Electric Upright Bass

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Introduction: Electric Upright Bass

I used to have an electric upright bass many years ago but sold it as I only used it on and off. The amount it cost and the amount I played it didn't match....once sold i bought a synthesizer and a family holiday. Every now again I miss playing a double bass style instrument so decided to make one as this would keep the cost down quite a lot. In the end I think I spent around £120 mainly on strings, machine heads, pickups and timber for the body. It sounds fairly good and i am pleased with the result, especially considering that it is the first instrument I've made.

I have added a CAD file to this instructable which has some rough dimensions on it and I used it to scale off anything I wanted at the time. It is far from a complete drawing but I've included it for reference as it may be useful to some one. Most of the dimensions I used were either off the internet or this drawing.

Materials

A selection of timber - I used beech and oak for the neck, beech for the fingerboard and bridge and lime for the body. All of the oak and beech I already had from previous projects and the lime cost me £60 off ebay (I only used half though)

Strings - I bought some super cheap ones off amazon for £14 Double bass strings

Machine heads - I got these off ebay for £16 Machine heads

Pickups - I bought a second hand set from ebay for £23 (look like Fishman BP 100 but wasn't specified on listing)

Machine screws and threaded insert nuts - I had some already

M12 Threaded rod - £2.50 for 1m from Toolstation

Silicon sealant and cornflour to make 'oogoo'- I had some part used already

Plywood or MDF to make a fingerboard radiusing jig.

Tools

Table saw

Router

Drill press and bits

Planes

Chisels

Sander and sandpaper

I have entered this instructable in to the wood competition. If you have found it interesting or informative please vote!!

Attachments

Step 1: Neck

As the neck is fairly wide, to accommodate the fingerboard, I decided to make it from three planks of timber glued together. I used two bits of beech on the outside and a piece of oak in the middle which would give a nice look to the back of the neck when it is finished.

I first cut the timber to a rough size and put them through my planner/thicknesser to get them flat and uniform. Once they were planned I cut them to to size making sure that I used the dimension of the bottom of the neck. I then drew the profile of the neck on to one of the beech parts and cut it with a combination of a table saw and jigsaw. I then finished the shaping with a bit of sanding with an oscillating bobbin sander and dremel for the curves and a belt sander.

Once I was happy with the shape I roughly cut the others to the same size with a jigsaw and then used flush trim bit to make them all exactly the same, attaching the pieces together with double sided tape.

I then glued the three bits together and clamped with as many clamps as I had.

Step 2: Fingerboard

For the fingerboard I used beech as I had quite a bit of beech knocking around. I'm sure there are better woods to make fingerboards out of but for this project any hardwood would have been acceptable.

There are a couple ways that a fingerboard can be shaped, by hand or with a router and a jig. I went for the lazy route so chose the latter. First I put the timber through the planer thicknesser to get everything to the correct size. Next I needed to cut the plank of wood at an angle which can be tricky with a table saw. To cut the angle I fixed some pieces of old laminate floor along the edge of the timber at the angle I required. I could then use the laminate floor as a reference up against the fence and cut the angle safely.

To radius the top of the fingerboard I made a jig which would pivot the fingerboard while a router was moved along the top, with a straight cut router bit, to cut a curve on the top of the board. I have added a lot of photos here as it is quite difficult to explain. I used nut inserts to make the pivot points and a drill bit to use as a lever to move the jig.

After I had finished the full length of the fingerboard I realised that I needed to raise one end of the fingerboard to get the vertical edges of the fingerboard the same height all the way down due to the board being tapered. I raised the narrow end of the board with some washers and re-cut the board. One I was happy I cut the board to length and hand sanded it to a fine finish. I went up to 400 grit.

Step 3: Finishing the Neck and Fingerboard

As the fingerboard has now been cut the neck needs to be cut to the same taper. I started by drawing the outline of the board on the neck and nail gunned some laminate floor offcuts along the edges and cut with a flush trim router bit. As the bit didn't cut the full depth of the neck I had to finish some of the neck off with a hand plane.

Next I created a cavity in the top of the neck for the machine heads. I determined the size hole I needed and cut three holes with a pillar drill and fostner bits. I then finished the holes with a chisel and sanded the inside with a bobbin sander. I then shaped the rest of the head with a combination of chiseling and sanding. I then made a nut for the end of the fingerboard and made some slots for the strings with a small round file. I then oiled the neck and fingerboard. I used a coloured oil for the fingerboard as I wanted it to be a slightly different colour to the rest of the neck.

Once everything was dry I glued and clamped the fingerboard to the neck protecting the fingerboard from the clamps with anything I could find! Mainly MDF and socks.

Step 4: Body

For the main body I used some lime wood I saw on eBay. One side was waney edged so I wanted to incorporate this edge in to the body design. I firstly figured out where I wanted the neck to be and to visualise the finished body I cut a piece of paper to the profile similar to the waney edge to I could more easily see the finished shape. Once I was happy I cut the plank to size and the profile with a jigsaw.

Now I had the body I needed to cut a recess in the top of it to house the neck with a router and a chisel. I then put three nut inserts in to the back of the neck and three corresponding holes in the back of the body so I could screw the two parts together.

I did add some machine heads at this time but I had to replace these later on as the holes in the heads weren't wide enough for the E string to fit through.

Step 5: Tailpiece No. 1 and No. 2

I then made a tailpiece which was just a block of shaped timber which would be screwed on to the body with threaded inserts. My first attempt was quite small and was only held on with two bolts to the upper end of the block. After I put the strings on I noticed that the tailpiece was lifting and the angle of the strings didn't seem quite right. I therefore abandoned that one a made a taller one and bolted it on to the body with two bolts to the back and two to the front. This worked much better!

Step 6: Bridge and Tail Spike

On ebay I found an auction for a pick up but it came with a bridge - but the bridge was broken. I wasn't too fussed about this though as I mainly wanted the pick up.

The bridge I made was made of beech again which I cut to a shallower height than the 'real' bass bridge as I wanted to put this bridge on a block. Doing this if the height of the bridge needed to be adjusted I could make a simple block rather than a new bridge. I had seen a few bridges on the internet and I went for a modern baffled bridge. To make the bridge I first cut the main shape out and marked where I wanted to put the holes. After drilling them all I sanded one side at 90 degrees to the feet and the other side at an angle (not sure what angle - it just looked right).

I then needed to make tail spike. I knew that threaded rod was quite cheap so I devised a simple way of using that rather than a more expensive bought solution. I drilled a hole approx. 200mm (8") deep in to the body in to which would go the threaded bar, using a washer and nut as a stop to maintain the correct height and a screw that would go through another insert and push the rod to hold it in place. To create an easily screwable bolt I soldered a butterfly nut to the end of a machine bolt.

Step 7: Finished

Now it was all finished I oiled all the parts that needed oiling and put on some new machine heads that were capable of holding the E string and put on my pickup I got second had from eBay.

I then plugged it in and had a go - and I must say I was really rather pleased.

I do have an issue though where the E string buzzes when I fret near the nut, not quite figured that bit out yet so have yet to sort it. The pick up works really well but maybe a little sensitive but I guess I can adjust some amp settings or move the pick up a little.

EDIT

I have added a very simple wav. of the bass so you get a basic idea of the sound. It was recorded just straight though the computer with no additional amps or effects. You can hear the sensitivity of the pickups as my hands move up and down the strings.

I do know someone who plays double bass that I see very occasionally, If he comes round and I get the chance to record him I will add a more impressive sample! Just need a ton of practice now.

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Maker Olympics Contest 2016

Wood Contest 2016

Runner Up in the
Wood Contest 2016

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    22 Discussions

    0
    The Sunday Carpenter
    The Sunday Carpenter

    Question 1 year ago on Step 7

    Beautiful Upright Bass!
    I've made 2 12" bass cabs for my bass guitar but I really want to try making an upright. Unfortunately living in Japan space is limited. The body of your bass is way smaller than a traditional double bass. So I am thinking to try this. I have a friend that Owns a lumber yard so he could help get some good Japanese hard woods for me.
    My questions are
    1: What kind of Pick up did you use for this (name brand or type is fine)?
    2: The bridge is it 3/4 or 4/4 size?
    3: Do you recall the neck angle at all? (from another post it looks like you sort of guessed at it.)

    Thanks for this very inspiring post. Kudos to you.

    0
    petachock
    petachock

    Answer 1 year ago

    Hi, thanks for the comments. This is definitely a good way to get a cheap double bass with a small body and would work well with your bass cabs. I would imagine that any hardwood would work well but mine was made out of fairly soft wood and work ok.
    The pickup I used is called a Fishman BP 100 B pickup. The only reason I chose this one is because I found it really cheap on eBay....I think I would have used a different one rathe than pay full price. You can always try make one. I made a violin which has an instructable and shows how I made a pickup for that.
    Not sure what size the bridge is but is about 140mm in height which was mainly due to the final angle of the neck relative to the body.
    Not sure about the neck angle this was estimated. It is around 9-10 degrees I think.
    The body is 45mm thick but was determined from the thickness of the timber I bought!
    I have attached a dwg to this instructable which I used to determine a few dimensions although you would need to learn a little autocad skills (there is a good free cad package called draftsight). With the command 'dist' you can measure the length of the parts. The dwg is a bit all over the place but most of the part are there.
    If you need any more info I can help where I can

    0
    The Sunday Carpenter
    The Sunday Carpenter

    Reply 1 year ago

    Wow, thanks for the information. I will definitely be trying this project in the coming months.
    Tried to view the dwg but was unable to. So if you don’t mind could I ask you a few more questions?

    1. How thick was the neck before cutting?
    (Looks to be about 12cm thickness maybe 10cm wide neck and about 60~70cm)

    2. Also neck length and overall body length?

    But I guess that last number will be the most variable depending on what lumber I can find here. The neck neck length will also vary depending on the scale I choose but I’m just looking for rough figures to use while lumber shopping.

    Thanks again for the help. And I will check your violin instructable for the pickup information. Thanks.

    1
    petachock
    petachock

    Reply 1 year ago

    I have dimensioned the bass up and taken a photo....hopefully that will do.
    You should also try making a bow too they aren't too tricky for a basic baroque style bow - this is also documented with the violin instructable.

    Bass dims.jpg
    0
    The Sunday Carpenter
    The Sunday Carpenter

    Question 1 year ago on Step 4

    1: How thick is the Body on this?
    2: How thick are the neck pieces? Thanks. For your time. Any pointers would really help.

    0
    RodrigoL11
    RodrigoL11

    3 years ago

    Thank's
    I'll take a lot of Photos!
    If I need, i'll certainly ask you!
    Have a nice day!

    0
    RodrigoL11
    RodrigoL11

    3 years ago

    This is the best "how to do" EUB that I ever seen! I'm making one and your idea for the fingerboard will be very helpfull! I made the entire project in CAD and I'll start to cut the woods this weekend!

    Thank's! Great job!

    0
    petachock
    petachock

    Reply 3 years ago

    Thanks for the comments!! I found the whole project easier that I first thought it was, I think planning is the key with something like this; and CAD is a brilliant aide. I even use my fingerboard as a shelf at the moment but can be easily be taken off the wall if I ever need to make another one! Good luck with the build and send me a message if you get stuck/need a bit of advice. Photos would also be good when you have finished!

    Cheers

    0
    FrancesC22
    FrancesC22

    3 years ago

    Wow so cool!!!!!! Very talented piece of art and gives playing the bass, a new look. Thanks for sharing.

    0
    Bassface72
    Bassface72

    3 years ago

    How did you determine the angle at the bottom of the neck where it meets the body?

    0
    petachock
    petachock

    Reply 3 years ago

    Most of my measurement I got from importing photos of basses in to a CAD drawing program and scaling them to 1:1. I could then take critical dimensions and draw the neck I wanted in CAD which would have included this angle.

    Once I made the neck and body I might have also adjusted this angle with a belt sander. If you know the height of your bridge you can just use trial and error until it looks like you will end up with a gap of about one finger between the pin end of the fingerboard and the E string. There maybe some proper angle but I don't know what it is!!!!

    Are you making an EUB?

    0
    Bassface72
    Bassface72

    Reply 3 years ago

    I'm doing research in the hopes of building one. Yours is beautiful. Very nice job. I'll be sure to post photos once I get started.

    0
    JpsManCave
    JpsManCave

    4 years ago

    I really like the way this tuned out almost makes me want to learn a new instrument.

    0
    petachock
    petachock

    Reply 4 years ago

    Hey thanks!! I love instruments I have loads of them. I'm thinking about making a violin next. I guess it'll be pretty much the same but a tiny version!

    0
    Penolopy Bulnick
    Penolopy Bulnick

    4 years ago

    That's cool! Do you have a video of someone playing it to hear how it sounds?

    0
    petachock
    petachock

    Reply 4 years ago

    No video sorry my skills aren't quite up to that level. I have added a sample to the last step now though and an extra photo!

    0
    webweave
    webweave

    4 years ago

    That's great, nice work. Any chance of a sound sample?

    0
    petachock
    petachock

    Reply 4 years ago

    I have added a wav. file to the last step. Just a small test recording straight through a PC with no amp etc.

    0
    ClenseYourPallet
    ClenseYourPallet

    4 years ago

    Very very cool! Fantastic project... Thanks for sharing