Monday, March 02, 2015

Rikkers build, Part 4: The Bass Emerges (and "The Inlay")

Background - I commissioned a custom Olive-faced 5-string bass from Rikkers in Holland - 15 years or so after first considering a custom bass. The experience has been an education, and a great experience (I can recommend Rikkers), so I thought I'd properly document it.
The other parts:

The Bass Emerges...

Continuing the sequence, we see the face emerge from the clamps...

The Inlay

My original plan for my input to the bass was to have a single celtic knot band at the 12th fret: we keep markers along the top, and the board itself is unmarked apart from the 12th fret. I found some great designs, including these -

I figured something around the middle of that picture would be good: done in abalone, with a bit of sparkle. Ferdinand agreed, and I sent the URL of the site across. We worked through this early on, just after settling on the materials for the build.

The build progressed nicely: we got to this stage:

And I was getting pretty excited: but then.... argh! The inlays are delayed, so we have to come up with a rapid solution (this happened a week ago last Saturday: with 2 weeks to go!!!)... so I start looking for images I can use. I measured up a different 5-string with similar spacing, and decided 40 x 15mm seems about right. We have another Facetime session, and Ferdinand tells me he knows some guys who have a computer-controlled CNC machine, and he shows me a selection of abalone which the inlay could be made out of. I'm intrigued about what might be possible, and want to keep the core idea of a celtic band.

I'm searching for celtic bands, and I find things like

which is pretty good. I filled in the shape to see how it might look, white-on-black: it wasn't bad, but still not great. And besides, with my geek hat on, I know the computer CNC guys are going to want something which isn't a JPG - they're going to want a vector format (see, I can geek!).

I hunt around and find this: Now granted, this looks pretty pixelated, but... it's an adobe illustrator file - a vector format! This could be an ideal way to get things moving quickly…

I tell Ferdinand the bottom one is preferable: I didn't twig at the time that it was a pair of infinity signs: it's a nice figure, and it scales to 15x40 well.

Anyway, I hear back from Ferdinand a couple of days later: The CNC guys were able to rout out the shape nicely, and he then engraved the piece and added black lines to give it the 3-D over/under look - and see the result!

... and when the light hits it right!!!

And after the fretting over the inlay...

And finally - she's got a full set of stainless steel frets!

These are a little more expensive - Ferdinand tells me he uses an entire set of files because they're so hard: this is exactly why I wanted to specify the materials though, longevity and a trouble-free bass!

I did a little editing on my iPad to make a backdrop out of it - you can really see the beautiful work here: the CNC guys made a fine piece, and Ferdinand's engraving has absolutely made the inlay: it's just stunning!

Finally... where the controls go?

This last show is the latest one I've got: I've seen her in one last facetime session, last friday, where Jacco (the God of Wiring, tremble in his Mighty Presence!) and I discussed how the controls would work: a great chat, where the flexibility of tone was paramount - I'm going for the switchbucker pickups, so I want to be able to get as many tones as possible. The recent work I've done on basses with OBP-3 was on basses which were modded, and already had a set layout: this meant stacked pots and blend controls.

Jacco and Ferdinand were kind enough to recommend twin volume pots for the 2 pickups: this bass has a good sized space for 5 controls!

So our final control layout is 2 above, 3 below: we have
- bridge pickup (with push/pull for passive - yay!), neck pickup as 2 separate controls
- bass, mid (with push/pull for the switchable mid on the OBP-3), treble.

That brings us up to date: My next post will be the final build blog post! See you then…

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