The Cocobolo Bass – Part One

For my latest build, I don’t have any customers lined up so I decided to make myself a bass. I thought of making a 5-string bass, but then I realised that I wouldn’t actually use it that much, and I hadn’t made a normal 4-string bass yet, so that became the plan.

At around the same time, I booked my next guitar building course, which will be with John Ambler in March 2019. He makes stunning guitars, and I was inspired by some of the intricate woodwork that he does. An idea began to take shape in my mind.

Some mysterious 5 mm strips of wood

I pulled out some spare bits of wood. The top pieces actually came from the Fankenstein’s Monster build, and were offcuts from that guitar’s neck. I added the purpleheart and padauk strips and glued them all together.

Gluing together some strips. Clearly for a neck blank.

You guessed it – these pieces are being glued together to make the neck. But not the way you think…I made a few laminates of the four different types of wood…

Two out of three pieces that I made out of the strips

Then I started to cut them up and glue them together in a different way…

Cut at 45-degree angles and glued together

And I kept gluing them together…

Longer pieces…

Until eventually I glued it with a kink in it too…it’s also been cut down the middle and reglued to make chevron shapes.

It’s starting to take shape!

So in case you haven’t already guessed, this was destined to be the centre piece of a laminate neck. Getting this far actually took a lot of time and work, and lots of trial and error. You might see that there is a strip of some other wood supporting the chevrons, because I was running too close on the depth of the whole piece. This was very carefully worked out to make sure that it will be completely hidden in the finished build, inside the neck – it isn’t even visible at the end of the headstock because I calculated the neck/headstock angle to eliminate it.

I spent a lot of time sanding the various pieces flat on the gluing surfaces – this whole piece was many hours of work. I finished by gluing this piece between two sides of ovangkol, with thin strips of ebony between the two, just as an extra cosmetic touch.

By this time, I’d also been working on the body and the top of the guitar. I’d designed the body shape using the top, which is a lovely, bookmatched piece of cocobolo which you’ll see shortly. Below, you can see the neck blank, all glued together, on top of my roughed-out walnut body.

My neck blank on top of the walnut body, with the weight relief

Let’s turn to the top. In preparation for this build, I’d bought a couple of very nice tops from Luthiers Supplies in East Sussex, more commonly known as David Dyke. I decided to use the cocobolo top for this build, and I have a superb ziricote top that I will use when I go to Ambler Guitars.

The cocobolo top, just after it was cut out.

When finished, this top is going to look stunning – it will be quite a dark guitar, as all of the hardware is black. More of that when the bass has actually been finished, though!

This part finishes off with a couple of pictures of the neck after it was put together with the fretboard and carved. I think the back looks great, and the fretboard – which is bog oak – has a lovely, subtle grain pattern in it.

The neck after being shaped, together with the body again. I glued a ziricote veneer on the headstock.

The main potential problem came when I was chiselling out part of the truss rod channel. Scarily, I managed to chisel all the way through the back of the neck, and a piece of the chevron pattern broke off just by the nut. I glued that piece back in, and then when I fitted the truss rod I put a thick layer of epoxy under it to reinforce that area, and I’m hoping that it’s going to hold like that.

The back of the neck!

Recently, I have fitted the neck to the body and also shaped the cap to fit around the end of the fretboard. Because the body is rather short, the fretboard doesn’t go very far over the body and so I had to make the heel a bit longer. Hence the top will be glued over that part of the heel after the neck is glued in.

Currently, I’m finalising the radius of the fretboard and want to install the frets before I glue it all together. The last photo below shows all of the pieces put together, but they aren’t actually glued yet. The control cover is made from an offcut of the top.

The front and back of the bass

I think this is going to look great, but all will be revealed in a month or so!