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choosing a custom builder

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by BFunk, Jan 17, 2013.

  1. BFunk

    BFunk Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Let's say I wanted to build a custom precision bass. Presumably there are a large number of builders that can produce one for me. I would have a very difficult time settling on one builder. For those that ordered custom builds, what made you pick one builder over another? I am interested in hearing what value(s) the builder brought to the piece that you felt the other builders did not offer. I am not asking for a comparison of builders. I believe there are many good ones out there. I just want to know what went into your decision making process.
  2. lfmn16


    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    There are a lot of good custom builders out there, but I really like Ben Lindsey. I'm not an official endorser, or in any way related other than a satisfied customer, but I like his basses enough that I strongly recommend them.

    I did a lot of research on TB and the way Ben bends over backwards to take care of his customers was was really sold me. I started with a reproduction of a Jaco Jazz bass. I liked that so much that I had him build a repro of an old Precision. Two of his Jazz basses became available on TB so I bought them and now he is working on a repro of a 1952 Precision with the tele headstock.

    I believe that if you read other threads on builds he has done for other TBers you will be impressed.

    This would be a good place to start: http://www.talkbass.com/forum/f8/ben-lindsey-custom-stang-bass-build-864619/
  3. BFunk

    BFunk Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    It wat a recent Ben Lindsey thread that got me thinking about this.
  4. steve f

    steve f Supporting Member

    Aug 16, 2009
    Toxic, Maryland
    Mike Lull and Carey Nordstrand would certainly do the job to most folks' satisfaction - exquisite workmanship, light weight, choice electronics, great customer service, good resale value. I love my vP5. Better yet if you find an 'already built' one that's close enough to your desired specs - quite a few change hands in the classifieds.
  5. What is it you actually want? The Precision is the most basic of basses so I'm thinking could you build your own dream precision from parts? You often see bodies and necks sold separately on ebay etc so you could hold out for whatever wood you want and then put the bass together. Get someone to do the paint job etc but the build would be excellent fun.

    PS I've spoken and dealt with Nordstrand and they are a wonderful company.

  6. Randyt

    Randyt RAAPT Custom Wood Productions

    Jul 21, 2010
    Barrie, Canada
    FBass artist Karel...just had a killer P-Bass made by George...but as stated...many great builders out there...play'em all!!!...then decide!
  7. George Mann

    George Mann Banned

    May 27, 2012
    My suggestion to you is to pick one that will make it to your specs.
  8. Green1


    Sep 23, 2010
    Scottsdale, AZ
    For me the most important thing is how the neck feels. I read alot of reviews where people said Nordstrand necks were superb.....they were right. I like the fact that I can get a one piece neck with single coils and then get a compound radius that gives it a flatter and more modern feel, I couldn't get that with a Lull, or Alleva or Sadowsky.......I'm more than pleased with Nordstrands product and customer service......great bunch of guys
  9. BFunk

    BFunk Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    That is why I am asking this question. The Precision is certainly a simple design. The Jazz is not much more complicated. So let's eliminate builders like Fedora for the purpose of this discussion, because they design and build very unique instruments. But, say for the jazz, there are just a ton of builders that would build you a very good jazz bass. So how do you decide which one? I mean we can all come up with a list of materials, neck shape, fingerboard radius, pickups, etc. I am sure most builders would agree to build the instrument to our specs. Did you pick a builder based on reputation? Recommendations from friends? Prior experience? Familiarity with your personal goals? Price? Location? Did you start with a long list of builders or a short one? Did you know exactly what you wanted or did that develop after talks with various builders? How many builders did you talk to? What was the single most critical element you used to choose this one builder over all the others?

  10. Jared Lash

    Jared Lash Born under punches Supporting Member

    Aug 21, 2006
    Northern California
    For a custom P or Jazz without major custom touches I suppose I'd just look for what I perceived to be the highest quality instrument that felt and sounded good in my hands in my price range.

    And I'd absolutely try and find a way to play as many contenders before plunking down a big chunk of change. After all, as you point out there's no shortage of builders doing their versions of P's and Jazzes.

    Personally I was drawn to customs because I wanted things that weren't commonly available which made my search much narrower.
  11. droskobass


    Oct 8, 2007
    Montreal, Canada
    Former Part-Time, Non-Commission Employee MOOG Audio
    there is nothing simple about a perfect fret job on a stable neck, that still sounds and feels like a vintage bass (that orginally never had a stable neck or perfect frets)

    it's an art and the level of work available today is at an all time high.

    That being said I would go for a Lull or Moollon. Lull offers way more colour, pickup hardware, fret size and electronics options, and has graphite reinforced necks and light weight hardware, but if you want nitro, quarter-sawn neck and upgraded macassr ebony fingerboard go with the Moollon (best value on earth for a hand crafted instriment that is going for the "pure" vintage vibe)

    But If you're in Rhode island you could look up old Angry Angus, I have one of his ALL Nitro PJ Basses (serial number #2) great bass!

    talk to him about neck size because he's not afraid to bolt a trunk of a neck on there but he will custom contour it anyway you like.

    Great basses, great skills, amazing light relic with crazing (checking) and for you it's buying locally and that's always good!

    Angry Angus Guitars look them up on facebook.
  12. phillybass101

    phillybass101 Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2011
    Artist, Trickfish Amplification Bartolini Emerging Artist, MTD Kingston Emerging Artist. Artist, Tsunami Cables
    I'll answer the OP's question without making any recommendations. Please remember this is for me. I choose to play on Brubakers. Why? The way they sound is what got me at first. I like wide flat necks, and low action and his basses deliver that. I like modern aggressive sounding basses. His basses do that and more. I like to be somewhat unique in my gear choice and and playing. IMO no other bass out there sounds like a Brubaker. Within a a few years I have developed a good relationship with Kevin Brubaker which only makes my committment to his basses even stronger. For me that Brubaker tone is the one I like and prefer. It's not for everybody but the OP asked what made us choose a particular builder. I am getting ready to place an order for a Brubaker KXB5. It's just that I've found my tone in playing Brubakers. They do it for me.
  13. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    This builder makes great sounding basses, including Ps and Js.
    He will not over charge you either and is extremely easy to communicate with.
    He also builds great sounding instruments. Second to none in that respect (imho).

  14. The only custom builders I've considered is Bravewood and Birdsong. They each have a unique offering that nobody else can match. Never seen repro vintage basses as convincing as Bravewood's, and he makes them by hand. And the Birdsong short-scales are without equal.
  15. SoVeryTired

    SoVeryTired Endorsing nothing, recommending much

    Jul 2, 2011
    Milton Keynes, UK
    Without recommendations, my choice was built on:

    Good reputation on TB from knowledgeable members
    Based in my country - no import duty or air freight costs
    Good body of work, well presented and pictured on a good website
    Forum presence of the builder - conducts himself well online
    Options available to perfectly meet my requirements
    A price within my budget and that compared very favourably to lesser alternatives
  16. BFunk

    BFunk Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Forum presence of the builder is an interesting one. I suppose you felt how he conducted himself in the forum would indicate how he will treat you as a customer.

  17. RS


    Aug 27, 2000
    Cleveland, OH
    I'd look at Valenti and John Kallas.
  18. T. Alan Smith

    T. Alan Smith Guest

    Sep 9, 2001
    I chose Skjold after playing a few to get some sort of judgment on consistency. The overall feel just fit me better than all the others I tried.
  19. SoVeryTired

    SoVeryTired Endorsing nothing, recommending much

    Jul 2, 2011
    Milton Keynes, UK
    Exactly. He posts progress pics, completed basses and occasional stock items for sale. This gave me an idea of his prices (before he set a cheaper range up with specific pricing). It showed me his work and him taking a bass from piece of wood to the finished article. It convinced me that I'd get good communication and progress updates - important for someone getting their first custom instrument. And it showed that he isn't a jerk who'd keep me hanging on for years or would ignore my specifications!
  20. ezstep


    Nov 25, 2004
    north Louisiana
    When I retired, I bought myself a retirement present - a custom bass. I have checked with a few people, but I kept going back to the Knuckle Guitar Works basses, which I had picked up and played in Nashville at a NAMM show many years ago. I met the builder, Skip Fantry of Seattle, and we actually have kept in touch over the years. I have certainly had no regrets in my decision. As the OP stated, picking out the materials, pups, colors, etc., are relatively easy. What impressed me was the stuff that I didn't think about.

    I decided to go passive, a more earthy, natural sound - the way it used to be. I called up Skip to check about routing out room for the pre-amp in case I changed my mind, and Skip had already done that. I have a perfectly suitable, empty chamber to add whichever pre- I decide to get. (After owning this bass for over a year, I can honestly tell you that I will NOT be adding a pre-amp - it sounds great as is!!!).

    I decided to go P/J, which seems to be a great compromise IMHO. Skip went with soapbox covers and routed out the space to change it to P/P, J/J, M/M, P/M, J/M, or any combination thereof. The space is there. All I would do is remove the cover and swap the pup - no routing necessary.

    I have large hands. Most of my basses are 34" scale, but one MTD Kingston is 35" scale with a great, wide neck. I ended up with a 35.5" scale, which is great for my hands. It wasn't so much what I (the buyer) thought of - it was just as much what the builder had already thought of. He was light years ahead of me.

    The fit, the finish, the neck, the ergonomics, the sound, the weight, etc., are IMHO near perfect. If I lived next door to Skip and saw him on a daily basis, the bass would have turned out exactly the same - near perfect. I would use Skip again and recommend him to everyone. I'll post a couple of photos when I get home.