So after over 30 CBG's I have decided to try building my own bass, to use as a backup to my early 1980's Fender P when playing out. And for the fun of it, of course.

Early on I dedided the body would be a thunderbird, but with a Fender neck because they are widely available in the aftermarket and I am already comfortable with my p-bass. Ended up missing the last neck that CBGitty had by a matter of hours, so I went to eBay and bought a Jazz neck with rosewood fretboard instead. It should be here in a couple of weeks.

So then I got started on the body. I decided to laminate a variety of woods that were gifted to me by friends and family, laid up in individual strips of Ash, Cherry, Birds-Eye Maple, and Oak.

So far I am really stoked with this project. Next week I hope to find someone with a 14" planer to level out the front and back surfaces, then have to wait for the neck to arrive before I can do the routing on it for the electronics and neck pocket.

Doing research on the project I discovered that John Entwhistle of The Who created a few "FenderBird" basses back in the early 70's... That instantly told me I was headed in the right direction.

The first pic is the prototyping work I did on my computer to get an idea of how it would look, the second pic is the laminated block for the body. So far, so good!!

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Ok,myths prototype pic did not upload with the initial post for some reason, so here is is in this reply.

AWESOME! The firebird as always been a cool body style.

Hi, you might want to check the neck pocket on that drawing and against the piece of wood that you've laminated up. Fender bass necks usually join the body at between the 15th and 16th frets, with a neck pocket 3 7/8 inches long. You've drawn the neck joining at the 17th which would make the neck pocket about an inch or so shorter than normal, and it looks like the wood you've glued up may not be long enough to adjust for this, either at the neck pocket end or in the overall length.  Also to make the neck connection even tighter, the standard Fender neck has 20 frets - the ones with 21 frets like the one in your drawing usually have a fretboard which projects beyond the end of the maple neck itself to accommodate that extra fret.  

As you've got it drawn at the moment it looks like you might not be able to make a standard neck pocket, and might not even be able to fix the neck with a standard neckplate. If you shift the neck back to form a full sized pocket, the bridge will be right at the end of the body. If you've glued up the body blank plenty over-sized then you may be able to fiddle this to get it to work. As you haven't got the neck yet, unfortunately it's too late to tell you never to start any of the woodwork until you've got all the critical parts (in this case the neck and the bridge), but hopefully you may be able to sort it before you start cutting any wood. Good luck.

Thanks for the heads-up. When I did the initial drawing I was careful to scale up the Fenderbird body in Adobe Illustrator to 100% scale, so that the distance from the nut to the 12th fret = 17". When I imported the image of the neck to go with it I made sure it measured to the same scale, so I thought that would be sufficient. I guess I should have looked at the P-Bass neck pocket, but it was at the practice space at the time...

I've attached a later revision of the vector art, this one shows pickup and bridge placement. Checking the file at full size tells me I have about 1.6" of usable space to move the bridge and pickups if I have to. And it looks like I just might have to.

Worst case scenario is I glue up another block, and make a firebird 6-string from the block I have now. Matching guitars and bases would also be pretty cool.


John makes a good point. I just looked at a few diagrams of the Thunderbird body. Measure the length of your mid-line (this will be the lightest strip of wood on your body blank) from tail to the neck end. The distance from the bottom of the neck pocket to the tail end at center should be a minimum of 14.625"...and you should have enough body length left to have 5-6 frets within the neck pocket area. If this is true, then you should be fine.

See this link/picture to see what I mean...


Hmmm... Looks like I might well have fouled this up. 

I guess it depends on how precise a copy I want to make, compared to how much work it would be to laminate up another block of wood. I revised the art and attached the file, and with a 3.875" neck pocket I am required to move the bridge and pickups down by approximately 1.2".  Which is do-able, it's just not terribly true to the Thunderbird design.

Back to the drawing board, and a little more geometry research on p-bass vs Thunderbird. 

Much thanks for the help to both Farmer Ted and Chickenbone John!!

You're not make ng a Thunderbird copy. You're making a Fenderbird. Or maybe a .Blunderbird ;-). You have room to make it work without redoing, unless you feel absolutely compelled to do so.

Do your own version, and make it a one-of-a-kind Wunderbird.

Gotta say I am really appreciating the input here.

After some consideration I think I will just hold off on cutting any more wood until I get the neck, THEN I can do some test fitting and see how it will come together.

Meanwhile I realized that I have yet to order a neck plate and some tuners for the beast.

Always the best way to go, get all the critical parts to hand...BUT make sure you get the bridge as well before doing any woodworking.

It will allow you to figure out the location of the bridge on the face of the guitar, but very importantly you will need it to work out the height of the saddles and thus the depth of the neck pocket, and if you'll need to introduce any neck angle to get the action within workable tolerances. Lots of folk have made the same mistake before you and put together a neck and bridge, then got hold of the bridge and realised that the strings were going to overshoot the top of the saddles (with strings hitting the fretboard), or the bridge saddles couldn't be lowered enough to get the action anywhere low enough to be playable. I made this mistake on my first electric, trying to use a Tunomatic bridge on a Tele-style guitar. A quick sketch of a side view or "long section" of the neck/body/bridge set-up can help you determine this from the start, and avoid any hassles later on as the build comes together.

I do have the bridge, thanks. Right now the only parts I am waiting on are the tuners and the neck.

Had a friend who had a Gibson bass. The body under the heal of the neck stuck out farther add extra length to the pocket. Looking at your glue up I know you don't have the extra wood to play with. If function is more important than looks you could always add the extra wood to the back of the body. I've attached a pic from a Bing search. If you look at the neck pocket you can see the extra body wood.

Kinda funny. They guy is an excellent jazz bassist. AND a big Kiss fan.

Cause...there's no way you can just glue some extra wood onto the body in order to improve the strength of the neck-to-body connection. I might be wrong, but think what you are suggesting would be to glue on an extra piece to extend the body blank, with an endgrain to endgrain glue joint? Apart from it looking bad, you can break a glued butt-joint like that with your bare hands quite easily. That neck to body connections relies on the continuity of the wood grain from the whole extent of the neck pocket through to the bridge.


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