The Neck:The SSB's neck is cut from one piece of slab-sawn eastern "rock" maple. The truss rod and internal reinforcement of the neck are my own design, and I machine up all the parts here in my shop. It's the same system that I use in my custom order necks (Custom Necks). Thetruss rod itself is 7/32" steel drill rod, fully encapsulated in a bed of epoxy and raw carbon fiber strands. There are no air gaps anywhere inside the neck. The truss rod nut is machined from brass, so it won't seize on the truss rod, with a hardened steel socket head that won't strip out. The truss rod nut presses against a crosswise brass plate that's embedded inside the neck, near the first fret. This construction makes the neck very strong and stable, andadds significantly to the clarity of the low end of the bass.
The fingerboard is either Honduras rosewood on the fretted model or ebony on the fretless. It's cut to a 7 1/4" radius, which is rounder than most basses, and the edges of the fingerboard are heavily rounded off. The frets are low-profile#146 wire, which is about 0.032" high. The neck is cut quite thin, and the sides of the back of the neck are steeply angled. This is an unusually fast, smooth feeling neck.
The headstock is tilted back 7 degrees and offset down 3/8" to provide good string contact across the nut. I leave a thick volute (the "lump") on the back of the neck at the transition to the headstock to keep it stiff. There is both a zero fret and a brass nut block to add sustain and clarity.
The neck is attached to the body with four hardened steel socket head bolts, which thread into steel T-nuts embedded inthe neck. Recessed into the back of the body are two 1/4" thick brass retainer plates which provide a solid clamping of the wood of the body. Underneath the retainer plates, two steel dowel pins lock the neck and body into alignment.
The Body:The SSB's body is made from four pieces of western ash; the top and back are each made up of halves. Allfour pieces are cut from the same board to match in appearance and density, with the grain directionalternating between the top and back for stability. I use Smith's Tropical Hardwood Epoxy for all the joints.
The inside of the body is hollowed out with a series of acoustic chambers, which adds some extra sweetness and "bloom" to the tone at the high end. The chambers are routed into the top and back before they are glued together. At the back end of the body, two heavy brass bars are glued into routed recesses. The bars are drilled and tapped at the back for the bolts that hold the tailpieces down, and pockets are machined at thefront of the bars for the bridge screws. This provides a solid connection between the bridge, the tailpiecesand the wood for sustain and clarity.
The Hardware:I build most of the hardware for the SSB myself. The bridge starts out as a rectangular block of brass, into which I mill the slots for the saddles and drill all of the holes. The block is then bandsawed to the curved plan shape androughly rounded off with a disc grinder. Final shaping is done with files and flap wheels, then it is polished to a gloss and sprayed with clear lacquer to keep it from tarnishing. The saddle blocks are machined from aluminum.
The tailpieces, the neck mounting bars, and the nut are also made from brass by a combination of machining and hand shaping and polishing. The nut gets lacquered, and the tailpieces and neck bars are chrome plated.
A large brass plate covers the top of the control cavity in the body, and provides a strong mounting for all of the control components. Part of the plate shows through a cutout in the pickguard, where I've engraved informationabout the instrument, including the serial number and date of completion.
The tuners are made by Gotoh, and I buy them through Allparts. They're an obscure model, with an unusual triangularshape to the back plate that just looks right on this bass. They're nice quality and have adjustable friction/drag.
I make the pickguard from 5 layer vinyl, using a router and a special fixture.
The Pickup System:The SSB's pickup system is quite simple. As on the AEB-2, I work to develop the instrument's tone in its structure, rather than in add-on electronics. The SSB's pickups are Seymour Duncan Quarter Pounder P-bass coils, which I cast into custom epoxy housings. The control wiring is passive, with standard volume and tone controls. I use a large0.1 mfd capacitor on the tone control to give it a very fat tone when rolled all the way off, particularly withflatwound strings.
The second, upper, output jack is "hotwired" directly to the pickup. This is a useful feature when you want to senda full range output signal to a second amp system. For example, in the studio, you can plug the direct signal into the recording console, and run the normal output into a small amp. Or, on stage, run the direct signal to the PA and the normal signal to your stage amp. This allows you to adjust the stage volume and tone from the instrument withoutchanging the direct signal.