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First bass build and on the cheap. (Fretless Fender-ish Jazz)

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Macho McHorse, Nov 5, 2015.

  1. Hey all I'm a broke student who wants a fretless jazz bass.
    So this summer I've decided to build my own using left over parts from my upgraded Highway one. I've never built any musical instruments before so Im just gong to bluff my way through it. Heres what I've done so far:

    For the body I've used an old bed headboard that belonged to my grandad (He reckons it's at least 60 years old). I'm not sure what the wood is but its probably some New Zealand native.


    I made a jig out of scrap wood from designs I got off the net:

    Rough shaping was done using a bandsaw and routing using a hand router and jig for the cavities with a 1/4" flush trim bit (I think), a hole saw to cut the radius' in the cutaways and the edges with the biggest flush trim round-over bit I could find:


    I then rough sanded the body with P180 grit sand paper and an orbital. Cut the "belly groove" etc. with a hand rasp. Filled the grain with a mixture of Timbermate putty and water and gave it a fine sanding all the way up to P1200 grit (wet and Dry). Bellow is where I'm up to.


    Now all I have to do is earn some coin so I can buy a fretless neck (feel free to add any recommendations on necks) and seal/ paint the body. As I already have the pickguard I need to decide on a colour that goes with the pickguard any suggestions welcome.

    Hope to get this project finished this summer and I will be updating this thread as I go. Enjoy!!
    RobertUI, andruca, afa3 and 8 others like this.
  2. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Impressive. Subbed.
  3. Oh yea! Costs so far (not including everything I previously swapped from my other jazz):
    $20 NZD for pickguard and control plate screws, neck screws, tuning machine screws and strap buttons.
    $10 NZD for a set of Highway One tuning machines and neck plate from Trademe.
    $15 NZD for consumables.
  4. yoshi


    Jul 12, 2002
    England, London
    Wow, looking great! Oh, the things that headboard must've seen...!

    Please consider making a neck! It will be cheaper than buying a good one and in my opinion the hardest bit of neck making (well, most fickle), is fretting, which doesn't concern you. There's not many skills in building a neck that you haven't used already. And it'll make the bass truly yours!

    You'd need: a truss rod - $10 -, suitable wood for neck - maple neck blank is about $50 - and fretboard - this would be around $40 for rosewood or $70 for ebony - and a set of tuners - chinese ones are fine and would be about $15. I'm not sure how it is in NZ, but I get all my wood off ebay. Have a dig!

    Tool-wise you need some glue, clamps, plane (i use hand plane), rasp, and drill (for tuners).

    Here's my current build thread, a 5 string fretless...maybe has some useful posts in about neck building: YoshiBass #2: A Headless Xmas Tree | TalkBass.com

    So, have I convinced ye!?
  5. Did Brian may have to spend a lot on his hand made guitar? no. Does it sound good? yes. ;)
    Macho McHorse likes this.
  6. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    I have to disagree with you here. Building a fretless neck is much more of a challenge than building a fretted neck as your fingerboard has to be perfect. Small imperfections on a fretted board will be taken care of when you do your fret leveling.
    andruca and SirMjac28 like this.
  7. Eilif

    Eilif Supporting Member

    Oct 1, 2001
    Color me impressed!
    I'll be watching this one. I love the fact that the wood cam from a headboard.
    Single Coil and andruca like this.
  8. Scoops

    Scoops Why do we use base 10 when we only have 8 fingers Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 22, 2013
    Sugar Creek, Wisc
    I am me
    I have a different opinion. I think of the 2, a fretted neck is more difficult. In both cases, you want to get the fingerboard as straight as possible. With the fretted neck you have the extra tasks of cutting the slots, bending the wire, properly seating the fret, dressing the frets, and then leveling them off. Just my $0.02.
  9. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    I have a slotting jig on my radial arm saw, I can slot a board in about 5 minutes, I buy wire from Warmoth which is already bent. Hammering frets is no big deal. The biggest time consumer in fretting its getting the ends filed and beveled. With a fretless, it takes me a while to get a dead straight board with no humps or low spots.
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2015
  10. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    That's looking great so far
  11. Thank you all for your input an kind words.
    I have considered making a neck, as tempting as it is however I tend to agree with Hopkins. Maybe I'll make a neck for my next build (cause you know I can't stop at one!!).
    What colours do you guys like/ recommend to go with a white pickguard?
  12. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    I think it would look nice natural
  13. Wow, I wish I could route like that....
  14. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    I am not saying you shouldn't attempt to build a neck, just that a fretless neck isn't really better candidate for a first neck than a fretted neck. Building your own neck is very enjoyable.

    As far as what colors work well with a white guard. I am of the mind set that lighter colors go better with a white guard. Sea foam green, surf green, shell pink, sonic blue, ect. Those light colors are also some of the easiest finishes to achieve a nice looking end result. Black, and red are very difficult colors.
  15. Good call, I was thinking either a sea foam green or sonic blue.
    I was looking at neck materials and even if I buy and ship the materials from Stewmac in America the cost would be half as much as buying a finished MIM Fender neck. Very tempting!!!
  16. Tom0Blam0 likes this.
  17. SeattleSunn


    May 6, 2013
    I like the classic look of the light blue on a jazz with white pick guard:

  18. SeattleSunn


    May 6, 2013
    Haha, this was posted while I was looking for my picture, and these are also great looks.
  19. GKon

    GKon Supporting Member, Boom-Chicka-Boom

    Feb 17, 2013
    Queens, NY
    That kicks some serious A$$! Sub'd and looking forward to seeing more!
  20. this is lookin' sweet, great job @Macho McHorse!!

    Here's a little neck idea for ya: I got a fretless neck a few years back when I was a broke college student (I know how every single penny counts!) when I was resurrecting my very first ever bass, a dusty old 80's MIJ Pbass copy with a broken truss rod, into a fretless.

    May I suggest this:
    MM2919 [MM2919] - $165.00 : Mighty Mite USA

    I'm not sure what the shipping rates would be like to NZ but this way by FAR the cheapest option for me when I was getting it shipped up to Canada, the entire neck came to something around $190 after shipping and taxes, but the Canadian Loonie was much better than. It fit into the pocket with just a little sanding and besides drilling pilot holes for the tuners screws and neck screws it was a near-perfect match. It technically is a PBass neck replacement but it feels more Jazzy Bassy to my hands.

    With this neck, my only issue is the lack of fretlines. As a "new-to-fretless" player at the time I found it difficult to play, especially any chord shapes, but now it is my go-to couch player and I love it. I'm not trying to hijack your thread but here's a before and after of it installed on my Pbass:

    Before and After PBass.

    Hope this helps a bit, and keep up the good work. I wanna see this beast when she's complete :)
    JustForSport likes this.