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First Bass Build

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Aislinn, Feb 15, 2014.

  1. Aislinn


    Feb 14, 2014
    Chicago Area

    I'm new here and I asked a question in the Basses section and was told to come here. I wouldn't call myself a luthier. I've only made one guitar. But I am a fairly decent woodworker.

    Anyway, I'm just starting on a bass build. I last played bass in the mid-60s so I'm pretty clueless today. I've got most of the templates made and am now at that point where I need to decide what components to use.

    I need to get the heel of the neck right so I'm trying to decide what pickguard I'll be using. I plan to buy the pickguard pre-made. This bass will be for my SO, who wants a small pickguard (like the JP-90) to show off the wood. The body will be bubinga. Of course, if it's a JP-90 type pickguard, the neck-body fit doesn't come into play.

    I made two different 1/4" MDF templates for the body. One looks like a jazz bass body, the other like a P-bass body. My SO is leaning toward the the former.

    Ideally, we were talking the dual, offset neck pickups and a bridge pickup with a mini-toggle switch for controls and three pots. I suppose if I had to, I could make the pickguard. I made one for a Tele and found duplicating the original VERY tedious.

    Any guidance on what direction to go would be greatly appreciated. Sorry for the scattered thoughts but, like I said, I'm pretty green.
  2. Do you have a question?
  3. Aislinn


    Feb 14, 2014
    Chicago Area
    Sorry, yes.

    What pickups would be good for someone wanting to play jazz and rock?

    Would the mini toggle give you neck - bridge - both options? Or would that be unnecessary?

    For pots, do you install 2 tone controls and 1 volume, like on the Strat? Is there any advantage to having tone & volume for each pickup?

    Humbuckers or single coil?

    We're thinking something versatile that has a warm sound but I don't know where to start.
  4. I was kinda hoping someone more experienced might weigh in. I think with these questions you might have better luck in the pickups and electronics forum.

    That having been said: it sounds like you have a lot of preconceived ideas about what electronics are supposed to be and what they are supposed to do. Step one with building is probably to break free of those notions. Rock and jazz are played with any pickup and with any bass. Style is all about the player, not the instrument. If someone were to show me Carl Thompson's scroll bass I wouldn't in a million years peg it as a seriously heavy rock bass until you put it in Less Claypool's hands. OI wouldn't expect to see a BC Rich in the hands of a Jazz cat, but then again, I could kind of picture Jaco pulling one out some night.

    Mini toggles are switches that allow you to do all sorts of.... switching. You can use them for all sorts of things. So much actually, that I'd say you are better off doing some serious research into what switches do than me trying to tell you.

    Most passive passes don't use more than one tone pot. Again, more research is required on your part. I personally don't really like any tone pots on a passive bass. I'm on the fence about the value of a volume pot. Your own mileage may vary. Going with a pre-wired electronics set up might be the way to go for you.

    Humbucking vs single coil is a matter entirely up to personal taste.

    Find a bass that sounds how you want your bass to sound and copy the configuration. You could also experiment to find something entirely new that appeals to you.

    Everyone wants something versatile with a warm sound. I don't think I've ever heard anyone on a forum say they want a chilly brittle tone that only does one thing. In other words, pretty much all bass are designed to be versatile with a warm sound.
  5. Aislinn


    Feb 14, 2014
    Chicago Area
    Thank you for your response DC. Have you ever known so little you can't ask an intelligent question? That's about where I am with the bass. So please forgive me for my cluelessness.

    If I understand you right, there is no one place to go here on getting started in general. You have to go into each section here and learn from there? Not that I mind doing that. It's just I don't know where to start.

    Thanks again for responding. I was beginning to wonder where a girl has to go to get an answer around here. :D
  6. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Victoria, BC
    Sounds like you're on the right track with your current plans. If you and your significant other like the look of the JP90, then it might be worth ordering one and seeing how it will line up with your current design. If it works, then you're in business. The J-P combo makes for a nice pickup combo with lots of versatility. Add in individual tone/volume controls and some switching, and there will be a lot of tones. It's nice to have, but each player is different and your SO might not need so much - what's your SO's playing style? I personally find it tends to be overkill for how I play, so I don't need much, but everyone's different...
  7. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Victoria, BC
    Oh, and this is a great place to start to learn it all... Welcome to the Luthier's Corner! :)
  8. Wagz


    May 2, 2012
    Milwaukee, WI
    I'd progress in this order. Start with pickup selection, decide on active or passive and then figure out what control options you want:

    Pickups: Single coil or humbucker - single coil are typically "hotter" humbuckers are "warmer".
    Pickups: Physical size and shape - they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, what is going to fit the style of bass you're building best
    Active or Passive: Do you want a bass that takes 9V batteries? active pre-amps can give you the option of a multi-band EQ and can drive a hotter signal (good for longer instrument cables, and can hit effects with a hotter signal).
    If Active: what type of EQ do you want? 2-band, 3-band, with mini-toggles for changing the shape of the EQ curve, etc.? lots of options exist
    If Passive: I'd recommend a volume for each pickup and a single tone, but the decision on potentiometer values works for bass the same as guitar, basses typically use 250k, 500k or 1M ohm values.
    Additional "bells and whistles": you can use mini-toggles to switch between single coil and humbucking (just like a guitar), switch the phase of pickups (just like a guitar), or even drop in a Varitone that gives you lots of tonal option in a rotary switch.

    The sky's the limit, but the Talkbass community typically espouses simple is better.
  9. There is nothing to forgive. It's hard to get answers around here sometimes. I think that the LC is occasionally less forgiving than other forums on TB because the builders here tend towards the mid to advanced. Basic questions like "I want to build a bass, where should I start?" can go unheeded. Ask about something complicated and you can get no end of (conflicting) answers. It's all good. It seems to me that the folks here want you to go as far as you can go with your own research before asking questions. Sometimes it feels like people want the LC to do the research for them.

    The thing is, there is no right way to build a guitar. There are best practices, but usually it doesn't really matter a whole lot. Some of the best instruments in the world are made by a couple of guys in a small Brooklyn shop with Ryobi tools. A Carl Thompson build is so far removed from a factory made Fender Jazz bass that it can be hard to call them the same kind of instrument. But they both get the same job done in the right hands.

    I think that the LC is a great resource for learning to build instruments. Read through as many build threads as you can to see how other people built their instruments and then go and do likewise. Make some sawdust, make some mistakes and have fun doing it. And when you do, create a build thread. You can get some great feedback and maybe help other people who once were clueless too.
  10. Aislinn


    Feb 14, 2014
    Chicago Area
    Thanks for the replies! I feel like I'm getting somewhere now. :)

    Just a quick bio on guitar building...
    It started in December with making a new body for my son's Tele. I got hooked! So I decided to build myself a Strat-type guitar. I sprayed the lacquer a couple weeks ago and it's curing now but I did place the pieces together for a "photo op".

    Once that was done, my SO says, "You gotta build me a bass." It's winter and this new-found hobby has staved off cabin fever so I was happy to oblige, but I knew some of what I learned building the guitar wouldn't apply to a bass, so I came here.

    You've already gotten me off to a great start. thank_you_rotate_zps448eeb99.

    Yesterday, after posting here, I did a lot of studying up on bass pups here and that gave me a good knowledge base. We went to some videos and listened to comparisons between the jazz, p-bass and PJ. My SO is still on the fence, who, BTW, is a pianist and wants to learn bass.

    One video had pup comparisons with 11 different brands, most passive, a few active. The passive won out and the Fralin and Nordstrand eeked out the win for best sound.

    So far, I've got some templates made on 1/4" MDF.


    In both sets I use the same neck, the neck pocket hasn't been fitted and only the back template for the body is done. I'm not sure if I'll need a template for the fretboard (didn't use one on the Strat) but the front templates will be finished as soon as I know the pups my SO wants. And I still have to make the 3/4" routing templates.

    I have a 6/4 slab of bubinga that I can use for the body. It's wide enough to make a 1-piece body. I'm thinking of heading to the hardwood store and seeing what other figured woods they have on hand. The guitar I made had figured sapele for the body and that little add-on in the headstock.

    We'll be doing some more research and I'll have more questions if I can't find the answers.

    Thanks again!
    Aislinn (pronounced ash-leen)