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Building a Bass

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by timbass2882, Aug 23, 2012.

  1. timbass2882


    Apr 6, 2008
    Hey I need help. I want to start building bass guitars so bad I dream about it. I never build one before and I do not have wood working skills. I'm so ready to buy the tools, but I have no idea where to start or where to get help. I have a book called how to build electric guitars, but when I read it I get lost. I live in florida and I do not know of any schools in my area. If anyone know of any books, dvd's, schools, please let me know thanks.
  2. 1SHOT1HIT


    Feb 17, 2012
    Wow, two days old and not one person has helped you?
    What a community.
    I'm reserving hope you at least received a PM or two, But none the less.

    First, I want to be clear I am NOT a luthier, or a builder even.
    I can't recommend much for you as I just don't have the information myself.

    What I can do is offer you some common knowledge, and some encouragement.
    I've kinda gone back and fourth myself over this and haven't landed yet on an idea that going to start or not.
    If I were you, I'd start by digging up absolutely every video about building online that you can, I've seen a few on YouTube and I'm sure there's plenty more out there.
    Just Google, (building a bass guitar) search under videos, and watch everyone of them.
    Make notes on the tools they are using.
    Materials and the like.

    As far as power tools go, just keep in mind, some of history's greatest built instruments were built long before most modern day tools were even available. Stringed instruments are certainly not new technology.
    And EVERY builder at some point (even the best of the best) built their first one, everyone starts somewhere. So don't let your lack of experience be a set back. Let it slow you down a bit but definitely don't let it stop you in your pursuit.

    If reading books isn't working, try the videos and then write down very specific questions about things your not sure of. Once you have a your questions, present them back here and I'm sure you'll receive more help than just asking more or less about everything at once.
    Specifically what are you not sure about?

    Find a decent place online to order wood from, maybe search through here at TB for info on where these guys are getting it.
    I'm sure there are various methods to obtain the wood you'll need.

    All of your tools can be purchased at your local hardware store, and the few specialty tools you'll want can be found on Craigslist many times, or new online.
    WWW.StewMac.Com carries just about everything imaginable from small scale stuff, on up.

    Try searching online videos with specific steps more so than full build process.
    For instance: instead of searching (how to build a bass) try (making a bass neck) or (making a bass body) (fret installing) (fretboard install) (how to do fretboard inlay) and so on.

    Make sure you understand how to use a measuring tape well.
    Always remember measure twice, cut once.
    Meaning ALWAYS know for absolute certainty that your cuts on any wood are the correct cuts from the start.

    I wouldn't go out and buy every tool you can think of either, just see what you think you'll absolutely need to get through it and start slow and steady.
    For instance you don't HAVE to have a giant belt sander when you have two perfectly good hands to sand with.

    Draw your ideas down, really think through them before commuting to building.

    And with that I'm spent, I wish you the best of luck with it and can't wait to see the build should you decide to share.
    By the way, what kind of bass are you thinking about starting out on?
  3. Nomad98


    Dec 13, 2005
    Before I built my first bass I built parts basses. You will learn a lot by starting with that. Make mods to them, refinish, and redesign them if you want. You will be getting valuable skills that will aid you in your first build or you will find that it's not your thing. If that's the case you haven't spent a lot on tools that you can sell to me at a huge loss to you. ;)

    Don't get too hung up on the whole process of how do I make a bass. You will figure that out later. Just start to modify what exists first and you will developed your own process later.
  4. Find someone who builds well locally. Used the yellow pages. Offer to work for them for free. Pester them to help you. The web is good, real people are much better. Their help will be much better than ours in most cases.
  5. MPU


    Sep 21, 2004
    Valkeala Finland
  6. Smilodon

    Smilodon Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2012
    Start by reading through this thread: http://www.talkbass.com/forum/f57/practice-build-5-string-multi-scale-hd-woods-672277/

    Although Pilotjones isn't a professional luthier (AFAIK) he does explain every step of the process very well, and isn't afraid to ask questions and explain processes and solutions.

    The important thing when asking questions is to know what to ask. This early on in the process you'll need to figure out what you do and do not know enough about and start investigating. When you get stuck on specific things, don't be afraid to ask. .)
  7. RNV


    Apr 13, 2010
    Loxahatchee, Fl
    fEARful (I endorse them, not visa versa)
    I too am in this point in my life. My plan of attack is to start with cheap wood that I find from stuff people are throwing out my the curb. In my area homes are being bought on the cheap and many were left with old furniture that people have destroyed. I'm have a few pieces of solid wood, not particle board, that I will use to practice on. Once I am very comfortable with cutting, routing, making cavities and such, I will go buy a nice piece of good grade non exotic base wood and go from there.
  8. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA

    I was in your shoes a couple of years ago. I had no tools, no skills, no knowledge, and the whole process was terrifying to me. I bought Melvyn Hiscock's "Make Your Own Electric Guitar" book and read through it, but it didn't really help. I learn better through doing, so that's what I did.

    Neck carving terrified me. Fingerboard radiusing terrified me. I had no idea how to keep everything lined up and straight. I had no idea what kinds of wood I wanted to use. I had scarcely even seen some of the tools used in the process, to say nothing of knowing how to actually use them.

    To take the dive, I did basically what Nomad98 suggested. I took an Ibanez 4 string short scale bass and turned it into a long-scale baritone VI. It's not very playable and the neck is presently buckling under the pressure, but I learned a lot, and the process alleviated a lot of my fear.

    Sadly, 1SHOT1HIT is right about some things. Watch a LOT of youtube videos. That way, you can see the process as it happens, which is a lot more useful than seeing still before and after photos.

    When I decided to make my own from scratch, I bought a lot of cheap oak and poplar practice wood from home depot. I made several necks with that. Doing that, I found that not only is neck carving easier than it looks, it is a lot of fun, and now is my favorite part of the whole process.

    And don't be afraid to ask what you think might be stupid questions. Everybody here has been right where you are at some point.

    Also...templates and jigs are your friend.

    It is not hard to see why so many of your threads turn into bitter arguments and have to be closed by moderators.
  9. odin70


    Dec 26, 2007
    I bought the Melvyn Hiscock's "Make Your Own Electric Guitar" book and read through it, but it didn't really help.

  10. See if your community college offers a wood shop course. Learning to safely use a router, band saw, sander, and drill press will be valuable. Also you will need many hand tools. Stewart MacDonald is a great resource for building guitars.
  11. 1SHOT1HIT


    Feb 17, 2012
    Lol, :D .......I'm sorry, but it's pretty sad that a person comes here for help and advice and expresses such conviction and desire to learn and his thread just sits stagnant for two days.

    **I don't recall threads of mine, (at least not "so many") involuntarily closed by moderators, so I'm really not sure what your referring to.**

    Are you saying I'm wrong? it's not disheartening to see so many pointless arguments carry on for page after page when real questions and genuine interest to learn, is left to just sit there and wait?
  12. pocketgroove


    Jun 28, 2010
    I don't know if this helps at all, but if you're really serious about learning and have the money, there is a school in Georgia: http://atlantaguitarworks.com/
  13. 1SHOT1HIT


    Feb 17, 2012
    This thread got me thinking and out of curiosity I tried something that's damn near a rarity now a days.
    I went to visit an actual library with real books and all. I felt like I was walking back in time or like I had instantly lost twenty years in some incredible time warp of some kind.

    I had forgotten how great the library can be, the Internet is of coarse way better but real books will always have a use.

    Found some great stuff, maybe try your local library you may be surprised what you find.

  14. timbass2882


    Apr 6, 2008
    Thank you guys for your comments. I will take the advise everyone gave. I checked out the wood working school in Atlanta man It cost so much money. I will check out some community colleges. In the mean time I have started watching video's on you-tube, and i must say that has been great help. I will start modifying some of the basses I already have to gain the experience of working with the electronics. I also will buy some cheap wood and go for it until I become good at it. I think the thing that worries me the most is building the neck. For my first build i'm looking forward to building a six string, but have not decided what woods i will use at the moment. I know of a shop in orlando fl, who builds custom guitars. I called the shop several time asking for help and got shut down, man they told me they are not training anybody nor can I watch. I asked them about tool I should buy and they just told me you need a lot of tools and left it at that. It's a cold world out here. But i'm not giving up with the help of you guys and support I know I can do this thanks for your reply's.
  15. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    My local library has no lutherie books at all. You may also look into local vocational/technical schools and their carpentry programs. Specifically, I think you would most benefit from cabinetry classes. Many of the tools and techniques used in lutherie are similar to those in custom cabinet building.

    As for building the neck:

    It was the most intimidating part of the whole process for me, until I tried it. I bought some red oak planks from Home Depot and started carving. I immediately came to a few realizations:

    1) Neck carving is way way way easier than it looks.
    2) Neck carving is way way way more fun than it looks.
    3) You want a big rasp and a sharp spokeshave. The bigger the rasp the faster you can work. On the other hand, the bigger the rasp, the easier it is to make huge mistakes quickly. A dull spokeshave will chatter when you pull it, and that creates more work for you later on. If your spokeshave's blade is dull, just don't use it.
    4) Red oak is the devil's wood.

    I'm on my 5th build now, and neck shaping remains my favorite part of the whole process.
  16. skychief


    Apr 27, 2011
    South Bay

    Excellent 1st step.

    learn to walk before doing high-hurdles.
  17. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Victoria, BC
    It's also pretty sad when a person unfamiliar with the slow pace of this forum due to fewer posters comes rolling in and fires off judgment of the forum participants as though they are a bunch of elitists. Two days is a short period of time in this forum - you might get lucky and get some good feedback and advice on the first day, but it's usually a few days later that more information trickles in.

    Its also pretty sad when a person new to the forum comes in and asks several questions that are answered in the third sticky down on the first page, a sticky entitled "FAQ's for all: New Builders READ THIS!" - here it is: http://www.talkbass.com/forum/f57/faqs-all-new-builders-read-225608/.

    Welcome to the Luthier's Corner...

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