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Are F basses made with CNC?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by nonsqtr, May 20, 2004.


  1. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    For those of you who are familiar with George's shop, do you know whether he mills his bodies and necks on a CNC? Reason I ask is, I've noticed some small differences in body size and shape between various BN5 specimens, and I'm wondering what that means. I've also noticed that George's basses are somewhat variable from one to the next, in terms of the assembly as well. Is it the type of thing where he only gets to pay attention to the custom orders, and everything else is put together by his techs? Just wondering...
     
  2. JP Basses

    JP Basses

    Mar 22, 2002
    Paris FRANCE
    I don't think there's any CNC at George's shop.


    Peace,
    JP
     
  3. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    So, you're saying they're all 100% hand made?
     
  4. JP Basses

    JP Basses

    Mar 22, 2002
    Paris FRANCE
    From what I know, YES.

    just look at the progress pics posted here and there...

    Peace,
    JP
     
  5. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    Yep, I've seen the progress pics. Most of those are custom instruments (which is why I keep looking at 'em). I was wondering more about the production stuff. Well, if George and his people make 'em all by hand, that would certainly explain the little variations I've been noticing. I was just wondering if I was going crazy or whether other people had noticed the slight variations in body size and neck shape too (especially around the valuate, which is where I would have guessed a CNC would come in handy). Wow, George must have a lot of employees to keep making basses at the rate he does. My latest serial number is 08010x, so I'm guessing that translates to several thousand basses a year. That's a pretty big operation. I'm impressed.
     
  6. You could make a body or a neck on a CNC, but have small differences in size from sanding and finishing.
     
  7. Judging from the F Bass site, there are only 6 people working at the shop.
     
  8. Brian Barrett

    Brian Barrett

    Nov 25, 2001
    Murfreesboro, TN (Nashville)
    Dealer LowEndBassShop.com, Builder LowEndBasses.com
    Unfortunately, CNC has received a bad rap because of foreign imported instruments that are mass-produced. A CNC machine it self isn’t a bad machine and really shouldn’t cheapen the instrument. One thing it will do is increase consistency in builder’s instruments. Problem is CNC machine’s are super expensive and most won’t or can’t afford one unless it’s farmed out, which creates a problem as well when your a custom builder because you can‘t actually over see everything going on. There is a number of machine’s that many custom or hand built builders use that do the function’s a CNC will do yet they cost less, but don’t have all the abilities a CNC has. Duplicarver’s is a good example in the it duplicates a carve. A Duplicarver is something many builders’ have and is a prime function that a CNC does.

    My point is whether George used a CNC shouldn’t be a negative thing, that’s if he does. I think George still check’s the wood he uses and is careful in the construction and building of the instrument. A CNC can actually help a builder in this situation, unfortunately the companies that have created the bad name a CNC receives from its mass-produced instruments that are thrown together with no real attention to detail or the sonic properties of the instrument.

    I think many times people use CNC in place of Mass-produced instruments, which would really be a better descriptive word because an instrument built on a CNC, isn’t necessarily Mass-produced. Heck, I’ve been none to use CNC in that manner as well.
     
  9. As a full-time CNC programmer for a guitar company, I agree 100%.
     
  10. JP Basses

    JP Basses

    Mar 22, 2002
    Paris FRANCE
    Word Brian!

    btw I know people working alone and who are able to get out 6 to 10 instruments a month.


    Peace,
    JP
     
  11. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    Well, I didn't mean to imply any negativity in asking the question. Normally I'd consider CNC to be a "good" thing, since as you say I'd think it would increase the consistency of the product. But I can understand what you're saying about subcontracting the work. If I were doing it, I'd probably build one of those do-it-yourself CNC-with-a-PC things. I even went so far as to get an Accurate Screw Machine catalog at one point, but never did get far enough to start building one.

    Again, the thought of a possible negative connotation never even entered my mind as I was posting the question. I certainly didn't mean to imply anything bad about George's work, as far as I'm concerned he's one of the best. I was just curious about the source of the variability, is all.

    In general, would you say that most of the high-end luthiers build their instruments by hand, or are more of them using CNC these days? I was down at John Carruther's shop in Santa Monica not too long ago, and he was all excited about his new CNC machine. He had a real one though, it was massive and it looked thoroughly professional. He showed me one of those Duplicarvers too. Neat little rigs. But what about people like Keith Roscoe, or Carey Nordstrand, or even Ken Smith or Mike Tobias? I'd imagine that some of them would be going automated, no? I would, if I had to make a thousand basses a year!
     
  12. Well said, Brian. The "mass-produced" label is NOT equivalent to CNC. For example, our parent company, Blayman Music Inc. (www.blaymanmusic.com) manufactures clarinet mouthpieces. We designed the original mold, etc, and we keep our product consistent by using a CNC-type manufacturing process. However, we do the final sanding, tweaking, and testing by hand. The original design and quality control is why Blayman mouthpieces, and Mike Lull basses, and Sadowsky's, etc, cost so much. If this were not true, a Lull or Sadowsky would sound and feel much like a MIM Fender. Lakland Skylines receive such rave reviews because of their attention to detail BY HAND, not because of how the basic wood blanks are cut out. Just my $.02.

    Randy
     
  13. basses55

    basses55 Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 24, 2003
    Toronto
    Endorsing Artist: Alleva Coppolo
    Hi..I'm familiar with George and the shop..and he does not have a CNC machine..as of yet. It's all by hand. One note also, very rarely, he may shave off some thickness to a body if that particular piece of ash is going to be too heavy in his estimation. Also, the "topped" basses have slightly less curve underneath the top horn to the neck due to the difficulty in bending the top to the original contour as I understand it...it is still curved though.
    George made about 120 approx basses a year..but he's hired a few extra people recently and may go to 200 for the first time this year... he handles the custom orders but also keeps a keen eye on all the basses from what I've seen:)
     
  14. Brian Barrett

    Brian Barrett

    Nov 25, 2001
    Murfreesboro, TN (Nashville)
    Dealer LowEndBassShop.com, Builder LowEndBasses.com
    I didn’t take it negative, I just wanted to make a point since all to often it is viewed as a Negative machine.
    I’m not sure who out of the ones you mentioned have one and don’t. As I stated if they were affordable to most I think everyone would have them.
    Understand 1000 instruments a year is a lot of basses. Ken Smith who out of the ones mentioned probably puts out the most and he doesn’t touch 1000 basses a year, Ken correct me if I’m wrong!

    Actually JP might do a 1000 ;)

    Again a Duplicarver is similar to some of the functions and for the most part will do a lot of the CNC work and vise-versa and most use Duplicarvers. A CNC is much more accurate and easier to make changes to. A CNC will also do so many other things from fine carving and detailed engraving. I know a number of builders that do use CNC’s because of some of the detailed work they do and there is nothing Negative about that. A CNC is another carving tool for the most part, just much more advanced.
     
  15. mark beem

    mark beem Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 20, 2001
    New Hope, Alabama
    The Sad-Heads here (I'm sure) will tell you that it makes no difference to them knowing that their bass(es) was made on a CNC.. I would agree in that if Bill Conklin started using one I'd still play them.
     
  16. JP Basses

    JP Basses

    Mar 22, 2002
    Paris FRANCE
    lol, even my whole life will not be enought to produce 1000 basses!!

    well...unless I go CNC right?

    Ken Smith, Mike Tobias and Carey don't use CNC.

    Peace,
    JP
     
  17. rusty

    rusty

    Mar 29, 2004
    Singapore
    Actually, I think Carey does use CNC's...

    "there is no "magic" in building a good instrument. It just comes down to skill, experience, and ingenuity. I use CNC cut jigs wherever it's practical, such as neck profile, pickup cavities, fret slotting, and neck pocket."
    - taken from Carey's <a href="http://www.nordstrandguitars.com/about.htm">About Me</a> page

    Not that it cheapens the instrument in any way... just to avoid misconceptions here :)
     
  18. He says he uses CNC cut jigs.
     
  19. Carey

    Carey

    Jan 18, 2002
    Redlands, CA
    JP's right. No CNC here. Not enough room. I have a friend that programs and runs a CNC and I have him do my templates for me. I usually do some work or provide him with pickups in trade.
    I'm not against CNC, if I had the space and time to learn how to use on I'd seriously consider it. Oh yeah, there's the money thing too...
     
  20. rusty

    rusty

    Mar 29, 2004
    Singapore
    Whoops! My bad :(