How to Start a bass from scratch

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Funkize you, May 22, 2004.

  1. Funkize you

    Funkize you Guest

    Nov 4, 2003
    Westminster Ca.
    Do you know of any books or webpages that have in FULL detail how to build a bass from scratch? Like From the ABSOLUTE beginning of it.

    Good Times

  2. JSPguitars


    Jan 12, 2004
    Grass Valley
    Figuring out these resources is almost as fun as building an instrument. There's plenty of books: Melvyn Hiscock's, to name one. I'm sure there's countless others....
    There's plenty of "websites" or links, you just gotta get into it and SEARCH for the right stuff. I Spend countless hours searching this site and many others. This forum holds many, many secrets. Figuring out what kinds of woods you want to use is pretty primary.............coming up with a thourough design on paper is key..........getting those designs transferred to templates......
    Start with the basics: shape, design, scale, bridge, TOOLS needed, PICKUPS......
    Imagine what you want in your head and figure out how to get there, then do some major research.
    I'm in the idea now that you just gotta jump into it and start building some stuff, learn from your mistakes, and hopefully things will get more precise and interesting year after year.
  3. Funkize you

    Funkize you Guest

    Nov 4, 2003
    Westminster Ca.
    Thanks for the info! I just wanted to make shure I did it.. "Right" ya know? I am worried about the Fretboard, and how that will turn out.
  4. Rapscallion2112


    Apr 21, 2004
    check out the book "make your own electric guitar" by Melvin Hiscock. its about making electric guitars but most carries over to basses.
  5. Since you are starting from ground zero, don't get caught up in worrying about what you may think is the hardest operation to accomplish. You've got at least 2 months of study to do before you even pick up a tool. One of the best resources I've found is the MIMF - the Musical Instrument Makers Forum at . Register to become a member (it's free) and that will allow you access to the archives. This is like Disneyland for the newbie builder - lots and lots to digest here.

    If you don't have much experience with woodwork or tools in general, I would begin searching for tutorials for using some of the more common power tools we use in bass building. Some of these would be routers, band saws, drill presses, drum sanders, planers, jointers, drills, disc sanders, and probably a few others. Some of these tools are simple enough to get the gist of their operation quickly, but others have lots of details to their proper setup and operation. Knowing this will help increase your learning and decrease your frustration.

    Here's some more advice from someone that was in your shoes just 4 years ago - go very slow! Do some real research on these subjects because for every luthier that uses a particular tool in a particular way for a particular job, there are another 3 luthiers accomplishing the same process with different tools and techniques. That's a lot of ways of looking at the same thing. Which is best for you is where the research comes in. After you've done the research, take the "go slow" motto to your building too. My own approach is to stare at my work a lot :D Twisting and turning the pieces around in my head is one of my ways of experimenting. I can mentally go through a process step by step and analyze if I can make it a success. It's a form of positive visualization. By the time I actually get to the doin', I've pretty much pinned the problem areas and have a solution at the ready. After all, it doesn't matter how long this first one takes, does it? Another way to look at it is to remember 3 main desirable characteristics of any project - Low Cost, Short Construction Time, High Quality. In most cases, you can pick two from the list at the expense of the third. It goes like this: An inexpensive, high quality instrument will take more time to build. A low quality instrument, built quickly, should cost less. It's funny but that's usually the way things work. Just don't try getting all three at the same time. It just leads to immense frustration. Trust me :rollno:

    Hope this helps
  6. being the token TB CAD guy (presumptuous?), i can't stress enough how making drawings help flesh out a concept.

    i'm not even recommending CAD drawings.

    you can do it by hand.

    think about what "drives" the design:

    1. scale
    2. nut slot spacing
    3. string layout
    4. bridge saddle height
    5. neck pocket depth and angle

    just to point out a few.

    here's a drawing i did to troubleshoot the string height in relation to the fingerboard:


    it shows the string/fingerboard relationship and highest and lowest saddle height.

    just an example.

  7. here's a bass "schematic" that i typically start all my new designs with.


    there are some critical geometric relationships with bass design that plan drawings can reveal to the freshman luthier.

    hope this helps a little.

  8. Rapscallion2112


    Apr 21, 2004
    fhodshon, thats friggen amazing, what program is that?
  9. In his inimitable fashion, Fred has pointed out another advantage of using a computer. Even if you aren't into his level of design, you can make simple patterns and use the printout from your desktop to make parts and shapes. With a simple design proram like CorelDraw, you can make paper patterns to the .0001" accuracy if you wanted.
  10. Funkize you

    Funkize you Guest

    Nov 4, 2003
    Westminster Ca.
    Yes, I would REALLY look into it and STUDY everything I could! Before I set up my first Saltwater Tank, I had done NOTHING but Study for 6 Months!!! :eek:

    And am not worried about the studying part, but I will admit, when I am starting a Project, I get all happy and pick up as much speed as possible!!!

    I almost need someone to slap me before I end up rushing through things!

    Once again, Thank you for all of your help, I will try out that forum, and Learn all that I can.

    One quick qestion though... How much does the "Average" home-made bass cost?

    So far, I think I want the NJ Jazz pups (Not sure wich one, but just assume the most expensive to estimate price flux) and (When Ready) one of his MM pups. Choice wood's would be Bird's eye Maple Fretboard, and Swamp ash body, with a Spalted Maple top. Neck would probably be a 5 piece ...
    Purpleheart/Wenge/Purpleheart/Wenge/Purpleheart. an a OPB-3 band pre-amp.
  11. Pro/Engineer 3D CAD.

  12. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Read some books, like Hiscock and/or Koch.
    Draw - and dispite the advantages that fhodson points at, there is no need to use a computer. Draw on paper, in full scale.
    Then get the material, all of it.
    Get the tools you decided to use.
    Get busy - but - take your time and be very patient!

    Oh, BTW, make the first few simple, esp electronics...
  13. JSPguitars


    Jan 12, 2004
    Grass Valley
    In my short time building, I have found that once you have everything on paper/templates, it's nice to start with the neck: how are you gonna route the truss slot? How are you gonna make the headstock joint? For your first bass (as I am doing) I'd buy a pre-slotted fingerboard from stew-mac or lmii. (I wish they made other scale lengths).
    I have this fetish with laminating and designing bodies, so I currently have like 2 guitar bodies, 3 bass bodies all ready to rock and DONT EVEN HAVE ONE neck all the way built yet!!! Why is it so hard to do one project at a time?? Seems a nice, sturdy neck made from 'good' wood is where it all starts.
    Remember: keep it simple, stoopid least for the first.
    Those hotrod trussrods from stew-mac are easy to install for first timers too!
  14. JSPguitars


    Jan 12, 2004
    Grass Valley
    speaking/thinking of other pre-slotted scale length fretboards......does anyone know of a resource to get pre-slotted boards other than 34"?? Like a 33" or a 35"??
    I have one of those nifty slotting-template jigs from stew-mac but haven't touched the thing yet. I'm kinda scared of it cuz i cant even figure out how it works yet.
  15. CamMcIntyre


    Jun 6, 2000
    I've got right around $700 in my first project so far. all the
    wood except for the neck i bought from Larry @ GalleryHardwoods. Here's some quick specs on it [to get an idea of cost]

    Unlined Fretless 5 my own body shape [based off of my Ray5 & JP's Single cut-pics to come at a later time and date].

    Body: Oversized Black Limba 1 Peice [c/o Gallery Hardwoods]

    Neck: Walnut [menards "highest quality"] w/a stabilized Black Limba FB

    2 way expanding truss rods and steel reinforcement bars [warmoth]

    Gotoh GB7 Tuners

    Schaller Straplocks

    Individual Bridges from Custom Shop Parts

    Seymour Duncan MM5 pickup & 3 band tone circuit

    that's all the major items i bought along with all the plates and that sort of stuff.

    To get more details-check out the link in my signature.

    I think i'm going to get the routing done on this bass this week so hopefully i'll be able to complete it soon. :D

    That's all and best of luck with your project.
  16. LMI is offering 35" scale necks and I think a 30" but you won't be able to get them in all of the woods they have for FB's.
  17. CamMcIntyre


    Jun 6, 2000
    I just ordered 3 fret/fingerboards this weekend from LMII. All of them radiused to 12inches, 2 of them slotted for 34inch. scale length, 1 of them left unslottted for a fretless project. Not bad price wise either. [i got pau ferro boards]. I opted to go for the preradiused/slotted boards since i think that was one the areas where i messed up [ok-along w/cutting out the FB] on the current project. It's a definate learning experience, take the risk and go for it though, i'm enjoying it....and now i'm GASin for tools. :D That's all
  18. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    Try copying one of your basses. Take the measurements from it and refer to it. I still look at my jazz bass for ideas......T