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Building a Bass

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by phunkjam, Jan 15, 2001.


  1. Hello All,
    In the next year and a half I have to create a senior project in order to graduate. I have decided to build a bass since it's in my field of interest and better than explaining how we mine for minerals or something like that. I was at warmouth's site and I noticed that they had a kit for the Gecko Bass. I was thinking of buying the pieces and assembling it or buy a neck or body and search around for other parts. Has anybody ever built one of these things, or custom built their bass before?
     
  2. Lotsa guys here have done their own (me too!) It's not particularly hard depending on the amount of custom design you would put into it's fabrication. Do a search of this forum with words like wood, parts, and CAD/CAM (my personal fave) and you'll begin to uncover the possibilities.

    For a dedicated discussion of building guitars you should look into the forums over at the Musical Instrument Makers Forum or http://www.mimf.com . LOTS to take in over there.
     
  3. rllefebv

    rllefebv

    Oct 17, 2000
    Newberg, Oregon
    Hey Hambone...That's an excellent link. Now if only that forum was as easy to use as TalkBass!!!

    Thanks,
    -robert
     
  4. Hello Phunkjam.

    Yeh. Done a bit of bass building. Back 12 or 15 years ago a top wood man and I hand built some basses for sale. We started with some great ideas and ended with nothing. Oh well.

    All our work was from scratch as it were. We never bought bodies and necks, we made 'em, truss rods, bridges, the lot. Well almost the lot. We bought machines, pups and strings. I'm an electronics man so I designed and built the onboard active tone system, a two band parametric with mixers and the capacity to directly drive a 600 ohm line. It was a job and a half to finish the wood properly, I can tell you.

    I tell all this , not to be flash, but to illustrate the hellish amount of hard work that'll be needed to design and build what you'll want to be a really good instrument. No point in just making Fender copies, that's what I say: why not go for the whole shooting match.

    Our basses were all fretless because they were all the rage at the time. If you can't fret - and it's a real skill to do it properly - why not try a fretless. I built flat and round fingerboards, too, with width-dimensions that probably still are amongst the narrowest ever seen on a bass neck: 1, 3/8 inches @ nut; 2, 1/8 inches @ heel. Try buying pups and a bridge to match those spacings @ 34" scale length.

    I have one neck and body left: the prototype. I'm trying to rebuild it now.

    If I can help, give me a call.

    John
     
  5. Thanks for the replies. They've been real helpful. I'd like to try my hand at building one from scratch, but I don't think I have the skills yet. I don't want to go all out in just one kit. I hopefully will be able to buy different parts from different companies and make modifications. I'm still in the pre-pre-brainstorming phase.
     
  6. Monkey

    Monkey Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Dayton, Ohio, USA
    I've built a few basses, but I've always bought necks instead of making them from scratch. I bought a slab of alder and made my own body. That might be a good idea for a first project; you can design a body shape and bolt on a ready-made neck. I really like the bolt-on necks that Carvin sells. You could also buy the neck-thru model, and put your own body wings on it.
     
  7. Whew, it's a pleasure to see you on this board rockin_john. It sounds like we all could learn a few things from you. The more the merrier!! Probably the only detractor the MIMF forum has is it's lack of bass dedicated builders. There's good info on guitars in general over there but the subleties of our instruments need a special touch.
     
  8. Good morning, Hambone.

    Well, what kind words. Please don't come away with the notion that I'm some kindda master luthier. I'm not. But I gave it a go and learned something along the way.

    And it certainly helped to work with a guy who's spent his working life crafting hardwoods, and has access to machine tools for roughing-out, etc.

    Very often with this sort of project it's the little things that count: how to keep your chisels razor sharp, for instance. Or how to select the best piece of this or that wood at the lumber yard.

    Perhaps, then, for Phunkjam the best method might be to build a Fender copy type of kit. Trouble is, he's still only got a Fender copy that's available anywhere and perhaps without the means to do a really good finishing job on the wood. Or he might consider buying the neck as has been suggested and building the body to suit from a hardwood blank. But he'll still really need to machine-out the slot for the neck to ensure it's flat and true.

    Difficult to know what to advise.

    How about hot-rodding an existing instrument for the project, if the full build is too much or a kit build does not appeal? Get hold of (say) a nicely set-up MIM Precision but which might be full of dings and bashes then customize it: new/extra pups, add actives, refinish it, etc.

    Dunno.

    Regards.

    John
     
  9. The notion of doing a restoration first is both a good start and exactly how I began. I picked up a cosmetically screwed, but functional, whole P/J clone and restored it. New finish, screws, nut, shielding, and setup. It was the perfect learning experience. Didn't cost too much, and produced a bass that sold quickly to recoup some of the expenses.

    My more recent construction used an aftermarket neck and a computer designed and routed body. The result was very short green for a very nice bass. It also gave me the bug and I have my second in the design process now. All of this has brought me to the point of investigating doing some neck inlays and creating a template system to allow for repeat building and experimentation. I'll put some details in another post.



    [Edited by Hambone on 01-18-2001 at 07:23 PM]
     
  10. Alright, so let's assume that I want to design my own body. Where do you get the wood? Just a lumber yard or something? This all sounds very interesting to me. Also, where would I be able to find blueprints or something for preamp wiring and stuff of that sort?
     
  11. I think Monkey's idea of buying a semi finished neck, and building your own body, is a good one for a beginner. The timber you use needs to be quartersawn, so that it does not warp, This is absolutely imperative! You will need to go to a specialist timber merchant to get quartersawn stuff, especially if you want maple, ash, alder etc. American White Ash makes a nice body, but as with any ash, you are up for a lot of work to get a smooth finish. The makers who have nice ash bodies, like Yamaha, F-basses, etc, stain them with a dark stain, then sand it off, and restain with the finish colour. This leaves the grain standing out and looks magnificent.
     
  12. Foxton

    Foxton

    Jul 12, 2000
    Last Friday I recieved my long awaited 60's style custom made P-Bass. I've almost didn't want to put it down. I'll send pictuers as soon as I can. Stay tuned.
     
  13. Hi Phunkjam.

    For wiring diagrams try http://www.mrgearhead.net/ for Fender guitars and basses. Try the Rickenbacker site for their wiring diagrams.

    Both should give you a good idea of what's going on here. You'd also be advised to pick up a book on electric guitar building from your local library. That'll almost certainly give you help with the wiring side.

    John
     
  14. I'm thinking about your project again, Phunkjam. Have you thought how you might finish the wood? Nowadays, a natural, oiled finish is acceptable on the body whilst in my day it really wasn't.

    Peavey have gone for that look with their budget C4 (previously called the Zephyr). I don't think it works too well on that bass but check out Yamaha's BBN4III. That's great.

    I think you really need to varnish the neck, though. Here's what I'm doing on the neck of that prototype. I bought a can of top quality interior varnish - you know, cabinet makers' stuff. I've applied 10 coats with top quality brush with a good rub down with a 3M brand scouring pad (equiv to 000 grade glass paper) between each coat. (I think these pads are much better than the proper glass paper simply because they don't clog with varnish dust).

    That method was used on the neck (Beech) and the fingerboard (Ash). The final treatment will be another good rub down. The result is a lovely smooth, satin finish.

    If you like solid colours, why not try a vehicle body shop. If you know a guitarist who's in that trade you might get lucky with a spray job on your bass.

    See ya.

    Rockin John