The following essay was written by me in 2011, following the completion of my Carvin kit bass. It has been edited from its original version for internet-friendly brevity, even if it still seems longish. I was not aware of TB back when I wrote it, did not post it anywhere, and had since lost track of the file. My ex-roomate just found it on his old computer and forwarded it to me. So, submitted for your entertainment, is this true tale of an idiot and a dream. Selecting the kit. My main bass is a Carvin LB76W, a 6-string bass from Carvins Claro Walnut Series. I ordered that bass in late 2010. It has such a killer slap tone that I got back into this technique after about a decade of neglecting it. But its difficult to slap on a 6-string, and Carvins are supposedly especially hard, since they have a tighter string spacing than some. Ive gotten to where I can slap it fairly well, but it still seemed that if I was going to get back into slapping, I should get a 4-string that was good for it and practice on that (obvious GAS justification here). Because of the fact that it was my Walnut Series bass that inspired this, it seemed that another walnut bass was in order. And because I was fabulously ignorant of my own shortcomings, I thought I could save money and have a fun project by doing a Carvin kit. (It's worth noting here that I have never, ever been "handy" with tools and such. But this seemed like a chance to learn. And how hard could it be? Well, I was about to find out.) I stuck with the standard maple neck and ebony fingerboard, but I did choose the following upgrades: active electronics, gold plated hardware, and stacked humbucking pickups. Additionally, I had them put an Icon-style headstock on it. The Icon is one of Carvins other models, and I believe its the only 4-string they offer with a 2+2 tuning machine configuration (all of their other models have all four tuning machines on one side). I felt that the 2+2 configuration would be cool because it would match my 6-strings (3+3) and also my Rickenbacker. Once I paid for all of these upgrades, and also bought a case and paid for shipping, my total invoice came to about $710. Had I ordered an identical bass completely assembled from Carvin, delivered price would have been about $895, so at that point I had saved about 21%. Not bad, although bear in mind I had no 5-year warranty and my resale value was more or less nil. And as you shall see, I wasnt nearly done spending money. Receiving the kit. I received the kit right on time, and with all the correct options. The piece of wood they used to create the body was positively beautiful; it was clear that they did not send me an inferior piece of wood just because I had ordered a kit and not a bass. Everything fit perfectly, and arrived in impeccable condition. The main instructions, which were for a passive bass, were clearly written and easy to understand. The additional instructions, for the active elements, were less so, but I was still able to wrap my head around them. After reading the instructions, I made a shopping list and headed to the hardware store, where I spent about $70. Some of this was for expendables, such as tung oil, sandpaper, and steel wool, and some for tools that I might be able to use again, such as screwdrivers and a soldering iron. Considering what a misadventure I was about to embark upon, however, it seems likely that the only tools I will ever be using again are the screwdrivers, which came to about $8. So figure $62 spent at the hardware store, plus the cost of the kit, and were at around $772. Now my savings (vs. a fully assembled bass) was only around 14%. Beginning the project. I started by carefully sanding the body, the back of the neck and the headstock until all were silky smooth. Id caress the wood like a lover, gently running my hands over it until I found the slightest roughness, and rub gently with extra fine grade sandpaper. It may be the only step of the project I did correctly. Once I was satisfied with the sanding, I applied the first of what was supposed to be four coats of tung oil. I used a 1 paintbrush, and wiped off the excess with a non-linting dust cloth. The instructions said to wipe of the excess within 10 minutes. I probably wiped it off after 5, maybe less. It also said to wipe any tung oil off of the fretboard within 5 minutes, which Im pretty sure I did. However, I didnt do a very good job of it, and there were shiny lines near my frets that looked like sloppy glue, but were actually sloppy tung oil. I let the first coat dry the recommended 6 hours. The instructions then said I should sand out any imperfections. The finish did not feel especially smooth to me, so I sanded the whole thing, and Im pretty sure I sanded the tung oil right off completely. For some reason, I thought this was okay, that the first coat was only supposed to soak into the wood, and additional coats would remain on top even with sanding. After 2 more coats in similar fashion, I came to realize that this was probably not the case, and so I resolved to do 3 more coats, allowing each to set the full 10 minutes before wiping, and with no sanding between at all. After the fifth coat, for some painfully stupid reason I decided to try wiping with an old t-shirt rather than the dust cloth I had been using. Uh-oh, major lint problems! I spent maybe a half an hour picking lint out of my finish after that. After the sixth coat, I noticed some spots where the tung oil had not been wiped properly, and there were some thick blotches. I attempted to clean these up with steel wool, but ended up resorting to sandpaper, and was soon back to bare wood in several spots. I covered these up with one more coat of tung oil, and then I was done. It wasnt perfect, but I was completely sick and tired of the tung oil process (not to mention the smell!) and I figured it was good enough. As it turned out, I figured wrong, but well get to that. One thing I noticed was that somewhere along the way, I had gotten some dull scratching in the ebony fingerboard. I must have done it with either the steel wool or the sandpaper when trying to fix up the tung oil issues I was having there. The instructions said that you should wind up the finishing process with lemon oil, so I tried to clean up the fretboard with lemon oil, but to no avail. Neck pocket issues. Assembly went pretty smoothly after that point, until it came time to connect the neck. Although the neck fit perfectly when delivered, I had some tung oil buildup on the inside of the neck pocket, and could not get the neck in place. The instructions said this might happen, and that you should wrap some sandpaper around the end of a small piece of wood, and sand out the neck pocket a little at a time, making sure not to remove too much material. I could not find a suitable piece of wood, so I simply wrapped the sandpaper around my finger and began sanding (some readers, Im sure, are already groaning). I sanded and sanded to no avail, until I finally realized that I was removing more material from the center of the wall of the pocket than I was from the edges. In other words, once I got the neck to fit, the bass-side of the pocket had been rounded out a little, and while either end made good contact with the neck, the middle of the seam had a gap wide enough to insert the corner of a playing card into. Not very deeply, but still. Damn. Who told me I could solder? The rest of the hardware went on without issues, except that the instructions were unclear as to how to install the string ferrules in the holes on the back of the body. I ended up putting a rag over them and pounding them in with a hammer. They got slightly dented in the process, and I put one small hammer mark in the body near one of them. Later it occurred to me that I should have put a piece of scrap wood between them and the hammer. Again, damn. But the real trouble began when I attempted to solder the electronics. I simply could not get the solder to stick to the pots. I had the damnedest time. But then I smelled something burning, and to my horror I noticed that I had put the side of the soldering iron against one of the wires leading to the battery compartments, and burned the insulation right off the side of the wire. I literally almost began crying at this point. Instead, I contacted my drummer, a professional carpenter, custom speaker cabinet builder, and all around master-of-all-trades, and hired him to finish the kit for me. My drummer comes to the rescue. My drummer picked up the bass from me, and I told him Id like him to do the soldering. We also talked about possibly putting wood filler in the neck pocket, but he did not feel it necessary, nor did our guitarist, another master-of-all-trades kind of guy with experience assembling guitars. I told my drummer to charge the fair price, not the friend price, as he has been known to do. I not only felt he deserved the money, but I also felt I deserved the punishment for my stupidity. Its worth mentioning at this point that there were a couple of other goals here in building this kit besides merely getting a new Carvin on the cheap. This was supposed to be a learning experience and a personal growth project. What I learned is that next time I need to leave this stuff to the pros. And the personal growth I experienced was the realization that Im not as smart as I like to think I am. Being prone to a little bit of arrogance, this may have been the most valuable lesson I could have gotten out of the project. But going into this, my biggest fear was failure, and that I would have to hire someone to bail me out. Having to face that moment was a bit humiliating to say the least, but some friends assured me that at least I had come as far as I did. After all, I had a completely assembled bass; I just needed help with the soldering. OK, so maybe I did have some bragging rights. But then my drummer called. Dude, I ended up re-doing the finish. There were a lot of runs and a lot of thin spots, and I just couldnt leave it like that. So I took it completely apart and sanded and refinished it, and reassembled it. So now I cant even take credit for that. He ended up charging me $100, which was probably not nearly enough for the amount of work he put in. Still, I was now up to $872. My savings now came to about $23, or 2.5% vs. a fully assembled Carvin, which would have come with a 5-year warranty and had some kind of resale value. On the plus side, I did finally end up with a pretty good bass. He was even able to make the fingerboard look nice again (by tung oiling the heck out of it he used a pretty glossy tung oil, and the whole bass, including the fingerboard, has this cool shine to it). However, entirely due to my own shortcomings and not my drummer's, its still not nearly as perfect as what Carvin would have shipped for just $23 more. Again: damn.