Preparing the bass for finishing

I’m into the final furlong now, and just need to get everything ready for final finish to go on.

The first step is to mark the final position of the bridge and drill the pilot holes for the screws to mount it to the body. I initially set the G string saddle to about 2/3 to 3/4 of its range of adjustment. Using the long rule, laid along the line of the thinnest string, I position the bridge so the G string saddle is exactly 17″ from the 12th fret (this bass has a 34″ scale length).

I mark the front edge of the bridge and then using my square and the centreline extend the mark.

Once the bridge is fixed in place, you generally have two axes of movement. You can move the saddles back and forward, or up and down. You can’t move them side to side. This is the one aspect of fastening down the bridge that you must get exact. To do this I run threads from bridge to nut, which makes it really easy to get this alignment perfect. I mark the top and bottom of the bridge.

I use a small bradawl to mark the exact centre of the outermost two holes. I drill the pilot holes, screw the bridge down using these two and then I can take my time and use both hands to accurately mark up and drill the remaining holes

I drilled the hole for the jack socket (the one scavenged from the Aria is a rather neat screw in barrel type).

After drilling the pilot holes for the strap buttons and pickup height adjustment/mounting screws the woodworking stage is complete. Onto preparation for finishing. I lightly dampen the body to raise the grain.

I usually regard this procedure as something simple and quick – but I realised I was missing an opportunity. On two of my recent builds (the Stratele and the Voodoo) I was disappointed that glue seepage round the neck pocket had interfered with the application of finish. As I was wetting down the body I noticed these marks where glue has seeped into the wood. I spent a few minutes with a Stanley knife blade and fine sandpaper getting rid of all traces. Before…

…and after.

I printed off the decal, shot a thin coat of nitro clear lacquer over the headstock face, applied the decal and then finished with two more coats of lacquer, all with drying time in between.

Once that had dried I removed the raised grain. This involves just getting rid of the ends of those torn fibres, and rather than sanding I think of it as more like wiping the body down with a piece of 320 grit paper in my hand.

And here she is after the first coat of finish.

It’ll get another heavy coat of warmed Danish oil this evening, and then tomorrow I’ll start applying thin coats using 600 grit wet & dry.

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2 thoughts on “Preparing the bass for finishing

  1. Once again, thanks for the explanations. Very helpful in building my courage for my own projects.

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