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Do you reccomend a fretless or fretted as a first bass building venture?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by learning_towalk, Apr 22, 2004.

  1. hey guys,
    This summer my art teacher (who used to be a banjo luthier) and I are gonna work on building a bass...more or less he will be teaching me how to use the different tools (correctly) how to glue, how to inlay,how to use a router,apply a finish, stuff like that...and he said that he'll take me through the process of building, but wants me to do most of the actual work since lutherie is an art form that I really REALLY want to develop...We have started drawing out plans for the bass but I was wondering with this being my (and his) first Bass would it be better to start out making a fretless or a fretted?

    so far the bass we want to build is...

    body: Coco Bolo top over walnut with purple heart runners,single cut away body

    neck: Neck Through 35" scale, 6 string, 19mm spacing (i have big hands),still trying to decide on the wood I'm thinking wenge with a pao ferro fret board,and purple heart runners up the back of the neck, abalogne quarter moon inlays

    pickups: 2 Bartolini J pickups
    Preamp: I'd love to get my hands on a Fodera Mike Pope, but may just go with an Aggie OB3,want to wire it for 18volt
    nut: graphite
    bridge: wilkinson, I believe is what I want...the type that is on US made Spectors.

    that's just a quick run through of what we're wanting to build.

    Sorry for going on and on, I'm just excited about it...because it's my dream to one day have my own lutherie buisness...and I know full well that my first bass may not turn out...i'm fine with that, i'm just excited abuot gaining experience building
    I'm not affraid to lose the money if it doesn't turn out, because I have a good job and no bills (full time student living at home for college)
    also do you have any good tips for building a first bass?
  2. I'm in the same boat as you, sans the art teacher. My plans are to go fretless. My reasoning is that I want a fretless, and it avoids the fretwork. A lot of it depends on your goal. If you plan on making fretted instruments, go ahead and try it out... I'm not planning to make anythign but fretless basses, so I'm just not worrying about it.

    (this part's just for fun)
    My bass is/will be a 5 peice wenge/ph neck through, 5 string, body will be quilted maple front and back with a ph core and cherry laminates. I'm using the obp3 and a bartolini j for neck and a MM for for the bridge pickup. I'm planning on wiring a push pull volume switch to select between paralel and series on the MM pup. And as stated earlier, it will be fretless, ebony fb.

    Peace :smug:
  3. Trevorus


    Oct 18, 2002
    Urbana, IL
    If you are doing the fretwork yourself, then I would reccoment fretless. But even with that, the fingerboard has got to be very even and smooth. But it might be a bit easier than getting frets to lay right. But if you are up for the experiment and challenge, then go ahead with frets. Since your teacher is most likely experienced with frets, that would not be a bad way to go. I would love to see how this turns out. Sounds like a beautiful bass.
  4. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Build whichever you think you would like more. Every step of the way is going to be a learning experience, so if you want a fretted bass and don't mind a few extra steps, fret this one.

    If I were you, I'd stay away from cocobolo on your first bass. It's a pain to work and will make your 1st bass more difficult in many ways: it doesn't glue well, it doesn't take penetrating finishes well, it can cup or warp after sawing and is hard to straighten out, it loads sandpaper, and the dust is as irritating as any wood out there.
  5. Trevorus


    Oct 18, 2002
    Urbana, IL
    going with what fbb said, I would probably go without the cobolo top. It would be beautiful without that top, and you'd really see your laminate work.
  6. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Aye to that!
    Frets do add a few working steps, and require some special tooling = more expensive and more time.
    But the effort on details will be equal.

    Build what you want to play!
  7. ok excellent...thanks a lot...I'm looking at maybe just doing a curly walnut instead of the cocobolo...I can't wait to get started...he and I are gonna start truely planning today...should be great!
  8. Diek


    May 25, 2003
    I'm going to be building a bass this summer as well and I'm going to make it fretted. My reason is, I'm going to have to learn how to do fretwork eventually, so I might as well start now.

    If I had a limited time or budget (I already have the big tools, so a few specialty tools won't break the bank), I'd probably go fretless to save a few hours and dollars.

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