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Thread: Adding Wood to the Headstock?

  1. #1

    Adding Wood to the Headstock?

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    Iíve got a custom 5 string V bass kit coming (hopefully) in November. In order increase the chances of ending up with a playable bass that looks good, I requested the MM-5 bass neck be supplied with my kit. (Photo above)

    Iím confident that I can get a traditional arrow shape at the top - well itís obviously a compromise since itís a 5 string. However to make it symmetrical near the nut, Iíll have to glue on a piece of wood or somehow build up the area near the nut on the G string side.

    The bass will be finished in black so would sculpting a big chunk of wood putty work? Or would gluing a piece of wood On there and sanding it to shape be better? Iím leaning toward adding wood by gluing it one with Titebond glue. Iím also leaning towards not attempting the symmetrical headstock idea If Iím gonna screw it up, lol!

    I could go completely unorthodox and superglue a chunk of balsa wood in that spot and shape it with sandpaper. It sounds crazy to use balsa but it can be hardened with a special sanding sealer after being shaped....just a thought.

    How would you guys make the silhouette of this 5 string headstock look symmetrical somewhat like the 4 string example below?

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    Last edited by MusicStudent1; 30-07-2020 at 03:01 PM.

  2. #2
    Thought about just doweling up the whole thing and then adjusting both sides to make it symmetrical?

    cheers, Mark.

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  4. #3
    GAStronomist Simon Barden's Avatar
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    I'd glue some wood on. Maple to match the neck so that it's more likley to expand and contract at the same rate as the rest with temperature and humidity changes. It won't be under any stress as there won't be any tuners involved in that area, so glue alone will be fine. But obvioulsy you'll need a good fit for the new piece, so I'd be tempted to cut into the neck with two straight cuts so a new piece is a lot easier to shape and attach. You could add some strength with some small dowels, but unless you have the tools to locate the dowel holes accurately, its probably just extra hassle you don't need.

    Or you could do what KC suggested, plug the existing post holes, then reshape the headstock to suit. Space is at a premium with the big Fender-style tuners with the big flat buttons, so to make it work, you'd have to use the smaller bodied Y-style tuners and probably go 3+2. Wilkinson do some that aren't too expensive. You'd need to get the tuner dimensions first and work out a suitable layout on paper, first shaping the headstock to a symmetrical arrow shape and then seeing how the tuners would fit together.

    The other alternative is a big task. Cut off the existing headstock and glue on another one using a scarf joint. Probably way beyond your comfort zone, but it could be done.

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  6. #4
    Member JimC's Avatar
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    Agree with Simon, glue on another piece of maple. Fillers aren't intended to do that sort of thing, and balsa would be a very left field choice. With some careful juggling you may get the piece of wood you need by judicious removal of wood from elsewhere on the headstock. I did something like that with a neck I was playing with on one project, although I ended up not using it.

    For smaller tuners I've got some http://www.jinhomusic.com/bass/jb_150.html Jin-ho tuners on my ESB-4 which seem to me very acceptable. Wouldn't be surprised if that's what Wilkinson are, mine were sold as own brand Stentor, which is a UK wholesaler. Mine ended up with their own ferrules on top of the kit ferrules for the larger tuners, which would give a certain amount of scope for juggling the position of the holes if you filled the originals with dowel as Mark suggests. I wonder if you can get the headstock undrilled? Make it a lot easier as long as you have the facility to drill a clean hole.

    There's always the option of tidying up the front with a piece of veneer. Depends on what you are comfortable with, but if you wanted to put a tuner in a bit of transplanted headstock you could cut a tenon in by hand for strength, then disguise it with veneer.
    Last edited by JimC; 30-07-2020 at 07:53 PM.
    Build #1, failed solid body 6 string using neck from a scrapped acoustic (45+ odd years ago as a teenager!)
    Build #2, ugly parlour semi with scratch built body and ex Peavey neck
    Build #3, Appalachian Dulcimer from EMS kit
    Build #4, pre-owned PB ESB-4
    Build #5, Lockdown Mandolin

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  8. #5
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    Why not just order the paddle headstock and start shaping from scratch? Do a 3-2 shape.

  9. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by matthew View Post
    Why not just order the paddle headstock and start shaping from scratch? Do a 3-2 shape.
    That might be an option, I thought about doing that before I placed the order. This will only be my 2nd build and I did well just to get the 1st one together, lol. So far, I havenít shaped a headstock and donít have a drill press which is why I went with an existing 5 string neck.

    I might stick with my plan and just get the MM-5 neck working without doing anything radical to it. I still think I can get it close to the traditional shape.

    I might get a separate neck for it at some point. If I can order a paddle headstock neck separately, I might try making a headstock from scratch. Something like this:

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    I just want to get it working first. Thatís the beauty of bolt on necks - you can change them!
    Last edited by MusicStudent1; 30-07-2020 at 10:21 PM.

  10. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Simon Barden View Post

    Or you could do what KC suggested, plug the existing post holes, then reshape the headstock to suit. Space is at a premium with the big Fender-style tuners with the big flat buttons, so to make it work, you'd have to use the smaller bodied Y-style tuners and probably go 3+2. Wilkinson do some that aren't too expensive. You'd need to get the tuner dimensions first and work out a suitable layout on paper, first shaping the headstock to a symmetrical arrow shape and then seeing how the tuners would fit together.

    The other alternative is a big task. Cut off the existing headstock and glue on another one using a scarf joint. Probably way beyond your comfort zone, but it could be done.
    Oh yeah, tuners are another consideration. I really like the big clover tuners. Iíve had bad luck with the smaller ones that come with these kits stripping. Unless the big ones are made of super soft pot metal, they seem much more durable. Iíve never had one of them strip.

    A scarf joint...no way could I do that right now. I retire in a year and hope to get to that level of woodworking but right now, I know just enough to be a disaster.

  11. #8
    Thanks for the ideas, guys.

    I decided Iím just going to make the headstock look as close as possible to an arrow shape with a coping saw and sandpaper. I like the neck I chose because the strings pull across the nut fairly straight, itís made for the clover tuners I like, and I can shape it pretty close to a traditional shape without removing too much wood.

    I might buy a plain large paddle neck separately at a later date if Iím just dying to go for perfect symmetry and a more ďaccurateĒ look. Thanks again.

  12. Liked by: matthew

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