Every once in a while, instead of being asked to repair something, I get asked to build something. While I really enjoy repairing guitars, I really love building – I can get completely lost in a project, and hours will fly by without me even noticing. Unfortunately, my shop isn’t set up to do complete custom instrument builds (yet…), but in the meantime small projects fulfill my crafting jones a bit. This week I was asked by my friend Ryan to build a bass ramp for his Fender Jazz bass.
A bass ramp is something that was popularized by bassist Gary Willis (an absolutely terrifying musician, by the way), who has a ramp on all his signature Ibanez basses. The ramp offers a place for the player to anchor their thumb, and prevents the player from digging in too hard. (For more details, Damian Erskine has written up a pretty thorough article on the how and why of the bass ramp in his article on NoTreble.com.) A pretty cool idea, methinks.
Admittedly, I spent way too much time on this project – I was having too much fun with it! Making a ramp fit perfectly onto a Jazz bass is no picnic; it’s like putting together a puzzle in reverse. I matched the ramp’s radius to the string radius at the bridge (I had set it up before hand), lined up the ramp’s ends with the slightly mis-aligned pickups, recessed the pickup’s ears under the wood, and carved the bottom to mate flush with both the body and the pickguard. Most likely nobody would notice nor care about these details but me, but anything worth doing is worth doing right. I gotta say, I’m pretty proud of this:
Ain’t she purdy? That’s caesalpinia ferrea, otherwise known as pau ferro or Brazilian ironwood, with 5 coats of Tru-Oil and polished so it shines. I secured it with thin double-sided tape, but it fits so tight between the pickups that it doesn’t really even need it. Sweet!
And now, back to fixing more guitars…