First build

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Buzzard23, May 30, 2019.

  1. Buzzard23


    May 20, 2019
    So I have been thinking about building myself a bass, but I have a few problems. I don’t know what kind of body I want to model mine off of. I currently play a Jackson js2 and a BTB675 (that’s what the store called it but it may be a 745 or something else from the BTB series). I hate p-basses and j-basses so if anyone could give me a suggestion as to what model i base it off of other than those two that would be great. Also, I may not have the correct tools so if someone could send me a list of tools so I don’t have to go through a 30 page long website just to find all of the tools I will eventually need. Also, any suggestions as to what wood I should use would be a great help. If I sound rude, mean, snobby, or just rubbed off on you in the wrong way, I didn’t intend to and am sorry if this was annoying. Finally, if this is the wrong area to put the thread in, let me know and please guide me in the right direction. Thanks for the help.
    monsterfiddle likes this.
  2. Frederiek


    Aug 8, 2016
    This forum is a great source of information and it was a huge inspiration for me when I started my first build. There are numerous threads on essential tools for different jobs that you can find through a quick search. Good reads are the books of Koch and Hiscock to start with. If you don't want to invest time in reading and researching I would however advise you to follow a course.
    monsterfiddle and RBS_Johnson like this.
  3. rojo412

    rojo412 Sit down, Danny... Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2000
    Cleveland, OH.
    Bare minimum tooling for a build (which is how I started a couple years ago) would be the following:

    - Small bandsaw and a blade with coarse teeth
    You can use a jigsaw, but it would be a lot more difficult. I used the most basic 9" Skil saw with a 4 tpi blade and it was able to breeze through 1-7/8" stock.
    - Medium sized router
    Trim routers are handy, but having to do body shaping requires more power. You don't need 3hp for most bass stuff, 1.75hp is fine. And you'll need at least a pattern bit (it has a ball bearing attached to follow a template).
    - Orbital sander
    I started with a basic 1/4 sheet palm sander and it was fine, but the orbital would have been way better and was only $20 more, so if you don't have one, get one of those.
    - Basic hand tools
    Drill, bits, chisels, hammers, rasps and files, sanding blocks, sandpaper, scraps of wood to make sanding blocks in weird shapes, etc. It all comes in handy.

    I'd say most people start with building a body and attaching a pre-made neck. If that's a plan you're into, those tools are a proper start. But if you want to build a neck, you'll need:
    - Miter box and .023 kerf saw for cutting fret slots
    - Digital calipers to measure fret spacing
    - Very reliable straight edges

    You can copy a body shape or make your own style. With the basic tooling, I'd suggest getting some 1/2" MDF and making templates with it. You draw a design, cut it out, sand it smooth, then you can attach it to the wood project later to either trace it for a rough cut or use the router to follow the edge and cut a copy.

    As for wood, you can go crazy with that, but ash, alder, poplar, maple, mahogany... those are easy enough to find and work with.

    You'll also want plenty of glue. There's no shortage of discussion over which one is best or worst, but if it's designed to hold wood together securely and stay put, you're fine. Lots of people start with Titebond 1 because it's cheap and plentiful, but I'd personally recommend TB3 because it has worked better for me.

    Finish can be as simple as any number of oils or poly finishes, but that would depend on your choice of wood. Most people seem to start with TruOil as a finish because it's very easy to use for both body and neck. It's not super durable, but it has worked for making basses reliably and is a great place to start. It seals up wood, looks nice and pops grain, and if you scratch or ding it, you can just add more easily.

    TB Luthier's Corner is a great place. People here are very nice and full of all of the info you need. Definitely don't hesitate to ask questions... but like any forum, do a quick search first on some topics, if you want to avoid people suggesting you do a search.
    Trust me, there's a lot on here to help, but it doesn't always come up easily, I know that from experience. In those cases, definitely ask.

    Good luck in the building process! It's an awesome and rewarding venture.
  4. Buzzard23


    May 20, 2019
    Would it be harder to do with a jigsaw because it is harder to control it or is there something else because i dont believe i have a bandsaw of any size. Also for the miters box, however you spell it, im going to be trying to make a fretless so would I need that still. I plan on having either fret lines on the side facing upwards or normal fret lines. Thanks for your help i will make sure i have the rest.
  5. rojo412

    rojo412 Sit down, Danny... Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2000
    Cleveland, OH.
    The bandsaw should cut at 90 degrees, whereas a jigsaw goes wherever it wants.
    That said, if you do templates and a router, you could rough cut with the jig and finish with the router and templates.

    A really nice thing to also have is a spindle sander, which could also help with the 90 degree edge cleanup.
  6. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    I've cut bodies out on a jigsaw more than once. It's slow, and the cuts tend to be less-than-vertical, but it's workable, especially if you're using a router and template to clean it up. :)
  7. washjayb


    Jan 20, 2010
    Atlanta, Georgia
    I am starting a first build and in my case the big hurdle was having a place to work.

    I don't have any interior space for projects forcing me to work outdoors. This is complicated by residing on a hill/slope.

    I'm using a simple set of saw horses with plastic brackets. They are sturdy enough but still adjustable in a way. To this I'm suspending a sturdy 3/4 MDF top. I have 2 flat sections from a huge desk that I've broken down and incorporating other small sections from home depot that I am mounting for table saw/ router duties as needed. These are bolted down onto 2 roughly 8' sections of 6x4. Im still trying to come up with a simple height adjustment for the saw horses allowing me to tweak a level/ stable/ modular workstation. Cheap also helps because I'm still in need of more clamps, files, chisels, abrasives and adhesive.

    So far I have acquired a 9inch bandsaw, 2hp router with plunge/ fixed bases. I own several belt and orbital sanders, circular saws, and am in the process of mounting them for use on the workbench.

    It's kind of a chore luging stuff in and out, but I am fortunate to have access to plenty of outdoor space. Still refining but I think I have a pretty good system to start.
  8. This is what I do, I don't have a bandsaw either.

    As for a body shape that is not a P or J, I'm totally with you on that one. Too many Fender-like objects out there.
    There are a lot to choose from. Early morning brain dump:

    MM StingRay, StingRay5, Bongo
    Gibson EB (lots of different ones), RD, Ripper, Thunderbird, Explorer, Flying V, etc..
    Rickenbacker 4003
    Mosrite Ventures
    Teisco - lots
    Ibanez - lots
    Yamaha has a few
    Hofner violin bass
    Pachyderm bass
    Carl Thompson
    Buzzard bass
    and on and on and on. I'm sure I'm forgetting some noteworthy ones

    Good luck on your project!
  9. If you read through a bunch of builds threads, you will see people doing good work by being creative with what tools they have. It certainly is helpful if you have all of the stuff that Rojo412 list but don't let it stop if you if you don't have access to everything. For example, I didn't have a bandsaw until recently so I squared up edges with a drill press with a drum sander bit. Need to route pick-up holes without a router? No problem. Drill press or chisel or.... Like Frederiek said, these threads are a great resource and you can see a lot creative solutions to perform specific task. So dive in. If you get stuck- ask.
    rwkeating and washjayb like this.
  10. rojo412

    rojo412 Sit down, Danny... Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2000
    Cleveland, OH.
    A bandsaw isn't 100% crucial. But if it comes down to spending money to make a bass, you're gonna have to buy tools. A cheap bandsaw and the right blade will be cheaper than a lot of other tools which do less for the process than it can, and it does them faster. That's all I'm trying to say.
    SLivinghouse and Beej like this.
  11. Frederiek


    Aug 8, 2016
    I agree. If you have to make do with the tools (or the limited space) you have, you can do without many power tools. My router is by far my most expensive power tool and it was totally worth the investment, so that would be my only advise. Don't buy a cheap wobbly router with an unreliable depth (and speed) control. I have a cheap drill press that does the job reasonably well but a hand drill would get you pretty far too, and if you have access to a bandsaw somewhere else that would indeed save a lot of time but also cash that is (in my eyes) better spent on some good rasps and chisels. I can saw several bodies and necks by hand or with a jig saw before I can justify the costs of a band saw. In case of a first project I would definitely try to just make do with tools you already have or that you can borrow. An orbital sander for example is in my opinion completely unnecessary (or even useless - every time I can't resist the temptation to use mine I'm disappointed in the result). Instead I'd buy a bigger and smaller hand plane. But I enjoy working with hand tools and I know it's not everyone's style.

    So here starts the discussion that was done a hundred times before in countless other threads :D In my opinion it's best to try and come up with a plan first and then find help for specific challenges. Everyone works in a different way and there's more than one way to get things done.

    Oh, and get a good dust mask before you start. I wish someone had told me that ten years ago.
    BishopJP and SLivinghouse like this.
  12. ArtGuy9516


    Apr 10, 2012
    Richmond, VA
    Another option for tool access are maker spaces depending on the fees to use said spaces. I used a jig saw to rough cut out the body sections for my current build and it worked out OK.

    Good hand tools work well and a decent router will help with shaping the body, neck pocket (if that’s what you plan to do), and other aspects of your build.

    Coming up with a detailed build plan/order of operations is a good step forward.
  13. And now that I have a bandsaw I don't disagree with you. :thumbsup: They're awesome. I just didn't want the OP to get discouraged if they didn't have everything on your list.
    rojo412 likes this.
  14. rojo412

    rojo412 Sit down, Danny... Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2000
    Cleveland, OH.
    It's almost fair to say that no matter how many tools you have, you'll still want more, no matter who you are.
    If the drive is there to make a build happen, you can do it with whatever you may have access to at that moment. You could literally build a bass with nothing but sandpaper and chisels if you wanted. It would take forever, but your arms would be toned like no one's business!

    Part of the learning process is figuring out where to spend money to save time and effort in the future. Tools are there to make all of the processes go faster. Depending on how you plan to use them down the line justifies their expense.
    ArtGuy9516 and washjayb like this.