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Bass without a truss rod

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Joey.Ogden, Aug 11, 2008.

  1. Joey.Ogden


    Aug 11, 2008
    Okay, here's the deal.

    I'm about to start building my first bass. I've never built a guitar of any kind before, but for a number of reasons I would like to make my own bass.

    So I've looked all over town for all the various parts and found everything I need except one: a truss rod.:mad:

    I'm not willing to pay the price of shipping on top of the rod price if there's any chance of getting away without one, so... Can I do it?

    What I was picturing was making the neck real thick (like, an inch or maybe even more) and using a neck-through-body design to help take the stress. I would make a short-scale bass to take some strain off as well. I was thinking of making the entire thing out of quarter inch laminations of alternating bloodwood and either black walnut or maple. I was planning on hollowing out a lot of area on the wings to save weight, 'cause I know bloodwood weighs a ton. I'm willing to have it heavy though because I play sitting down. I want a four-string by the way.

    So, here are my questions:

    1) Is the bass I describe feasible? As in, would it be strong enough to take the tension of the strings? How thick will the neck have to be with this design?

    2) If not, how could I make it work without paying huge amounts of cash for the trussrod? Would reinforcing strips made of some other wood help? Carbon fibre reinforcers are also out of the question.

    3) If it will work, do you have any recommendations for it? How the dising could be improved and so on.

    Thanks in advance for the help, and hopefully I don't have too much trouble with the thing.:meh:
  2. silky smoove

    silky smoove

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    This thread would likely get more responses in the Luthier's Corner section of the forum.

    That said, why are you unwilling to pay shipping charges? That seems like an odd statement. Since you're unwilling to pay shipping charges it's not likely that this will help you, but Warmoth sells truss rods and they're quite inexpensive: http://www.warmoth.com/supplies/supplies.cfm?fuseaction=trussrod
  3. Flounder102Bass


    Jul 6, 2008
    what if you did need the trust rod on it
  4. jady


    Jul 21, 2006
    Modesto, CA
    I have a wishbass with no truss rod but the neck is a thick as on a upright. It is very solid though......
  5. abarson


    Nov 6, 2003
    Santa Cruz
    Check out any and all basses made by Wishnevsky aka Wishbass. None of his basses had truss rods, unless special ordered by a client. I've never heard of any owner claiming that the neck ever shifted, and keep in mind that 95% of the basses he made are unlined fretless, so intonation was not really a big deal either.
    It is a very thick neck (think baseball bat) but not uncomfortable at all. Try to find someone in your area who will let you try theirs out in order to understand the feel.
    Another option would be to build your own truss rod. There are some resources on the web that explain how to do so with threaded rod.
    I can't imagine the shipping being that exorbident as to make you consider leaving it out. Try Doeringer for an affordable, good quality truss rod.
  6. Rodent

    Rodent A Killer Pickup Line™ Commercial User

    Dec 20, 2004
    Upper Left Corner (Seattle)
    Player-Builder-Founder: Honey Badger Pickups & Regenerate Guitar Works
    while it may be possible to build a neck without a trussrod (Wish does it), it's definitely not recommended to do so

    I suggest you get a copy of Hiscock's book "Build your own electric guitar" and study it. all you need to know about the basics for building a guitar/bass from rough materials is clearly covered - and the $20 spent on the book will easily save you 20 times that in wasted materials, ruined materials, and frustration because it took you four or five times to learn how to do something the right way

    I'd also suggest that the $8.50 shipping fee for a $25 trussrod is well worth the expense.


    since this is your first bass build, you're going to need all of the adjustments you can build in until you have everything down to precision science and know where you can fudge in working a neck without a trussrod. don't let your fear of the unknown keep you from making the right decisions on your first build

    all the best,

  7. dreadheadbass


    Dec 17, 2007
    if it was me i'd shell out and just buy a truss rod having the ability to tweak the neck to where you want it is a must have for me i think neck relief contributes a LOT to how the bass plays

    just my opinion though
  8. Jjango


    Nov 16, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
  9. lowbass68


    Feb 3, 2008
    My first homebuilt bass had no trussrod, but I did use a 3/8 inch square steel tube in the neck. It was maple with rosewood board. The neck was patterned after a late 70's Fender P. It played well enough but it took several attempts to surface the fingerboard for good action. Since then I have built many basses and have always used truss rods because wood can and will change over time due to temps, humidity, string tention and a few other factors. I would highly recommend installing either the Hot-Rod or the Martin style truss available from Stew Mac. The money spent will be more than worth it if you need to adjust the neck later on. Both are fairly easy to install if you have a router.
    Also using the neck thru technique will not aleave stress on the neck if your doing a double cut-away such as a Fender. If your doing one of those single cut-away Anthony Jackson style basses that is different.
  10. lowbass68


    Feb 3, 2008
    The traditional truss rod is tricky to install if your not familier with them. The slot in which it is installed requires a curved slot that is deeper in the middle of the neck and shallower at the anchor nut and adjustment nut ends. A special jig needs to be made to accomplish this with a router. Also a curved filler strip of wood needs to be made in order to properly seat the rod. The Hot Rod or Martin style are much easier to install as they require a simple flat slot and can easily be made with a standard router.

  11. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    My old Dano/Silvertones don't have a trussrod but they do have a metal bar as reinforcement. Fortunately the necks require no adjustment.
  12. Joey.Ogden


    Aug 11, 2008
    Okay, so you dont think it's a good idea... but let's just say hypothetically for some reason a truss rod was unattainable. Would a 1.5" thick neck, on a short-scale bass, with a single cutaway body, and those woods, work? Just in theory. Would some other wood be more suited to the task?
  13. Jjango


    Nov 16, 2007
    Los Angeles, CA
    I agree with (and already knew) what you're saying lowbass, my point was simply that a decent truss rod doesn't cost a "huge amount" of cash.
  14. SBassman


    Jun 8, 2003
    Northeast, US
    You Really need a truss rod.

    There's a reason they are in 99.99% of the good basses in the universe.
  15. lowbass68


    Feb 3, 2008
    No prob. I really meant it as an FYI for others. I just mentioned it because a lot of folks don't understand how a truss rod works much less installed. :D

  16. KFrost2008


    May 10, 2008
    Madison, IN
    99.99 or anything with infinitely repeating nine's isn't a real number fyi.

    Anyway...use a truss rod. I have a feeling you'll save more money by getting one now as opposed to the money you'll spend later trying to fix things.
  17. lowbass68


    Feb 3, 2008
    Better question: How thick do you want the neck regardless of whether you put a truss in it or not?

    If you truely plan on making a 1.5" thick neck because you like that thick of a neck, a single standard truss rod may not properly work anyway. That is a lot of wood to move. Your wood choices are good, although purple heart and Wenge stringers in the neck are my favorites.

    BTW, I have two production basses that require no truss rod. My trusty old Steinberger graphite neck and Kramer aluminum neck Duke.


  18. Joey.Ogden


    Aug 11, 2008
    Okay, forget whether or not I have a truss rod... Will this wood combination work in general for a bass? Or is there some other woods that would work better?

    But yes, I do prefer a thicker neck. I find them more playable. That's a bit thicker than I would normally choose but as long as it won't sound terrible or warp like crazy, I would be more than happy to use that thick of a neck. I don't know what that neck thickness would do to the instrument's sound.
  19. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    You keep asking about the woods and thickness to make up the neck, but you're forgetting a lot about physics, here...

    First of all, wood is not constant, in terms of stability, and the less time it's cured, the more prone it is to warping. If the neck is laminated, and you're careful about alternating the grain pattern, you can HOPE this will lessen the warp factor, but there's quite a bit of controversy about this. I'd tend to think in the absence of a truss rod, or ANYTHING to stabilize the neck, you're better off at least taking advantage of any theory you can, in hopes it might help. Quite frankly, the amount of laminates you include in the neck could end being more work and costing more (unless you own ALL the tools - including a jointer - and have strong knowledge of laminating) than purchasing and installing a truss rod.

    Next, I'd recommend against building a neck-through if you're not using a truss rod. The reason is that if there's a problem with the neck, you will have a million times the headache fixing the bass with a neck through than a bolt-on. The neck-through will NOT help with neck stability unless you make a single-cut, and even then, there's a lot of controversy surrounding this subject.

    Don't forget the primary reason for having a truss rod is to provide stability where the wood is unable to carry the entire load of the strings. Since wood will warp over time, given the string tension and physics of how wood continues to "grow" over time, even something as trivial as changing strings can change the tension on the neck.

    If you were going to cut corners, I'd highly recommend you don't cut them where the neck is concerned, as it's possibly the most vital part of the instrument. But, whatever you do, good luck.
  20. Joey.Ogden


    Aug 11, 2008
    Okay, here's my idea...

    You seem to be concerned most about the wood warping due to moisture. now, I've done a lot of woodworking... most of it making bows. Doing that you get a good idea of how wood bends under stress. And everything I know about bowyering tells me that if I bothered to do it properly, I could manage this bass without the wood warping at all in the future.

    But there's always flukes... could be a bad peice of wood, could forget to apply a new coat of finish, etc. So I've decided to do the bass without a truss rod, BUT as a failsafe I'm going to build a number of aluminum tubes into the neck, running the full length. Currently I'm thinking two or three. These should make up a high enough percentage of neck volume that the warping wood won't be able to overcome them... Thus virtually eliminating the chances of the neck warping on me. How's that seem? Basically it'll be a truss rod without the adjustableness. And cost me absotively nothing.:D

    And no I'm not being dense... I'm being stubborn. :spit: