Have you ever made a mistake? (Pardon my pity party)

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Tim Barber, Jun 19, 2003.

  1. Tim Barber

    Tim Barber Commercial User

    Apr 28, 2003
    Serenity Valley
    Owner: Barber Music
    WARNING: shameless self-indulgent blubbering ahead. Stop reading immediately!

    [pity party] If you have seen some of my other recent posts, you'll know I am an "occasional free time" bass builder. I love to do it, and although I am not trying to make a living at it, I think that if I could sell a custom handmade bass here and there it would be pretty cool. But...sometimes I get really frustrated trying to do a professional job. My background is in musical instrument repair, so I know what a good job looks like. But it seems like there is always something that goes wrong and I have to figure out how to fix it, or hide it, or change my design to make it go away, and I'm not satisfied with the results. I know it's a learning process, but, but, but....why should a control cavity cover be so hard to make fit decently? Aaarrghh. [/pity party]

    "Dear Lord, give me the gift of patience and do it RIGHT NOW!!!"

    At least it's not as bad as the time I drilled the hole for the pickup leads at the wrong angle and came out the front of the bass. :eek: :mad:

    So anyway, if any of you established builders/luthiers have ever built something that didn't come out right, or made a silly mistake along the way of learning this craft, please massage my bruised ego and tell the tale! ;) :D
  2. Nah!, never made a mistake - ever! :rolleyes:

    It's not so hard to figure out where most of my mistakes come from. The list of causes is short but starts and ends with me. Usually it's either impatience or poor planning that become the catalyst for my errors. Throw into that the occasional dull blade, high humidity, and inexperience with new materials and that about covers it.

    The bright side to all of this is that each mistake present a new opportunity to learn. A chance that wouldn't have been there without the screw-up. And sometimes along the way, I learn something that I wouldn't have been exposed to had things gone smoothly.
  3. I think this is life applied to making basses, or making basses applied to life. Everybody makes mistakes, while I'm proud to admit I haven't screwed up a bass yet, thats only because I haven't started. Its what you learn from the mistake that counts.

    If others out there can take the hit to the dignity and fill us in on some of your DONTs of being a luthier, it would be much appreciated. I don't have any related to basses but I can assure you, from experience, that riding on the bonnets of cars isn't good for your knees or ankles.

    Josh D
  4. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Does routing the wrong size pickup cavity count? Did that the other day.

    Screw ups happen all the time. I guess I believe that anybody can make a nice bass if everything goes right. What seperates the great builders from the good ones is how they recover from mishaps.
  5. Bass Kahuna

    Bass Kahuna

    Dec 3, 2002
    West Lafayette, Indiana
    Luthier, Custom Builder
    Oh man,

    "I kept cutting and cutting it and it was still too short!..."

    For me they almost always come from going to fast, or not double checking....

    My most recent was when I was working on the original Gledura Infiniti prototype guitar, that's right - serial #1 purchased from Ed Roman. I had it in for a complete setup, and when I was leveling the frets I did all the usual taping of the fingerboard, but neglected to cover the body and scratched the upper horn and had to spent quite a bit of time polishing it out. Id10t!

    Also, when I was recently restoring an old Warmoth 6 string bass for myself (seperate thread on that one) after I had routed out the battery compartment on the back, I didn't wait for the router to stop spinning before attempting to lift it out of the template, and it turned a little sideways and put a small gouge right along the lip of the route. IDIOT! &*@#$%

    There are times where we just forget to slow down and take our time!

  6. Tim Barber

    Tim Barber Commercial User

    Apr 28, 2003
    Serenity Valley
    Owner: Barber Music
    Wow, thanks you guys! I'm feeling better already ;) Some great advice too, especially about taking your time. I'll bet that's a lot of it right there. I know in my case, working two jobs, I usually end up trying to do bass building when I'm rushed and way too tired.

    Keep 'em coming :D
  7. JohnL


    Sep 20, 2000
    Grayson, GA
    Are you kidding?! Drilled throught the top while routing the pup lead? Who would do something so stupid! (ahem...cough, cough) ;) BTW: fill the hole with a sawdust/superglue combo, re-sand, and it's ALMOST imperceptible on a natural finished bass. (or so I've been told, since I would never make such an error)

    Other observations, being the grizzled vet of ONE home-built bass:

    1. Remember that you purchased sheilding foil BEFORE assembling pots and jacks, soldering all connections, and screwing on the control cover.

    2. Flipping your palm sander upside down in a vise and trying to sand a small truss-rod cover to veneer thickness by holding it in your fingertips is usually not a good idea.

    3. Measure the height of the electronics, remembering to factor in battery thickness and where it goes, before deciding that an 1-1/2" is plenty thick for a body.

    4. A drum sander attachment in a drill press is really useful in those curvy horn areas, especially when you don't have a real drum sander.

    5. If you per chance drop a screwdriver and gouge your freshly sanded top before finishing, a drop of water in the scratch is sometimes enough to make it swell and raise enough to be sanded flat again.
  8. Oh, you want examples??

    1. I routed the pup cavities on a commissioned ash Tele body and decided to drill the wiring hole while the template was still on the body. I stupidly didn't think about the extra thickness of the template changing the angle of the bit path and promptly drilled through the back.:bawl:

    2. Even after lots of programming on the CNC router, I didn't make the rear cavity on my maple Jazz deep enough. Using a hand router, I then proceeded to make the cavity too deep, leaving the wood very thin where the controls mounted through the face. Trying to again recover, I glued a layer of pickguard material in the cavity to thicken up the face and the glue warped the remaining wood requiring the face to be routed out. :bawl:

    3. I made a beautiful piece of walnut for a cavity cover and promptly lost the damn thing requiring making another. :rolleyes:

    There's lots more but you get the idea.

    I think it qualifies as a real "skill" to be able to fix, hide, or generally recover from these gaffs and make it look correct to the casual observer. I certainly have gotten a lot of practice.
  9. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    I made a maple and purpleheart neck blank that promplty exploded after a week's drying time...As a reminder I glued it back together threw it on the lathe and made a baseball bat out if it !
  10. Hi I'm just starting to read about bass building.

    Could you please tell me how a neck blank can "explode"?!?! What was done wrong? Used Nitro instead of Glue :p
  11. 59jazz

    59jazz Infinite Rider on the Big Dogma Supporting Member

    Hey Timmy, I have made numerous mistakes........but the best one was when I routed for a cavity cover. The router jumped and created a groove past the line. After sanding it down further, I created a finger nail relief, which aided in removing the cover.

  12. Tim Barber

    Tim Barber Commercial User

    Apr 28, 2003
    Serenity Valley
    Owner: Barber Music
    Hmmm, sounds like a new custom design feature :) Add $40 to the price of the bass.

    Actually I have done the exact same thing. Ended up making a bigger plate and re-routing the recess.
  13. om when i drilled the holes for pickup screws, i messed up and wne tthrew the back, not just on one but all 4.
  14. I could see this turning into one-upmanship at its finest as all of us try to put out that 'You think THAT was bad, listen to what I did!' Just so you know know, Im not sharing this story for that reason, but anyways.
    I used to think my drill press was all at once a drill press, a buffing arbor, drum sander, and occasionally machinist's lathe. The speed adjustment was done with the top mounted belt and pulley system like many good quality shop DPs are. The lid on top of mine would rattle at certain frequencies making the god-awfullest racket. I also had a 58lb. steel ingot, ground flat on one side that I used to cook in the oven and use for fretboard heat treating. I figured at some point I could kill two birds with one ingot (ahem) and store it on top of the lid of the press to silence it.
    Everything was fine until one day, while staring intently down, buffing a fretless fingerboard I had coated with epoxy, the darn thing decides to vibrate off the drill press and land smack on the corner of the fingerboard, scarring it permanently.
    I wept.
    But the owner, who was recieving the bass for his birthday as gift from his bible study group, decided it was no biggie and said just fill it in with whatever. Yeah right.
    It's not easy, but can you see the slight discoloration just north of the 11th fret marker on the bass side?

    I think almost every mistake I've made has come from either ignoring Common Sense, or not using the right tool for the job, mostly the latter, which if you think about it is due mostly to the former.