#1
Hi All!
Firstly - I realize this is a little silly, but it's for my daughter and I just want some good advice about how best to proceed.
I'm no luthier, although I've dismantled/repaired/refinished/reassembled my share of axes over the years.
I'm not a master player, I just love guitars and my daughter has picked up the habit (obsession) by watching me attempt to play. :-)

So here's the deal - I've got an Ibanez bass that I want to use the neck and guts from, and then make a peace-sign shaped body for it. She loves peace signs.

I live on property in Missouri, and have tons of old-growth Oak, lots of Eastern Red Cedar and Hedge (Osage orange), some Hickory, a little Walnut, and then some other random wood. Oak is everywhere, big, and available green, recently dead, several years dead, and many years dead (all still standing), so that's what I'm planning to use for this project.

I'm thinking the circle for the peace sign would be about 24 to 30" across. Regardless of the sawing methods below, I've easily got trees to handle that size.

Questions:
1 - If the plan is to cut a solid slab, cut it to the peace sign shape, route it out for the neck and guts, finish and assemble it fairly quickly (about a month from cutting to finished bass), am I better off with green wood? (I wouldn't think so, but as a man in a house with a wife and daughter, I'm constantly wrong, and used to it...)
Recently dead wood? Several years dead wood?

2 - So we've selected the wood at whatever age. I have plenty of trees 30"+ across. I know enough about wood to know that a "disk" of the trunk (a slab cut perpendicular to the grain) probably wouldn't be a good starting point for the body. But again, I'm used to being wrong...
For strength, I'm thinking a slab cut parallel to the grain would be best.
BUT... I've got wood big enough to quarter saw the piece I need. Would this still provide the stiffness this shape would need?

I'd like to do a transparent color finish to show the wood grain, and it seems quarter sawn would give better/more interesting grain. Am I correct with this thought?

My daughter doesn't usually share my "beauty of wood" feelings, so if it's best to not go with quarter sawn, then so be it. I can always paint it. Maybe she'll like that better anyway.

3 - Any awesome tips for fitting a bolt-on bass neck to a custom body? This will be my first self-done body to fit with a bolt-on neck. I've got a Mockingbird, Strat, and others I'd like to do after this one if I can pull it off. Obviously I'll template the bridge/pickup/neck locations on the original and match them onto the new body.

Thanks for any and all help!
Shawn Palmer
#2
Hi Shawn. Nothing silly about asking a couple of serious questions. To answer them in the same order:
1. You're gonna want dead wood. Deader than dead, actually. And even if it's dead, it's still not dead enough. Seriously though, don't take wood that's freshly harvested. Most people prefer wood that's been lying around for at least several years, and even then it can still get wrecked if you let it dry too quickly. Main bullet point: use wood that's been harvested some time ago, preferably a year.

2. A disk slab is indeed a bad idea. It'll warp and crack if you're lucky. A slab parallel to the grain is much better, and a quartersawn piece would be strong enough. Just make sure you leave the outer ring of the peace sign wide enough to maintain some strength. As for the grain, I'm not sure it'll matter much since you'll cut away most of the wood anyway to make the peace sign.
You might wanna check out a thread by the Manton Customs guy: https://www.ultimate-guitar.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1647320
At one point he uses a black grain filler to give the grain a highlight. If your daughter is really not into this kind of stuff then you might as well just paint the thing, but this thread might give you some inspiration.

3. Bolt-on fitting is pretty straightforward. Just make sure you drill the holes for the screws big enough, and use a back plate to even the pressure of the screws on the back, just like Fender does. I once bolted a neck without the plate, and I still regret it.

Some other things that came to mind:
Is 30'' across not awfully big? A guitar 20'' wide is already quite bulky, so 30'' might be a tad overkill.
Will you make a cutaway for access to the higher frets even though it might ruin the peace sign? You'll need it for those high frets, though.

Hope this helps out.
Cheers
#3
I don't really know if it goes for other types of wood, but you probably wouldn't want to use old-growth oak or hickory for the neck because they might not handle the string stresses.

Now, I'm no wood expert so I could be totally wrong. But I do know that old-growth hickory and oak are brash and weak, unlike modern fast-grown hickory and oak. I just don't know if they could handle being a guitar neck (or body).
#4
What about making it a 5 piece neck? Walnut/Hickory/Walnut/Hickory/Walnut ...

Instead of making it a round, peace-shaped body, might your daughter prefer a traditional shape with the Peace symbol painted/carved?

No matter what, you'll both have a blast. Good luck and looking forward to your build.

Show pics of the lumber/trees or the acreage. We live for pics here.

#5
I think it is a great idea, but I have a couple of comments. 24-30" is huge by guitar standards, I would be thinking more like 12-14" for a solidbody, and incorporating it into a pear shape as suggested, or maybe just as the lower bout of a more traditional shape like an LP Jr. You mention a bass neck, so are you building a bass or do you plan on reworking it into a guitar scale and six strings?
#6
Thanks for all the comments so far, I really appreciate it!

There may be some confusion though - Basically I'm taking the original body off of an Ibanz bass, and making the new body for it. So the finished piece will be the original neck, pickups, bridge, electronics - everything but the body. I'm nowhere near accomplished enough to make a neck from scratch...

Pics - certainly! We're in typical west central Missouri forest, lots of the trees mentioned above, mostly white oak, red oak, pin oak, and eastern red cedar (beautiful heartwood). I'll shoot plenty of before/during/after and post them up.

Yes you're all right - I hadn't drawn it out in full scale yet, and 30" is WAY too big around. I'm still fiddling with dimensions, but I'm liking the circle about 18-20" across. I'm tall and thin, but she's really petite and short, and playability is hugely different between us (LOL).

I agree that a more standard body with a peace sign cutout would probably be better for simplicity and playability, but my original vision is stubborn...

Xtict - THANKS! one or two years (standing) dead is no problem. Generally, they rot hollow, fall, and then rot to nothing within a couple years after that. So I'll look for the oldest intact wood I can find.
Cutout for high frets - hadn't thought of that. I'll have to play w/some design elements there...

lppon - pics are coming!
#7
If most of the wood around you rots out, even the stuff that hasn't yet is going to be far too wet for a guitar body, especially if it's going to be in that unusual shape. I'd be concerned about warping and rot.

The key word used above is harvested - you need wood that was cut at least a few years ago, not an old dead tree. That's just a tree that hasn't quite rotted yet. You don't want that happening to your guitar.

Usually luthiers get wood that has been seasoned (or at least sat on a shelf somewhere) for a few years after being cut, and then they kiln-dry it. Cutting old dead wood and immediately turning it into a circular body with cutouts seems like a very bad idea from a stability standpoint.
#9
Roc - thanks for the insight. We get a lot of rain here, and it seems a "down" tree doesn't last long. We've got a bunch that've been dead 2-3yrs and I cut into one today - WOW - it was about 5 times harder on my chainsaw than green wood, and twice as hard as a "1 year dead tree."

So I presume that if I'm without the patience of a year to season, and without the use of a kiln, I should look for the "hardest" wood of whatever species possible?

WeZ - Thanks for the link! I've never seen anything like that - truly an inspired design!
#10
If this is for your daughter, limit your body width to around 15". I'd design the circular peace sign for the "wide" part of the body (rout it?) and consider adding another smaller peace sign as the upper bout of a single cut. If it's a bass, you're going to want to consider how you're going to balance the sucker in a strap. You might also want to consider how she's going to put this on her lap to play sitting down. A third, even smaller peace sign might be the beginnings of the lower bout "cutaway" and a way to give her a thigh curve.



You might consider rotating this design 90 degrees... It combines a heart, a treble clef and a peace sign -- the heart can be the upper bout, the right side of the treble clef can be where it sits on her thigh, and the bass neck itself can be run right out the top of this thing.

#11
WOW - I really like the idea of a heart that might give high fret access on top of the peace sign. Thanks! I'll certainly work on drawing that out - that might solve a whole lot of playability problems.
Thanks all!