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Custom Basses = Long waits and hassles?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by purfektstranger, Feb 1, 2006.

  1. purfektstranger


    Apr 10, 2003
    Perhaps just coincidence but there appears to be quite a few
    TB ers out there currently in limbo waiting for their custom order basses which haven't been delivered on time. In many of these personal accounts there seems to be a lack of customer service or at least good communication on the part of the seller. Unanswered emails and calls etc seem to be common occurences. Are custom basses in such high demand that builders oversell themselves and can't deliver?

    I have never ordered a custom made bass but would like the opinions of my fellow TB ers who have, as to whether or not the wait and the communication hassles are a normal part of the purchase. :eyebrow:
  2. fretlessrock

    fretlessrock Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2002
    My experience = normal. And it isn't always a case of a luthier overextending themselves. It can be supplies, changes in the spec during the construction process, etc... Having a custom instrument is like having a painting comissioned. It is not like buying off the rack. If you can't tolerate any slack in a production schedule, don't go custom.
  3. D.A.R.K.


    Aug 20, 2003
    custom basses are like building homes...
    the schedule will change. there's alot of things to deal with, every step effects the next.
    the key is to use a general contractor(luthier) that is on-site and keeps you informed through regular communication.
  4. Figjam


    Aug 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    Id rather have them take extra time than rush it.
  5. bikeplate

    bikeplate Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2001
    Upstate NY

    Sorta like getting an ETA from a body shop. Never believe it.

    Overall, Ive been pleased with my special orders. No need in pushing the builder. Let him do his thing and be patient. Never have had a problem with communication. This includes Sadowsky, Spector, Lull, and Roscoe. All were easy to get a hold of and all were great answering questions. Make sure you order the bass u like from the builder u like regardless of cost. Dont choose someone else over a few dollars

  6. SBassman


    Jun 8, 2003
    Northeast, US
    My experience was really positive. But, I definitely did not hold the builder to any timetable. He delivered when he could.

    That's the way custom building goes. You really don't want to rush a custom.
  7. Beleive it or not, I actually received a custom bass EARLY once, lol! Way back in the early 90s, ordered a custom Chaparral 8 string from Hamer and was told it would take 9 - 12 months to build. I received said bass after only 5 months! Who'd have thunk it!
  8. Wilbyman


    Sep 10, 2003
    Parkersburg, WV
    I've custom ordered a few basses. My Roscoe was the fastest, easiest and most successful. I think it was done in 3 months on the dot, maybe a little less. Blindingly quick...and it's a keeper.
  9. That's the wrong way to look at it.

    I have only had one custom bass built for me and it went slightly over schedule, but I was in contact with the builder who answered every email and sent me pics along the process. I would have to say it was a very good experience that was well worth the wait. I would much rather him take the extra time and get his best work than rush him through it.

    I agree that the wait time on some manufactures are long, but you are getting a one of a kind instrument that is built the exact way you want it and it's hard to compare it against something you will get off a wall at your local store.

    I'm guessing this question has come from the Rick Turner thread. It's the first time I have heard of his problem. No doubt he has a glitch in his customer relations that need to be taken care of.

    I like to believe that most custom builders have a better system in place and are more up front with how long your instrument will take and let you know about any delays. If a long wait is going to be a hassle to you, and probably waiting longer than expected will make you frustrated than you should probably reconsider going custom and find one used.

    To me, it's well worth the wait.
  10. adept_inept


    Jan 9, 2006
    i may soon be a custom bass commisioner, and i definitely feel that it is not for those who are going to rush a luthier or have no patience. you can't rush art.

    therefore, i'd be willing to take any changes in time necessary for my bass to be the best it can. and IMO its definitely worth the wait, and the hassle is not large if you realize what you are getting.
  11. GSRLessard14

    GSRLessard14 All-Things-Claypool Enthusiast

    Jun 23, 2005
    Newington, CT
    I'm too tired to go into detail right now... but it's well known that when Carl Thompson makes you a bass, it's nothing but an amazing experience. I'm going to visit him for his birthday this weekend to see his gig and shop!:hyper: :hyper:
  12. purfektstranger


    Apr 10, 2003
    'That's the wrong way to look at it.'

    Actually it was a question and not a statement. I am looking into ordering a custom bass but didn't realise that essentially there is no guarantee as to when it will be ready. I guess you really can't rush something like that but it would be nice to know the worst case delivery date scenario. I could then expect the longest wait and if it arrived before that time it would be a bonus!
    You custom guys must have patience to spare.....
  13. JPJ


    Apr 21, 2001
    Chicago, IL
    As with many "custom" products, be prepared to wait. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. :smug: One factor that can impact time is if something is truely "custom". If the builder is trying to execute something that s/he has never done before, even it it isn't necessarily difficult, the ramp-up and prep time can take a while. Sometimes personal lives can create complications with the build schedule, sometimes other vendors can create delays (by dealing with their own delays), and sometimes wearing too many hats can take time away from building.

    The issue isn't necessarily one of being overwhelmed, but if a builder receives countless e-mails and phone calls a day (often asking questions that can be answered by dealers, websites, and research at TB), that is time that is NOT spent building basses. Of course, the catch 22 is that if time is spent actually building BASSES and not answering phone calls and e-mails, you end up with a critical internet threads calling into question one's customer service skills. It really is a tough situation when custom, detailed work, demanding customers, success, commitment to excellence, a tight budget, and few/no employees all meet at the same point. ;)

    Having a custom, or customizable, bass built (and I make a large distinction between the two) does not necessarily result in hassles, nor does it have to result in a long wait. Hassles and long waits are not inherently part of the process, and you'll hear a LOT of fellow TBers tell stories (as some already have) about receiving basses slightly early, right on time, or jus slightly behind schedule. However, it is very possible that hassles and/or delays can factor into the equation, so you should prepar yourself for that fact in advance. :)
  14. bikeplate

    bikeplate Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2001
    Upstate NY

    If you have a couple other basses, there shouldnt be an issue. Just be patient, let them do their thing. Who will be building it for u?

  15. fretlessrock

    fretlessrock Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2002
    I think that a good analogy (not perfect, but good) is watching one of the Custom Chopper shows. You could go to a dealer and buy a new bike, premade, off the floor. Cash money, drive it away. You could get a factory bike customized. A little wait, but the majority of the work is already done. Or you can go for a custom built from the ground up. That takes time and handling multiple jobs is only a small time savings.

    Getting a luthier to build you a bass from the ground up, even if it is a "standard" model, means that everything but the templates is being built from raw materials. I wish the Bunnybass luthier tours were still around. They did one on Zon and one on Rob Allen and you can see how very different a handbuilt bass can be approached.

    If anyone knows if that stuff is still online, I'd love to know about it.
  16. Rodent

    Rodent A Killer Pickup Line™ Commercial User

    Dec 20, 2004
    Upper Left Corner (Seattle)
    Player-Builder-Founder: Honey Badger Pickups & Regenerate Guitar Works
    from the builder's pov, there can be many unexpected things outside of their control that extend the time required to deliver a bass up to their set quality level. it's also quite possible for a slip of a tool to force them to start from the beginning on a component - like routing the control cavity and setting the depth to 5/32" vs 3/32" - that 1/16" may not be critical in some places, but if it leaves the top at only 1/8" thick over the control cavity ... well, it's just a little to thin for my liking and must be 'fixed' or started again from the beginning.

    it could also be that a vendor promised the p/u's would be delivered on xxx date, and then actually delivered three months late - definitely out of the builder's control, but still they're the one held accountable by the end customer.

    for all of the limitless possibilities that could be out there, I can guarantee that most builders aren't intentionally holding back your new bass. to do so would be financial suicide. they need to get basses delivered on schedule to make a living at building more basses ... every day a bass is delayed is an extra day before the next one can be started. add one day delay to each month's run of production and you lose almost two weeks of production time in a year!

    this is why it's great to utilize someone like Jay (BHB) as your ordering source - Jay has a relationship with the builders he's associated with, and they have a vested interest in keeping him current on what's happening in their shop. Jay can also field numerous customer correspondences to a specific builder from many customers in a single call - and allow the builder more time to work on instruments (which improves delivery schedules) ... and it seems logical that a builder would find it useful to have someone good with customer PR to be fielding their customer inquiries as well

    so all three entities come out ahead :bassist:

    all the best,

  17. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2003
    Fremont, Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    There are some good storys out there, too. My first custom bass, a Skjold Custom 5, was delivered within 4 months or so, and this is with Pete having to redo a batch of necks (no big problem, but they weren't perfect, so he redid every one of them). My second bass from Pete took a bit longer, but that's because I told him to back burner mine in order to get some other things done. It was worth the wait (still only about 6 months). My chambered MTD 535 (Marilyn #3) was done way ahead of schedule. I'm not sure that Mike spent even two months on that bass! And my Sadowsky 25th Anniversary was also delivered ahead of schedule.

    So yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and sometimes custom basses do not equate to long waits and hassles. :smug:


    JJBACOOMBA Commercial User

    May 31, 2005
    San Antonio, Texas
    Lecompte Bass Owners Club Member #2
    I ordered a Lecompte VB5 fretless and it was done in the time Bud said it would be.3 months!! I had every confidence in him and he was great to work with through the entire build.Great communication via emails and the phone.Progress pics!I was lucky with the time frame as I have sen some stories here that had guys waiting double and triple the time I did. But thats what happens when you order a custom bass. All that should matter is that you are confident with the builder, and that playable art takes time. You will be pleased with the outcome. I know I am. My Lecopmpte VB5 review is in the Gear reviews section.Good luck!!
  19. Holmann


    Dec 23, 2005
    Ashland, WI
    I'm pretty far from being a master builder,(12-15 instruments a year) so my shop experience may not be relevant, but in my opinion the very nature of custom instruments makes garunteeing a finish date a little dicey. I'm doing an eight string (octaves) right now that is taking way longer than just knocking out a "standard model" has ever taken. The woodworking is no more difficult, but never having used this particular hardware or these dimensions before causes delays. For starters, I realized I didn't have anything in stock wide enough to make the fingerboard out of- I knew right where to get it, but presto- there's a week gone. I press my frets in, and realized that my 12 degree caul wasn't wide enough for this application- there goes another week waiting to get a new one made. The ABM bridge going on this thing is making me a little leery- I don't see how there is enough range of travel to intonate properly- no prob, I'll make a quick "test body" out of a 1X8 & string it up- oh crap, I don't keep eight string sets in stock- there's another week gone. If the part I'm waiting for happens to come in when I'm in the middle of a different guitar, it's unlikely that I'm going to drop everything, retool, and jump right in on the eight string. I'm disorganized, sure but I make nice stuff & deliver as soon as I can. Disorganization isn't malice. On the other hand, if someone wants a Jazz bass knockoff with hipshot hardware (see avatar), I can go from raw lumber to ready to spray in a few days. Custom means you can't just go buy one- someone has to figure out how to make it.

    Sorry for the ramble, it's been an awful day & i'm more frazzled than usual.
  20. Holmann, yours is a particularly illustrative post. I'm waiting on my second Stambaugh- both times he's been way off on ETA, but has kept me totally informed, & as the first was absolutely worth the wait, I expect nothing less this time around. If you're having a custom built, you very likely have a bass of some sort already anyway.