1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  

first build (planning phase) suggestions?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by ack, Sep 30, 2008.

  1. ack

    ack Why Can't We All Get Along?

    Nov 19, 2006
    Somewhere near Raleigh
    Hey all,

    This will be long and boring, probably...

    Starting a project with my 15 year old son this week which will be to build a bass body from scratch and work it into a working instrument. This is a bold move for someone of my limited workworking history, but we're both psyched about the build.

    I'm also trying to demonstrate the importance of research and the benefit of asking questions and picking the brains of people who have tried these types of projects. I've done a lot of reading, and I have learned quite a it from people who were willing to illustrate their successes as well as their setbacks.

    I'm thinking about sending off for plans/templates, but I want to keep researching online in forums like TB and the Telecaster Forum for ideas/hints/clues, etc. before I commit to anything..well, before I cut anything.

    I am impulsive by nature, so this somewhat meticulous approach to this build is tough on me (having kids will certainly change the way you do things, that much is true).

    We've already purchased two beautiful billlets:
    1. 2-piece Alder
    2. 2-piece Walnut

    Our thoughts are along these lines:

    -----Project: 4-string Telecaster Shortscale Bass H/H ----
    - '72-ish Telecaster (guitar) body (prob Walnut)
    - short-scale fretted maple neck (like the Squier Bronco)
    - reshape the headstock to Telecaster specs
    - Twin humbuckers or single Darkstar pups
    - String-thru Bridge
    - Telecaster "cigar" control plate: v/t (w/ switch for H/H

    The overall idea is to have a killer 4-string bass that looks a lot like a natural Telecaster guitar.

    I know there are lots of details that need to go into this project, but I wanted to get some opinions based on our initial project thoughts.

    We just built a small (12x12) workshop, and we are slowly trying to acquire the neccessary power tools to make this project (and hopefully subsequent projects) more productive.
    Put T8 flourescent lighting and halogen project lights in there last weekend and we've built a 8'x3' bench/table. Everything is being hung up on walls, so we will have the entire work surface available to us.

    As far as this project goes - so far we have: jig saw, belt sander (handheld), palm sander, plunge router, drill (handheld), clamps, digital calipers, files, coping saw for guitar building and the usual assortment of power tools previously used to ruin household projects. None of this stuff is top of the line, but it all works.

    I'm open to any suggestions as to what tools/equipment should be a shop staple (oscillating sander, drill press, jigs, etc.)

    Sorry for being long-winded, and we will certainly appreciate any constructive feedback.

  2. Something like this?


    I would consider a drill press a must. My work space is about half your size and I have a drill press on a rolling stand.
  3. eleonn


    Aug 24, 2006
    Lima - PerĂº
    First of all this is a great chance to have a great time with your son. Sound like a really fun project.

    For this first one Id say that you almost have every tool you need. Id say that the tool you will need and gave thanks to have one is a drill press. It will give you the accuracy that is just impossible with a hand drill.
  4. scottbass

    scottbass Bass lines like a big, funky giant

    Jul 13, 2004
    Southern MN
    +1 on the drill press. You just can't drill holes consistently perpendicular by hand. Otherwise it sounds like you have just about everything you need. You will probably identify a need or two as you go along (like some unique clamps). Is your jig saw a table-type or a hand jig saw? I have always had better success with a table jig saw, and of course a band saw is best - and most expensive!
  5. XylemBassGuitar

    XylemBassGuitar Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 14, 2008
    Durango, CO
    Owner and Operator, Xylem Handmade Basses and Guitars
    I'd agree with ponticat, the drill press will really help you out, especially when drilling the string-thru holes in the body.

    Are you going to be making your own neck? Or are you ordering one ready-made?

    I would definitely suggest that you get one or both of these books (unless you have already read through some guitar-building books):

    Make Your Own Electric Guitar and Bass by Waring and Raymond

    Building Electric Guitars by Martin Koch.

    There is just so much advice that we could give you, most of it will be detailed in those books.

    Having said that, your initial specs look good! I think that if you are patient and carefully plan out the project, you'll be able to build a perfectly playable bass.

    You might want to check out lutherie supply companies like Stewart MacDonald to see what specialty tools are available to you.

    Finally, as you are building, remember to be very patient. The trick is not to avoid mistakes altogether, but to learn how to incorporate them into your work and/or fix them along the way.

    Also, be careful if you find yourself thinking something you're working on is "close enough;" many times it isn't close enough if you find yourself thinking that.
  6. ack

    ack Why Can't We All Get Along?

    Nov 19, 2006
    Somewhere near Raleigh
    many thanks for the replies.
    A couple of things: i'm getting the impression that a drill press is almost essential. I'll pick one up before I start anything. I've got plenty of space to mount it at the end of the table.

    As for my jigsaw, it's handheld, but it'll have to do for now. A bandsaw is on the radar, but I'm not pushing my luck (my wife has been very supportive of this workshop - so far).

    The books are on order from Amazon as we speak.
    This first project's neck is going to come off a Squier Bronco or something similar to that(shortscale maple). If we really like the results (and working with each other), we'll eventually get to building our own necks. This is still somewhat down the road, I suspect.

    I hope to practice patience throughout this build - I'm going to have to curb my enthusiasm to rush into each phase by being fascinated by the current results.

    I can tell by the results of most builds I've seen on these boards that "close enough" equals sub-par results.

    BTW, Ponticat, your bass was one of the works of art that solidified the Telecaster motif for us. We were probably going this route anyway, but that bass is just awesome. My son almost fell over when I showed him that picture last week. What kind of wood is that?

    Thanks again, everyone.
  7. Thank you for kind words!

    The wood is African mahogany. I had the blank made by a local fine wood vendor for $85. The finish is lots of Deft sanding sealer and lots of Deft clear lacquer and no grain filler. Some of the grain texture is visible at close range, but, hey, the thing is wood.

    Here's a link to the original post for further details:

  8. ack

    ack Why Can't We All Get Along?

    Nov 19, 2006
    Somewhere near Raleigh
    You can tell that a lot of hard work went into that project, with amazing results.

    Maybe you can help us out a bit more:
    I've looked all over, but I cannot find decent confirmation on the pocket dimensions of the Bronco Neck.
    I have the nut dimensions (1.5" width and C-shaped 9.5" radius)
    Would you have that pocket info?

    I think it's the last piece of the design puzzle I need before we get started. For this first project, I'm sending away for design sheets and templates based on my build criteria). We'll see how it goes.

  9. Ack -- Here are some Bronco measurements that may be of use to you in establishing the taper of the neck but WON'T tell you anything about the arc and corner radii that define the shape of the heel.

    Width at 19th (last) fret: 2.28"
    Width at 12th fret: 2.13"
    Width at nut: 1.62"

    I have three Bronco necks and there are very slight differences in the dimensions that seem to be within reasonable production tolerances. The differences are enough that I had to widen my original template to make the neck with the dimensions noted above fit the body of my most recent project.

    I would recommend having the donor Bronco in hand before cutting any wood so you would have the exact measurements and shapes to work from.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.