I finally found a little time to do some more work on my bass, and wanted to share a few things. Where I last left the build, was I’d made up a gizmo to hold the Lace Sensor pickup in place (under a little tension), so I could decide my favorite pickup location. This was cool, and the Sensor comes with wires coming from the pickup, terminating in a rubber shrink-wrap-coated female jack. So, once you plug your 1/4″ guitar cable into the Sensor’s jack, and the other end into your amp (or other similar source) the pickup is live and will detect and transmit sound. This was incredibly helpful, with the pickup placement, as I didn’t need to do anything that is normally required in the electronics end of guitars/basses. Specifically, I didn’t need to drill a path for the cabling, or create a control cavity, install a volume control, or even drill and install an output jack. I had actually already completed a few of these mentioned tasks, as I’d drilled my wire pathway and had created the control cavity. This is one of the few pickups, that I’m aware of, that comes out of the box with this type of setup. To mount the pickup, I used some #6 brass screws that were 1″ in length. I carefully marked two diagonal holes, drilled to the correct depth, and inserted the first two screws. Now that the pickup was secure, I marked for the two remaining holes, and repeated the process. I find it’s much easier to handle the four holes, and their accuracy, in this manner. It’s too easy to have the part shift ever so slightly, during the marking process, when marking all four holes at the same time.
Now that my pickup was secured, it was time to move forward with the electronics end of things. I first need to remove the sheathing from the shrink-wrapped output jack, and de-solder the wires, to feed the wires down into the control cavity. I used a small razor knife to carefully the shrink-wrap material, and this jack had some of the toughest wrap that I’ve seen. So, working carefully, I was able to nibble away at the sheath (with the knife) until I was able to completely remove the wrap.
After the wrap was off, I better understood Lace’s use of this material (thought continued in a few lines). When I first saw the uncovered jack, it was somewhat reminiscent to the male portion of the guitar cords. It had a screw-on cover, that completely protected the wires, and the solder joints inside. I examined the jack a little closer and it turned out that the flared tip (where the male 1/4″ guitar cord is inserted) was also screwed onto the main body. With flared tip removed, it left a threaded shaft, with connections for left and right (which you can use for stereo, or for mono) as well as a ground.
With this design, I knew I could handle the jack’s installation a bit out of the norm, by feeding it through a 1/2″ hole in the bass. I wouldn’t need to use the normal larger sized female jack, and the mounting plate that attaches that jack to the bass. This is a cool setup! I unsoldered the ground connection, as well as the main lead, and then wrapped the tips of the wires together tightly, with some tape. This will make feeding the wires through the body, a bit easier, since there is less chance their leads will get caught in the passage. Feeding the wire(s) was a simple process, although I could have gone with a drill bit a size or two larger, when I drilled the passage. The output wires on most pickup are fairly small, which is what I originally anticipated, but the Sensor’s thicker wires were so large they almost wouldn’t fit through. If possible, it is better to have all of your parts on-hand, prior to starting the instrument’s build, to limit any potential little hiccups (which this almost became).
I bought a couple of extended shaft Gibson 500K potentiometers, to use as the volume control for the bass. I believe this style pot, with it’s long threaded shaft, was originally made to use in Les Paul guitars, so it would work on their carved-top versions. When I created my control cavity on the bass, I left around 1/4″ of wood between the top and the cavity, which I just estimated while I set the stop on the drill press . I didn’t want to get too thin and have the tip of my bit break through, or even telegraph it’s presence. When installing the pot, I first drilled a small 1/8″ hole from the cavity side, so I’d know with certainty the pot would fit nicely. This helped know exactly where the full sized hole needed to be, but I’d have risked some wood blow-out, if I’d drilled the full-sized hole from the inside of the cavity. To prevent this, I flipped the bass over, so I was drilling in from the top side, and drilled my 3/8″ hole centered on the earlier hole. The 3/8″ hole was just large enough to allow what was almost a press-fit, for the pot’s shank. With the longer threaded shaft on this style pot, I can easily control how much of the shaft is projected above the top of the bass. To do this, I threaded a nut down onto the shaft, far enough so the adjustable portion of the pot is the correct height, and then with a washer and another nut on top, tighten it down so it is firm. This has a nut flanking the 1/4″ thick top, from top and bottom. If you have any trouble keeping this concept from loosening up, just bring a third nut into the mix. Place two nuts on the underneath side, tightened (jammed) against one another, and then handle the top nut in the same manner as i described above. This should stay put no matter what happens.
I was looking at some of the different plastic knobs I have on hand, to use on the volume pot, but none really looked appealing. Then it hit me. Why limit myself with plastic knobs? I chucked a blank of some nice colored Pecan, into my wood lathe, and I turned it to a pleasing shape. When I was satisfied, I sanded and added some oil finish, while it was still turning on the lathe.
Before cutting the knob loose, I put the whole blank into my vise, and drilled the hole to fit over the pot’s tip. I marked my drill bit with some of the blue painter’s tape, so I wouldn’t accidentally drill too deep and waste my efforts. After drilling, I cut the knob loose with a fine-toothed saw, and pared away some extra wood, which also added a little texture on the very top of the knob. Now it is just waiting for installation.
I hope to have a little time in the next few days, when I can drill and install the output jack, and complete the wiring. Then it’ll just be a few more little details to finish up all aspects of the bass. Until then….
Thanks as always for checking out my article. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.
Early on in my woodworking, I always seemed to have such a hard time finding a good way to securely hold the wood I was either needing to saw, chisel or plane, on it’s edge or end. I hadn’t yet built a workbench, and even when I finally had my first bench, the cheap little vise (and it’s jaws that weren’t truly aligned) I had was all but useless.
Move forward a some years and I finally got a cabinet-style table saw, and the heft of the saw led me to design a vise that would take advantage of this stability. Initially, I had a couple of pieces of 6/4 Oak that were each about 24″ long and 6″-7″ wide, that didn’t have a project attached to them. I copied the layout of the mounting holes on the side of my table saw, where an extra wing could attach, and transferred this layout to the rear board of my vise design. I drilled these holes into the length of my Oak, and recessed them enough so the bolt heads with a washer, wouldn’t stand proud of the inside surface. I also made sure the placement of the vise was low enough so the top edge of both jaws couldn’t interfere with the normal table saw operations.
My first iteration on my design used two 12″ Jorgensen F-clamps, which slipped into slots I cut into both edges of the front and rear jaws, to apply pressure and hold the workpiece. After cutting these slots, I bolted the rear vise face to my table saw, making sure to use large washers to spread out the forces. I didn’t want to accidentally crack the mounting holes on my table saw. This first design worked reasonably well, but the jaws flexed more than I wanted, which made it difficult to apply enough gripping pressure to the workpiece, before the ends of the jaws met first.
The first upgrade was to replace the rear vise jaw with a somewhat rough piece of 8/4 Maple, where the rough section was on the side facing away from the workpiece. Rather than cutting the slot in the ends of this board, so I could continue to use the F-clamps, I bought three veneer press screws as replacements for the clamps. Each of the press screws came with a threaded cast-iron nut, of sorts. I drilled holes for each of these three press screws, laid out with one on each end and the last about a third from one of the ends. I drilled these holes with a bit that was just slightly larger than the screw’s shafts, to keep the slop to a minimum. The nuts that came with the press screws, were oddly shaped; they were each sort of deep and shaped like a section of a cone. I drilled with different sized bits, to different depths, until I had a hole that was close to fitting the nut. I carved out the last little bit with a number of different tools, until the fit was solid. The press screws also came with an end-piece that fit over the tip of the screw, and had a set screw that went into a shallow recess. I attached each of these, so there was less chance I’d accidentally unscrew any to the point where they disengaged with their nut.
I mentioned earlier that I placed the mid press screw about a third from one of the ends. I did this so I had the option of using the two outside screws, when working on a very large panel, but the choice of two other sizes, depending on the size of my workpiece. I was afraid this new setup might also flex more than planned, and the shorter the section between screws, the more rigid, using the same materials.
When I transitioned to the Maple rear jaw and the press screws, I didn’t have enough 8/4 Maple to also make a full-sized front jaw, but I did have enough to make one that was about 3″ tall. I centered this on the press screw shanks, and it did a better job of diminishing the side-to-side flex, but didn’t hold tight enough at the top of the rear jaw. This deficiency allowed the workpiece to vibrate during a saw cut, so was another learning experience.
During the period where I was making some changes to the vise, I had also built a workbench and even though it was somewhat small, it was pretty solid. It was time to remove the vise from the table saw, thank it for it’s service, and turn the vise into a free-standing model. I attached a small piece of plywood with a screw, to the inside face of the rear jaw, at both ends. This helped index it against the workbench top, so I could easily tell it was where it should be. I also cut both ends, of the rear jaw, from the top down about 3″. With these “ledges”, I could grip the vise with a couple of clamps, or hold-fasts. This really made it much better and provided me choices as to where I wanted to place the vise, and it sat higher, so I didn’t need to bend over as far. Definitely good for my back.
A friend was kind enough to give me a load of 8/4 Pecan that had a lot of internal stresses, which didn’t allow for machine planing, or could likely cause all sorts of problems for the plane or the operator. I like using my hand planes and chose a board that was somewhat similar in size to the rear Maple vise jaw. After working what would be the inside face of the board so it was flat and true, I did the same on the exterior face, except some of the “dips” were so extreme that I decided to only take it down enough so it ended up around 75%-85% flat. I didn’t want to lose any more of the strength the thickness of the board would provide. I cut the board so it was the same length as the Maple jaw, transferred the location of the holes to the front jaw, and drilled the holes at my drill press.
One of the next modification was to glue some leather on the inside of both front and rear jaws, which elevated the performance of the vise even more. I had bought the leather a couple of years earlier for another project, and luckily had a good amount left over. I just used some of the Titebond glue I had on hand in my shop, to attach the leather to the vise jaws. After I applied the glue and leather to both jaws, I put a double layer of wax paper between the jaws, and let the pressure from the press screws hold it snuggly until the glue cured. It was amazing just how much difference the leather makes, in a vise situation. I suppose this extra gripping, which I see as the leather conforming to the workpiece, might be a good example why stropping the back of a chisel or plane iron on leather, can potentially roll it’s edge.
Well, this setup was decent and functioned, but I’d been eyeing one of the BenchCrafted Moxon vise kits for quite some time. Imagine my surprise at Christmas when one of their kits was underneath our tree, with my name on it! With all I’ve had on my plate, I am almost to the point where I can make the change to their cool gear. For those that haven’t ever checked out BenchCrafted, their website and their blog, I believe you have been missing a lot. Jameel and Father John are great guys and have wonderful products. Oh, and this kit was purchased at full retail price, just so that is clear.
I plan to install the new hardware and have a new post with all of the details, in the near future.
Thanks for visiting my blog and I hope this article might provide some alternate ideas for this style of vise. Most of us start with something that can get us through, until we can make our dreams happen. Let me know if you have any questions or comments. At the time of this post, I’ve not found any photos of the first vise I made. If I do happen to find some in the archives, I’ll post them in the article.
A couple of nights ago I went out to my shop to update the “clamping” jaw of my dovetail vise. I previously had a 2″ x 2″ piece of Maple running the length of the vise (centered in the vertical plane), as the clamping jaw, and to hold well seemed to require too much force, […]
Yesterday I took a leisurely drive from Austin TX, out to Cedar Creek TX, to visit Brandon Berdoll at the Berdoll Sawmill & Furniture Co. I was very impressed by the quality of primarily Texas woods Brandon has on hand. The mesquite was truly unbelievable, ranging from 4/4 boards up to 12/4 or 16/4 slabs. […]