Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by NYBassMan, Oct 24, 2003.

  1. NYBassMan


    Oct 19, 2003
    Levittown, NY
    i'm so tired of the custom bass runaround at this juncture that i have decided to attempt a home construction from scratch. does anyone have a certain book (rather thick i'm sure) that may lay out the ENTIRE bass building process from start to finish as i have never even done it before. I work in carpentry/construction as my day to day trade, so working with wood is no oddity. Thanks for the help.

  2. Skorzen


    Mar 15, 2002
    Springfield MA
    This Is then generally recomended book, I don't think there is any one book that can tell you every thing you need to know, but that is a very good book to get you started. A custom/handmade instrument is a unique item and therefor there is no sure way to cover everything that may come up in your case. Now having said that the best resource available in my opinion is the archive at The Musical Instrument Makers Forum. You need to register to access the archives, but there is a huge amount of amassed expirience there that is priceless. Good luck
  3. Ol' Skorzen is absolutely right on with his recommendations. DO THEM NOW!!:D

    Since you work with wood and understand it, I would recommend an oft overlooked resource for bass building - the local music store.

    Why would you want to go look at basses since you want to build your own? It's easy - pick these things up and thoroughly compare their construction to your own skills. I think you will find that if you look at these instruments with a critical eye, you'll soon realize that there isn't much magical about building a bass. That's not to say that that proper planning and execution aren't required, but you'll begin to understand better how the individual components work together to make the whole instrument. You will also begin to get a better idea of what features you can incorporate into your own design. Then, with the book and MIMF resources, you can flesh out some of the finer details of construction.

    It might be helpful to remember that you are looking at bass construction right now like I would look at building a house - something that you could probably do with your eyes closed would take me months to catch up on. It's really no more than that. There are certain things that builders do specific to instrument construction just as there are with carpenters and housebuilding. Learning those differences is pretty much all you'll need to feel confident and do a good job.

    Also keep in mind that your SECOND bass will be even better than your first. Don't laugh - finish the first one and you'll see what I mean.:D
  4. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Hiscock is great.
    Martin Koch has written a book that I think is even better - my choice.

    And remember: the first will be good, the second too (new mistakes! sorry, Ham;)), and the third will be better!
  5. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    It's addictive...i just ordered some English Walnut for bass #3...
  6. Bassmanbob

    Bassmanbob Supporting Member

    Man, I've got to get started too. This is the most difficult time of the year time wise. The holidays, daughter in competitive gymnastics, my wife being the leader of both my daughters girl scout troops, I'm in Florida so it has cooled down to 88 degrees and I can finally do a little gardening without having a stroke, it's the beginning of the festival season in Florida so the band is rehearsing feverishly... Who has time to build a bass? I'm going to have to wait until the new year to get started.

    Buy both the Koch and the Hiscock books NY. I've been reading them both. I'm like you. I'm just jumping in to do this. Go back and look at some tool threads too. It will help.

    Good luck.
  7. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Oh, by the way....starting is not the major problem. Finishing is.

    (Whether that means finishing bassbuilding, or finishing the bass you just built:( ) :p
  8. Bass Kahuna

    Bass Kahuna

    Dec 3, 2002
    West Lafayette, Indiana
    Luthier, Custom Builder
    I'll jump in here as well.

    Practice of bunch of stuff on cheap-o wood from Home Depot. Don't be afraid to build a full scale mockup including frets from maple and poplar boards from home depot just to get used to making good, clean, solid joints with no gaps.

    Do this especially is you're making any jigs or templates.

    Lastly, the one thing I've noticed that hasn't come up before in these "how do I become a luthier" threads is electronics. If you're only planning on building acoustic guitars and basses, you won't need to know basic electronic theory and how to do professional soldering, but if you're planning on building electric guitars and basses, you're going to need to know how to do top notch soldering, and what pots, tone capacitors, and electronics to use for the pickups and preferred sound, etc. Poorly done electronics, cold solder joints, etc., can really take a bass that has great carpentry work down several notches, and will constantly need repair and rewiring / re-soldering. Buy a good soldering station that allows you to control the temperature of the tip, and also has a tip that is electronically isolated so as not to introduce static into the circuit you're working on, especially if working with pre-amp circuits that have IC's (op amps, etc.) on them that can be blown if hit with excessive static. Weller and others make good soldering stations.

    Some basic good soldering tips are:

    - know how much heat to use for the job you're doing. Soldering ground wires to the back of pots takes more heat than soldering pickup lead wires to the contacts of pots.

    - keep a damp sponge nearby and wipe the tip of the soldering iron off after each solder joint

    - when resoldering, completely remove all of the old solder first before re-soldering the joint.

    - whenever possible, follow up each solder joing with good insulation, like quality heat shrink tubing (on that note, don't use a match or cigarette lighter on heat shrink tubing, get a heat gun made for the task.)

    - a good set of wire cutters, wire strippers, de-soldering tool (I prefer the kind that have to be cocked and and then released with a trigger vs. a solder bulb just because they remove old solder better and faster..), a roll of solder wick, needle nose pliers, two or three sets of forceps in different sizes, etc., etc..

  9. Bassmanbob

    Bassmanbob Supporting Member

    Oh yeah. Referring to my last post. Along ever other distraction I have this time of the year, I had to watch the Yankees in the World Series... even if they lost.

    At least they lost to a great and fun team to watch.
  10. mslatter


    Apr 8, 2003
    Another book worth a look: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/t..._books_1/104-0887081-8819161?v=glance&s=books

    I have that one and Hiscock. You'll notice differences in each person's methods, and what they tend to stress. It's good to have multiple opinions and viewpoints.

    You've got a good headstart working with lumber in any capacity, just because you'll have the basics and understand most of the tools you'll use. Plus you'll have developed some of the intangible skills. That is, fixing or covering up the inevitable mistake, working with an uncooperative piece of wood, and dealing with less-than-perfect tools.
  11. Man, I've emphasized over and over in posts to folks thinking about customizing or building a new bass, to factor into the decision, just how good they would be able recover if things went REAL bad.

    When you've only got that one single perfect piece of wood and only one shot to do it right, getting it right or at least to make it look right, shows whether you're cut out for this.
  12. Bassmanbob

    Bassmanbob Supporting Member


    Now you know what it's like to do surgery. Only you can't buy another limb, or face or what ever you're working on. You get one chance to get it right. You don't, and you're screwed (and so is the patient).

    You bring up a good point though.
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