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Basic Lutherie Equipment?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Jimmy Bones, Mar 23, 2009.


  1. Jimmy Bones

    Jimmy Bones

    Feb 24, 2009
    Baxley, GA
    Hey guys.

    I've been interested in becoming a luthier for a while now, getting a little training at a ukelele shop and from some local guitar techs, and have assembled a number of kits - primarily Saga T series - but even though I get some satisfaction out of that, it isn't the full on satisfaction that I am craving.

    So, what I am asking here is:

    Assuming all my electronics and hardware is purchased from a dealer (like EMGs, Duncans, etc) so I don't need to make my own, what sort of basic tools and space am I going to need to build a respectable and simple bass from the ground up?

    Also, where can I find a US supplier of tonewoods? The local suppliers are ridiculously expensive, and press Koa on you at every turn - Koa gets boring after a while.

    Finally, when i manage to scrape together the basic stuff I need, who would be willing to hold my hand through my first starter project? :smug:
     
  2. andrew_b

    andrew_b

    Jan 21, 2009
    australia
    well, not to be rude or start anything,
    but first up you need to understand a luthier earns his (or her) name.

    you dont just think about building an instrument and become a luthier :)

    now back on topic,
    there are a few topics on here and other forums about the tools neede to build an instrument,
    google it, and you will be suprised....

    people have been known to build instruments in rooms as small as 3metre x 3metre....
    people have also been known to build instruments in factorys that take up a whole block or 3..
    there is no right and wrong.....
    you just gotta be smart and figure out the best way to use the space you have.

    go to the stew mac site and write out a list of the products,
    go through and highlight the ones you think you will be needing,
    then type that list here,
    and i (and maybe others) will tell you what items you can do without and what items you can get cheaper from other places, and what items can be substituted for simillar cheaper items :)
     
  3. http://www.curlymaple.com/

    http://www.woodworkerssource.com/Maple_Curly.html

    http://www.nwtimber.net

    http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Tools.html

    :bag:
     
  4. XylemBassGuitar

    XylemBassGuitar Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 14, 2008
    Durango, CO
    Owner and Operator, Xylem Handmade Basses and Guitars
    There are a lot of tools to choose from when building a bass...you definitely don't need a ton of different tools, but there are some that make things much easier. You probably won't have all the tools you need after you buy everything off the first list you make either. I've been building for several years and there are always tools I buy along the way.

    The tools you'll need also depend on the styles you use in your bass. For example, you'll need some different tools if you want to make a scarf-jointed headstock instead of a Fender-style headstock (with the string retainers).

    You'll need a fretsaw and will probably want a miter box to go with it if you're going to slot your own fretboards.

    You definitely want a good router with several plunge-cutting straight bits with bearing guides. Routers with very accurate height-adjustments will help a lot. Spend a little extra on your router...

    If you have the space and can afford them, you'll probably want a good-quality tablesaw, jointer, planer, drill press and bandsaw. They will greatly expedite your work. If you can't afford/don't have the space you can get good handsaws, handplanes, power drill w/ drill guide, and coping saw to replace these tools...although doing almost everything with handtools easily doubles the time it takes to make a bass (not to mention that you need more skill to use the hand tools well).

    You'll want a very accurate straight edge (accurate to .001") that is at least 24" long (36" is usually better).

    You'll need a fret hammer at the very least for your fretting work, if not some kind of fret press. You'll also probably want some fretting files and bevel files (I would highly recommend the fret bevelling file from StewMac). You can get the really nice long fret levelling file from StewMac, or you can also use some spray-on adhesive to attach 220-320 grit sandpaper to a very flat piece of wood for fret leveling.

    You'll need a soldering iron.

    You'll need a lot of clamps too (you can never have enough). You'll want some that are deep-reaching, some that will clamp very wide workpieces, etc. I have a collection of C-clamps, bar clamps, pipe clamps, qwik-grip clamps, wooden cam clamps and I could still use more.

    You'll need some nut files too.

    If you're going to make your own truss rods I would recommend using stainless steel (not cold-rolled). Also, you'll need a 10/32 die and a die stock for threading the rod.

    Finally, unless you are thoroughly convinced that you have plenty of know-how, I would recommend reading through a few books before you get started:

    Cumpiano and Natelson's Guitarmaking, Tradition and Technology

    Dan Erlewine's Fretwork Step-by-Step

    Martin Koch's Building Electric Guitars

    Also, if you're going to use a handplane (and you have little experience with them) get a book on their use, tuning and sharpening.

    These books will eliminate a lot of head-scratching and will help improve your first bass.

    Good luck starting out!
     
  5. Jimmy Bones

    Jimmy Bones

    Feb 24, 2009
    Baxley, GA
    Oh, I most certainly *don't* have [;enty of know-how. :)

    I appreciate the advice guys.

    One of the biggest concerns I've had was with fretboard building. I need to learn a lot about dimensions and measurements, how to make the frets sound the right notes, etc.

    The electronics portion I have no issues with, wiring up a couple pickups isn't difficult.

    Just about everything else, though, I am a basic newbie.
     
  6. XylemBassGuitar

    XylemBassGuitar Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 14, 2008
    Durango, CO
    Owner and Operator, Xylem Handmade Basses and Guitars

    Definitely read those books...

    You should probably use StewMac's free fret-spacing calculator to get the fret spacings based on your bass' scale length.

    You'll also need a very accurate ruler for measuring out where to cut the fret slots. Don't just use a tape measure.

    Let us know what specific questions you have about the fretboard along the way, we can help you out.
     
  7. a brain and two hands.
     
  8. Jimmy Bones

    Jimmy Bones

    Feb 24, 2009
    Baxley, GA
    Oh, I most certainly *don't* have plenty of know-how. :)

    I appreciate the advice guys.

    One of the biggest concerns I've had was with fretboard building. I need to learn a lot about dimensions and measurements, how to make the frets sound the right notes, etc.

    The electronics portion I have no issues with, wiring up a couple pickups isn't difficult.

    Just about everything else, though, I am a basic newbie.
     

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