Best road of becoming a Boutique Bass Builder

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Gr8tbass, Apr 29, 2012.

  1. Repairs and setup Guy

    63 vote(s)
  2. Carpenter/Furniture

    21 vote(s)
  3. Both 1 & 2

    98 vote(s)
  1. Gr8tbass


    Aug 7, 2010
    I'm sure I'll get plenty of humorous comments on this poll thread. So what do you guys think is the best route or road of becoming a bass building phenom :bassist:
  2. BigOkie


    Nov 28, 2010
    Oklahoma City
    Silly question: have you built any basses yet?
  3. mdogs

    mdogs Supporting Member

  4. My idea was to build a bass, then build another one to more exacting tolerances. Rinse and repeat until you have something worth selling.
  5. Gr8tbass


    Aug 7, 2010
    Not yet. By the way, go Thunder, Although I'm a big Laker's fan.

    Anyhow, it maybe a silly question, but that the entire reason why I posted this thread, for fun so Why so serious? Now back to business. If someone was to hone this skill, what is the best way to do it? Furniture builders have great knowledge about woods but also taking up setup or repair would also be a good thing. :)

  6. Plucky The Bassist

    Plucky The Bassist ZOMG! I'm back from the dead! Supporting Member

    Jul 30, 2010
    Speaking only for myself here...I find the woodworking aspect of it much more tedious and less forgiving than the electrical work/setup, since that can be fixed or mended easier than a bass that snaps in two due to bad craftsmanship. Perhaps woodworking comes easier to another gent, but if it were me that was trying to start as a pro luthier...I'd start getting into carpentry BIG TIME.
  7. BigOkie


    Nov 28, 2010
    Oklahoma City
    As long as we can beat Dallas, everyone in town will be happy!

    I have dreamed of building my own "neck-through" Thunderbird-style bass. Loud, tons of sustain and growl. Don't ask me how I plan on doing that--I have a very modest set of woodworking tools and skills that your average handyman has. That's why I voted "both" in your poll. Good luck getting started!
  8. PlungerModerno


    Apr 12, 2012
    I voted 1 & 2. Without 1 & 2 skillsets at 90%+ it'll be hard to make a working bass with a passable finish.:bassist: I have never held a 'boutique' bass worth over 1,000 euro, but as far as I've read the skills of a luthier are design, woodworking to very high standard with difficult woods & joints, metal & wiring install & setup (again high accuracy), and finishing the wood. which is an art in itself.
    I'd say you can't get the skills to build a guitar/bass masterfully without building dozens of them. The woodworking is challenging even for an experienced carpenter (angles are very low tolerance, as are glue lines etc.) I'd say that would be the primary skill needed. A good woodworker can knock out a decent instrument without knowing how to play / fine tune an axe.
    But you can say the same about setup & repair.

    To get an apprenticeship with a gifted luthier seems to be the way to go. I'm interested in making/modding my instruments in the future but ATM, without a decent workshop:bawl:, I'd be mad to try. Love the passion that goes into custom instruments. This site has some amazing work on display. If that doesn't phase you (difficulty wise) go for it!:D
  9. arsie


    Jan 19, 2011
    I think its U.S. Route 61.
  10. Dbassmon


    Oct 2, 2004
    Rutherford, NJ
    Apprentice under a master, study the art of instrument building and repair. Carpenter skills are great, but you need knowledge from people who know about the mechanics of sound.
  11. Firesalt

    Firesalt Is good enough. Supporting Member

    May 18, 2010
    Charlotte, NC
    You should have posted this in the Luthier's Corner where people actually do this sort of thing instead of those of us just guessing at it.
    Just an idea.
  12. In my case, just started building them and I'll see where it takes me. Been doing DIY stuff forever, so it wasn't hard to pick up on building guitars and basses. Each one I build I get better. Got a Flying V started on my bench right now. 7 pc laminated neck thru. Some of the super flame board I picked up for the top. Waiting for my next paycheck to go buy some more wood for the body and other builds. My wood store has been innundateing me with emails of all the cool woods he's getting in.

    Cash for hardware and such is the hard part right now. But I'm going for it as much as possible. Using GFS pups and cheaper hardware right now as I'm concerning myself with how it's built and how it plays. My 2 pet peeves. I want an axe to play like butter. Strings so close to the frets there's no effort to play it. A neck that doesn't move every time the weather changes. Awesome looks too, great sound as well. Sustain and growl.

    I've read everything I possibly can online, and have bought books and manuals. Dan Erliwine's books are great. Read where people have problems with their store bought, mass produced guitars and basses. Some of my trials and tribulations I've had with the various axes I've owned thru the years. Put it all together in my shop and see what I can dream up.

    Main thing is to have fun with it!
  13. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    Westchester, NY
    I don't really see either of those options as the best way to become a boutique bass builder.

    Option 1: Crucial to learn IMO, but a luthier is very different than a repair/setup guy.
    Option 2: Obviously carpentry is a major skill when it comes to building instruments, but I don't see how building furniture would really translate over if luthiery is the main goal. I guess if there is no other way to learn finish carpentry skills, then sure it's a viable option to get your feet wet.
  14. gigslut


    Dec 13, 2011
    St Louis, Mo
    Or you could just take a bunch of orders and string people along for ten years ...
  15. gigslut


    Dec 13, 2011
    St Louis, Mo
    If by "carpenter/furniture" you mean cabinet maker, yes you will learn to use planers, joiners, routers, jigs. You'll be working with hardwoods and glue and learn how to do various joints and laminations. I know some guys who own a cabinet shop and have branched out into lutherie, mostly for their own enjoyment.
    I spent years as a carpenter in home remodeling, but that's a different genre.
  16. Depends what your goals are. You looking to craft great basses by hand, from the ground up, or assemble great basses from quality pre-made parts? The former requires much more time, practice, and patience...and ideally studying under a good luthier.
  17. Gr8tbass


    Aug 7, 2010
    Lots of great posts. If this needs to move to luthier, it's OK with me, but I think it's a great topic to discuss over here at the main bass forum.

    I've owned plenty of high end basses, but it's just fasinating how a particular builder will really shine and others just fade away. Take Alleva's for instant. I remember when those started coming out. I rememeber seeing one used for 2K not too long ago, but now look how pricey they're going for used. Holy cow! Then there are others not so successful, which I will refrain from listing fearing being flamed.

    I'm still kinda Sadowsky biased and other more notable builders, but it is hard to deny AC's and next generation builder's success in making a name in boutique bass builder stardom.
  18. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    Having never built or sold a bass I suppose it's not surprising you missed THE most essential thing: VISION. As a boutique builder, the first thing you'll have to do is carve out YOUR vision of the ultimate bass. What is it? There are LOTS of different ones out there: Some make a "perfect" Fender. Some have a bass with museum quality design and form. Some have totally unique features like say switching from fretted to fretless with a lever. And some have a certain unique tone or feel. Some are just "more of the same" like say a 6 string Fender clone jazz.

    It really doesn't matter WHAT it is, but whatever it is, people have to actually want it. Other wise why would I pay 6 grand for a bass when I can pay under $200 for an SX with a nice finish, nice wood, nice sound, etc. That kind of money has to be for something that REALLY turns me on and you simply cannot buy any other place.

    Look at various boutique builders and you'll see what I"m talking about. As for wood work or electronics or finishes or whatever, if it's standard work you can always hire people to do that for you. Jens Ritter, for example, has jewelers that build some of his hardware etc. But the design and vision of a Ritter? No question that is 100% HIS!
  19. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    I will keep collecting until I have 40 basses
    A good way to start is to buy a $130 kit bass and assemble it. Then build a parts bass.

    To really build basses from scratch you need a good wood shop with the proper tools and you need to know how to operate them.

    Then if you are going to paint the basses you need a paint shop and the proper tools and training.
  20. pickles

    pickles Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2000
    Ventura, CA
    A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step. Build one. I gigged a home brew exclusively for several years, it was very satisfying.

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