Woods & Construction
From the beginning I’ve been consumed by the search for beautiful woods – both domestic and exotic – to the point that it might be considered an obsession. Like most builders I am simply looking for the board that is the best. This, I know, is an endless quest, since Nature is always capable of upping the ante, but still, we all look.
All my woods are stored in a climate-controlled environment and are thoroughly dry before use. I like to keep wood as long as possible before it’s used, especially the neck woods.
The Über Series represents the very best of materials and components available. In keeping with my belief that a bespoke instrument should have as many custom made parts as possible this series of basses brings that idea to fruition. This Series of basses uses many of the woods available in the Custom Range but the very best figure is hand selected and reserved for the Über Spec Series.
Woods for tops come from a small selection. If you have something specific in mind that’s not on the list, please ask. Chances are I will know where to find it most of the time. A quick look through the instrument galleries will give you an idea of what is possible.
Additionally, there are a selection of tops not available in the custom range including Dual Dyed Acrylic Impregnated tops. These tops have been commissioned by ACG and will be available exclusively on this series. Due to the process each top will be entirely unique making your bass a true one off.
Choices available for both Custom and Über Spec basses include the following:
- Amboyna Burl
- Black Heart Sassafras
- Black Walnut
- Blue Gum Burl
- Claro Walnut
- Figured Maples (Flame, Quilt, Birdseye and Burl)
- Flame Sycamore
- Mac Ebony
- Marbled Mountain Ash
- Masur Birch
- Native Walnut
- Redwood (Flame and Burl)
- Tasmanian Blackwood
- Tasmanian Myrtle
- Thuya Burl
A selection of woods is available for the main core of each instrument, which usually consists of a two-piece construction. The main woods I carry in stock are as follows:
- Ash (Northern White Ash)
- Black Limba
- Black Walnut
- Spanish Cedar
- Swamp Ash
- Sycamore (UK)
- White Limba
- White Walnut (Butternut)
While any of these woods would make an excellent bass, a top is usually added to the body core. I also add a contrast veneer accent – between 0.6mm and 4mm thick - between the top and body.
Veneer and accent woods
These appear to add contrast between the body and the top wood of the bass.
- Black veneer
- Maple veneer
- Purpleheart veneer
- Walnut veneer
All my bass and guitar necks are constructed using a multi-laminate method, and feature 3/5 sections in the Custom range, 7/9 sections for all Über Spec basses. I build set neck (neck glued into the body) and bolt-on necks. I no longer build neck-through basses.
I like to keep the wood that is destined to be necks for at least 6 months before cutting them into the laminates. Once cut into standard neck laminate sizes, I leave them again for as long as possible before making them into necks. This allows the woods to settle, and if they are going to move, this is when it happens.
All neck woods are dated when they are cut and put together in the rack. This allows me to keep track of each batch in the wood store. The laminates are then selected, and the grain in each is arranged to give a stable neck construction. Once glued, the laminates are left to settle until the neck blank is planed to size. Clearly this is not a quick process, but I
believe it is worth the effort.
Bolt-on necks use steel inserts in the heel. To attach the neck to the body, I use M5 Allen bolts that sit in a custom-made aluminium cup washer. Set necks are glued into an elongated neck pocket, which extends to the neck pickup. This length increases the gluing surface area for the neck.
The remaining elements of the neck are the headstock and fingerboard, carbon and trussrod. I use a scarf joint on all angled headstocks. This reduces waste and makes for a very solid headstock. The actual joint is hidden under the headplate, backplate and ears that are added to the headstock. All custom necks are further reinforced with two 6.35mm
carbon rods on either side of the trussrod. This increases the stiffness of the neck and, in my opinion, helps reduce dead spots. See the hardware section of the website for more trussrod details.
The standard radius on ACG basses is a zero radius, which means the fingerboard is completely flat. A radius can be added as a no-cost option. Your choices are as follows:
- 4-string 16” or 20”
- 5-string 20” or 30”
- 6/7 string 30”
Anything above 7 strings will have a zero radius.
The zero radius is used in conjunction with an asymmetrical neck carve. This means that the deepest part of the neck is not in the centre, as is usual, but offset to the bass side of the neck. On a 5-string this would place the deepest section under the E-string. Think of the bass side of the neck as a ‘D’ profile, and the treble side a shallow ‘C’ profile. This
produces a neck that sits very well in the fretting hand.
On custom basses, the frets have the tangs cut just inside the edge of the fingerboard, and the fret slot is filled so there are no fret tangs showing on the side of the neck. The frets themselves have their ends rounded to produce a smooth playing feel along the fret board. Finally, the edge of the fingerboard is also rounded to leave no sharp edges along
the entire length of the neck. Again, this detail adds time to the build, but the final result is worth the effort.
Options for side dots include the following:
- Black Plastic
- White Plastic
Additional options for Über Spec Basses include: Inlayed wood - 5mm sections inlayed from the side of the finger board which makes them visible from the top and and front of the finger board and Block Markers.
I have a good selection of traditional, and not-so-traditional fingerboard woods:
- Pau Ferro
- Birdseye Maple
- Flame Maple
- Hard Maple
Acrylic Impregnated Woods for fingerboards
I have a large selection of Acrylic Impregnated Woods suitable for fingerboards. The proprietary process used by Larry Davies utilises a vacuum oven to infuse woods with acrylic monomers. This process ensures that resin is drawn through the entire board, and is not just a surface treatment. The acrylic not only stabilises the wood and increases its
density and hardness, it also increases its resistance to movement caused by moisture.
This process expands the choices for fingerboards. For example, it allows me to use the previously unsuitable Spalt Maple with great success.
I also use the acrylic impregnation process on traditional fingerboard woods, such as Mac Ebony. The process makes what is already a good board even better. Another advantage of the process is that it seals the wood, which, on a light-coloured fingerboard like Birdseye Maple, removes the need for a spray finish to stop the board getting dirty. This is ideal if you don’t like the feel of lacquer under you fingers.
Remember, I don’t use a manmade fingerboard like Diamond wood: this is a process that simply enhances real wood.
This is not an exhaustive list of all the woods I have in stock, but gives you an idea of your options for Acrylic Impregnated Woods:
- Amboyna Burl
- Birdseye Maple
- Calico Padauk
- Curly Maple
- Flame Ash
- Flame Sycamore
- Mac Ebony
- Quilt Maple
- Spalt Maple
I use Acid Catalysed Lacquer to finish. This is a two-part lacquer that forms a hard, protective covering over the basses. I spray the minimum amount of lacquer needed to achieve the finish I am looking for. On custom basses, this involves spraying and then sanding back until I have a level finish for the final coats. Once the final coats have dried and hardened, the 35% sheen lacquer is buffed with oil-lubricated 00000 steel wool to produce a satin finish.