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FAQs for all: New builders READ THIS!!!

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Basschair, Jan 24, 2006.

  1. Basschair

    Basschair .............. Supporting Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    Stockton, Ca
    Quick update: if you are having issues related to bass setup, repair, or electronics, your posts will be forwarded to the correct forum. While the regulars here can help, the focus of this forum is on the build.

    Hi all,

    So, here is the beginning of a FAQ section for the Luthier’s Forum. In it you will find information on some of the most basic topics to help you get started on your project. As of yet, it is not comprehensive, nor is it really intended to be. It is here simply as a resource/reminder for those of you just starting out. To get one thing out of the way immediately: I’m not a professional builder. I’m a novice who really enjoys making basses for myself. These links are ones which I found very helpful, or would have found helpful at the time. Also, I have no affiliation, financially or otherwise, with any of the contributors or businesses mentioned.

    I took it upon myself to put this together for a few reasons, mainly because there’s always folks coming through this forum who have legitimate questions, but may be having some difficulty in finding the right answers. There are also regulars who find themselves answering the same questions multiple times: hopefully this will help to cut down on the need for the “Hey, use the search function!” replies ; ) .

    In putting this together, I may well have not included something that you feel is valid. Please feel free to let me know about applicable threads/resources, and I’d be happy to add them. If you see that I’ve linked to threads that you started and/or contributed to, please know that you have my sincere gratitude for being an active part of the Talk Bass Luthier’s Corner, and that your help is appreciated!

    By the way: you may notice that I added commentary here and there. Any opinions which I’ve added are my own, and hopefully won’t offend anyone (I don’t think I said anything bad).

    What is NOT Covered:

    Information on pickups (“pups”), electronics, strings, and the like will not be covered here, as there are other forums/sub-forums at Talk Bass which are dedicated to those topics…you can find those here:

    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=16 (strings)

    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=38 (pickups and electronics)

    This is not to say that useful information can’t be found in the Luthier’s Forum on these topics, but for now I’ll defer to those two other forums.


    One question that continuously pops up (in various wordings) is basically this: “What tools would I (a first-timer) need to get my hands on in order to make this bass?” Well, there’s quite a bit to consider: physical space of where you’ll be working, the amount of money you want to spend, your experience level, electrical outlets available to you, etc, etc.

    Before following the links which I’ve included below, give some consideration to the topics mentioned above, as well as the following: for almost all power tools, there are hand tools that will accomplish the same tasks. Also, while some tools are very task-specific, there are others that can cover a wide variety of uses (i.e.: a drill press can also be used to hollow out lots of material while creating control cavities, and can also do a decent job of shaping if you use the right attachment).

    Basic functions that you’ll need to be able to do with tools (assuming you don’t outsource the labor): cutting (as in cutting out your body shape from a body blank), drilling, contouring/shaping (I used a really good rasp, files, and cabinet scrapers for this: total cost was about $80 and significant elbow grease), gluing, and creation of cavities for electronics, pickups, etc. For creating cavities, a good router is really the most efficient way to go, though I strongly suggest that you get some training or get someone to help you out the first time if you don’t already know how to use one. As far as gluing goes, I’ve got one word for you: CLAMPS, CLAMPS, CLAMPS. Okay, that wasn’t one word, but hopefully you get the point. Finally, give serious consideration to SAFETY. Just because a hardware store will sell tools to most anyone, that doesn’t mean you know what you’re doing. Please get some help, and please be careful!

    I wasn’t planning on rambling on for that long…sorry about that. At any rate, below are the links to threads on tools and tool use, with their thread titles listed.

    “The shop tools thread”
    This one has some great lists of tools that the contributors are using in their shops.

    This one also gives ideas on what people are using, though it is
    a) less comprehensive
    b) lists some less conventional tools

    “Essential Tools?”
    The title says it all, and there are yet again some good lists.

    “Advice on these used tools in paper”
    This one is good for the following reason: it discusses prices on used tools, and what may or may not be a good idea to buy based on brand, price, or the viability of that type of used tool.

    “Absolutely Necessary Tools”
    Good for those on a budget? Perhaps…there’re some good descriptions of what you’ll need to be able to do while building a bass and what tools are appropriate. It’s probably not comprehensive, but it’s a good place to start.

    “Tool questions”

    "Okay, talk me into a fret press system"


    There seems to be a general attitude around here that a hand-held router is one of the absolute best power tools for your shop. It’s also one of the most dangerous and capable of doing serious damage to both you and your project. Get some training! Also, read through these links listed in the search for some general information on the suggested horse power, router bits, etc.

    Here’s a link on getting started with a router (you’ll need Acrobat reader for it):
    I suggest you save it to your computer and then open it from there…it’s a big file.

    Here's a thread on router bits: http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=370061

    Here is a link provided by Jazzdogg to a website which discusses routers/routing:

    So, that should get you started as far as information on tools goes. I just went to the search page, put in tool, and got 232 threads. For “tools” I got 390 threads. In other words, if these five didn’t have an answer for you, I strongly urge you to go to the following link and to type in some keywords…please!

    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/search.php?f=57 (luthier’s corner advanced search)

    Shops & Shop Setup:

    Here are some general links on putting together/outfitting your shop. The first link is to Mark Campellone’s website. He’s a guitar maker (heaven forbid), but the link is to a tour of his workshop. It’s very well set up, and he makes good use of space, and has a great overall system put together.

    http://www.campelloneguitars.com/tour.htm Campellone Guitars

    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=215233&highlight=shop (TB comments on Campellone’s shop pics)

    “Building a Shop”
    This is a great TB thread on outfitting a shop within the constraints a proposed budget. Yes, there’s a lot of discussion regarding tools, but there’s some interesting posts on other aspects of the shop as well: lighting, flooring, ventilation, and other suggestions. A+ thread!

    “New bass in the works, shop pics, new press & more!”
    More great pictures of Scott French’s workshop and some fantastic product images!

    “The shop tools thread”
    I’ve already mentioned this one in the “tools” section, but it deserves repeating…great pics of workrooms.

    “Shop Pics”
    Yes, again, some great pics, and links to a tour of Ken Smith’s operation. Top notch.


    Keep It Safe, Stupid! The K.I.S.S. acronym (slightly altered) applies here as well. A few days ago, I was reading through a thread and saw that someone mentioned how there “aren’t many 3 fingered bassists out there” today. I imagine that there probably are, but they aren’t very good…

    Rather than go off on a rant about how each tool should be used properly, and how you can become horribly mangled, let’s leave it at this: woodworking tools are made to cut, carve, burn, or otherwise remove wood. Your flesh is softer than wood. Imagine what these tools will do to your flesh. Please, when in doubt, get some training at a local school, woodshop, etc, or from someone who knows more than you do!

    Go back to this thread and scan through it for the mention of safety in your shop:

    There are some basic items and ideas that you can use to keep yourself from common harm:
    1. A respirator or a respiration filter mask that has replaceable filters is really a good idea. You don’t want to find out the hard way that you’re allergic to certain types of wood dust.
    2. Floor mats, for those long hours of standing and to add a little grip beneath your feet.
    3. Fire extinguisher
    4. Proper lighting
    5. Proper ventilation
    6. Cordless/corded phone. God forbid you actually are put into an emergency situation where you need to call 911. This may be a bit paranoid, but I’d like a phone there just in case I need to.
    7. Ear plugs or ear muffs. You’d be amazed at the amount of noise your band saw (or planer, jointer, etc) will produce.

    At any rate, I just thought I’d throw that in there. Here’s some various threads on safety-related topics:

    "Hidden Dangers: Shop Safety Thread"

    “Wood working facemasks”
    Good for specific mask suggestions.

    “Learning to use a router?”
    Good tips!

    Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of safety-related threads here that I’ve found, though that’s probably because it’s been assumed that people have some level of woodworking ability and knowledge of safety in the shop. Do yourself a favor and Google the keywords “wood shop safety” and read what comes up. And anyone who wants to contribute more on safety, please do so.


    “Will (enter name of wood) give me a (enter descriptor) tone?”

    There's been lots of discussion on the topic. I don’t have the experience of others around here, and arguments can be made for various types of wood leading to various types of resulting tones. Still, there are many factors that contribute to what sound will come out of your amp once you plug in your finished product. So, do some reading and see for yourself. Or post and see what happens…;)

    Here's a link to Ken Smith's different wood species:

    As far as where to get woods, there’s lots of resources online (and perhaps locally to you). One of which is Gallery Hardwoods at www.galleryhardwoods.com . Larry is a great guy, an absolute professional, and his wood supply is top-notch. However, when it comes time to order, do it through the G. Hardwoods website, not in the forum!

    The following is a link to an Luthier's Corner thread that includes multiple external links to sites which help in researching wood types and facts:

    I encourage you to do a Google search to see what else is out there. I won’t mention specific sites other than Larry’s simply because he’s paid for the right to advertise here at TB. They are out there, you just need to look.

    Parts List:

    Please refer to the “Books” section below for reading materials which do a great job of listing exactly what you’ll need, in detail. Or, I guess you could email me…depending on what I’ve got going on at that moment, I could give you a rundown.

    Designing, Pencil/paper, CAD:

    There are many different methods to designing your build, probably as many methods as there are builders. The two approaches that come to mind are 1) putting pencil to paper (old fashioned, just like I like it) and 2) CAD, which is software that you can use to create scale drawings. I’m absolutely non-versed in CAD, so I’ll wait until someone contributes their know-how. In the meantime, go to the search page and use CAD as a keyword in the Luthier's Corner.

    Here’s my approach to design: like I mentioned, I dig the pencil/paper approach. I use butcher paper and draw a straight line, about 46 inches or so. I mark off the scale length (for me, 34 inches). At one end, I create a perpendicular line the length of the nut (pre-determined); at the other end, a perpendicular line which represents where the string breaks on the bridge saddle. This line becomes my “centerline,” or “line of symmetry,” or whatever moniker tickles my fancy at that moment. Around this line, I add the bridge drawing (with saddles), a nut with slots, drawings of the “strings” and the resulting taper. I create another perpendicular line representing the body end of the fingerboard. Once done, I create a mock drawing of the fingerboard’s appropriate taper, depending upon the taper of the strings from nut to bridge. Once all this is done, I begin to hash out a body design.

    Keep in mind that this approach was what I came up with. It may be long-winded, time-consuming, and all that, but I like the attention to detail which I put in to it. So, if you don’t like it, keep it to yourself : ) .

    How to's, Pictorials, and Finishing:
    All the links which were originally posted here have been moved to their own sticky in order to free up a bit of space:
    How-to sticky


    Building Electric Guitars: How to Make Solid-Body, Hollow-Body and Semi-Acoustic Electric Guitars and Bass Guitars
    by Martin Koch
    Martin Koch's website

    Make Your Own Electric Guitar
    by Melvyn Hiscock

    To a lesser extent (though I found it useful):

    Make Your Own Electric Guitar & Bass
    by Dennis Waring, David Raymond

    A list of fellow TB luthiers

    Other sites on lutherie:


    Resources for parts:


    So, I rushed a little bit at the end here and may have left out a few things. Please PM me if you have ideas, or post in one of the other FAQ-related threads here to remind me. Thank you for your patience as this gets edited/revised. In the meantime, I sincerely hope that anyone who is new to bass-making finds something helpful in this thread! Of course, if you don't, you could always
  2. Basschair, please include the link to the wfret utility. It's been a huge time saver for me and I'm sure it'll be for others. It's a windows only tool, but it works wonders on printing fret scale templates. Trust me, they are accurate. (do a google search on it).
  3. Basschair

    Basschair .............. Supporting Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    Stockton, Ca

    Got it...thanks!
  4. Also, FretFind.

    Example results, for a 34" scale, 1.5" nut, 4-string bass:Example
  5. Basschair

    Basschair .............. Supporting Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    Stockton, Ca

    got it too, thanks!
  6. Wow, you're fast!
  7. Basschair

    Basschair .............. Supporting Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    Stockton, Ca

  8. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    wow, man, very thorough. nice! :hyper:
  9. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
    Nice that you put it together! I'm glad I could be of help :)
  10. Basschair

    Basschair .............. Supporting Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    Stockton, Ca
    Well, I've run into the 20,000 character wall, meaning that I can't add anything else until I get a chance to go back and remove some wordy intros and such. In the meantime, here's one from Phil, and don't forget Wilser's latest link above.

  11. EBMatt


    Nov 21, 2003
    Springfield, MA
    This is great thanks :bassist:
  12. Kronos


    Dec 28, 2005
    Philadelphia, PA
    FYI..Hambone's Photo Tip link has been moved. To where? I don't know.
  13. Bassic83


    Jul 26, 2004
    Texas, USSA
    http://www.dguitarparts.com has a lot of parts. Decent prices, and if you get stuck, I can go yell at them for you! I know who they are and where they live! :)
  14. Basschair

    Basschair .............. Supporting Member

    Feb 5, 2004
    Stockton, Ca

    Think I fixed it...sorry about that.

    If links go bad, just let me know and I'll take care of it. Thanks!
  15. teej


    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    Wait, you mean there's finally a sticky in the luthier's forum? Has heck frozen over? How long was I asleep, seriously? While we're at it, perhaps we can get the "Where's the beef?" thread made into a sticky. >>hint hint<< :smug:
  16. Don Bolonk

    Don Bolonk

    Mar 20, 2006
    Does anyone know how big is the hartke vx115 rear port?
  17. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
  18. Luke Sheridan

    Luke Sheridan Commercial User

    Dec 30, 2004
    Yonkers, NY
    I build guitars and sell them. Strings, too
  19. john turner

    john turner You don't want to do that. Trust me. Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2000
    atlanta ga
    new link added for set neck building. check it out. :hyper: :cool: