Cheaper to build your own bass?
Hi guys. I've been a bassist for ~5-6 years, and I've always loved the look and sound of a nice, quality, custom-built bass. I mean, I don't actually OWN a custom bass (can't afford to dish out thousands on one), but just the idea of having an instrument built for YOU sounds nice.
So the thing I want to know is, is it cheaper to build your own bass than to buy one of similar sound/quality? I know that tools would take up a huge chunk of the price, but I *might* be starting out as an apprentice luthier at my local music store repairing instruments, so if I got that job, I'm sure the luthier there would know local places where I might find good deals on tools and also might be able to teach me the basics about what goes into the makings of a guitar.
I imagine that it'll take making many basses before I'd be able to make anything awesome. How many do you think it'd take before the average Joe got the hang of it? I could always sell the basses I make (probably selling them at a loss, to make up for the low quality of being a bass made by a newbie) to recoup some of my spendings, so I don't mind if I have to make TONS of basses, because it's not like I'll be keeping them for good or anything xD
But anyways, any info you guys could give me as far as the dollars and cents aspect of being a luthier goes would be greatly appreciated.
Build a copy of a well known proven design first> If you own a Jazz bass well you have a "template" and are more likely to have success. You can get creative after the second or third. Good luck!!
Tools are probably the biggest expense, you have to keep in mind that even though you just bought that awesome new tool, now you need ALL of these accessories, different size bits, etc. Then it depends a lot on what kind of wood you want to use and the hardware and electronics you want. That stuff adds up really fast too.
For the record, my first bass cost me $800+ without buying any tools more expensive than a $60 router (there were A LOT of cheaper tools though that added up) and I used all domestic wood, cheap hardware, one pickup, etc.
But I'm assuming that the more basses you start to make, the cheaper they get, right? Less tools to buy, less mistakes you make, etc.
And do you think it's plausible to sell the first few basses I make? As in, would that be something people would even buy? Because it'd be nicer to spend $800 on a bass and gain back $200 from selling it than to just spend $800.
Cheaper to build your own bass?
Probaly not ... but it is fun ... and you get the bass that YOU want ...
With no disrespect to you, A significant portion of what you are paying for with a custom instrument, is the reputation of the builder. There is FAR more to the nuances of assembling a bass that the typical person might think. It's not just the wood selections and electronics that set a Sadowsky, Lull or Nordy apart from a $500 factory is bass. It is the fact that every detail from the neck pocket, the nut, etc has been meticulously reviewed by the human eye of someone who knows exactly how it is supposed to be.
Lots of players - myself included - won't even touch a Warmoth parts bass because there is no way of knowing if the thing was assembled well. A bass is far greater than the sum of its parts.
If you actually make the body and/or neck the insecurities grow even more. You'll have to build a reputation as a builder before you can expect to get any return on your builds.
Depends on what you charge yourself for labor. ;). Me, I give myself a really good rate, so it works in my favor. :)
I started building (I'm still in the starting phase) because I thought maybe it would be less expensive to build what I wanted. I was woefully wrong. If you want is a bass exactly the way you want it, you can either be wildly talented like Ibridenstine or Suraj or you can basically burn through several builds before you get anywhere near what you have in mind, like an average joe. The more complicated bass you want to build the ore skills you'll have to develop to get there.
If what you want is to build a skill set that will eventually enable you build any crazy ass thing you can think of, then do that. Look at your expenditures as an investment in yourself.
The rabbit hole of building is deep but very rewarding.
Depends how good you are with woodworking. I'm pretty good, and my first self-built bass cost over $1500 (nice electronics and hardware, etc). I love it dearly, and it was a great experience, but I could probably get a nicer bass for $1500. You aren't just paying for the name, there's also the skill/quality required to become a big name.
But don't let that discourage you - you should build one anyways. it just probably won't be cheaper.
Don't buy a tool before you need it.
I'm not saying don't do it, just trying to give you an idea on the price part of your question.
Whether or not it gets cheaper as you go is kind of dependent on whether or not you're going to keep buying more tools/better tools, and whether you're going to stick with the same price frame for wood and hardware for everything after your first build. If you're like me, you'll want better wood and hardware after using cheap parts the first time around.
Personally, I wouldn't feel confident selling my first or second build. But I made a lot of mistakes on mine.
If you are building it for yourself, you don't have a deadline, and can wait for clearance sales at warmoth, bbg, mf, etc.
That said, it is a sad fact that the quality of an instrument often has little to do with its marketability.
For an idea, things that are needed or really helpful in bass building:
--router table possibly
Handheld electric drill (some angles might not work under a drill press unless you get really creative)
Possibly table saw or miter saw or both
--hammer or arbor press
--radius blocks for fretboard
--TONS of clamps
I know I'm forgetting a lot of things right now.
Then more fortunate people have things like planers, jointers, etc.
BUT, you don't need alllll of these things, especially not for the first one. It saves a lot of time and makes things easier though. If you can afford it, go for it. It's fun. It's also addicting.
If you can find a Darren Huff-sort of person at the top of their downward spiral and actually GET your bass, then no. Buy from this guy.
If you've been woodworking since before you were taught algebra, already have all of the basic expensive stuff (router, joiner, bandsaw, drill press, orbital sander) and want it to have quality components and materials, yes, but not by much depending on how much your time is worth to you.
If you have only a basic knowledge on how to make a bird house, a handsaw and some sandpaper and screwdrivers, no.
It will be a thousand dollars for tools that will last through a year of daily learning and screwing up, if that. It will be thousands of dollars for tools that will last a decade or more. It could add up to the thousands for wood alone, if you're really looking for it to look like your common "custom" bass. Rent on a commercial workspace and electricity aren't very cheap either.
Make a list and start adding up the cost of a decent bridge,machine heads,pickup(s),pots,etc. and the price really starts to get significant fast unless you are going to get Chinese stuff from ebay and take a risk with the quality.
I got a great deal on a Carvin 5 thruneck a while ago and recently got a new pair of Nordstrand fatstacks for $168 which I consider a good price but by the time I get 5 tuners and a decent bridge I'll be at around $500 and I'll still need a few things-pots,output jack etc.I'm just fortunate that I've already got enough woodworking tools and have plenty of walnut,cherry,maple laying around.
I'm a diehard do-it-yourselfer and am excited to move forward on my bass,just giving some thoughts on costs.
My point is that there is much more to it that simply assembling the parts. It has to be done well. So without being certain that it was, I am not willing to pay for them.
I have all the confidence in the world in the parts themselves. I have used Warmoth replacement necks in the past, and I have seen a few of the their bodies. They make nice stuff.
If ran across a "parts" bass locally and could verify its build quality, I probably wouldn't hesitate to buy it. I just won't gamble on them at TB class or other OL sources like I would a bass built by a reputable builder.
Not counting tools, and assuming you have the skills to avoid wasting/ruining a lot of wood, yes it's cheaper in terms of raw dollars, as long as you don't value your time.
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