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How to build a lightweight bass; real world experiences?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by reverendrally, Feb 14, 2014.

  1. I'm a member on an Aussie bass forum and we've been discussing lightweight basses. I thought it would be great to have y'all chime in on what you've learnt and how you'd do it.

    Here was my take it on...
    Love to here other people's experience and insights. Coz it seems to me basses are going to be heading down this path more and more as we all get older and have to deal with back injuries and the like.
  2. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Headless systems have some weight to them, but they allow you to lop off the headstock, which should then let you chamber the body more without getting neck dive.

    Single pickup.

    No metal knobs - plastic or wood.

    No metal control plate.

    No batteries.
  3. Andii Syckz

    Andii Syckz

    Jan 2, 2011
    I'd have to agree. Usually short scale, with thin profile neck, bolt-on does the trick. Fewer pickups, that's really up to you when you design it. Headless sytem, yeah why not. It's also in the choice of wood you use. Some are heavier than others, Maple is one of them, and maybe mahogany but don't quote me on that. Alder/ash seem to be good light weight woods to work with. You could also chamber the body if it's solid, or semi-hollow, but you'd have to counter balance the neck dive (if there's any). But me, i'm used to having weight on my shoulders for 2 reasons: 1-As fairly said by my father that i have a strong back and i'm young and 2- i love having the weight dig in to my shoulder, making me feel like i'm actually playing something and it's not just floating around.

    But to each there own, and good luck
  4. MPU


    Sep 21, 2004
    Valkeala Finland
    Cf skin over obeche core. Very light and still stiff construction.
  5. GMC


    Jan 1, 2006
    I'd keep with the standard 34" scale for tonal reasons. But a headless design really saves a lot of size, but not weight of the instrument. The hardware (ABM / Hipshot etc) isn't much different to headed instruments when all put together (tuners, bridge, head piece etc).
    I would consider a body wood of swamp ash (hardly weighs a thing) and put a bit of walnut into the neck, along with the usual maple. The swamp ash will negate the need for chambering, but go for it if you really want to. It will change the tone of the instrument. Don't fit metal covers or pick guards. Go with an oiled finish and maybe consider simple electrics and maybe a single Music man style pickup.
  6. yodedude2

    yodedude2 Supporting Member

    how about a Paulownia wood body? http://www.equinoxinstruments.com/BodyWoods.htm

    most headless tailpiece/bridge assemblies i see are designed to be heavy and massive. i think one could save weight with a purpose-designed headless, i.e. straight-pull tuners/tailpiece and a separate bridge. headless design can also help with balance issues on a lightweight bass.
  7. I feel like I'm missing something. Exactly how does a bolt on save weight on a bass?

    My expectation is that you would need less wood for a set neck or neck through, creating a lighter bass.
  8. Scottkarch


    Sep 11, 2012
    I'm just taking a guess here.. neck wood needs to be harder/denser to be strong enough... making it heavier than other woods.. Neck through gives you more heavy wood. A lighter weight wood could be used by the body only on a bolt on and save weight.

    I have no idea if that would offset the weight of the screws and neck plate if you use one to bolt it on. I'm sure someone that knows will come along.. but I wanted to make a guess.
  9. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    Basswood body, soft maple (red maple, Acer rubrum) neck with CF rods, aluminum bridge, res-o-lite tuners, aluminum or plastic knobs.

    With a fretless bass, you could more easily get away with using a relatively thin and small bit of wood for a bridge.

    The bolts likely weigh less than the volume of harder, heavier neck wood required to make a solid set neck joint, compared to the same volume of lighter weight body wood you could use with a bolt-on neck. And if you used small ferrules, or even just thickish washers, instead of a big steel neck plate, you'd save that weight too.
  10. Smilodon

    Smilodon Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2012
    I'd say it depend on how much you want to sacrifice to get a light weight instrument.

    You could make something similar to a Steinberger in carbon fiber or kevlar. That would be fairly light, but won't be an instrument for everybody. Playing while sitting down could be an issue, for example

    If you wanted to use wood you could make a neck beam of some sturdy wood. The beam would house the pickups and bridge. To save even more weight this could be fairly thin on the "body" part as long as there is enough room for pickups and some structural rigidity. If the neck were set at a slight angle the bridge could be raised, leaving more room for pickups.

    On this neck beam you could mount a "frame" shaped like a body to allow for strap mounts and forearm/legrest.

    The bridge and tuners doesn't have to be all that heavy if the materials are carefully selected. A wider use of aluminium and titanium would go a long way.

    My first scratch build implemented some of these features. The wood itself was fairly heavy, but I had some cutouts on the body to compensate. I also made most of the bridge/tuners from aluminium (although some brass were used on places with higher loads.) Details here: http://www.talkbass.com/forum/f57/project-silhouette-923031/
  11. BeeTL

    BeeTL Commercial User

    Sep 26, 2006
    Oldsmar, FL
    Brad Lowe, Lowe Custom Guitars
    Define "light".
  12. i built a bass not too long ago 32 inch scale , with active emg-p and went under 8 pounds on the bathroom scale , i used mahogany with veneered maple in the middle of the body , maple neck with 22 frets , the mahogany did help to reduce weight
  13. I built a 5.5lbs (2.5kg) 31.181" (792mm) scale 3-string.
    How important is weight?
  14. Make it perfectly hollow. See BassLabs.
  15. I guess my thinking is, a lot of basses are on the heavy side. More of us are getting back and shoulder injuries. So something around the 3kg mark for a 4 string is a great idea.

    From what I can see here, people have tried to offset weight, but no one is really building for the sake of light weight.

    Smilodon, I found this comment interesting...

    Coz steinys weren't really light at all. Even the 5 string Hohner headless I owned wasn't much lighter than regular basses. Course with a rock maple neck through and maple body wings, it was always gonna that way.

    Seems like I have something to aim for once I get the next few builds done. ;)
  16. BeeTL

    BeeTL Commercial User

    Sep 26, 2006
    Oldsmar, FL
    Brad Lowe, Lowe Custom Guitars
    That's pretty light.

    The reason I asked about the target weight is that it's pretty easy to get below 8.5 lbs with a standard shape and 1.75" thickness if you have access to guitar-grade body blanks in "swamp" ash.

    You can save even more weight by milling the thickness down to 1.3" to 1.5" like a Ric or SG, or using aggressve relief contours.

    Use a "dinky" body shape, and you save even more weight.

    Of course, most of the best, lightweight wood gets snapped up by the big guitar shops before it makes it to your local lumber yard.

    Still, if your going to spend all of your time and effort building an instrument by hand, go ahead and spend a few extra bucks on a quality, lightweight body blank from a trusted vendor.

    Just as an example, this Thund-R-Luxe bass weighs in at 8.5 pounds, even with its oversized body.

    The only weight saving effort I made was to use a lightweight swamp ash blank and Hipshot Ultralite tuners.

  17. noam


    Nov 29, 2007
    You can save about 1/2 pound by using Lace Alumitone pickups.
    tjclem likes this.
  18. Is 3kg light? Or are we just used to boat anchors. Think about it.

    Electric guitars/basses are the only solid, heavy stringed instruments we hang off our bodies. I play upright bass and for all it weighs, most of it is empty space. Same with acoustic guitars, violins, mandolins, etc.

    BTW, I built this bass last year. Similar to your Thund-R-Luxe...
    It weighs just under 3.5kg. It's single PU brother weighs just over 3kg... and I wasn't even trying to make them light.

    The t-birds were made of recycled pine.

    I just finished a 6 string. It weighs just under 4 kilos...

    Maybe we all need to start thinking harder about builder much lighter instruments? ;)
  19. Ric5

    Ric5 SUSPENDED Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I convert 4 string Rickenbackers to 5 string basses.
    How to build a lightweight bass; real world experiences?


    Basswood bodies ... they resonate nicely and are very light ...
    chienmort likes this.