LumberJocks

The Shamisen Bass

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Project by Lemongrasspicker posted 05-14-2018 03:43 PM 1042 views 2 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Before you ask, the only reason for 2 strings is because I only had 2 tuning machines.

If you prefer not to read, the video is here


View on YouTube

Just FYI these pics are slightly out of order.

This project was something I had had in mind for some time. I hadn’t played bass in about 8 years and I had wanted to get back into it.

The inspiration for this design came from the Japanese instrument called a Shamisen. If you haven’t seen one here’s a reference photo. Very cool instruments, I highly recommend you look up some music that is related to them, you’ll probably recognize it from certain anime and other Japanese oriented TV shows and such.

I always liked the aesthetic and design of them. I didn’t want to make one specifically, just taking some elements from them in keeping with my usual Japanese inspired designs.

It’s easy enough to buy a pre-made bass neck and simply bolt it to a body. But I had a very specific sound/feel in mind and no pre-made neck was ever going to suffice to make it happen.

The concept was to make a solid body acoustic bass. For a pickup I had a unit that is marketed as an “acoustic guitar voiced” pickup. Truth is it’s just 3 plate sensors that don’t care what they’re attached to. These 3 sensors pick up the entire small relief cut “top” of the bass and give it a definite upright/cello tone/feel just in a very small package. And for the design I had to base it around the fact that I only had 2 tuning machines, that proved to be more than enough however.

The wood for the body and neck are mahogany, the slab is about 7-8 years old so it’s plenty dry and ready to use. The fingerboard is Jatoba, really good ebony alternative if you can’t get ebony that big. Plus it’s a wonderful color and is very tough.

The mahogany blank, I cut both the neck and the body from this single piece.

For the neck to remain stable along with orienting the grain in a rift sawn pattern, I inlaid a piece of carbon fiber bar stock to help mitigate the effects of temp/humidity changes. You can’t stop wood moving but this piece will definitely add to the stability over the long term. I didn’t use a truss rod because I didn’t have one.

Once I had the blank inlaid with the carbon I added the headstock. You angle the headstock towards the back of the instrument so that the break angle of the strings is not straight across the nut but instead downward pressure is applied. I had the carbon run through the angled area into the headstock. This was a little tricky to get right. Basically just cut a “relief” on both sides of the rod and then fit the maple around it.

Once the glue was set I cut off the “butt” area and put a small piece of birdseye maple over the extension to blend it in with the instrument.

The biggest and most important part of this entire build was carving the neck to a strong yet pleasing shape for the hand. After the carbon had been inlaid in the neck I set about carving the neck profile with a sori-kanna. This was alot of work but it was immensely satisfying when it was done.

The construction and shape of the neck and the mortise/tenon is very closely akin to a cello except that the mortise and tenon are much deeper. The projection of the neck and fingerboard is based on cello measurements. The scale length of the bass is 30”.

Headstock “false volute”

Once I had the roughed out shape I wanted I still needed to finish and remove the “edges” that the kanna left. I didn’t have a plane or a scraper to do this so I had to make one. Some quick work with my Dumore grinder and a carbide bit and I had a nicely radiused scraper that I finished out the carving with.

And after a brief light sanding I shellac’d the neck. The color of this mahogany is so pleasant.

Cutting the neck mortise

Gluing it all together

All together, pre-shellac

And after shellac, I used lemon oil to finish out the fingerboard. I added the maple piece for the armrest a little after this step. The maple was just a piece of scrap I had laying around.
The “top” is spruce which resonates very well, it is the primary wood of acoustic guitar tops so it made sense to use it for this design.

And electronics installed, you can see the 3 sensors here

Added the armrest

And all done and ready to play. I tried to stay pretty close to the source material and I’m pleased with how it turned out. Thanks for reading/watching!

-- www.youtube.com/lemongrasspicker





9 comments so far

View Andybb's profile

Andybb

1144 posts in 689 days


#1 posted 05-14-2018 05:20 PM

Very nice hand tool work! How does it play? How’s the action?

-- Andy - Seattle USA

View DMiller's profile

DMiller

398 posts in 558 days


#2 posted 05-14-2018 07:53 PM

Very nice!

-- Dale Miller Modesto, CA "I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me." Philippians 4:13. "Woodworking minus patience equals firewood."

View RPhillips's profile

RPhillips

1186 posts in 1922 days


#3 posted 05-14-2018 10:06 PM

Nice job, love the design and overall appearance.

I’m going to be taking on the challenge of scratch building an “Explorer” style guitar in the near future.

-- Rob - Indianapolis IN - Learning... one mistake at a time...

View Porchfish's profile

Porchfish

838 posts in 2618 days


#4 posted 05-15-2018 01:22 PM

Where’s the Habu skin ? Nice work, but missing the identifying resonant skin feature. GomenKudasai

-- The pig caught under the fence is always the one doing all the squealing !

View Lemongrasspicker's profile

Lemongrasspicker

120 posts in 581 days


#5 posted 05-15-2018 01:56 PM

Thanks for the compliments guys.

Andybb action is a little under 3.25mm at the octave (12th fret area). It's a short scale 30” so the playability is really easy, very soft on the hands.


Where s the Habu skin ? Nice work, but missing the identifying resonant skin feature. GomenKudasai

- Porchfish

Didn’t have a way to put that on there. The spruce is the stand in for that part of the design, it sort of matched for color though.

-- www.youtube.com/lemongrasspicker

View daiku_padawan's profile

daiku_padawan

80 posts in 315 days


#6 posted 05-16-2018 01:02 AM

Saw it on YouTube before seeing it here. I just found your videos and going through them all. Some interesting content in your channel.

I like this instrument. I like the deep sound of it.

-- ~Daniel

View Lemongrasspicker's profile

Lemongrasspicker

120 posts in 581 days


#7 posted 05-16-2018 01:40 PM



Saw it on YouTube before seeing it here. I just found your videos and going through them all. Some interesting content in your channel.

I like this instrument. I like the deep sound of it.

- daiku_padawan

Thanks for checking it out. Glad you like it

ありがとうございました

-- www.youtube.com/lemongrasspicker

View weedeater64's profile

weedeater64

8 posts in 96 days


#8 posted 05-17-2018 01:18 AM

I found your channel recently and subbed, just saw the video of this a couple of days ago. You make me feel like I could actually make a musical instrument. Thanks for that.

View Lemongrasspicker's profile

Lemongrasspicker

120 posts in 581 days


#9 posted 05-17-2018 01:34 AM



I found your channel recently and subbed, just saw the video of this a couple of days ago. You make me feel like I could actually make a musical instrument. Thanks for that.

- weedeater64

You’re most welcome. That’s nice of you to say that. Give it a try, you never know you might just develop a new addiction

-- www.youtube.com/lemongrasspicker

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