How should i start building an upright?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner [DB]' started by dezisapunk, Oct 18, 2021.

  1. dezisapunk


    Oct 8, 2019
    Hey y’all,
    Ive built several electric basses, but I mostly play the upright bass. But now, i wanna build my own upright, which is quite literally a completely different process. How should i begin and approach this project?

  2. Ed S

    Ed S

    Nov 14, 2019
    Well, to start, you are gonna need some nice big pieces of wood... ;)

    I'm impressed that you would even consider taking on such a project. Doing so requires considerable skills and tools. Are you planning on carving the pieces, shaping ply, or buying a kit?
  3. eh_train

    eh_train Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 12, 2004
    Owner, Stand Up Guy Basses (Repair/Sell/Buy upright basses)
    There are tonewood suppliers who can sell you a set of all the wood necessary, but that's not a kit - just raw wood waiting for some expertise.

    To the OP, if you don't have it already, Peter Chandler's book is a good thumbnail description: Double Bass Making Book (Building, Construction, Upright, Acoustic) Plus, he drafted a whole bunch of plans that you can buy (so you can copy a classic design)!

    You can also download this, by Hargrave and Zaal:

    I'm about 60% through my first bass build. I won't win any awards for speed, but am having a good time doing it! Here's the body:

  4. Ed S

    Ed S

    Nov 14, 2019
    Yeah - and I've seen carved fronts and backs for sale, as well as necks. And I've seen (and lifted) uncharted blanks. Very heavy - and expensive! The idea of removing that much wood impressed me as a daunting task!

    What was your approach?

    For hobbyists who have built their own, I'd be interested in your opinions as to time and $ spent, and how the finished product compares to various levels of basses you could purchase.
  5. eh_train

    eh_train Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 12, 2004
    Owner, Stand Up Guy Basses (Repair/Sell/Buy upright basses)
    Buy the wood, remove enough wood until a bass appears. There is a lot of waste.

    The first bass, in my experience, will take a heck of a lot of time to make.
    I’m not doing it to compete with anyone, just to satisfy myself. If I make 2, 3, or 4 of them that could change.
    james condino likes this.
  6. stefaniw80401

    stefaniw80401 Supporting Member

    May 18, 2004
    Evergreen, Colorado
    Looking good so far. You have a ton of block sculpting to do before you join the top. You may've shoulda sculpted the back braces a bit more before joining it to the garland, but it's still doable. Have you started carving the top yet?
  7. bassdude51

    bassdude51 "You never even called me by my name." Supporting Member

    Nov 1, 2008
    Central Ohio
    Usually, I have to make 10 or more of some kind of item before I get the hang of it.

    If you got the time and tools and do the research.........go for it!
    james condino likes this.
  8. Ed S

    Ed S

    Nov 14, 2019
    Yeah, that pretty much sums up my questions. The time and tools (and materials) are pretty significant - and far exceed my capacity. But I could imagine the results could be quite rewarding.

    My wife makes fiddles. I recall her cussing over the challenges of making a cello while in school. And on the occasions she has visited bass makers, she comments on how BIG all the tools and pieces are. But, I guess you can eat an elephant one bite at a time... :D
    eh_train and bassdude51 like this.
  9. eh_train

    eh_train Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 12, 2004
    Owner, Stand Up Guy Basses (Repair/Sell/Buy upright basses)
    Hey Stefani,

    Thanks for the encouragement. I'm not sure why you suggest a 'ton of block sculpting' though. Having done top-off repairs on many dozens of basses, there's nothing overly heavy about either my blocks or bracing. Some makers do use much less wood, but only some.

    I have carved the outside of the top. I "simply" need to flip it over and carve the inside next. The neck is also roughed out. I wondered about finishing it this year, but there's no huge deadline...

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Oct 20, 2021
  10. stefaniw80401

    stefaniw80401 Supporting Member

    May 18, 2004
    Evergreen, Colorado
    I too have seen a few insides, many overly chunky for no good reason.
    Do you follow Matthew Tucker? Check out these pictures.
    salcott likes this.
  11. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    Dezi: Where are you located?

    Probably the best advice I could offer on your first bass build is to find another bass builder that you can visit and use as a mentor during the process; a select few offer private instruction and lesson on building. The worst would be to take advice from random wankers on the internet!

    If I told you it would take 400+ hours to build your first bass, many would run screaming. Those same people would loose their $#!t if I told them they could only waste 400+ hours per year on talkbass or facebook.....;)
  12. Ed S

    Ed S

    Nov 14, 2019
    For comparison, when my wife was in fiddle-making school, IIRC their "final" required that they build a fiddle (their 6th) in 6 weeks. So I suspect the estimate of 400 hrs (10x40 hr work weeks) for the 1st bass may be well on the low side.
    james condino likes this.
  13. 1st Bass

    1st Bass

    May 26, 2005
    Forest Grove, OR
    I built my first bass using Peter Chandler's book, with Chuck Traeger's book to fill in the gaps and TalkBass to answer specific questions. I called Peter Chandler a couple of times as well: he was very helpful. (RIP Mr. Chandler!)
  14. I’m not a luthier, nor am I a woodworker, but I have seen The Red Violin. I believe the final step is to mix one cup of a loved one’s Blood with shellac, and apply evenly to the body. The bass’s body — not yours.
    stefaniw80401 likes this.
  15. Don Summers

    Don Summers

    May 10, 2017
    That's ambitious project but I applaud you.
  16. Primary

    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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