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Build your own upright bass feasibility?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by nicfargo, Jun 16, 2008.

  1. nicfargo

    nicfargo Supporting Member

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    Hey guys, I tried doing a search but came up empty handed so I figured I'd start a new thread.

    Has anyone seriously considered the possibility of making their own upright bass. I'm not talking a crappy card board one like I keep seeing when I search (Drives me nuts), but a real, wood, quality upright bass.

    I'm not trying to say what luthiers do can be done by the average person, but what about someone who's a carpenter and works with wood everyday? Sure there will be some learning and things are done different and you need certain shape, depth, etc for good acoustics, but why couldn't someone build their own upright bass?

    Is this even feasible? Should I just suck it up and spend the 3k on bass? I can get the wood for decently cheap. I realize this will be a lot of work, and a lot of man hours. I think it could be a fun, although lengthy, project. Has anyone does this or am I just completely insane?
  2. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC Supporting Member

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  3. sleepy_monkey

    sleepy_monkey Supporting Member

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    Being a carpenter and being a luthier is not even in the same ballpark.....it's not even the same sport.
  4. nicfargo

    nicfargo Supporting Member

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    Well, it is the same ballpark if you've worked with wood long enough to know what certain woods will and won't do. There are many things that would cross over (techniques, tools, etc) and I'm sure there's a lot of things that won't. At the same time, I'm sure there are specific techniques that a luthier uses that a carpenter doesn't, but that also doesn't mean those techniques can't be learned. There's no rule that says you have to be in some sort of secret society that only certain members of the populous are allowed to make stringed instruments.
  5. jimmyduded

    jimmyduded

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    matthew tucker wasnt a luthier(correct me if im wrong) when he started, he had a vision, determination and skills that im sure being a carpenter you would posess, might be a good idea to start making violins to save money on the mistakes you WILL make, im on my 4th violin, not because ive finished 4, but because ive done something, then hated it, then went back and made it again, lots of help in the setup and repair section, more power to you, GO FOR IT!
  6. nicfargo

    nicfargo Supporting Member

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    What types of wood would you use Jimmy? Rosewood fretboard? Spruce top, Maple body? Any pointers are appreciated. I'll definitely check the setup and repair section...I honestly hadn't even thought of looking there.
  7. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

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  8. jimmyduded

    jimmyduded

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    theres alot of great exotic woods that make great basses(just helped restore a allentown makers cherry bass, the tone was punchy and articulate, the arco left something to be desired) id stick to spruce for the top, pm me and ill give you some sources as well as some guys you definitley want to talk to, rosewood wouldnt be my first choice if i had the option of ebony, im in the process of making a violin fingerboard out of purpleheart that is very pretty, would be hard to find a big enough chunk for a fretboard but maybe you could find a piece for chair legs or something, its gorgeous if you bring it to a polish by going up to 2000 grit
  9. Matthew Tucker

    Matthew Tucker Supporting Member

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    Well I humbly disagree. Being a carpenter gives you half the skills with wood you need. If you already know how to sharpen a gouge and plane and cut a mortise and use hide glue you'll be hitting the ground running. You just need to throw away the set-square.

    http://www.anzlf.com/viewtopic.php?t=63

    (The other half is made up of instinct and special luthier's magick ...)
  10. nicfargo

    nicfargo Supporting Member

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    Awesome, great stuff here guys. At first I thought I was going a little mad thinking I could do it, but after hearing (reading) what Matt has to say, I think I'm all in! When I start it up I'll probably post something on one of my websites and chronicle the whole thing. Very excited to do this, but I've still got a lot of research to do first.
  11. dchan

    dchan

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    From what I've read, you will have to do a LOT of research beforehand, and you'll very likely make many mistakes along the way. You're probably going to run into some frustrating areas as well that might make you give up. But there are people like Matthew and others who have come through with excellent basses, and they've gotten help along the way from the professional luthiers on this forum.

    But to tell you the truth, you don't sound like you've ever owned or possessed a doublebass before, and I don't know whether you have any actual experience playing the doublebass besides maybe jamming on one a couple of times (tell me if I'm wrong). Personally, I would say would be in your interest to actually buy a good quality doublebass, contact a teacher for lessons, and spend a few years actually playing and talking to other bassists before you actually dive head-first into something you don't know anything about. The experience gained along the way is something that can't be replicated in a few weeks.
  12. Matthew Tucker

    Matthew Tucker Supporting Member

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    Ah yes good point ... if you don't play the DB, then a lot of the instinctive stuff might not make sense ...
  13. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

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    One other thing that comes up in luthiery discussions is the idea of building a violin or two before tackling a double bass. Theory being that a lot of the technique crosses over.... carving tops, backs, and scrolls, gluing and varnish, and so on. All using tonewoods that will be a fraction of the cost of those used for a double bass.
  14. nicfargo

    nicfargo Supporting Member

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    I havn't played double bass, that is correct. I played cello for many years, so I know string instruments. I've been around double basses a lot, just never played oner personally, at least in a serious sense. I will probably start with a violin just because it is a double bass on a much smaller scale. Thanks!
  15. Gearhead43

    Gearhead43

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    If no one ever thought "I wonder if I could learn how to build a double bass?", and then followed through - then there would be no double basses.
  16. Matthew Tucker

    Matthew Tucker Supporting Member

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    There would always be the ones made in China though. There's a market; let's make 'em! ;)

    (that is of course a bit tongue-in cheek. Some excellent instruments come out of china too...)
  17. jimmyduded

    jimmyduded

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    i wish china did not make instruments, while its great they can cut costs and give us a fantastic product for very cheap, in the process they are screwing luthiers out of work in most cases, and reputable luthiers in china cant sell their instruments for the price it should sell for because the 10 guys on the assembly line down the block are putting him out of a job, while screwing over luthiers these people also screw themselves, some have the potential to be great makers and sell themselves short, anyway im not about to lecture about foreign economy b.s., if your serious about building a violin i may have some extra stuff lying around i could give you as well as some ways to make tools youll need, tips and whatnot, so be sure to hit me up
  18. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member

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    Hey Nick:

    Do you own and regularly watch a television? There is your new bass. The web is loaded with statistics about how most folks spend 3-5 hours per day watching television. If you take the $ you'll save on a year's worth of cable and the $ for your trendy box that the cable plugs into, it will cover the materials for you to build a new bass. The 900 hours of extra free time this year will get you close to your first build time and you'll be showing off your new baby next summer.

    Find a good mentor- they will save you decades of wasted and misguided energy and help to make the process fun.

    A lot of the above posted advice is good, but people with no skills or experience regularly build huge sailboats and sail them to amazing places. Building a bass is a lot less of a committment than a sailboat, but it is still a good sized undertaking.

    If you want to build a bass, focus your energy on building a bass, not something else. I had a fellow visit my shop last year. He had built about 25 of the nicest dulcimers that I have ever seen. He didn't even like the dulcimer. He really wanted to be a mandolin builder; somewhere along the way, somone told him it would be difficult, so he should build a few dulcimers first. 25 instruments later, he came to visit me for a little inspiration on building his first mandolin.

    I've never owned a televison....

    j.
    www.condino.com
  19. nicfargo

    nicfargo Supporting Member

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    TV? Who has time for that thing? Between work, work, and...uh...work who has time for TV? I guess if I fell into the norm and watched that much TV, I'd have plenty of money to spend on the new bass. I think by building it though I'll be fine with the finances...it'll be a whole lot cheaper then buying a new one at 3k...I just hope I can build one thats better then the $500 crap you find on ebay :)
  20. John Sprague

    John Sprague Sam Shen's US Distributor

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    I'll respectfully disagree here Jimmy, and not just because I sell Chinese instruments. Private luthiers sell their violins from around $5000 on up, which is well beyond what most parents will spend on a child's instrument, when they can get a clarinet for a c-note. So that makes for smaller school string programs, which relates directly to there being fewer people in the market for a 5k instrument later. However, if violins can be rented reasonably, and a playable instrument purchased for 3 or 4 hundred bucks, string programs in schools can grow to be much larger. This in turn creates a larger number of potential buyers for the $5k+ instrument.

    A good viola maker came up to my booth at the VSA conference once, and said something to the effect of "You guys are gonna put us out of business". I said "Why, for bringing you so many players?"


    Nicfargo: where are you located? I know of a few shops that are looking for apprentices. A lot of people start out in this business working for free on weekends to get the skills needed.

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