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Help! IS an unfinished upright bass worth it?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by JoeFern, Mar 17, 2009.

  1. JoeFern


    Mar 15, 2009
    heres the deal, I was searching through websites and came across an unfinished relatively un adjusted upright bass for roughly half the price as many of the others i have been looking at. My dad and i have worked on other basses and i thought "why pay like seven hundred more dollars for something we can do with not too much effort in a few weeks"
    i was wondering, would buying an unfinished bass be a mistake similar to buying a cardboard box and trying to turn it into a bass?

    ive already searched through forums for more info on unfinished basses and cant find anything mentioning it, hence the post :p

  2. WRXbase


    Jan 14, 2009
    Clayton, NC
    Looks like FUN! You can finish it anyway you'd like, so you can really make it yours. I might really dig an electric like that.
  3. JoeFern


    Mar 15, 2009
    forgot to mention its an upright, needed to put that in the title. my bad. reguardless, yeah thats what i was thinking, practically have my own custom bass
  4. The fact that it's a DB is fairly obvious as soon as you open the link(which has some very interesting non-bass items as well), plus you posted- appropriately enough- in DB. ;)

    On topic, I'd love to whack one of those out if I had the time & space. I'd love a seafoam green doghouse.

    Edit: I've had my knuckles smacked here for calling it an *upright*- I know what you're talking about, just trying to save your knuckles. :D
  5. Mike Arnopol

    Mike Arnopol Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 4, 2005
    Owner of MAS Soundworks
    On an inexpensive bass why not? Just make sure you're comparing apples to apples in terms of bass quality. Do a lot of research in terms of bass finishing. If you take your time and use the proper materials you'll probably have a nicer finish than a lower end commercial bass. The first really good bass I owned was a 300 year old Italian bass that a gypsy had stripped the finish off. I bought it for $800. I did the finish myself and eventually sold the bass for $15,000. (long time ago)
  6. JoeFern


    Mar 15, 2009
    aha thanks, im new (duh) having just read the 'please read' threads thought id post. nothing about not calling a bass an upright :p hmm so if i do the finishing myself it could actually be better than a cheap factory bass..
  7. zeytoun


    Dec 19, 2008
    Portland, Oregon
    Yes, but you'll have to see it as a labor of love. Doing a finish that is going to be better than a factory bass (i.e. a sprayed lacquer, I imagine) is going to be something that is going to take some time and labor. From a pure economic calculation, the choice depends on how valuable your time is.

    However, if you see it as (a) being able to do something completely unique (like a seafoam green bass) or (b) being able to do something artistic and rewarding (and learning something on the side), then doing it yourself is wonderful.

    Just be very, very patient.
  8. Aren't double basses traditionally finished w/violin varnish(I'm also pretty certain my terminology is wrong)? I'd also guess a cheaper bass would be sprayed, of course.
  9. JoeFern


    Mar 15, 2009
    id assume that double basses are finished with the same stuff they use on violins, havent done that much research as the idea just came to me.

    They seem to run at about 500 for a cheap, unfinished bass but it slightly scares me that the site itself says that practically the whole bass needs adjusting.

    am i just being too cheap? lol
  10. ctcruiser


    Jan 16, 2005
    West Haven, CT
  11. EggyToast


    Jan 21, 2006
    When people say "labor of love" what they really mean is "if you can spend the money and not miss it if whatever you get goes bust, then go for it."

    If you can drop $500 and, if the bass sucks, or you guys wreck it somehow, and you've got parts and tools already in order to try to finish it up, then yeah, knock yourself out.

    However, if you'd have to buy tools, varnish, clamps, glue, chisels, and so on, and this is a one-off thing, then the cost is not $500 -- it's bass + finishing tools.

    For comparison, my wife recently bought a violin. She was shopping around locally and on Craigslist, and if she didn't want something that sounded horrible, she was looking at around $500 -- for a starter model. So she figured she'd take a chance, and bought a new violin from Yita music. Yita music actually has come up here, as well, with some people trying out their bows and generally saying that they're pretty good, for the price. It's the same with their violins -- sometimes you can get a dud, but you usually end up with an instrument that's much nicer than a comparable one you'd buy locally. Just how it is.

    So she instead spent $200, and spent $110 getting it setup -- fingerboard planed, post set, and so on. She now has a pretty nice violin, still for significantly less than if she had bought a relatively crappy model.

    The point is that she did the calculations and said to herself (and me), "If I get an OK violin, as long as I spend under $200 in setup to fix any problems that crop up, I got a good deal." And it's worked out -- she got a good deal.

    But she also approached it with the point of view that if she got a dud, $200 would be an OK amount to get a starter instrument, and then move up to a nicer instrument after 6/12 months once she knew what to listen for (and once she was good enough that she felt spending the money was justified).

    So at what point is this bass project no longer a "good deal" for you? If the wood itself is comparable to a $600 bass-shaped object, then it's probably not a good deal -- your time is worth something, after all. If it seems like a decent deal, just "in the white," how much do you estimate you'll spend on the rest of the parts? If that's still in "good deal" territory, then ask yourself "If this is a bust, is that OK?"

    One of the reasons most musicians will suggest you listen to an instrument before you buy is that there's risk involved -- that you won't like the sound. That risk goes up on cheap instruments. (Of course, the risk on the other end is that it's a ton of money!)
  12. zeytoun


    Dec 19, 2008
    Portland, Oregon
    It's going to be a lot of work. Doing it to save money is probably not the right approach, unless you're experienced and have the equipment handy.

    In addition to finishing, you're going to need to:
    Fit a bridge
    Fit/set the soundpost
    Likely, plane the fingerboard

    (although, these last 3, I would really think twice before doing myself, unless I were (1) really interested in learning how to do it (2) very patient, careful, and made a point of learning how to do it right and (3) had woodworking experience. Even still, 2, and 3 might be something I would take to a luthier)

    For varnish, a basic varnish process could look like this:

    1) a base/sealer coat. Using something like a curing oil, a hand applied shellac, or something similar.

    2) a glaze coat for color. Using artist oil paints and curing oils, for example.

    3) varnish coats. You could do a french polish - shellac hand applied with a bit of curing oil, in very thin coats.

    You could simplify, by skipping step 2, and having a blond bass.

    There are infinite variations. Here are a couple interesting threads on the subject.


  13. Brandon Tuomiko

    Brandon Tuomiko Banned

    Oct 28, 2008
    Omaha Nebraska
    Not only are those basses on the very very lowest end of the spectrum, It will cost several hundred to get it into playing condition.

    I looked at one, and inquired on it, and it turned out that it was a terrible idea.

    They need so much done.

    The varnish on a bass affects the sound. If it is not varnished, it will not be very good. A proper varnished bass will sound best.

    The basses are put together by machines. So they are un inspected.

    I have tried the varnished version of this bass. And it is a very unpleasing sound. It was set up by a luthier. And it sounded very bad and of very low end.

    No bass or treble tone. Cheaply made. Uneven sound distribution.
    It feels like it was going to break. Seems far to light weight for a bass of its size.

    My opinion- Spend a little more, and buy an old but nicer carved bass.
  14. JoeFern


    Mar 15, 2009
    so the model that they base the unfinished basses on arent that good? hmm finishing it seems about as much effort as earning the extra money to buy a better bass lol
  15. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Did I miss something? Who are the "they" and what is the bass?
  16. Brandon Tuomiko

    Brandon Tuomiko Banned

    Oct 28, 2008
    Omaha Nebraska
    Its those $500 basses on ebay. The violin shop here in town has one. A horrible excuse for a bass.

    They are very bad--- and I can't say bad enough. Most any other laminated bass is 10x as good.
  17. There was a link in the OP yesterday- seems to have been removed.
  18. Brandon Tuomiko

    Brandon Tuomiko Banned

    Oct 28, 2008
    Omaha Nebraska
    Just look on ebay. There are nearly 100 different ads for them

    This is the bass that comes in Blue, black, and a brown.

    Also for like $700, there is a flamed one. (I think)

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