How do I learn

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by casualmadness, Jul 31, 2020.

  1. casualmadness

    casualmadness Man About Town Supporting Member

    Dec 15, 2005
    I bet there’s a thread that covers this but I sure can’t find it. So if this is redundant, please forgive me.
    I’m not a carpenter. I know nothing about woodworking. I can’t cut in a straight line. Hell, I can barely read a tape measure. Yet, I want to build Basses and I don’t have a clue where to even start.
    I have mental pictures of Basses I would like to build. I think about things like pickup placement and logos and whatnot. Not that I want to attempt to be the new boutique builder selling his Basses. I just want to build one...maybe more. so for all you did you learn? Did you just YouTube your way through it? Read books? Did your favorite uncle teach you?
    I found a school in Arizona that has a program. If not for my work, I would happily go spend some time there in order to learn this. Sadly though I’m on the east coast and like most of you, my job gets in the way of things I enjoy doing. So how does a guy with not a lot of spare time and almost no knowledge of woodworking (I built a pretty good floating shelf) get into this? maybe start with one of those kits is the way to go? I’ve thought of that but I still really want to start from nothing.
    Andy V. and Beej like this.
  2. Huw Phillips

    Huw Phillips Life is like TV if the channel sucks change it Supporting Member

    Jan 4, 2019
    Andy V., Reedt2000 and ArtGuy9516 like this.
  3. Yeah, I would suggest starting with a kit to learn how to simply assemble a bass. Then you can use those kits to start doing modifications to them, like body shapes and so on, to learn some woodworking techniques. I build a lot of things out of steel, been building racecars for 20 years or so, so there's knowledge there that translates over. I also watch a TON of YouTube videos, there's a wealth of info out there and even if you haven't done it, you'll start to understand the process and steps.
    Andy V., Beej and Reedt2000 like this.
  4. When I first thought building instruments was a interesting notion there was no YouTube. If you can manage those funny, papery things Melvin Hiscock’s book is a pretty good one. Dan Erlewine’s setup and repair book is pretty good to, at least the older edition I have. Yes, though, YouTube is a good resource. Read through the build threads here. Some places like Texas Toast guitars have one day or one week “build your own” classes where you start with dimensioned lumber. They do teach their way of building which involves tools you probably won’t have like a pin router but it would be a good way to “hands on” some woodworking and tool basics. Sooner or later though, you’ll need to take a deep breath and pick up a saw or plane...

    Good luck and ask questions here. It’s a great bunch!
  5. Reedt2000

    Reedt2000 Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2017
    Central New Jersey
    I agree with @Matt Liebenau about the Erlewine book. I aspire to get to the point where I build from the ground up. I'm working my way there by customizing basses, trying progressively more difficult stuff, and collecting tools along the way. There is a TON of instructive and inspiring content here in LC, as well as a lot of really knowledgable and helpful folks :thumbsup:
  6. chinjazz

    chinjazz Supporting Member

    Sep 11, 2002
    Atlantic Beach, FL
    All of these are great pathways in!

    I’ve been at it for a bit and I’d say to read a bunch and get familiar with the terms, language and ask questions. It’s great to have the web to search/cross reference.

    Save bookmarks here in LC.

    Learn from your mistakes, we all make them. It’s a craft recovering from them. I sometimes make a “mistake” in a shape or contour and it becomes part of my design :)

    Have Fun! Cheers!!!
    MynameisMe and Reedt2000 like this.
  7. Paulabass


    Sep 18, 2017
    I agree. Start with a kit, modify it along the way if you feel comfortable. I took a course at the 12th. Fret in Toronto back in the early 80's and built a very nice jazz bass, but I went in with a pretty full compliment of woodworking skills. The rest of the class had kinda mixed results. My next one I just went and got some wood, and cut away everything that didn't look like a bass.
    Reedt2000 likes this.
  8. My story is similar; I started out with previous woodworking skills and tools in building violins, so building a bass from scratch was just a slight detour in learning how to make a truss rod and doing fret work.

    A kit will help you learn some things, but it does little to teach you fine wood working skills.
    Reedt2000 likes this.
  9. SlingBlader


    Oct 19, 2013
    Read and watch, read and watch, read and watch. Read as many build threads as possible here and on other forums. Watch builders on YouTube. There are many different ways to accomplish any given task or step in guitar building. Note which approaches appeal to you, your style, resources or tools that you may have.

    While you're doing the above, slowly gather essential tools which will allow you to accomplish key steps with methods that you've noted. (or find a shop where you can work)

    Don't charge in head-first without doing some research first. You'll have better chances of sticking with this long term if you know what your're getting into and what you need ahead of time.

    When you're ready to dive in, start a build thread here. If you have questions, or need guidance, ask questions before you go through with a given step. We're here to help, so ask away!

    Welcome to your new addiction, and have fun. :D
    TerribleTim68, chinjazz and Reedt2000 like this.
  10. T_Bone_TL


    Jan 10, 2013
    SW VT
    There are certainly a few threads that touch on it. My tired and timeworn advice is that you have to do it, at all, to learn to do it well, and barring a collection of well developed skills that transfer, the first attempts may be pretty ugly - but you won't learn to make what you hands produce match what your mind has in mind if you don't go out there and try, and fail, and try again applying what you learned when you failed.

    Also: Anything That Cuts Wood Cuts Flesh. Ending the day with the same number of fingers you started with is important, and you should listen to the little voice in your head that knows this might be a bad idea before you need a trip to the hospital.

    Here's a link one of my replies to a thread about learning to use hand tools (or to become a luthier, but I was particularly pointing at hand tools, I guess):
    #5 #344 #4 #7
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2020
  11. Jeff Hughes

    Jeff Hughes

    May 3, 2020
    Maybe consider just trying to start with assembling a body. That gets you to practice sanding, routing, shaping, cutting, etc.

    Necks seem like the most complicated part to fabricate with the most that can go wring for playability at the end.

    Whenever I watch a Guitar factory tour, I am reminded of why guitars cost a lot of money.

    One of the bigger obstacles is having the tools and saws.
  12. wraub


    Apr 9, 2004
    ennui, az
    I started by doing. Researching, and doing.

    My basses needed, work, so I read every book and magazine I could find, and read them all. I slowly started doing small things, then doing more... Then, doing the same on band mate's instruments, then for others.

    Then, I started building, and repeated all that.

    Don't rush, it, do the research, go carefully... and do it. ;)
    Also, ask your questions here... The LC is a wonderful place, filled with knowledge.
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2020
  13. spantini


    Jun 13, 2020
    Lakeland, FL USA
  14. singlemalt

    singlemalt Supporting Member

    Dec 15, 2007
    White Salmon, WA
    Learn by doing. That’s how it works. Just like learning to play music. Usually, there’s a friend with more experience helping you along.

    First attempts are just that. Mistakes happen. Redo’s are part of the tuition.

    Power tools bring another dimension of risk into the equation. First attempts can cost you a finger. In an instant. 70D8570C-D9BB-4D0F-8A64-62BC6B377649.jpeg 1E124424-ADF8-4611-8E30-9D7739CD1769.jpeg
    Notice the blood splatter on the face shield, and the large crack at the mid forehead level. Good thing there was a face shield in use! That would have left a mark.

    With fast spinning blades, what you don’t know can really mess you up.

    Watch the safety videos on any tools you haven’t used before. Make sure work pieces can’t fly off or get pinched and sucked into a tool.

    Have the right PPE, especially eye ear protection. Know when to wear gloves and when not to wear gloves.

    Take your time and enjoy the work, but pay attention to what’s going on. Don’t hurt yourself.

    (Not my hand, and that was a exploding abrasive wheel. Wear the shield!)
    zie, Guild B301, Huw Phillips and 2 others like this.
  15. REV

    REV Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    The day I got my first bass, I took the whole thing completely apart to see how it worked. I started out modifying my bass because I wasn't happy with certain parts of it. From there I bought parts and put some basses together. By doing this I learned a lot about how to do setups and how the parts of a bass interact with each other. Little by little I started acquiring tools to work on my bass with the idea of eventually building one. I was also reading everything I could get my hands on and asking a lot of questions to anyone who seemed to have knowledge about building and repairing guitars. Enjoy the journey.
    Huw Phillips likes this.
  16. nilorius

    nilorius Inactive

    Oct 27, 2016
    Riga - Latvia
    Beg a good luthier to teach You guitar making art, for a good price.
  17. DaveB in VA

    DaveB in VA Gold Supporting Member

    May 27, 2015
    Charlottesville VA
    If I were going to do this I would start by taking a BASIC WOODWORKING course at a local Community Collage. There you should get some idea of what general woodworking tools you would need and how to use them SAFELY. It would also give you a feel for whether it is really something you really want to do before you invest a lot of money in tools and materials. I would pretty much expect that acquiring the skills to build a decent bass would be at least as difficult and take as much time as learning to play a bass at a high level. I'm not trying to rain on your parade, just giving you something to consider.
    casualmadness, Huw Phillips and MCF like this.
  18. MCF


    Sep 1, 2014
    When schools resume, think about taking a basic woodworking class at a local JC. Learn the tools and how to use them. You really need a foundation to start from.
  19. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Look for local craft centers that have classes. If they don't have exactly what you want, they might be able to arrange specific lessons. That's how I got into wood turning - I got a lesson for Christmas.
    MCF likes this.
  20. T_Bone_TL


    Jan 10, 2013
    SW VT
    I would caution in selecting classes that many basic woodworking courses (so called) may be purely focussed on Pushing Sticks Through Machines (certainly what the classes and adult ed classes at my high school always taught) and as such may have limited application to luthiery, if luthiery is your prime interest. They might also have a fixation on building kitchen cabinets (or 17th century reproduction dressers, or... you just have to know to ASK those questions before you sign up.) Or you might get a place which is more adaptable to "what brings YOU to wooddorking?", and will try to assist you through making a bass, though they may not have the finer points if they don't actually do that.

    Doubly so if you (presumably) don't already own a bunch of PSTM tools and might like to be aware of options. i.e. without even going off to non-power-tool-land, few courses will show you what the router jig & sled thread in here will. When the teaching shop has a big planer, or is taught in a store that wants to sell planers, they are not going to get into (or may not even know) the fact that you can plane down a whole body blank or neck blank with a router in a sled, rather than having a specialized planer sitting around doing nothing 99.5% of the time. ...and then sniping when you do use it.
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2020
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    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

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