Build #3, Thread #1: My New Thinline Bass Guitar

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by Freekmagnet, Mar 13, 2017.

  1. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Tele-Meister

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    Rehearsal report:

    Overall, I’d say it was a success. Most of the fellas didn’t know at first that I had actually made the whole thing myself and had assumed it was a new bass. I got compliments on the colors, while our drummer said he loved the Jetsons look.

    It plays and handles really nicely and for a semi-hollow it feels really stable and solid. It’s about the right weight and is well balanced. I still have to address the fret noise, but it wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t play around it. I’ll take a look at that over the weekend. It may be as simple as adding some more relief to the neck.

    Now, granted are these two things: the bass amp at rehearsal is this old 100w Yamaha 115 combo that basically sounds like crumpled paper and the neodymium pickup is a placeholder. That being said, I got a lot of compliments on the tone. The neodymium version of this pickup sounds kind of plain and nondescript to me, but where it excels is in playing dynamics. It really responds really to touch, and I really liked that I didn’t have to really pull on the strings to get a lot of tone out of it. However, the amp wasn’t really able to render those dynamics as well as my Markbass.

    The one-knob preamp is a cool feature. When it’s turned all the way to “treble” the bass is cut way down and the highs are boosted. Turned to bass, the treble is cut and the bass is boosted. I had it somewhere in the middle, give or take a few clicks. While it’s not a very sophisticated preamp, it gives you a really quick way to dial in your tone. The pickup and electronics are dead silent when you are not playing.

    We had a great rehearsal, and without getting into specifics, there a few pretty good jokes passed around about me being the white guy from Oakland. Our drummer went as far as saying he wants to commission one of my basses for his studio, but he was probably just being nice.

    I went home that night and A/B’d it with the ceramic pickup in the test bass. The step boy was there and he plays guitar in a local band as well. We both agreed that while the neodymium version sounds good, the ceramic version is better. The ceramics bring a faster low end response and the ceramic version is generally fatter, warmer and punchier sounding. The neo is much brighter without sounding harsh, but that’s not to say the ceramic is not bright. Using a set of well-broken flatwounds, the ceramic pickup is definitely bright sounding. Brightness and bassiness aside, what really sets it apart is its well-defined upper-midrange. I think that while the neodymium version puts out wider more even tone, that is ultimately its undoing - it has no emphasis on anything in particular.

    The good news is, I think my ceramic magnets will be here soon. I just got a shipping invoice from Magnetic Hold this morning.
     
  2. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Tele-Meister

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    Well, I think that worked...

     
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  3. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Tele-Meister

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    [​IMG]

    Yay! My custom fabricated ceramic 8 magnets came in! Just waiting for some laser-cut flatwork to come in and I’ll be making pickups. #funktronicpickups
     
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  4. Zepfan

    Zepfan Poster Extraordinaire

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    Were the neodymium magnets you used the same strength for each string position?
    Member Deneb(Vladimir) used different strength magnets for each string to tailor the sound on his Strat style pickups.
     
  5. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Tele-Meister

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    I didn’t get that scientific about it. The magnets are all the same. The magnets charge the steel blades with the blades serving as the poles. I imagine any difference in magnetic strength would get dispersed throughout the blades.

    However, I did radius the blades to bring the center of the pickup closer to the A and the D strings. That compensates for any unevenness from string to string. They could stand having a larger radius (they’re currently 20” and the fretboard is 10”). I may or may not do that next time; I’m not hearing much unevenness at this point and I’d have to do a lot of retooling to make ig changes in the radius.

    I read some of @Deneb ’s thread a while back. It’s a fun ride. Me personally, I have mixed feelings about working with neodymium magnets for pickups. I really like that you can get almost any shape and size pretty easily and that even really small magnets can be strong enough to make a pickup. They allow you to be really creative and make a lot of interesting magnetic structures. The resulting tone I’m not sure about yet. That uncertainty may just be what comes with the territory of designing pickups. For now, I think the ceramic magnets have beaten out the neos on in this last one. I’ll keep experimenting with neodymium magnets. and if I build a pickup I like, I’ll keep it.
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2018
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  6. Zepfan

    Zepfan Poster Extraordinaire

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    I had forgotten about that.
    I have a set of Deneb's pickups, but haven't gotten around to putting them in a guitar yet due to family issues. Hopefully soon.

    Ceramic mags do make for good Bass. I enjoyed the video, don't get much chance to here good Funk these days, even in the Memphis area.
     
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  7. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Tele-Meister

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    No funk in Memphis?! The home of Stax and Hi Records - my two favorite record labels of all time? How can that be? I’ve never been to Memphis - I’ve always been curious about it.

    Yeah, I’m pretty lucky being in SoCal right now. I live in rural Ventura County, but it’s close enough to LA that we get some folks spilling over. Thanks for listening.
     
  8. Zepfan

    Zepfan Poster Extraordinaire

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    Once a year during the Memphis in May celebration they will have a concert by the river and some of the old greats would play(Bar Kays and others), but most of them have passed now. Memphis has become like most of the country now, mostly Country music or R&B Pop or Rap.
    Beale Street still has clubs that have groups come in to play Blues, Rock, Rockabilly and Soul, but Funk is in short supply these days.
     
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  9. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Tele-Meister

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    After all the different pickup-making techniques I’ve experimented with along this particular journey, I’m back to making cardboard bobbins.

    [​IMG]

    Why, you ask? Well, first of all the bobbin flanges need to be very thin. Like .02”. I was using Garolite and FR4 before, but I was using cylindrical pole pieces; drilling 1/4” holes into the flatwork is relatively easy. The ceramics are bar magnets - cutting nice slots into the Garolite or FR4 by hand is no fun. No fun at all! I figured I’d get those pieces laser-cut ‘cuz it’s pretty cheap. However, there was a monkey wrench in my plan! Most of the stiffer industrial plastics they have available at the hobby-grade laser cutting places are things like Delrin or polypropylene and they are resistant to glues and such. Other plastics they had aren’t chemical resistant. I called around, and none of them seem to want to cut FR4 and stuff like that.

    So, cardboard. And that’s fine. It’s easy to glue and the bobbins are really easy to make. I just cut a 3/16” strip of stiff architectural paper, wrap it around a magnet that I use as a form, and tack it on to the pre-cut bobbin. Plus, the pre-cut cardboard flatwork is cheap - like 20¢ each.

    The only downside is that it’s not very strong and the bobbins are prone to flaring. I may have to do a slightly looser wind with 44awg instead of 43 - which I think will be OK. I don’t think it’ll change the sound enough so that it will be a deal-breaker. I dunno - I’ll experiment with that.

    Bruce showed me these things he’d made to sandwich his bobbins onto his winder. I’ll have to make something similar to keep the bobbins from flaring. I’ll coat the sandwich thingies with wax and leave the wound bobbins in there while I apply the Penetrating Epoxy Sealer. Once that hardens for a day or two, I can take them out. Theoretically, the copper wire and cardboard bobbins will be just one hard happy lump of epoxy-coated goodness.

    After that, I gotta make a new master for casting. The old one, pictured below was made for cylindrical magnets. I need to cut one with a slot. Using the limited tools I have at my disposal will make this an interesting project to say the least!

    [​IMG]
     
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  10. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Tele-Meister

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    I made these little holder thingies to support the flatwork. Seems to have worked. I was able to do a tighter wind and pile some wire on there without having to worry about the bobbins flaring out.

    [​IMG]

    The cardboard soaked the CPES up and hardened pretty nicely, but probably should have done like Bruce suggested and coated them with West first. There’s a couple of spots where the acetone may have dissolved the CA glue. They won’t come apart at this point, but applying epoxy would be one extra step I could take to ensure that they hold together.

    Next, I gotta make a new mold to cast the bobbins in.
     
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  11. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Tele-Meister

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    Mwa-ha-ha, my plan worked! The slot came out A-OK. The polypropylene plug tapped out pretty easily with a mallet and screwdriver.
    [​IMG]
    After I clean it up, I should be able to pop the magnet in.
    My only concern is that when I'm casting, the bobbins are held in place with friction and pressure against the sides of the mold. If for some reason, the bobbin slid down just a teeny bit, it would ruin the whole piece. When I was using cylindrical magnets, I used the holes in my master to create these little nubs in the sides of the mold. The nubs fit into the holes in the bobbin and held it in place. Since I haven't cut the slot in my master, I don't have that option here. I'll just have to make extra sure the bobbin is in place before I pour the epoxy.
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2018
  12. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Tele-Meister

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    OK I'm just going to post a weekly update - no pix today.

    I've been working on the pickup and preamp. Using my new cardboard bobbins I wound a couple of coils with 44awg wire and increased the wind count. I after casting them I mocked up a pickup with the new ceramic 8 cores. From there, I rebuilt my preamp using a James tone stack instead of the Big Muff/Tilt tone stack.

    Two things:

    1) On one of the cast bobbins, I somehow didn't add enough hardener to the epoxy resin. I think that's a pitfall that comes with mixing tiny 10ml quantities - if you're off by just a tiny bit, that turns out to be a lot. Anyway, the piece didn't cure and came out kind of rubbery. It's good enough for testing, but not for a finished pickup. In the process of experimenting with various ways to build and cast my modular coils, I used all the pre-cut cardboard flatwork (I only ordered 14 pc to start). I ordered some more - it should be on its way soon.

    2) I changed the preamp to a James/Baxandall tone stack because while the one-knob preamp was kinda cute, there just wasn't any real control over the tone. Once you added any treble, you started to cut bass and vice-versa. With the James/Baxandall I'm able to fine tune the amount of highs and lows. I was even able to fine-tune the circuit itself by bumping 400Hz up by about 2dB. I also upped it to 18v. Much more headroom.

    I know I've said this before, but this new pickup and preamp combo is a huge improvement. Keep in mind, pickup design is kind of a long process of experimentation that isn't all that straightforward. In any case, the C8/44awg sidewinder rendered a much more controlled-sounding pickup. No more crazy high mids from the neos and with the ceramics wrapped in all that stainless steel, the biting highs are in the right place - nicely placed on top of a big cushion of clear lows and warm mids. With the neo versions, I felt like I was always struggling to contain this beastly pickup with these upper mids that just didn't want to behave. Now I can really dig in to the strings without having to worry about it topping out.

    I think it's possible to design a really good-sounding neodymium pickup. I don't know that the sidewinder design is the best application. I think maybe a more conventional humbucker with a steel core and the magnets placed on the bottom of the pickup might be a better approach with the neos. That keep the super strong neos away from the strings would make the magnets have to permeate all the way through the steel core. I dunno, just theorizing.
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2018
  13. Kriticaster

    Kriticaster Tele-Holic

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    Nice update @Freekmagnet :) Now I start to understand your name on this forum ;)

    And I'm glad I'm not the only one that gets to page 17 on a single build thread :lol:
     
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  14. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Tele-Meister

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    Haha, the Freekmagnet moniker is actually from something completely unrelated a lifetime ago. Old stuff. http://freekmagnet.com
     
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2018
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  15. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Tele-Meister

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    OK, I’ve got this bass body I want to build up. It’s the African Mahogany / Maple capped body I’ve posted on this thread a number of times, and I’m torn between two color schemes.

    This:

    [​IMG]

    Or this:

    [​IMG]

    The li’l lady wasn’t much help this time. She likes the orange but thinks I should do the red because I’ve already made an orange bass. I prefer orange a little but I get her point. However, I consider the old orange build to be irrelevant in this case because it was my “first” build and it didn’t really serve to satiate my orange bass lust. But, the red as a no-nonsense charm to it.

    I was thinking I could either make another aluminum PG with black or gold knobs or a black PG out of polished Garolite and use silver knobs.

    Opinions?
     
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  16. sergiomajluf

    sergiomajluf Tele-Meister

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    You already asked an opinion to your lady. So either follow her advice, or instead of opinions, ask us for excuses to tell her why you didn't follow hers.

    Either way, I say orange. And what a thread!
     
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  17. Zepfan

    Zepfan Poster Extraordinaire

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    Go red-orange with black guard and silver knobs.
     
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  18. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Tele-Meister

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    That’s a great answer! Thx!
     
  19. Freekmagnet

    Freekmagnet Tele-Meister

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    Fortunately, we didn’t have too much smoke in the air from the fires in Malibu today, so I figured I’d go out and cut me a truss rod channel.


    [​IMG]
     
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  20. 2blue2

    2blue2 Friend of Leo's Silver Supporter

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    What a journey this has been so far.
    Carry on!!
     
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