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Is building a bass possible?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by RickeyC, Jan 17, 2012.

  1. RickeyC


    Jan 17, 2011
    I am 19 years old. Been playing bass for about 10 years now and am loving it. I recently have become very interested in making a bass. I have little woodworking experience, but I do know an older gentleman who has a full shop, and works with wood regularly. He doesn't build basses, but he knows his equipment and how to use them.

    I am going over for a day soon and going to have him show me the tools and how to use them.

    I'm looking at building just the body right now (I will order a neck from warmoth. Sorry, I just don't even know where to start on a neck..)

    If I could eventually make a bass out of a nice wood and it is solid overall, would I be able to sell it for a little profit?

    Many may say, No! You're only a kid or you're not a pro..
    But, my response is many luthiers worked with wood as a kid and no one is born a professional.

    I'm just at a loss. Do I have hope? :help:
  2. I don't think there's a reason to say no, while your job done reach the price you ask for the bass, then You will have a space in the market. Thats my 20 cents
  3. Seph Cameron

    Seph Cameron

    Jan 17, 2012
    Stroud, UK
    As someone who's just getting started and looking into going into luthiery(?) myself (I could count the number of guitars/basses I've built on two hands), I'd say you wouldn't be able to sell it. Not yet. Pick away at it over the next few years, make the odd one as and when you can afford it. Refine your technique. If a friend wants to commission one, great. More practice for you, and a bit of pocket money too. Just don't see it as quick cash, because it definitely isn't.

    There's more to guitar/bass building than just woodwork. There's a bunch of theory and knowing how to use it that goes into making a decent end product too. But then again, prove me wrong. Make something awesome on your first go :D
  4. RickeyC


    Jan 17, 2011
    Thanks! I appreciate it you chiming in :)
  5. vivifiction


    Jan 22, 2011
    one of my bandmates is currently in the process of building a guitar from scratch, and while he has woodworking experience and works with guitars regularly, this is his first go at building one. I must say, it's looking pretty great (he's in the process of laquering the body now) and then he's just got to assemble it.
    So yes, I'd say it's possible. Just do your research, take your time, and don't expect to make something perfect (or potentially, even playable)
  6. Seph Cameron

    Seph Cameron

    Jan 17, 2012
    Stroud, UK
    No worries dude. I just posted it in the thread down from this, but it's kinda relevant here too.
    Making a Through-Neck Bass Guitar From Scratch
    That's the first guitar build I did. Bits of it are a little out, so take it with a pinch of salt, but it's a good starting point.
  7. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    Can you make a nice playing, nice looking bass on your first try? Yes its quite doable.

    Would you be able to sell this bass for a profit? I doubt it.
  8. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Supporting Member

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    Just an opinion from some guy on the internet who never built a bass in his life -

    First - if you really want to learn to build basses, go for it. Don't listen to the people who tell you all the reasons it can't be done. What they really mean is that it's not easy. There are some people making a living doing it and if they all listened to the doom and gloom crowd, there would be nobody to make our instruments.

    Second, find an apprenticeship somewhere, regardless of how little money you can get paid. You will learn more working in a shop than for a year than you'll learn on your own in ten years. You'll learn about ALL the aspects of running a business.

    Last - good luck. Now is the time to chase your dream. Even if it doesn't work out, you'll never have to wonder what would have happened if you had tried.
  9. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Victoria, BC
    Given enough time and money, nearly anything is possible, what you really want to know is, what is the probability that you will be able to complete a playable instrument given your experience and budget. The answer is probably no, but don't let that discourage you, those of us who have experience in this field typically find our first instrument or two a "practice" instrument before we hone some technique and gain experience.

    That said, just tackling a body is a much easier prospect than building an entire instrument from scratch. For starters, read every sticky at the top of this forum. Also, read through the first few pages of threads from this forum and look for similar questions from others. Your idea of wanting to build a bass and having no experience comes up very frequently and there is some great advice and thoughts on the subject as to how to proceed already out there.

    If you have the will and the drive, you will be able to build a bass. There are many pitfalls along the way, so it is a good idea to build your first with the idea that it is a practice build and then work from there. Definitely pick up a book or two on the subject - again found in the stickies, and ask tons of questions. As you spend more time here, you will also find out who the luthiers are - don't expect that a person who is responding is a person with experience - that is usually not the case. Whenever I see these threads, I often see a great deal of talk and banter about the subject, but rarely from posters in this forum who actually have some experience. Read the who are you thread as well to get a picture of who's advice you're following.

    Good luck and keep us posted! :)
  10. FBB Custom

    FBB Custom TalkBass Pro Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2002
    Owner: FBB Bass Works
    Read a book. Melvyn Hiscock's book is a good one. Everyone who has done it has jumped in with both feet at some point, but do yourself (and if you find someone who you can apprentice with, him) a favor and read, absorb, and prepare. Familiarize yourself with the tools, techniques, and design components.
  11. RickeyC


    Jan 17, 2011
    Thanks so much guys! Money isn't my gaol right now. Right now I just want to learn a trade and build some thing that I am passionate about. One day, maybe I can make money even as a side job/hobby.. I keep searching for things on Talkbass but I can only really find builds and not answers to my questions. It's tough..
  12. MPU


    Sep 21, 2004
    Valkeala Finland
    Building a bass is not difficult when you
    -know how to use tools
    -know what needs to be done to make a well designed and made bass.
    First one takes only practice (a lot) and the second one takes time to read and look for well made basses and finding out what makes the deifference between well made and not so well made basses.
    And of course, don't rush on the making. Think at least twice before you do anything.
  13. devo_stevo


    Aug 2, 2006
    Northern Utah
    Builder: Brumbaugh Guitarworks
    Yes, you can do it. You seem to have the right idea about it. Get a good job that pays your bills and gives you a bit extra for things like this and do it on the side as a hobby. Like was said already, take your time, study LOTS before you go cutting anything up, and be patient. It takes a lot of time to build a quality instrument. Much more than most realize and if you are expecting a quick project, you can get frustrated.

    And don't expect anyone to pay a lot of money for an instrument from you for a while. You know how it is, nobody wants to spend thousands on an instrument from some guy who they have never heard of. So don't expect to get rich.

    Above all, though, have fun with it. It really is something that I enjoy and I'm pretty proud of the instruments that I've made because I put a lot of time and effort into them.
  14. tdub0199


    Mar 4, 2010
    Atlanta, Ga.
    Sure it's possible, Here is my 1st build....

    Attached Files:

  15. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I convert 4 string Rickenbackers to 5 string basses.
    Perhaps your first build could be a parts bass.
  16. Dave Higham

    Dave Higham

    Dec 19, 2005
    OK I'll say it again. Buy 'Make Your Own Electric Guitar' by Melvyn Hiscock. I built my first bass using this book and with no other help. I had no computer, so no internet and no help from anyone. I did have some hand tools and one or two machine tools.

    In the book he deals with every aspect of building a solid body instrument. A neck-through bass, a bass built from parts, a set-neck (glued in) guitar and a bolt-on. All the information you need to build whatever you want is in there. It also has an introduction by a chap called Brian May who built his own guitar with help from his dad and then had quite a bit of success playing it. ;)
    I played my first one until I finished the second and then sold the first to my son-in-law who kept insisting he wanted to buy it. But I wouldn't count on selling your first unless you have a friend or relative who really wants it.
  17. Arx


    Jan 22, 2008
    yes, it's definitely doable. I am just finishing up my second bass right now. I suggest you use cheap or scrounged parts for your first one. It'll be nice if you do a good job of it, but it'll probably have enough minor problems that you're going to want to make another one that's better.
    As far as selling it goes... There's a lot of very cheap, and still reasonably decent basses available new. Your first couple probably wouldn't be sellable for more than the value of the parts. You'll probably be better off stealing all the parts to build the next one.

    For me, it's been a valuable experience, but if it was just about getting a nice bass I would have been way further ahead just spending the same money as I did on parts, materials, and tools on a really nice bass.
  18. Musiclogic

    Musiclogic Commercial User

    Aug 6, 2005
    Southwest Michigan
    Owner/Builder: HJC Customs USA, The Cool Lute, C G O
    This is good advice. This guy seems to have an idea:p
  19. I spent years (38) playing bass and guitar, and because I didnt have very much money, if I wanted a decent instrument, I had to find a different way to get one then to just go out and buy one. I started out by getting cheap instruments and refretting and changing out the electronics and hardware. Then I started playing around with making my own bodies, or modifying and /or repainting the ones I had. My wife at the time wasnt pleased-but then, she pretty much wasnt pleased with anything I did, but thats another story. In the last 10 years, I got a little more serious and started gathering all the books article and just about any info I could on building from scratch. As a bonding thing, I suggested to my son (who was 14-15 at the time) that we make him a guitar and he, of course, thought that was a great idea. We ended up making two. The first one turned out just beautiful (a Tele with a figured top) and he was hooked. He made the second one pretty much by himself (a Strat). I was by this time working on a bass. My first bass pretty much turned out how I wanted, and its still my gigging bass. But where Im going with all this is this; About a year ago I was down in southern CA. visiting a friend who works for a well known guitar maker. I hung out at the shop with him for a few days and got to know a few of the guys working there. (got a bunch of tips on guitar making too!!!). So some of the guys found out I (ahem) made guitars and asked me about them. I happened to have my bass with me, so I brought it in. I was amazed that they loved it. There were a couple of bass players there who played it and expressed interest in having me make them one. Yeah, I was a little proud. Anyway, they asked what I would charge for a bass like that, and I told them I was thinking in the $800.00 to $1200.00 range. They told me (and this blew me away) that I could easily get $2500.00 for them and to not short change myself.

    So, my advice to you is; GO FOR IT!! Youve got nothing to lose, and its more fun than anything to boot. Oh, and good luck!
  20. +1 to what Beej said - and I want to put special emphasis on doing your upfront research. I was just like everyone else here before my first build - in the dark about a lot of stuff - making assumptions - but I think the most important thing I learned was this - the more I researched, the more I learned that I could build a bass - the entire bass, neck and all.

    I got serious about wanting to build my first bass a full 2 years before I finally finished it. When I first got the bug, I thought I'd be making sawdust over the weekend. As I researched and asked questions I ended up postponing 'first cut' for at least a few months while I read, researched and designed more and more. The more I researched the more I designed - the more I designed, the more I discovered and refined... Eventually I was very clear about what I was going to do. I had my plans and I knew what processes I needed to dig into - what wood to buy - what tools I needed - the works.

    Take your time.

    But if I just wanted to 'get it done' - I could just build a body, order a neck and that would expedite the process.

    I was just like you - familiar with some tools and woodworking - and my dad (I'm 44, btw) and a neighbor were full-on tool and wood experts who were willing to make sure I didn't lose any body parts while they helped me learn how to use the tools.

    I would recommend you get the Melvyn Hiscock book and dig in. Start your design process (pencil/paper or computer) and start sharing your progress and asking questions.

    If you invest more time in the planning and research end, you'll discover you can build the entire instrument - especially if you have some expert help.

    As for starting a business - sure - but just like the bass building process, that too requires research, planning and savvy execution with the help of some skilled pros.

    Invest in the end you can put the most into - your own education - do the research, do the design - ask questions. I am pretty sure you'll see you can do it all if you want to.

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