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Building Clone Basses

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by gbarcus, Mar 7, 2013.

  1. gbarcus

    gbarcus Commercial User

    Jul 20, 2008
    Minneapolis & St.Paul, MN
    Owner of Barcus Basses barcusbasses.com
    I've had some inquires about building clone basses.
    What is your take on this? What do you do if a potential customer asks you to do a custom build just like another company's design, and wants it exact as possible. No one has asked for that company's brand to be put on the instrument though.
  2. ejmy


    Nov 30, 2008
    Just ask yourself how many companies are cloning Fender's ? To many to name here.
  3. MPU


    Sep 21, 2004
    Valkeala Finland
    In my experience it's considered ok to build clones of everything except Rickenbacker.
    I've made a few clones myself. I find it ok to clone something that's not made anymore as long as I make sure my cclones and originals can not be mixed.
    I'd rather make my own designs or at least have some twist on existing designs (like headless out of headed design).
  4. why are ricks an exception?
  5. devo_stevo


    Aug 2, 2006
    Northern Utah
    Builder: Brumbaugh Guitarworks
    Because they will sue you.
  6. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Only if they catch you.

    I am going to build a 5 string Rick copy. Rickenbacker can only hassle me if I sell it on the internet. But since I will be keeping it for myself then they can't touch me.

    Also if you stay under the radar then Ric won't know you made a copy.
  7. devo_stevo


    Aug 2, 2006
    Northern Utah
    Builder: Brumbaugh Guitarworks
    ^^true that.
  8. gyancey


    Mar 25, 2002
    Austin, TX
    What the customer is really saying is "I want brand X, but can't afford it, so can you make it for me instead for much less?" Why be someone's second choice? I've turned away several people who've made similar requests. It's not worth the hassle. I'd either advise them to keep saving so they can get what the REALLY want (which is not your design, obviously) or try to convince them why your design is better.
  9. Neek


    Nov 26, 2008
    South Florida
    I don't see any issue with building a clone. But I would have to ask, "why?"

    My time isn't cheap, so an exact copy of Brand X will not be cheaper than a production line instrument from the Brand X factory.

    Unless the customer wants certain features that aren't available on the Brand X instrument... but then it wouldn't be an "exact" copy.
  10. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    It could be that they love the look of what ever brand, but aren't impressed with the quality. So they want that look in a top of the line bass.
  11. miziomix

    miziomix Über on my mind Commercial User

    Sep 28, 2009
    Milan, Kuala Lumpur, Paris.
    Bass builder @ MüB.
    To me building a perfect clone is both boring and very challenging. I mean, you have to actually replicate every detail as is. How boring is that?

    If I did build say, a Fender clone I couldn't resist wanting to improve the design where possible. Having to stick to the original would prove far too frustrating.

    If for any reason I didn't find that boring, then the issue of the cost will arise. To make an exact Fender clone with good material and finish will cost more than to buy a Fender.

    I am not sure I understand why people ask for that.

    If one wants a Fender but cannot afford it, there are plenty second hand original basses and cheaper factory made look alike. Why not buy one of those? Every time I talk to someone who wants a clone it turns out that he's expecting a handmade bass to cost less than a factory one.

    If instead one wants a handmade Fender-like bass and has both the money, taste and appreciation for the improvements that can be brought to the original design, then that is not a clone anymore. That's fun :)
  12. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    In my experience 9 times out of 10 the customer wants a Fodera and it's the exact situation that Greg is talking about. The 10th time it's probably a Ritter. Just because someone doesn't have the resources to sue you doesn't mean it's ethical or considered okay.

    There are occasional instances where someone wants to make an older design like a Hagstrom that you just can't new any more. Or the customer wants something in one of those old instruments that the manufacturer won't do. Then the argument can be made that you aren't taking a sale from the creator of the design, which is the heart of the matter.
  13. Just Thumpin'

    Just Thumpin' Commercial User

    Mar 7, 2008
    NE United States
    Manager and Partner, Fodera Guitars (10/14/09 - 12/16/19)
    We definitely view it as a theft of intellectual property (albeit flattering) and would pursue the matter accordingly...



  14. Just Thumpin'

    Just Thumpin' Commercial User

    Mar 7, 2008
    NE United States
    Manager and Partner, Fodera Guitars (10/14/09 - 12/16/19)
    That is an awesome approach and is to be applauded!


  15. or maybe I want a swamp ash stingray in purple burst with a birdseye maple fretboard and they don't offer that.
  16. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005

    Do they make a swamp ash stingray with a birdseye maple fretboard?
  17. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    What we do is judged by our ethics as much as our skill in some regards. Building a clone other than a Fender is something that should be avoided as much as possible. I get asked for clone builds probably twice a month. Unless it's a Fender parts job, or a Mod of an existing bass, I avoid clone jobs. I worked had to develop my own designs, and do not really care for others. A lot of people want Fodera, Drozd, Ritter, F bass clones, those inquiries, I politely decline. There are enough people in Brazil and Argentina doing the unscrupulous thing, I won't participate in it.
  18. not that I've found.

    After reading through this thread I guess my biggest question is are they trying to get you to build a $10,000 fodera for $2,000 or are they trying to get you to build them a $2,000 hotrodded fender with options fender doesn't offer?

    pulled those numbers outta my @$$ btw.
  19. a 2000 Marleaux and not a 5000 one?
  20. jumbodbassman

    jumbodbassman Supporting Member

    Dec 28, 2009
    Stuck in traffic -NY & CT
    Born Again Tubey
    Gibson is worse....

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