The Birth of Aradia (part III)

It’s been a while since I updated Aradia’s ongoing story. At the end of Part II, Aradia was starting to resemble a bass guitar rather than just a collection of parts; the machine heads were attached to the headstock, and I’d started bolting the neck to the body. Unfortunately, in the process, I’d knackered the screws. So I took Aradia to visit my parents, and my father’s considerably superior selection of tools. Before heading down, I managed to remove three of the four buckled screws, with the same hands and the same screwdriver that had buckled them in first place. Still, the fourth one was not going anywhere, so this was the first problem that needed to be addressed.

As the saying goes, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, and the best way to remove a buckled screw depends on how and where you’ve buckled it. Not only was this screw bent out of shape from being forced into a block of maple, but the head was chewed up where I’d slipped with the screwdriver. Worse still, in my determination I’d continued trying to drive it in until the head was only sitting proud by a few millimetres. I refer you back to this photo, from the end of Part II:

Sure, I realise three out of the four are sitting quite high up in the above, but they all went down a lot further. And Back-Left was the only one that refused to go down any closer to the countersink. Too far out to leave it, but too close to get pliers or a molegrip around the head. That ruled out the most obvious solution.

Another option is to use a small metal saw to re-cut the screw head. We tried this, but ended up cutting more of a groove into the wood than into the screw. (Fortunately this sanded out easily enough!) This left us with the third option, of drilling out the screw.

I’d been reluctant to do this, because it would destroy the screw, and I’d been hoping to try again with the same set of screws once we’d got this one out and drilled some holes in the maple. But as the afternoon progressed, I realised this was a silly idea: firstly because there was virtually no head left on this particular screw, and secondly because the rest of them looked a bit like this:

No point trying to drive a bent screw into a freshly straightened hole. (Please stop sniggering at the back, there.) My father introduced to a device known as a stud remover: a chunky-looking bit that you drive into the head of the screw (or stud, presumably), with its own screw thread that is supposed to grip the inside of its target in order that you can pull it out. And believe me, they’re very effective. The process, as we expected, completely destroyed the screw, but at least the neck was now free of the body and we could start again.

Using a pillar drill to get a nice, straight cut, we drilled four guide holes over the ones I’d already made in the maple, and I ordered a new set of screws. The difference in effort was quite marked – these ones went in far more willingly than the first set. Unfortunately, in the process, one of the new screws started to get stuck. And then the screwdriver started to slip, and started chewing the head. Sigh. Back to square one? Well, I had three out of four screws secured…could I just leave that one where it was and hope nobody would notice? In a show of spectacular indecision, I decided to leave it where it was, and put everything else into place…

…in the process of which, I added the bridge and the pickup. Popping an old set of strings onto her revealed yet another problem:

The pickup cavity wasn’t anywhere deep enough for the pickup I’d bought. Now, either the two-part bridge that was originally intended for this bass would have set the strings quite a bit higher over the pickup cavity, or the pickup originally intended for it was considerably smaller. In any case, I was kicking myself for having not tested this before. If I’d known in advance, I could have asked Alex to adjust that for me as well. But I didn’t. Time to pick up the old chisel and take that cavity down a few millimetres…

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