Agape Guitars

Ben's Protos bass

Protos bass for sale!

Ben's Protos bassRich ChaffinsComment

Hey, everyone! Want to catch a deal on a sweet, handmade bass? Then read on! I built this one for my friend Ben a few years ago, and I'm lending a hand in helping him sell it. The original rosewood neck developed a severe twist after a year or so, so I built a brand new neck for it a couple of months ago. Ben has this to say about this 4-string Protos bass:

"The bass can produce a really versatile array of tones due to the Bartolini 5.1 9V preamp and Bartolini humbucker/J pickup configuration. A three band EQ with a parametric push/pull mid ensure that you can dial in any tone from an aggressive, Musicman style growl to a wide, fat P bass impression. The finish on the neck is smooth as silk and the spalted maple top is a real eye catcher. The Hipshot Ultralight high-ratio open gear tuners help prevent neck dive and the D-tuner on the low E string makes moving to alternate tunings a snap. I used this bass in contemporary worship, country and studio projects all with great results. The only reason I'm parting with this beauty is that my current touring gig requires a different vibe and I could use some other equipment that better suits a recording rig that I'm building."

The specs:

Swamp ash body w/ spalted maple top;

flamed maple neck with coal dust and oil finish, cocobolo fretboard and backstrap, abalone fret markers; bone nut;

Bartolini humbucker and J-Style pickups; Bartolini 5.1 preamp;

black hardware;

Hipshot Transtone bridge, Ultralite tuners and X-tender

Some pictures, then the original demo video:

back bass back2 bassbody downneck headstock headstockback

And the original demo video:

Let me know if you're interested. Thanks for looking!

First video up!

Ben's Protos bassRich Chaffins2 Comments

I know it's all over my Twitter and Facebook, but if you haven't seen it yet, here's the video I shot yesterday (okay, my buddy Caleb shot it, and I played it) of Ben's Protos bass. Go check it out. I do love the tone of this instrument, and the soundman last night raved about it, so that can't be bad.  :) [youtube=]

One month later....

Ben's Protos bassRich ChaffinsComment

Hello and a happy day! A million apologies for not posting for an. entire. month. To be fair, it's been a crazy month to top all crazy months. Besides the other 3 jobs (and band) I  have going a bit more nuts, things were loopy on the luthiery side of things, as well.  (Note: as I wrote this, the little ditty that Peeves sang to Professor Lupin in "The Prisoner of Azkaban" started ringing through my skull, lyrically adjusted to "Loony, loopy luthier" You're welcome.)

This month has been all about Ben's bass.  He wanted to try to pick it up around Thanksgiving, so I spent 2.5 weeks trying to get about a month's worth of work done on it. Fun stuff, considering all the other stuff I have going on. My kids didn't recognize me (not really, but it was close). Anywho, the finish on the spalted maple front was what really got me behind, having never dealt with that level of spalt before. I threw the proverbial kitchen sink at it, to no avail. I did get it put together and playable for him while he was here, though. And I gotta say....


That bass sounds GREAT. Plays very well, too. As Mike, my drummer who works at Fawley Music (where I teach guitar) said, "I can't stop playing it, so that's a good thing.". I thought so, too. The rosewood neck feels very satiny, and hefty. I do love the Hipshot  Transtone bridge, and the Bartolini pickups are just great. I didn't get the height fully dialed in while he was here, but the sound went from full and fat to clean and transparent, with lots of tone in between.

But now I have to finish it! So, took it apart, stripped the epoxy off of the top, and started putting a few coats of lacquer on it. Also have to adjust the neck carve a bit...there's a soft V in the first 5 frets or so that Ben didn't bond with. He claims he has small hands. There has to be a joke in there somewhere, but I can't seem to find it right now. :) are a few pics of the nearly finished instrument, including a couple I took tonight after 2 coats of lacquer.

Should be blogging a bit more soon...after completing this bass, I'm gonna shoot some video with it (and probably a few of my other instruments, as well) to stick up on YouTube. Also, Alex's Revelator, Frank's paisley, and Deral's 5-string are coming along nicely, and are, in fact, mostly done at this point. Just need some final finishing touches done to each, and we'll be off to the races. Also, got a new guitar design finalized, and templates being made. It's called (perhaps temporarily...I suck at picking and keeping model names) the Junia, and is a delightful little singlecut model that I am in love with. Probably start that model off with a steampunk aesthetic, cuz I lovez me teh steampunk.

Take care! Comment! Etc. :)[gallery]

This is Friday, and there is a new blog post.

Ben's Protos bass, Frank's ProtosRich ChaffinsComment

Howdy there. I'm discovering that I don't like doing blog updates without pictures, as detailed a bit on my last post. On most of the instruments I'm working on right now, I'm either down to detail stuff or waiting on other people (parts, finish stuff, etc.). Detail work doesn't warrant a lot of pictures. Kinda hard to see (or give much of a hoot about) something like, "Okay, here's a pic after I sanded the body to 60 grit. Now, here's 100. Here's 120. Wait for it...okay, 220 grit. The fun never stops!!"

See what I mean? And for some reason, I've got it in my head that I can't post progress without photographic evidence. To prove myself wrong, soon I shall start posting progress updates even when there aren't any pictures. Probably.

Anyway, since I now have a deadline on Ben's bass, panic has ensued. I HATE deadlines, especially on builds. There are so many little things that can happen to make time (and, by default, deadlines) go by quicker than you want it to, it's stressful. So, been focusing on that lovely bass of his.  I should point out, however, that I do not in fact hate Ben. Just the whole deadline thing. :)

And what have I been doing, you ask? Well, let me tell ya.

First, a little while ago, I put on a bit of cocobolo on the heel area of the neck. Gives it a bit of lift, and also ties in nicely with the fretboard. You can see it in the shot of the entire back of the neck. Tidied up the frets some more as well, although that's not pictured. They're not final yet.

Spalted maple is an odd type of wood, and the body had sanded unevenly, due to the differing hardness in different areas of the top. So, I had to build a jig to thickness the top and even it out. You can see in the pics the low spots that still have epoxy on them.

A couple days ago, I located the tuner holes and screw holes. It took me a bit to figure out proper mounting for the D-tuner, but YouTube and our friends at Hipshotstraightened that out in short order. There are a couple of pics down there taken after mounting the tuners. Also, with the headstock, I wanted to cut the face a bit deeper than usual to help string angle. This necessitated a bit more thickness on the back of the headstock so the Hipshot tuners would sit properly. I glued maple from the offcuts of the top to the back and am still in the process of finishing the carve. Most of it's done now, just the finesse stuff to finish. I really like the look of it...think it'll shape up nicely.

Not to neglect Frank's guitar, I did the leveling and re-crowning of the frets yesterday, as well as the end beveling. Still waiting on finish stuff (the paisley) for that piece, so it's been sitting around a bit.

Alrighty! Think that's it for now. Any thoughts, good or bad, feel free to comment. Have a great weekend!


Recent progress

Ben's Protos bass, Frank's ProtosRich Chaffins1 Comment

Hello, those of you who are focusing your eyes on these shapes and having your brain translate them into meaning. Hope things are well. Recent progress has been made. Yes, it's true! One part of why I haven't updated in a bit is that I like to have pics when I post, and a good bit of what I've been doing lately is sanding. Not a great bit of noticeable change in pics there, and not terribly interesting to boot. So, sorry for the lack of updates. It's been fairly boring.

That being said, not ALL is boring! Ben decided he wanted a tummy cut in his bass,  so I obliged. I should state here that an angle grinder makes short work of such a thing as a belly cut, and makes a SHOCKING amount of sawdust while doing so. Just one of those "Oh, look. It snowed slightly dirty-looking snow...just in my shop. Such strange weather patterns we're having lately!" moments. Really. Oh, in the pics, please note that this is, as of now, rough-shaped.

In other un-boring news, I reshaped the neck joint on Frank's guitar. This was due to a slight bit of router bit slippage (definitely nothing major, just a bit unsightly) that turned into a happy accident. I think it feels better, and also makes it a bit more distinctive. It's staying. I believe that I would like to do this to Ben's bass, as well. Assuming this would not destroy Ben's happy place. I'd feel guilty for a good chunk of time. Thoughts, Ben?

Gotta go do more shop stuff now. Check pictorial proof of the above statements below. Later, gators.[gallery]

Quick 'un

Ben's Protos bassRich Chaffins1 Comment

Hello and a happy day. I'll keep this one short and sweet. Pics of Ben's bass strung up, and pics of the neck carving process. Note that the tuners are not fastened down in the pics. They're just there to hold the strings loosely to check for alignment.

Also a pic or two of the yet-to-be-explained instrument, another chapter (possibly the most fascinating yet) of which's story was written earlier today.  More pics soon.  Busy day today...banjo repair, body blank glued up, epoxy fill on the spalt top of Ben's bass, built up the heel of Ben's neck a bit, and installed my first Stellartone Tonestyler in Rick's guitar. Gotta say, I didn't get to spend too much time with it, but the possibilities are fascinating. Never seen/heard such a usable and varied tone control. Varitone on steroids, baby.

Have a great night![gallery]

Little metal bars.

Ben's Protos bass, Frank's Protos, Rick's ProtosRich ChaffinsComment

Hello and a happy day. Quick update. Got a lot done today. I have a bunch going on right now in the shop: banjo repair, pedalboard to build, 2 guitars and 2 basses in progress. Just finished repair/tuner replacement on a Gretsch. In the planning stages on a few more builds. Hoo boy.

The stuff I took pics of today are the two usual suspects lately: Frank's guitar, Ben's bass. At the same place, mostly, with them, so I tend to do stuff there in tandem. Frets installed and trimmed. Leveling, etc. will happen in the next couple days. Check out the pics. Shiny!

The last pic is a sneak preview of an upcoming post...a saga, really. This is the most recent chapter here. More on that later. LOTS more on it. :)

On an awesome note, the first Tele-style guitar I built has a new home! It was purchased by an amazing local player/guitar teacher/friend Rick Vrana. He's had a lot of great things to say about it. Maybe I'll get him to give me some sweet quotes for the site soon (hint hint, nudge nudge). Have a great night![gallery]


Alec's Revelator, Ben's Protos bass, Frank's ProtosRich Chaffins1 Comment

Hello! Due to lots of catching up after the car crash, haven't had much time in the shop. However, the fretboards on Ben and Frank's pieces are now shiny! But...

Not normal-shiny. Different-shiny.

Depending on how you look at them, they tell different stories.

This is the method I started using on Alec's Revelator fretboard, and I fell in love with it because of how it speaks to me. This is, from here forward, my method for sanding fretboards. There are 3 views of the fretboards. First is straight on, starting about a foot away. You see the really nice wood grain. Second is at various angles. You see the reflective shine caused by the progression of sanding from 400 grit to 8000. Third is at other angles. You see the scratches left by the radius block and the 80-grit sandpaper attached to it.

At these angles, you see the scars.

These fretboards represent the human condition. Each angle has a specific meaning to me. Yours may be different. However it's interpreted, it's startling to me how treating a piece of a tree in a certain way speaks to the human soul. Fascinating.

Purely technical talk to follow.



Cocobolo is my favorite fretboard wood for a variety of reasons. It's beautiful, it's hard, it's very different from piece to piece; it has beautiful coloring. It also takes a mirror shine with polishing. Rosewood is not quite the same as far as grain differentiation or shinability, so to speak, but it's still nice. It does need oiled for the deep color you expect from rosewood boards. Otherwise, it looks kinda dry. Check the difference between the two. Both are quite good. Also, I should add that both boards edges were hand-rolled to have a worn-in feel from the start. Much more comfortable.[gallery]

Hmmm...must update more often.

Alec's Revelator, Ben's Protos bass, Frank's Protos, The BaneRich Chaffins4 Comments

Hey y'all. Hope everyone's peachy. You may ask yourself and/or me "What's up with the erratic blogging as of late? What happened to the almost daily updates of yore?"

Well, lots of things happened.

First, the good reason. I was in a car wreck Friday that banged me up pretty good, and I spent through Monday with my bed and ibuprofen as my best friends. That's the legit reason.

Second reason, I have to this point in my building career invariably slowed down when getting to the details stage of things. Not sure why this is, except that 1) I hate sanding passionately, and 2) the detail stuff is easier to mess up, so i go slowly and cautiously, and also stress a lot.

I am slowly catching up Ben's bass to where Frank's guitar is. I started Frank's after Ben's, but that guitar is more familiar territory to me, and so things went faster. I also had to make templates for things on the bass that I was doing for the first time, so that took up some time as well. Frank's guitar is ready for finish, minus the drudgery of sanding the body in prep for finish: getting rid of router burn, scratches, etc. The neck is not so far along. It is carved, but still needs finish sanding on the fretboard, and frets. Those are always a good thing to have. :)

On Ben's bass, I have the top and side dots  on the neck installed and leveled. Also, the body is rounded over. All neck ferrule holes have been drilled. Next up is to sand the top to get the rest of the test epoxy off and even it up a bit, and start the neck carve. Ben wants a J-bass profile, so I took the necessary measurements today. I'll make the neck carve templates tomorrow, and then we're off to the proverbial races, baby.

Tomorrow should be an exciting day. Going to try and get a lot done. Do some finish sanding on both fretboards, some initial carving on Ben's neck, perhaps (I should point out that I will be carving wood, not flesh and blood. No zombie action goin' on here). Finally going to un-clamp the neck on Alec's Revelator to see how it's doing. Going to start cutting on the bass I shall expound on fully in a future post. This bass is known as "The Bane". Long, interesting story. Probably won't post tomorrow, as I'm going to the Tenth Avenue North show tomorrow night, but it will most definitely be sooner than the gap between this and the previous post. :)

Enjoy the pics![gallery]

Finally...another post!

Alec's Revelator, Ben's Protos bass, Frank's ProtosRich Chaffins1 Comment

Howdy, as we West Virginians are supposed to say. Your day going okay? How's the kids? Etc., etc. Anyway, finally got a bit of time to update ye olde blog. Aren't you excited?? I am! So, we're at the stage in Frank and Ben's builds where there's not a lot that shows up on the camera as major progress. I don't know about other builders, but time always seems to slow down when I get to the detail stuff. All the big, exciting things like a guitar popping out of a block of wood have already happened, and it's the small stuff now.

For the record, detail stuff is my least favorite part of builds. Just sayin'., last we left off, I put some epoxy in the control cavity. It held up well, so I put a second coat in the cavity, and also coated the top to start the stabilizing process. I wanted to get this done before I tried drilling the control holes through the top, as it's unsupported by the ash there. Let it sit for 24 hours or so, and drilled. Worked like a wood was harmed in the drilling of these holes. :) In other "Ben's bass" news, I've been working on the neck a bit. Got the fretboard planed down a good bit so I don't have to dig into the neck wood so much when I carve it (I'd hate to run into the truss rod...suck!),  radiused the fretboard as well. Planned out the dots...gonna do them tomorrow.  Yesterday and today I sanded down the excess epoxy on the top. Interesting fact: epoxy turns black when hit with a high speed sander. Also leveled the front and back of the body, as well as drilled wiring access holes through the pickup routes and into the control cavity. Last thing I did today was shield the control cavity with aluminum tape. Going to do the same to the pickup routs as well.

On Frank's guitar, about all that's left on the body is to do the finish sanding, then it's off to Brandy at the Sign Factory, once Frank decides on the final design for the paisley he wants. The neck has been getting a lot done to it. Dots were done, on the side as well as the top of the fretboard. The fretboard edges have been hand-rolled for a broken-in feel, and the neck has been carved. It's still a type of trapezoidal profile, but with a twist. The angle on the top side of the neck was rolled over a bit to give less of a "break point" when meeting the fretboard. It feels more comfortable to me...I'm anxious to try it once it's strung. Routed the cavity for the jack on the back of the guitar. Also drilled tuner holes. Unfortunately, I forgot to take pics there, so we'll have to wait til the next post for that.

If you remember from a post or two ago, the neck on Alec's Revelator took a back bow to it. It's been clamped down for about a week in a corrective position. Going to add some heat to it for a while too to get the shape more solidified. More news as it develops. Can't wait to get this one assembled and out the door! I'm sure Alec feels the same way. :)

...and below are the pics. Have a great (insert time until next blog post)![gallery]

Spoils of Tuesday!

Ben's Protos bass, Frank's ProtosRich ChaffinsComment

Hey, all you crazy kids. Dearly hope your Wednesday is fantastic. Or tolerable, at least. Gotta say, this whole blogging thing feels like one of those "what I did during my summer vacation" reports, only it's multiple times in a week, every week. Guess I still have to get used to it. Feelings about blogging aside, let's get to it!

Ben's bass: Got a good bit done here in the last day or two. Located the final location for the bridge, using the advanced luthiery tool known as yarn. String spread is both even and delightful. When that was sorted, got the string holes drilled, as well as the ferrule locations in the back. After getting the bridge in the right place, had to decide on pickup placement. This bass has a Bartolini Musicman-style humbucker in the bridge position, and a J-bass style pickup in the neck position. After checking positioning on the original basses (Music Man here and J-bass here), it seemed if I used their spacing, the two pickups would be about an inch apart. Sucktastic in regards to tonal variation. So! Off to find what worked. Won't drag the details out, but settled on placement, and routed the pickup cavities. Afterwards, put some of my personal touches on: applied angle grinder to wood to fashion my concave arm rest after studiously noting Ben's stance in the pics he sent me and grinding to match, and also rounded off the corner of the neck joint that always butts up against your hand on the high frets.      Lastly with the bass, also did a test with epoxy on the inside of the control cavity. If you haven't been following along, spalted wood can be fairly fragile and/or crumbly, depending on the level of spalting. This top is fairly far along, so it needs some strength added (especially before I start drilling holes for the controls, since the top is unsupported beneath). Researched a bunch of different ways of doing this, and settled on epoxy. Got the longer-curing type for viscosity reasons. Started with the inside of the cavity in case something went loopy. Results on that today, but I don't expect anything crazy. Does darken the wood a bit, which you can see in the pic. I think it looks nicer, personally.

Frank's guitar: This one is sailing along nicely, as well. I ended up getting the neck pocket a bit too deep on it, so I routed it down a bit further and then shaped a bit of walnut to glue down in the pocket. Nice contrast, too, I think. A few days ago I drilled for and glued in the abalone dots on the neck. Still gotta level those out. I drilled out the "f-holes" yesterday (man, I really have to think of a name for those, since they are decidedly NOT f's. However, even though my brand is Agape, don't think "A-holes" would have the ring I'm looking for).  Those turned out nice. Also got the concave arm rest and neck joint roundover done, as well as string holes and ferrule locations. Interesting thing happened with a bit while I was drilling string locations....I have (had, rather) a 12" long 1/8" bit for various jobs like drilling string holes, trem screws, etc. It had always had a bit of play at the bit end when in my drill press. Got two holes in Frank's guitar done, started the drill press up for the 3rd, and the play kept building...and building...then SKRONK! The whole thing twisted like a madman. There's a pic of the result below....freaky.

Pics are below. Gotta get back to the shop! As always, would love to hear what you think. Have a stinkin' awesome day![gallery]