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How many hours?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Jerem, Feb 25, 2013.

  1. Jerem


    Jun 6, 2012
    Hello, im making small project to my school, and ive got few questions about process of making guitars and bass guitars.

    How many hours it takes to make a basic bass guitar, and how many for 7 string very advanced monster? i know it may varies, but i dont need very accurate data.

    what part makes building process long? (eg painting)

    is using crc machines etc makes building proces much quicker?

    ill be very glad if You guys can give me some info :) thanks in advance.
  2. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    The number of strings doesn't really have any effect on the time it takes to build a bass. If you were to build a one piece body, with a bolt on neck, it would take considerably less time than something with a bunch of crazy laminations.

    Finishing takes the longest amount of time in any build process. Some finishes take longer than others due to drying time, application technique ect.

    CNC machines can very well speed up a build, but any lamintations will still have to be glued, final sanding before finishing will have to still be done by hand, and it will still have to be finished. So it wont save as much time as one might think. It will however produce 100% repeatable results.
  3. Hi.

    ^What Hopkins up there said.

    However, in Your particular case, I'd say that slotting the FB, installing the frets, and the general shaping of the neck takes the most time.
    So, a logical conclusion if the time available for You is limited, is to use a pre-made neck and just make the body. Installing the hardware and the electronics could possibly be done at home since those tasks require no special tools.

    If it was a race against the clock, something that building insrument should never be IMHO, a standard shaped waxed/oiled P body could be made in a few hours using either a one piece or pre-glued plank. Assuming of course that a band-saw, drill press and a router at least would be available at all times. Not to mention skills to use those effectively and SAFELY.

  4. I'd be interested in how much time it takes a pro to put together an average bass. Someone asked me the other day and I struggled to figure it out. Maybe something like this...
    Design - 3-4hours
    Jointing/gluing body blank - 2 hours
    Prepping neck blank - 2-3 hours
    Making templates - 4 hours (super important)
    Making body - 6-8 hours
    Cutting out/shaping/gluing neck - 12 hours
    Neck joint - 4-12 hours
    Fretting - 6-8 hours
    Sanding - 12-18 hours
    Oiled finish - 8 hours (not including drying)
    Painted finish - 36-40 hours (not including drying)
    Electronics - 2-40 hours (simple to very complex components from scratch)

    Total - I'd say 80-100 hours (2 weeks) for a basic build with an oiled finish and simple passive electronics (and no great disasters) :help:

    Of course that's not including 12 months of letting timbers aclimatise, glues and oils dry, setting up and cleaning up.
  5. SGD Lutherie

    SGD Lutherie Banned Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2008
    Bloomfield, NJ
    Owner, SGD Music Products
    Not counting finishing, it used to take me 40 hours to build a bass like the one in my avatar. That was using a full set of patterns and templates, etc. But when I started out it took much longer.
  6. Smilodon

    Smilodon Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2012
    On my scratch build I spent about half a year. I worked on it almost every weekend and during a weeks vacation.

    Effective working time is much less as I had to work in my living room, so much of the time were spent cleaning up. I also made the hardware myself, so that took quite a while in production, planning and fitting.
  7. Bruce Johnson

    Bruce Johnson Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 4, 2011
    Fillmore, CA
    Professional Luthier
    I keep very accurate timeclock records of every step of building my basses.
    My basic model Scroll Basses take 55-65 hours each.
    My fanciest models are 100-120 hours each.

    A quick breakdown on one of my top models is:

    Building the neck, not including paint: 17.5 hours
    Building the body, not including paint: 9 hours
    Building the pickups: 6.5 hours
    Building the metal hardware: 15.4 hours
    Painting the body & neck, including wet sanding and buffing: 17 hours
    Final assembly: 4.7 hours

    A couple of notes:

    These are essentially production instruments. That is, they are all basically the same, other than the color choice and a few standard options. I build them 2-4 at a time, although I build some of the hardware in larger batches.

    I build almost everything myself. Besides the woodworking, paint and assembly, I also build almost all of my own metal hardware from scratch. Tailpieces, bridges, tuner posts, insert bars, truss rods, etc. About 40 parts per instrument. Plus, I build my own pickups from scratch, including making my own bobbins, winding them and encasing them. The only thing I subcontract out is the chrome plating.

    Those labor hours do not include the design time or the time to build the tooling and fixtures. It's just the time to build each production instrument. On a new model instrument, I'll typically spend 50 hours of computer design time and 100 hours making up all the special patterns, fixtures, and tooling. Then, the first prototype will take 100-150 hours.

    The woodworking on my basses is more complicated than most basses, because of the scroll headstocks and the fancy cutouts in the body. It's about twice as many steps as most conventional basses. So, take that into account when looking at my numbers.

    I don't use CNC machines. I will eventually, but right now I can't afford them or justify them. I use collar-style routing and good fixed templates for most of the woodworking operations. There's some hours of hand shaping on the headstock and back of the neck. And lots of sanding.

    I've gone over the numbers carefully, and getting a CNC router wouldn't really save me that much time. It would only save me 6-10 hours per instrument, mostly in shaping the back of the neck and some of the hogging operations in the body. But the time spent doing woodcutting operations that could be done by CNC is really a fairly small part of the total labor to build the instrument. And my procedures with production routers and fixed templates are pretty efficient now. The CNC router isn't really much faster.

    If I were to invest money to cut down the labor, I would gain more with a CNC milling machine to speed up the machining of my metal parts. And a modern polyester spray painting booth/system with infrared curing. About a third of the labor of my instruments is in the painting. I spent a lot of time last year improving that.

    I hope this helps give you an idea of the labor hours.