut it out on the bandsaw. I then drilled a couple of holes in the tailpiece and body, I also drilled 4 holes and countersunk them for the strings to go through.
Step 5: Putting It All Together
To attach the neck and body I marked where the four holes would go and drilled them. I then held the neck to the body and marked through the holes in the body where the holes needed to be on the neck. I then hammered in nut inserts, then I countersunk the holes on the back of the body and bolted the neck and body together. Next I glued and clamped the fingerboard onto the neck, once it was dry I used a metal scraper to take the fingerboard down to be flush with the neck. Next I attached some pipe brackets to the back of the body and used a piece of straight bamboo and a rubber cap for the endpin (the endpin should be long enough so that the nut is level with your eyebrows). I then sanded everything up to 400 grit. I then finished the body and neck with a waterbased wipe-on polyurethane and I finished the fingerboard, bridge and nut with mineral oil. For the pickup I will just use a piezo disk wired to a 1/4 inch jack and do all the tone adjustments on my amp.
Thanks for reading my first instructable, if you enjoyed this or found it helpful it would be greatly appreciated if you could vote for it in the musical instrument contest,
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