I was chatting with my coworker one morning. We tend to have conversations that just randomly veer off into multiple directions as a start to our day, which is nice. I showed her photos of Cabernet as we’d just gotten back from our house up north.
Her eyes got wide and she asked if I could build something as an anniversary gift for her husband. My first commission!
It was a challenge because it’s a left-handed bass. I did some searching and found a kit and gave her an estimate. I quoted low because I’m still in the beginner stage of luthier-dom. She said to go for it. I asked her to think about a design scheme or theme for it, and a day or two later, she had an idea.
Her husband is a big fan of FC Bayern. His family is from Bavaria, although he was born and raised in the US. So I had to do some research to see what they looked like and how to apply that theme to the bass.
There were lots of challenges with this bass kit. Glue spots in the body prevented even dye absorption, parts were missing, or parts were damaged, so I ended up buying replacement parts throughout the building of this instrument. I learned about lacquer blush because one morning, I took the body out to the shed at our country house to get started on the day’s round of top-coating early.
Too early, as it turned out. Too much humidity in the morning air led to moisture being trapped under the layer of lacquer I laid down. This resulted in a distinct white haze and a lot of cursing from me. Luckily, I discovered that if I spray a light mist of lacquer over those spots to remelt the lacquer, the moisture can escape, which it did.
By the time I’d gotten to tuning and intonating, an electronics problem arose. The tone potentiometer was somehow damaged and fell apart as I was tuning. The shaft spun in 360° — that’s not good. Then a piece of the PCB broke off. So I had to order a replacement pot, which delayed final set-up even more.
But it was eventually done.
I included the team’s motto — Mia san mia — in the headstock. I used my Cricut vinyl cutter to cut the motto from white vinyl, applied it to the headstock then spent several days covering it with lacquer to reduce the millimeters of noticeable height difference as well as to protect the vinyl.
Similarly, I added a tribute to the Bavarian flag on the pickguard:
The hue is closer to the actual Bavarian flag than the variation used in the FC Bayern logo. I was having trouble finding a more royal blue vinyl rather than the navy blue I kept finding, so I went with the lighter sky-blue hue to match the flag instead. I found a matched color of Testors enamel marker, so I lined the edge of the pickguard with the enamel for an additional detail.
Testing it out turned out to be rather difficult as I’m a right-handed player. I tried playing the bass intro the Metallica’s My Friend of Misery but the longer horn that’s supposed to be at the top get getting in the way. Playing it upside down also meant my muscle memory had to adjust to the new placement of the strings. I gave up and went with something simpler instead.
I played through the pentatonic scale in A a few times then hit Stand By Me instead:
It only looks like I’m playing left-handed as I took the video in selfie mode, which mirror-imaged the whole thing, as evidenced by my Testament t-shirt.
This will be delivered to the office this week so my coworker will see it first thing in the morning.