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Ballparking a custom

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by craigb, Dec 2, 2003.

  1. craigb

    craigb G&L churnmeister Supporting Member

    Hey Y'all,

    In the next year or so I want to get a custom bass put together (start the process sometime in the next year). My wants are fairly strange (contoured semi-hollow body, Moses headless neck, Status individual bridges, G&L MFD pickups, passive unless piezo-ized) but with the exception of the body it's a parts bass. I'm not at a point where I'm willing to try to put it together on my own (lacking tools & time) so I'll end up working with a luthier to build it.

    I think I need to figure out a ballpark for this type of bass - I know it varies by individual luthier. I think the best thing to do would be to find a luthier to work with, spec it out, figure out the cost and go from there. The problem is - how much do I need to pay when? I don't want to waste somebodies time looking at this and then figure out I need to wait 6 or 8 months before I can have the cash to pay for it to start.

    Any ideas/recommendations on how to figure what's needed? Is there some kind of "normal" procedure (i.e. 50% up front and the rest when completed? 100% up front?) for payment and I could get an idea on cost by the luthier's normal cost for custom instruments?

    I guess I'm just looking for ideas on how much I should have saved up before I get into details with a luthier on it (and if you have any suggestions on particular luthiers that would be good for this project, let me know)

    If the correct answer is "pick a luthier, work with them for a general estimate and then get into detailed estimates later in the year when the cash is ready" then that's what I'll do - I guess I'm just looking for a way to avoid wasting someone's time before I'm ready to put money on the table
  2. Bass Kahuna

    Bass Kahuna

    Dec 3, 2002
    West Lafayette, Indiana
    Luthier, Custom Builder
    Typically, we're all going to require some kind of deposit to get started on building. Also, some (myself included) are going to have a very limited return policy on a one-off custom of your own design. Unless there is something mechanically wrong with the materials or construction which would fall under a warranty situation.

    If you're looking at mostly a parts bass, you could start buying the parts yourself a bit at a time. I would say that building a bolt on body for you would probably be around $100 - $200 for the wood, depending on the type of wood selected, the size needed, whether or not you want a figured top of some sort, etc. Then probably an additional $200 - $400 for labor to make the body, finish it, and put it all together and set it up for you.

    Anyway, I'd be very interested in working with you on this project.


  3. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Here's a place (link below) where I started when I got a custom. I got bids, based on my description from those who were interested.

    Caveat - the more details you can provide, the accurate the luthiers' guesstimates.

  4. craigb

    craigb G&L churnmeister Supporting Member

    Thanks for the input.

    Grandon, I like your idea of getting the standard parts I want to use myself and then getting in contact with a luthier to complete the project. That would make sure I have myself in the right position to complete it. I'll start working on my parts list (Status Graphite individual bridges, G&L pickups, Moses neck, a headpiece) as cash allows. Then when I have them all I can move forward on getting someone to build me a body and assemble the beast. I'll definitely contact you once I have the pieces in place and am ready to talk to a couple of luthiers about completing it.

    I do expect that other than assembly/body issues I'll have no "guarantees" on this type of custom.