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Cost to build a bass

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by KingRazor, Jun 3, 2011.

  1. Assuming you already had all the tools you needed, how much does it cost most of you guys to build a bass from scratch?

    For simplicity's sake, let me narrow that down to: How much would it cost the average person (not someone who has access to OEM prices for stuff) to build a P bass?

    Again, from scratch. That means you wind the pickups yourself. You carve the pickguard. Pots, jack, etc... would be bought, from wherever. Hardware can be bought or hand made. Truss rod and nut would probably be bought I assume, but if you're capable of making them yourself, factor that in.

    How much does it cost to build a bass from scratch?
  2. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    It's just to hard to make the generalization, you have everything from the type of wood that alters cost for every different species to the type of wire you use for pickups be it single ply enamel, formvar, heavy formvar, urethane. Etc. The range for somebody with all of the equipment could be anywhere from $350 to $1000 all depending on the choices made.
  3. pacojas

    pacojas "FYYA BUN"

    Oct 11, 2009
    i'm sure the absolute raw materials would be very inexpensive. if you look at an "average" bass with a few dollars for lumber, metal, and plastic.

    i guess,... $20-30. :bag:

    (minus the man-hours)
  4. If it's just an alder P bass with the standard vol/tone setup, do you think there could still be that wide of a range?
  5. Jazzdogg

    Jazzdogg Less barking, more wagging!

    Jul 29, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    I'm in the process of budgeting my next build, and I expect my cost to exceed $1,000 for a five-string fretless with a Hipshot piezo bridge, Hipshot HB6Y tuning machines, and bartolini electronics.

    A passive four-string with an inexpensive bridge would cost less, but you'll never really know what the total cost will be until you make a detailed list and start shopping prices.
  6. mikeyswood

    mikeyswood Banned

    Jul 22, 2007
    Cincinnati OH
    Luthier of Michael Wayne Instruments
    Raw materials?

    I can get carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen for free. The other elements may be a bit pricier such as some transition metals, but otherwise it should be about ~$23.4751 for a bass.
  7. allexcosta


    Apr 7, 2004

    A Noble pot or a Switchcraft jack costs 9 bucks each plus shipping. You can buy Chinese pots and jack for 40 cents. Quality tuners cost 25 bucks each. Chinese ones go for 6 dollars...

    Right there you have a 120 bucks difference...

    Then there's the bridge, conductive paint, screws, carbon rods, string tree, neck plate, finish, etc. etc. etc...

    If the fretboard is to be real Brazilian Rosewood you may add 600 bucks or more than a maple board...
  8. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    That's the problem with this theory, there are so many small things that go into it, and you take out work hours, you can have $150 worth of materials, but if you don't have the knowledge, skill and time to do the work, you have dumpster filler. Raw materials is a pointless comparative because it takes knowledge, skill and most of all WORK to do the woodwork, to do all of the gluing, to wind the pickups, to make the pickguard, to shape and slot the nut, etc. Etc. It can be presumed at any cost level to acquire materials, and material cost is subjective to locale. I get maple and Alder here in Michigan a lot cheaper than most in non forrestry states. Just so many parameters to making an evaluation.
  9. Rene


    Mar 8, 2004
    I guess you never made a bass of your life

  10. pacojas

    pacojas "FYYA BUN"

    Oct 11, 2009


    btw, awesome site!!! :hyper:
  11. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Thank you, Mikey. :)
  12. Hi.

    Like others have said, too many variables.

    Well, I have, and if all the corners were cut, $30 should be doable, even $20. FOR THE MATERIALS.

    That would require the only store bought item to be the ~$3 strings though.

    One could argue about the point of such a build though, since doubling the budget would mean a vast improvement on the quality.

    The tools needed for making a very low cost instrument would also be quite expensive, so unless a relative grants an access to their fully equipped wood shop, the tools required wouldcost 30 or 40 times the materials for the instrument. Which is rather normal though.

    If I was to make such an instrument, it'd have a headless design, piezo bridge, home made tuners and it'd be fretless.

  13. of course you could go dumpster diving and get all the wood for free......

    kill a giraffe and hack up a leg to get some nice dense bone for a nut......

    you could sell giraffe steaks and actually come out ahead
  14. miziomix

    miziomix Über on my mind Commercial User

    Sep 28, 2009
    Milan, Kuala Lumpur, Paris.
    Bass builder @ MüB.
    Hey Kingrazor, mate...the variables are just too many.

    Perhaps the best thing you can do is to set your expectations as far as the final quality is concerned. That is, the real deal or China-whatever-made lookalikes? Durable, quality parts cost money as you know and that will definitely affect the final result and the cost of it.

    From there you'll set your budget for p-ups, hardware, knobs, tuners, bridge, truss rod, knobs. That's the easy part ;)

    With that figure in mind, you can then decide how much you can/want to invest in the woods. That can really go from quite affordable - hardly a 30 bucks thing though - to very expensive. I would never build a bass with dirt cheap wood. Not even to learn. It's not worth the time, efforts and it won't give you joy to play it.

    Probably for a no frills P bass you're looking at 300/400$ investment - as Musiclogic advised.

    Keep us in the loop OK? :D
  15. Meatrus


    Apr 5, 2009
    Forgive me if its a silly question....but why dont you price up the bits for a P bass your self? With the exception of winding your own pickup you should be able to get most, if not all of the stuff at Stew Mac. Go to their website with a calculator and mystery solved.
  16. allexcosta


    Apr 7, 2004
  17. headlikeahole

    headlikeahole Commercial User

    Oct 31, 2009
    Manchester, NH
    Owner: Zoov Custom Guitars
    could end up costing you thousands if you consider the chance you become addicted to the art :)
  18. Jerry Callo

    Jerry Callo Banned

    May 23, 2011

    Wow. Of course, the neck is probably crap and it has no finish on it.

    I built a J bass from various parts -- all new, and it cost about $500 for something slightly above the quality of a MIM -- not a huge savings but I got what I wanted and it was a fun project. It came out well, played great, but I sold it anyway. (For $500) Just didn't love the tone. That's something you never know until it's done.
  19. DWBass

    DWBass The Funkfather

    I'm in the process of building a 5 string jazz bass. Just grabbed a Mighty Mite neck for $105. Unfinished Poplar body for about $60. US Hipshot hardware (aprox. $200) and EMG setup (aprox. $200+) will cost the most.
  20. In another vein: if you're asking for the purposes of saving money by building your own - it won't work out to your advantage.

    Realistically, if you buy new hardware, a routed-out body and a pre-fab neck, you're gonna be into it about $250.00 if the neck is decent enough. A GREAT neck will cost that or more all by itself.

    Besides the tools/machines for cutting, sanding, routing, planing, painting the body and the hand tools to dress frets and painting gear (HVLPs are great for this work).

    Then there's the compressor for the air tools and painting and a decent place to do the actual work without having to disturb it all when you need to park your car in the shop or change the sheets to sleep inn the bed that you are using for a workbench.

    My first build actually cost me about $250.00 including a pre-fab body and decent neck with all the hardware and even the strings.

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