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basic construction questions

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by mattzink, Dec 9, 2003.

  1. mattzink


    Jun 21, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    hello all!
    it looks like some of these questions are addressed in the newbie links. but i'll post them - if they are addressed in the newbie links, simply ignore the quesiton.

    Because I can't afford to buy an upright, and becuase I'm just a beginner (and it is therefore difficult to justify buying a nice bass) I will be building my first upright bass. I have been inspired to do so by the success of some others in this forum - I love the "can do" spirit! if my basic bass works out, i'll build another using nicer materials. This bass won't be nice, but i know i'll learn a lot.

    Here's what I'm shooting for: a bass style similar to a Merchant bass (merchantbass.com) made of plywood. I'm planning on buying the neck with the finger board already attached.

    here are some of my preliminary questions:
    What does it mean to "hot glue" something? How to i do this?

    What thickness of plywood is typcially used on plywood basses? Any suggested thicknesses, particularly since this bass will not be carved in any way? Are there other considerations for the plywood (like number of ply) that i should think about?

    What is the standard measure from the bottom of the bass (excluding end pin) to the heel, where the neck is glued to the bass?

    I'm sure i'll have other questions, but these are the prominent ones in my head right now. thanks for everything! Matt
  2. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    Hot glue is the glue applied with a hot glue gun. The glue comes in sticks and is inserted in the back of the gun. The gun is electric and heats up, melting the end of the glue stick. The trigger of the gun ratchets the glue stick through the gun and forces the melted glue out of the tip of the gun. There are countless varieties of glue sticks available, none of which I have seen commonly used by luthiers.

    The plywood of my Engelhardt is maybe 1/8"-5/32" thick I am guessing. 3/16" at the very most. I am not positive that the same thickness is used throughout.

    Good luck with the project. We'd love to see photos of the results.
  3. Without meaning to be nasty, methinks you have little idea of the scale or complexity of the project you're considering. For starters, you have no means of pressing plywood to create the necessary arch in the top. By the time you acquire all the materials and tools necessary, you will have spent enough money to buy a few entry- level basses.

    If you insist, get a copy of Peter Chandler's book "So, you want to make a double bass...", it'll be an eye-opener.
  4. mattzink


    Jun 21, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    you are absolutely correct in assuming i really don't know what i'm getting into. but what better way to find out? this bass will not have an arched top (again, check out the merchant bass at merchantbass.com) this bass will sonically be terrible. i'm mostly interested in basic set up.

    also, this project is a sort of therapy for the exact reasons mentioned above - often talk myself out of doing things because of fear of failure. i'm often paralyzed by the thought of doing a mediocre project, so i don't do anything. this is one case where "perfection is the enemy of the good." meaning, i just want some experience. you know what i mean?

    as for hot glue, i suspected that it was the sort dispensed from the gun, but was unsure.

    Thanks both of you for your tips - may purchase that book! have a great day.
  5. Is the Merchant a hollow or semihollow bass?

    If its just the basic feel and setup you're interested in and not necessarily getting an acoustic sound, you might be better off with a solid-body design.

    (all hail)Bob Gollihur at www.urbbob.com built a nice one using exotic hardwood, and it looks great.
  6. mattzink


    Jun 21, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    hey goodbar - great screen name, great comments. i THINK a merchant bass is semihollow. it reminds me of a flowerbox with strings, yet it somehow looks kind of elegant.

    i have considered making a solidbody similar to gollihur's (have that site book marked!), but the thought of trying to make a decent neck has me kind of nervous. maybe i'll just go with the solidbody idea, and try to come up with alternatives to making my own neck. or maybe not - maybe i'll make a solidbody and go for it on the neck - hell, i don't know. this project is not on the immediate horizon yet, this is as they say in the political world a "fact finding mission" at the moment.

    thanks for input from all!
    ps. got some good hints on how to make an aluminum bass like the one at vonerickson.com. however, it would require a mold to beat the aluminum into shape. the mold part has me opting to do something simpler, like a merchant style bass or a e.u.b.
  7. mje


    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    A couple of comments, directed at the original poster (regulars know this stuff):

    1. "Hot glue" also often refers to hide glue, a product made from animal cilligen and used in luthery because it sets up fast and is non-permanant.

    2. Yes, you can build a flat top bass if you brace the top like a guitar... but it'll probably be as much work as carving a top, and won't sound nearly as good.

    If cost is a factor, look around. If you're patient you never know what you may find. My first bass was a flat-back German with a carved top I paid $500 for- a steal. (I foolishly sold it a few years later during a lull in playing). Then I found an abused old school bass for $300, and put a couple months of repair into it. That one went to a friend. Next I found a good playing, but ugly, King in pretty good shape from a dealer for only $600. Traded that one in on my Romanian bass.
  8. Nick Ara

    Nick Ara

    Jul 22, 2002
    Long Island, NY
    Interesting, but I found the photos of Mr. Merchant' repair work on the damaged 5 string to be even more interesting than the bass he manufactures.