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First building. Tools on a budget

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by pedroims, Jan 17, 2013.

  1. pedroims


    Dec 19, 2007
    Hi .

    This year I am building my first bass. The only experience I have working with wood is the shelves that I have built at home. I don't remember building any complicating thing, I know how to measure and I have a good idea what the tools supposed to do :). My granddad was a carpenter so if I know something is because all the hours I spent at his workshop asking questions and see him working. I am building this bass as a tribute to him.

    So far I have been doing my homework, reading a lot of threads here and watching several videos in youtube. I decided to build the bass from scratch , I am planning to build something ''simple'': Jazz bass. I already order the wood:

    a) Swamp Ash blank for the body from Woodwell.
    b) Flame maple blank for the neck, from exoticwoods
    c) Rosewood fretboard blank from

    The tools I currently have: Handsaw, cordless hand drill, sig saw, hand sander, digital Caliper, files and some clamps. As I understand, building a bass with these tools will be almost impossible so I need to add some other tools to my arsenal. I came with some ideas but I am not sure if they are ok. I don't know anything about brands, which are good and which one I should stay away from, here is where I need your help.

    My budget for the following tools is $ 500-700. What you think ? Are they ok or should I look some thing else, Any other tool that I must buy?

    Band Saw: Ryobi 2.5 Amp, dept / height of cut 3.5,
    Router : Ryobi Router Table with 1.5 Peak HP Router
    Press Drill: WEN 8 in. Drill Press with Laser
    Bits: size??

    Thanks for your help.
  2. Reticle


    Jul 24, 2009
    Charleston SC
    Just my opinion, but you would do MUCH better buying used, higher quality tools off of Craigslist. As far as types of tools, a bandsaw, router and drill press would be at the top of the list for me. A spindle sander would be near the top as well.
  3. pedroims


    Dec 19, 2007
    Thanks for the suggestion, I currently have some items from craiglist, I planning to take a look this weekend. I was not sure about buying used but you are right I may get better quality.
  4. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    I would stay away from any router that doesn't have collets for 1/4 and 1/2 inch router bits. Spending a little bit more and getting a Porter Cable will be a good investment, as your router will be your most important tool.

    Find a used band saw on craigslist. That one would probably be find for doing light scroll cuts in 1/2" ply wood, but I don't see it working so well on a 1 3/4 hardwood bass body. You will want something of higher quality and more power.

    That little drill press will probably be fine starting out, but you could probably find a small bench top drill press used for half the cost of a new one.

    For router bits, a good quality round over, and top bearing pattern bit will get you started. The 3/8 and 1/2 bits that the sell as a combo are good bits, and the price isn't totally horrible. You will also need the appropriate sized bit for the truss rod slot. For drill bits, a good set of Forstner bits are a good investment. You will also need a 3/16" x 12" bit for drilling the tunnel from the pickup to control cavities.

    A hand tool that will make your life alot easier is a Shinto rasp. They are pretty inexpensive, and are great for doing body contours and shaping a neck. You will also probably need a radius sanding block for the fretboard. I prefer LMII to stewmac, because they are wider and have a different radius on either side of the block. A good set of needle files will also come in handy for cutting the nut when you get to that stage. There will surely be more that you need that doesn't come to mind at the moment.

    Good luck with your project. Don't get frustrated, mistakes will be made, and it most likely will not come out perfect in the end. My first build sure didn't, but it plays good and sounds great. I still play it on stage from time to time.
  5. pedroims


    Dec 19, 2007
    Thanks Hopkins !! Seems like I should get good quality tools.

    Is PORTER-CABLE 1.75-HP Fixed Corded Router and CMT bits are good enough to start?

    Im planning:

    1/2" and 3/8" shallow pattern bits (1/2" to 5/8" cutter height)
    3/8", 1/2", and 3/4" roundovers (1/2" shaft)
    1/2" pattern bit 1.25" cutter height
    3/4" flush trim 1.5" cutter height
    1/4" straight 3/4" cutting height
  6. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    That is a very good router, can't go wrong with Porter Cable. As far as your router bits, I would get a flush trim bit with a 2" cutter height. Your average bass body is thicker than 1.5" and if the bearing cant ride on the template then it won't really do you any good, and you can always raise the bit if its to long.

    Other than that, I think you are on the right path.
  7. grisezd


    Oct 14, 2009
    This being your first build you might benefit from a practice build with cheaper woods. No need to really finish it off with parts if you don't want to, just get a thing built and shaped to practice with the tools. The only item from your list that I have is a router (plus a decent jig saw, hand held drill, etc) and I've managed to build two decent basses plus a few other things. Now, maybe, it's time for a drill press, spindle sander, etc to build more commercial-looking instruments. I'll probably still use cheap wood, though!

    Good luck with it!
  8. pedroims


    Dec 19, 2007
    Thanks grisezd, I dont know how to use the router so I am planning to do some practice on cheap wood, as you mentioned I may should built a complete bass as practice, very good idea :)
  9. steve_rolfeca

    steve_rolfeca Supporting Member

    I know that this is the conventional wisdom, but I don't buy it. The single cut in my avatar was my first building project.

    The advice I was given at the time, was this:

    "1. Lumber isn't a significant expense, compared to the time you'll put into the project.
    2. The difference between paint-grade vs decent exotic lumber is about $80 to $100.
    3. Doing a pro-quality paint job on basswood, takes more skill than an oil finish on flamed maple.
    4. If you use the cheap stuff and the instrument turns out great, you'll wish you'd used the good stuff.
    5. If it turns out badly, you've got an instrument that you can't play, don't want to look at, and has no resale value.
    6. If you use the good stuff, the worse that can happen is that you end up with a beautiful looking conversation piece to hang on your rec room wall."

    I went with my friends advice, and 19 years later. It's still my primary player.

    +1 on the advice to practice on some scrap lumber, though. A bass requires far more precision than most furniture projects. use scraps, not just to learn how to use a router, but also producing consistent, reliable glue joints, etc.
  10. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    CMT bits are fine. The bits I use most:

    1/4" straight
    1/2" roundover, 1/2" shank
    1/2" round nose
    3/4" straight, 1/2" shank

    and sometimes
    1/2" pattern following
    flush trim
    3/8" round-nose pattern following

    Sometimes you can find the Porter Cable on sale with both bases (fixed and plunge). The plunge is very handy for guitar making.
  11. pedroims


    Dec 19, 2007
    I am with you, I bought nice pieces of wood: swamp ash, flame maple and rosewood. My plan is:

    a) practice on cheap lumber to feel comfortable with the tools.

    b) Make a template on MDF: Body, neck , pickups.

    c) Use the template and sculpt the bass body and neck on cheap lumber.

    c) Build the bass.

    I am going to the hardware store today to buy the router and band saw :hyper:...im really exciting about this project :hyper::hyper:
  12. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    If you have never used a router, I urge you to be very careful. Keep a solid grip on it at all times. I recommend using a foot switch instead of the regular power switch. My only gripe about PC routers is you have to let go with one hand to turn them on and off.

    Make light passes, cutting to deep not only shortens bit life, but it can cause the router to jump which can be dangerous.

    Its a very good, useful tool but it must be respected.
  13. pedroims


    Dec 19, 2007
    Thanks Hopkins, did not about this. I though routers were really safe tools. I will post pictures of my new toys later today :)
  14. ACNick

    ACNick Guest

    Oct 23, 2012
    South Florida
    The router is a pretty scary tool. But it is also a very useful tool. When you get the router get some hearing protection as well, they are pretty loud. I would also recommend some safety glasses and maybe a dust mask as well; I don't know how PC routers handle dust collection, but my old Black&Decker kicks up a whole lot of dust along with flinging wood shavings around.
  15. pilotjones


    Nov 8, 2001
    Matt, what do you use the round nose bits for? I just bought a bowl bit with follower, and am wondering what other uses I might get out of it.
  16. Arial Bender

    Arial Bender

    Oct 28, 2012
    Largo Fla.
    No such thing as a safe cutting tool, only safe operator. You want to see a first build with minimal tools? search Suraj in this forum
  17. pedroims


    Dec 19, 2007
    I found this in craiglist, what u guys think?

    Craftman Package:
    6" Jointer on legs
    Drill Press on Floorstand
    Table Saw w/ Cast iron extensions
    14" Band Saw
  18. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    Are they selling it as a package deal?

    What brand is the band saw?
  19. pedroims


    Dec 19, 2007
    Yes, whole package for $800, band saw is craftsman, in fact everything is craftman
  20. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    Sounds like a decent deal. My Craftsman jointer is ok, I did upgrade the bearings and put a 1HP motor in place of the stock 1/2HP.

    Drill press will be fine

    Table saw will be fine

    I don't know what the depth is on that band saw, but if it cant do 7" at minimum it wont be good for resawing. I doubt they make a riser block for that band saw.

    You could always sell it and the lathe and get something like a 14" Delta though if you want to get into resawing tops.
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