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Finished my first bass, learned some lessons.

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Hookus, Oct 31, 2005.

  1. Hookus


    Oct 2, 2005
    Austin, TX
    Well, finished my first bass, a 4 string fretless. I will post pics soon. Used a Warmoth neck, simply because I don't know how to make my own. Anyway, some of the lessons I learned...

    1. Spare no expense on the right tools. While you can definitely do things with other than the right tools, it will take longer, and is more potentially damaging to your instrument.

    2. Don't try to hand drill anything. Make a jig, and use a drill press. Crooked holes suck.

    3. Don't make a bass with lots of horizontal lines for your first time, lining up the neck, bridge, and strings so they look right will frustrate the crap out of you.

    4. Oversized pickup cavities are better than tight ones. They will at least let your pickups move up and down easily, also, don't hand drill the screw holes. See lesson 2.

    5. Unless you want to waste days and money, don't try to finish the parts unless you have the right stuff, location, and skill to do it. It will suck to finish the body, then screw up the finish.

    6. Don't get careless placing the tuning pegs. With a flat head, you can get away with very little string to peg angle from the nut than you can with an angled head. Otherwise, you MUST use a string tree, whether you want to or not.

    Anyway, those are som, and I have lots more, and will post them when I get more time later. Pics will be forthcoming. All said and done, this bass sounds awesome. Looks decent. More like a worn old chain-smoking diner waitress named Fran, who is the best at her job, than a smoking hot waitress named Barbie.

    Although the goal is the smoking hot waitress who is also a bad-a$$ waitress...
  2. Cerb


    Sep 27, 2004
    It doesn't exist without pictures ;).
  3. JSPguitars


    Jan 12, 2004
    Grass Valley
    I can totally visualize what you are talking about. I just spent eons on a guitar, only to string it up and find out the tuner peg locations were not right. Strings ran into other tuners and such. the guitar looks pretty sweet, but it ain't playable yet......
    Once again, off to the drawing board. Square one. I've found myself headed back to the 'design' stages quite a bit more lately. Time and planning. :crying:
  4. Fasoldt Basses

    Fasoldt Basses

    Mar 22, 2005
    Stevens Point, WI
    Karl Thompson, Builder (Formerly Fat Karl)
    +1 on lessons 1 and 2. On my first guitar I put in block inlays with a 1/8" router bit and a homemade router base. Suffice it to say that I'm glad ebony filler is almost invisible.:rolleyes:
    And I've had my nightmare experiences with drilling, too: I was drilling for the protrusions of a jazz-style pickup, and everything looked good, but the hole ended up 1/4" of center. AAAAAGGGGGG so I bound the pickup cavity.:meh:
  5. Dugz Ink

    Dugz Ink

    Oct 23, 2005
    In keeping with 1 & 2: Buy the best drill bits.

    And those "butterfly" bits? Definitely made for building decks, not guitars. If you need a big hole, spend the money to buy good "Forstner" bits. They work wonders in a drill press.

    Did we mention drawing EVERYTHING before cutting anything? That means top and side views... complete with knobs, pots, wires, and strings. That allows you discover numerous problems before you try to assemble the parts.
  6. Fasoldt Basses

    Fasoldt Basses

    Mar 22, 2005
    Stevens Point, WI
    Karl Thompson, Builder (Formerly Fat Karl)
    Oh, and one other thing. Make sure your fret slots are deep enough to accomadate the fret tang AFTER radiusing. On LMI pre-slotted fretboards they are sometimes uneven. On the last bass, I ended up pulling out a bunch of frets and deepening the slots - and this was on a bound fingerboard, so I had to use stew mac's tiny fretsaw and it took FOREVER.:spit:
  7. callmeMrThumbs

    callmeMrThumbs Guest

    Oct 6, 2005
    Omaha, NE
    Hey, thanks a lot for the tips. I'm trying to take everything into consideration before I start my first bass project...although my busy schedule makes it seem like I won't start til I'm in a nursing home...

  8. T-34


    Aug 11, 2005
    France, Paris region
    My 5 eurocents too: cut the truss rod channel and glue the fingerboard first, when your neck stock is still a square plank of wood. Trying to route on the shaped neck is VERY frustrating.
  9. Hookus


    Oct 2, 2005
    Austin, TX

    This should take you to the photo album. I cheated and used a Warmoth neck, because I had no clue how to do it myself. Don't even know how to begin shaping th neck. I probably have the right tools, but not the know-how. Anybody live in Austin, TX?

    Anyway, Forstner bita re the way to go, very useful for doing all manner of radii as well, like the pickup cavity mounting cutouts, knob holes, tuner holes, etc...

    I made the string tree myself from steel stock, drilled and countersunk the mounting screws, using aluminum spacers. This corrected both my downward pressure problem (being a flat head), and my tuner angle problem. The nut is a tad low profile, and the D string wanted to pop out.

    Back to lessons:

    7. Plan VERY well, I ran into problems with wire routing because of my location and size of the control cavity on the rear.

    8. Don't guess at center, your eye will deceive you every, single, time.

    9. Take your time setting up for the first time. A good idea is to rough out the intonation, let the neck sit at pitch for a night, then begin adjusting the truss rod, waiting about 15 minutes or so each time. This will slowly bring it to the correct relief. Loosen the strings, let the neck settle, then tune back up, check relief, then fine tune intonation.

    10. A solid knowledge of guitar electronics and good soldering skills will go a loooooong way towards making you happy the first time around.

    11. Use a rag soaked with mineral spirits to check your sanding job, before you even think about finish.

    12. Protact your guitar surface with tape and thin foam as you assemble it after finishing. I dropped a phillips screwdriver on mine as I adjusted the intonation on the last saddle......point first, wonderful.
  10. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Totally agree on 1, 2, 6, 7 and 10.

    I don't have any of them, so I know what I lack :D

    Still, without it, you can make very good stuff, too!
  11. mahrous


    Aug 13, 2005
    the bass looks good! much better than my first bass.
  12. i really like it man!! good job (and thanks for the tips!)
  13. BSR6P-Bob


    Apr 5, 2005
    Nice first project! :bassist:

    I think that body laminate style would work really well with a more "out there" body shape. (Think Ritter)

  14. River Gambler

    River Gambler

    Feb 10, 2005
    Looks really cool. I like the flame maple. Very good for your first guitar.

    My first bass ended up in the fire place...Really...it was that bad. I'm on my thirty seventh guitar right now. Each one I build I learn something new.

    Plan it out, draw it out, and think ahead.

    Aint it a blast building an instument and making beautiful music with it.Tom
  15. Hookus


    Oct 2, 2005
    Austin, TX
    Well, ther are some screw-ups if you look for them, for sure. But, on the flip side, everyone I have played it for thinks it sounds incredible, I think so, too. By far better than any other bass that I own.

    I am now on my second one. I could barely wait a week before getting the wood for this one.