Custom Flying V-12
How to Build Your Own 12-String Bass at Home

Chris Whiteley rockin' with his custom Flying V 12-string bass

Chris Whiteley from the UK built this custom Flying V 12-string bass in his home on his wife's workbench. He documented the entire process, took photos of every step and wrote down exactly what he was doing as he was doing it. His instructions are included here just as received. Thanks Chris for sharing this project with us!


Building The Body

This is the spalted beech top, with a bit of extra wood around the edges for finishing. Once it is oiled it will be a little darker but the different wood colors should stand out a bit more. The problem with spalting is that it makes some areas of the wood a bit brittle, as can be seen from the piece at top right that was knocked out when it was worked. This will be glued back in and hopefully applications of Danish Oil will harden up the wood.

I was hoping to get four thin book-matched slices so that I could cover the front and back of the V, but that proved to be too difficult so I now have just the two slices for the top. This turns out to have at least one advantage, which will become apparent when fitting the rear four tuners.

So here are the two slices. There is not as much symmetry in the pattern that would normally be obtained due to the irregularity of the spalting. The penciled outline is visible on the top half. Unfortunately much of the black line spalting on the left is going to be lost due to the socket of the neck, but there will still be plenty left. There are some shakes and splits here and there which will be filled in with dark filler to imitate the spalting.

 

This is the main body of the V, made by biscuit joining and gluing three pieces of ash together using urea formaldehyde glue. The final piece needs to be planed out as it is not entirely flat, and then it needs to be trimmed to size. This sounds casual enough but it is a surprisingly tough piece of wood. I'm going to need more equipment and a constantly sharpened plain blade.

The body will be thinned out towards the top and bottom, about 5mm front and back or maybe less. This means I will have to shave a fraction of a millimeter where the beech slices join to form the top in order to avoid too obvious a line down the middle. This will make the instrument a bit lighter too while still maintaining a good 45mm central section between the heel and the bridge.

 

Starting to cut out the holes for the pick-ups and the neck. I can then use these as a guide for routing out the underlying ash.

 

Shaping the ash body. This is not easy as I'm using a hand plane and it's a tough piece of wood. I've also cut out the cavity for the pots. On the inside of the V you can see the spaces for the other four tuners.

 

One half of the top being glued on. Idiot that I am, I forgot to drill a channel in the ash for the wiring from the pick-ups. So instead I cut a channel down the center line underneath the beech so all the wiring will pass beneath the bridge. Otherwise I'll try buying a very long drill bit so that I can get the angle required to reach the control cavity from the bridge pick-up slot.

 

The other half of the beech top being glued on. Despite my best efforts there is a slight gap between the two halves, but I'll fill that gap (and any other cracks or splits) with contrasting ebony filler and make a feature of it.

 

The fully assembled body, now requiring a bit more shaping and routing.

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