Goldilocks and the Three Headstocks

Once upon a time there was a girl named Goldilocks who was making a short-scale electric bass. (Because she was cheap, and stubborn, and didn’t want to buy an Ibanez for $179, which is really quite reasonable, when she could make one herself that would be half as good and twice as expensive.) She had already glued up her body blank and cut it to rough dimensions. Her bolt-on neck blank had the truss rod slot routed but she needed to to design the headstock, which was a 2-on-a-side angled design similar to a Gibson. So she got her paper, pencils, and rulers and drew out a headstock based on tenor ukuleles she’d done, paying special attention to the path the A and D strings take from the tuner to the nut, so they don’t rub against the outer tuners.

Bass Headstock 1.jpg

“This headstock looks too small,” she said. “And I think the tuning keys may interfere with each other and make it more difficult to adjust, which is an ergonomic problem we wish to avoid.” And anyway, she misplaced the paper template. And how did my foot get in the frame?

So she drew another one, using her original tuner location layout as a starting point, but lengthening and widening it. She even cut a template out of 1/4″ tempered hardboard, which most people call Masonite, even if it’s made by a different company. Then she drilled the tuner holes with a 1/2″ Forstner bit.

Bass Headstock 2.jpg

“This template looks disproportionately wide for its length,” she complained. “I’ll have to add ears to the side of my neck blank to get the width. I also think it’s too large for a short-scale instrument, especially if I use a 1-1/2″ nut width. And I’m concerned that there isn’t enough wood between the E and G tuners and the outside edge of the headstock, because I made the taper too long.” And she realized that because she’d drilled 1/2″ tuner holes, it would be harder to locate the centers for drilling the actual holes in the headstock anyway.

And then she found her first paper template, and put it next to the hardboard template, and wasn’t really happy with either one. So she fired up OpenOffice on her laptop and drew a rough design with tuner locations and a centerline, and 5-degree lines for the outside edges, because it looked about right. Then she cut it out of some 1/8” plywood and said, “eh, that’s good enough.”

Bass Headstocks.jpg

My foot really isn’t that small. It just looks that way because of perspective.

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