Building my first bass

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Twistad, Nov 24, 2005.

  1. Hi everyone,

    Im currently 17, going at college and still wondering what i should do with my life. I have recently thought about having my own bass company.

    I absolutely love looking at custom bass and would like to build my own. So, since i want a fretless, im thinking about building my own but i have no idea how do this. Still, my father is very good with wood and i know a very good luthier who could help me.

    Im thinking i could save up about 1000$ next summer and start working on my bass at that time. So far, i would really like something like this I will probably go for a passive bass since it will be my first bass. I think the most common way to get the pieces is through warmoth, but i dont know what works well with what. Anyway, id really like some feedbacks as to how i should do this since im a complete newbie to this subject, what do i need (body, neck, tuner, electronics, bridge, string, etc.) Id prefer a 5 string but id hate to have bad tension on my low b so a better 4 string would also do the job.

    Thank you in advance!
    Sorry for the bad punctuation, i cannot figure how to do them with the keyboard im using.
  2. nateo

    nateo Schubie Fan #1

    Mar 2, 2003
    Ottawa, Ontario
    Welcome to the forum. This is a great place to both share and receive information, and a lot of things have been covered before. Just make sure you use the search function to dig up everything you can before you ask the venerable regulars (they can get ornery).

    The standard advice to new members of our little corner of TB is to go out and buy some books on the subject (I believe Hiscock's book is one of the most recommended) and generally read everything you can. Personally I scoured the internet for more than a year before I actually started on my first project. Beyond that, get your hands dirty and see what happens. Just don't expect a multi-thousand dollar Fodera your first time out. Everyone has to start somewhere.

  3. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    +1 to nateo's comments.

    Actually, hurry is the worst solicitor you can get! Use a year or two to read books, yes, as many as you can find. They will show you different alternatives to what to use for parts, different methods and different tool opportunities.
    On top of that, I suggest that you lurk here, in projectguitar, and some other forum. You will find a lot of interesting input, that will be useful for your project.

    Take your time. Have patience. Be scrupulous and exact. Be rewarded!
  4. Greg Johnsen

    Greg Johnsen

    May 1, 2005
    Hickory NC
    because you plan to buy your body and neck from warmoth (very good company and quality parts), this project will be easier than you building everything froms scratch.

    If you want a 4 string Jazz body and neck with black paint, it'll probably be around 700 dollars plus right there, and then you have to buy all the hardware. I'd suggest because they have loads of stuff at a decent price. I'd go with Gotoh for the bridge, tuners, and straplocks because Gotoh makes high quality parts, and they aren't as expensive as hipshot or some of the other companies. However, if you want good quality tuners that almost never go out of tune, you can get Sperzel tuners. They lock in place so they don't go out of tune. But they're 20 bucks a tuner.
    I'd suggest Bartolini, EMG, or Seymour Duncan for pickups. All pf them sound great and have great quality.

    If you don't want to spend so much money on the body and neck, you can go the Allparts route and get the body and neck for about 500 dollars combined, or go the SX route and get the frets taken out by your local luthier.

    Good luck to you, I plan on also doing this one day (I'm 15 so it may be a while).

    +1 on the waiting and looking, it'll be for the better.

  5. Amen to that. You don't want to experience THAT firsthand :D
    I would also highly recommend Martin Koch's book
  6. basstruck

    basstruck Guest

    Nov 25, 2005
    Do you have any basic knowledge in woodworking?
    Do you think that you could shape a neck?
    Can you do a fret job?
    Can you do a fret level?
    Can you shape the fingerboard radius?
    Can you router the cavity for the pickups?
    Can you router a slot in the neck to install a truss rod?
    Is it going to be a bolt on or a neck through body?
    Do you know how much it cost to make a bass?
    Do you know what tools you need to make a bass?
    Do you know how difficult it is to sell a custom made bass?
    Do you know that you need to spray between 12 to 15 coats
    of clear and sand between sprayings to finish a bass?
    Do you know etc... etc.. etc.... and the list of things to do goes on and on.Ask any "LUTHIER"
    You might want to ask yourself these questions before you get started and dreaming about starting a bass company.
    A musical instrument like a Bass is extremely difficult to handcraft and needs lot of skill, lots of precision, consumes a lot of time etc...ect...
    This is not just putting a couple of pieces of wood together
    there is more to it than that. You are creating an
    instrument that you create and make music with, not a toy like many people think.
  7. parttimeluthier


    May 7, 2005
    Well NONE of us could do those things when we began. We all had to learn and so can he. A journey always begins with the first step(and maybe a dream to make it happen).
  8. Phil Mailloux

    Phil Mailloux

    Mar 25, 2005
    Brisbane, Australia
    Builder: Mailloux Basses

    I don't recall the original poster saying he could already fret, level, shapes necks ect...

    Your post is pretty discouraging. As parttimeluthier as already said we all started with a dream. Plenty of people have build good instruments in their first try without even having woodworking experience. You just need to take the time to research, take it easy with your first build and only accept the best from yourself.
  9. basstruck

    basstruck Guest

    Nov 25, 2005
    My post is not to discourage anybody but to tell a few things that a Luthier has to learn and know to handcraft a playable instrument and mention a few things to think about before investhing money in it. Lutherie is a very difficult trade, instruments are very expensive to make.The business and competition are stiff and very demanding.
    Yes you people are right saying that we have to start somewhere and have dreams but may be sometime it is nice to know the truth and facing what we are getting into.
  10. I understand i'm starting from almost nothing, that's why i'm posting.

    I'm planning to get myself some books to learn how to do these things. I'm pretty sure i can have access to any tools needed, so in that sense it won't be so bad. I've also worked at my father's shop quite a bit in the past so i could say that yes i've worked with wood before.

    I understand that it will probably be hard and my first bass might suck but i need to start somewhere.
  11. just read evrything you can. Understand EVERYTHING and know everything you're going to do before you even start. Have it all laid out.
  12. basstruck

    basstruck Guest

    Nov 25, 2005
    The main advice is to practice on very cheap wood so you will learn from your trial and error without spending too much money. Be patient, there is no rush and if possible don't buy pre-made stuff like body or neck because you will never learn how to make them yourself. Try to copy them instead with tools and your hands. Use the wood that is going to be your bass only when you are 100% sure of what you are doing.
    To find nice exotic wood in Montréal, there is an exotic wood dealer on Pie X in Montreal Nord. Look in the phone book for the address. They have everything in wood that you will need to handcraft a bass there. For more information if ever interested about bass making, e-mail me because I am a Québecois too. Maybe I can guide you along because I have 25 years experience in that field as a luthier.
    The best place to order a book or video is Stewart MacDonald or this site address "" click on luthier link.They have the plan to make different basses and even the one for a F..... jazz bass. Also check with Archambault or Steve Music in Montreal, you migth be lucky.
    Best of luck
    (This bass neck through body was handcrafted 100% by me)
  13. Phil Mailloux

    Phil Mailloux

    Mar 25, 2005
    Brisbane, Australia
    Builder: Mailloux Basses
    Well, look at that, i'm also Quebecois :D although I live in australia now.
    The place on PieX is called Langevin et Forest et thats where I used to buy my wood before I left. As a side note I personally think that you shouldn't start your first bass with "cheaper woods". Mahogany for a body can be had cheap enough and maple for a neck is obviously all over the place.
  14. basstruck

    basstruck Guest

    Nov 25, 2005
    In my post I don't recommend to use cheap wood to make his first bass but to practice making parts or body on cheap wood so he can learn from his mistakes. With a litle bit of knowledge,then he can use the real wood to handcratf his first instrument with more confidence.
  15. Rodent

    Rodent A Killer Pickup Line™ Commercial User

    Dec 20, 2004
    Upper Left Corner (Seattle)
    Player-Builder-Founder: Honey Badger Pickups & Regenerate Guitar Works
    Using cheap wood does not equate to using wood that is drastically different in working characteristics than the wood intended to be used on the real project. What should be done is to decide what type of wood will be used, and then visit a hardwood store and purchase the same species from the clearance bin. This way you'll learn how to work that wood type on the relatively cheap while mastering the nuances of that specific wood with the tools you plan to use.

    IMO there's not a great deal to be learned working mahogany with hand tools when the intent is to carve a neck from maple on the real project. Sure you'll learn some about the hand tools, but the mahogany will respond quite differently than the maple. Think of it like learning to drive a manual transmission by 'shifting' thru the settings on your automatic transmission - sure you'll learn how to drive a car, but you won't learn how to properly drive utilizing a manual transmission.

    All the best,

  16. Warmoth is a good company for making your own bass, but there was one other's name that got mentioned a while back that seems to be giving Warmoth a run for their money. Anybody have any idea which company i'm talking about?
  17. basstruck

    basstruck Guest

    Nov 25, 2005
    Warmoth necks and bodies are high quality and well made. But how can you claim that you are making your own bass when you just assemble the parts that are already made by somebody else? This is a Warmoth bass! No?........
    Lutherie is the art of making stringed instruments.
    To learn the trade, you have to learn to handcraft all the different wooden parts, not ask a manufacturer to make them for you and piece them together like a puzzle.
  18. basstruck

    basstruck Guest

    Nov 25, 2005
    I visited your site and you are doing awesome work.
    That 6 string bass is super nice
    Congratulation! You must have a lot of patience to handcraft
    everything by hand like the pictures show
  19. Phil Mailloux

    Phil Mailloux

    Mar 25, 2005
    Brisbane, Australia
    Builder: Mailloux Basses
    Why thank you! :D and thats only my first two basses. Thats why I say that if someone really wants to learn and has a set goal in mind then anything is feasible.

    The handmade stuff wasn't that long, the first bass has about 70 hours of work in it, although that was spread over 12 months because of financial reasons and a darn sunburst that had to be redone about a dozen times (learned spraying as I went). The 6 string bass has about 50-60 hours of work in it.
  20. petie-b


    Aug 24, 2005
    orlando, florida
    have you considered getting cheap parts from places like ebay, a battered old body and second hand neck etc and just having a go.

    i did some research for a few months and then reshaped an old faulty bass that i had in the loft.

    it came out fairly well but i learned alot of do's and dont's first hand.

    my second bass came out much better and that was just built from parts found on ebay for around £70.

    Its not up to the standard of some of the guys on here but it plays fairly well and again it taught me alot about this bass building thing.