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Is chambering a bass a bad idea?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by BaileyMan, Feb 9, 2019.

  1. BaileyMan

    BaileyMan Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2012
    San Francisco
    I thought I'd post here for some feedback from the great folks in the Luthier's corner...

    I've got an amazing Carvin 5 string. It's the bass I've owned the longest. I love the neck profile. Narrow and easy to manage. I love the tone. I dropped some Bartolini pups and pre-amp in 20+ years ago. It looks great, sounds great, plays great.

    I'm mostly a 4 string guy, but there's a project or two where the 5 string is the right tool for the job. Sometimes it's a 3 hour job, and it's too heavy for me for those longer gigs. I don't enjoy playing it... In a perfect world, it would weigh about 2 lbs less.

    Are there any ways to successfully reduce the weight of the instrument? Replacing the heavy brass bridge and bridge plate would save a handful of ounces. What about "chambering" it? Is that totally a bad idea?

    Thanks in advance!
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2019
    Pbassmanca likes this.
  2. Rob Allen's basses are chambered, light and sound terrific. The short scale Lakland HB-30 is also chambered and sounds excellent. Different animals than your Carvin 5, but... I'd go for it.
    Quantized Harmonic likes this.
  3. BaileyMan

    BaileyMan Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2012
    San Francisco
    It would most likely mean I end up with big empty cavities in the back of the bass... is that something to avoid?
    Pbassmanca likes this.
  4. Jon Clegg

    Jon Clegg Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2015
    Northern Virginia
    Lots of builders chamber their basses and not just for weight reduction; @Bruce Johnson specifically chambers to enhance the mids on his basses.
    Pbassmanca likes this.
  5. Slidlow

    Slidlow Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2009
    Oshawa, Canada
    Chambering should be done with purpose. Like to allow more resonance or to reduce weight. Overall instrument balance needs to be factored in as well as one could easily go from a heavy bass to one that suffers neck dive. If you are looking to cut wood from an existing bass you should consider the savings you will see. Wood really does not weigh a lot in small amounts. I looked at cutting a recent build and after calculating what I could remove without weakening the bass I only had a 5 to 6 ounce saving. I scrapped the idea. Lighter hardware could help. I have been considering Lace Alumitones as they claim you could save a pound or two depending on number used over regular pickups. I have been searching for reviews of their sound before deciding. Remember weight removed from the body will cause greater balance issues so weight reduction at the headstock may be required as well.
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2019
    gepettus, gebass6, daveman50 and 7 others like this.
  6. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    I've got a D'Angelico Excel that's chambered, and IMO it sounds pretty awesome.
    Keyser Soze likes this.
  7. If you really like your Carvin the way it is, I’d leave it alone. A hack chambering job on a bass that wasn’t designed to be chambered will end up being just that; a hack job.

    Just look for another bass that you like that’s lighter. There’s plenty of great instruments out there and some of them are really affordable.
    MrLenny1, MVE, Jim Carr and 11 others like this.
  8. Slidlow

    Slidlow Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2009
    Oshawa, Canada
  9. Stumbo

    Stumbo Wherever you go, there you are. Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 11, 2008
    the Cali Intergalctic Mind Space
    Song Surgeon slow downer software- full 4 hour demo
    Who did the chambering?

    I'd check in with @johnk_10 for his opinion and whether he can do the work.
    Pbassmanca and pbass888 like this.
  10. Coolhandjjl

    Coolhandjjl Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2010
    Aren’t those built as chambered basses?
    saabfender likes this.
  11. dwizum


    Dec 21, 2018
    Bolt on neck? If so, I'd consider building a lighter body from scratch with a focus on weight savings, swapping the tuners to lightweight units, and swapping the truss rod for titanium if it's removable (some dual-action rods will slide right out).

    Neckthrough or set neck? same as above, but build a new neck, too. So, build a bass from scratch. Copy the things you like from this bass.

    I agree with the others that it doesn't really make sense to chamber this bass in an attempt at weight savings. There's really no way to do it in an equivalent fashion to basses built that way, which are designed around the chambers and would typically have a top glued on the body which obscures them. You're not going to have an easy time covering or hiding the chambers, unless you glue a new top or back on the bass, and at that point, just build your own.

    Worst case, you completely ruin a perfectly fine instrument. Best case, it's a few ounces lighter but also neck dives a bit and has obvious chambers cut into it.
  12. TheReceder


    Jul 12, 2010
    Sorry... read my post and figured I sounded like an a**... that wasn't my intent.

    If you're good at woodworking I could see doing something like the pictures below... otherwise, I wouldn't risk it.

    Think about how much weight you'd actually shave if you drilled a bunch of holes in the bass....
    Maybe if you really went nuts... 1 lb? Might as well shave the back of the neck, cut down the headstock, and order lightweight tuners.

    If you don't know what you're doing, you'll probably devalue the bass enough that you could have bought a lesser/lighter bass for the same amount.

    I have to confess I have the equipment to do the work, but not sure I have the confidence to mess with any bass I've had for a long time. If you opt to do it... I'm sure people would love to see pics of your process.

    jbass_hollow_1. th?id=OIP.0-DqOhFZ6y9W-0ZenL9qUQHaLh&w=120&h=187&c=7&o=5&dpr=1.15&pid=1. th?id=OIP.46oo6d7zE9kzsKc-aZ6ofwHaJ1&w=107&h=174&c=7&o=5&dpr=1.15&pid=1. th?id=OIP.2NtwSDvt-VG3RbfdNhnukwHaJ6&w=157&h=196&c=7&o=5&dpr=1.15&pid=1.
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2019
    Bioflava, Pbassmanca, gebass6 and 4 others like this.
  13. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member


    Yessiree! The D’Angelico Excel SD I have comes from the factory as a chambered bass.
  14. Cutter8

    Cutter8 Admittedly in need of adult supervision... Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 4, 2018
    Do you know offhand who made the bodies in those pics you posted?
  15. TheReceder


    Jul 12, 2010
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2019
  16. Cutter8

    Cutter8 Admittedly in need of adult supervision... Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 4, 2018
    porterbass and TheReceder like this.
  17. Skillet

    Skillet Supporting Member

    Nov 25, 2011
    what happens under the pickguard, stays hidden, under the pickguard.... just saying
    GotRoot?, TrustRod, miljoneir and 3 others like this.
  18. Get a hollowbody bass. Save yourself the grief.
    TheReceder likes this.
  19. TheReceder


    Jul 12, 2010
    Maybe go this route?

    c7e52cf95ec92c00f681d547496c26b9--guitar-art-custom-guitars. omuue-.
  20. tjh

    tjh Supporting Member

    Mar 22, 2006
    I have a pretty versatile woodworking background, and have 'tinkered' with several basses, bodies, hardware and components, and taking 2 lbs off a bass is not a simple task … on a 5lb 4-string Fender Jazz body, routing/chambering under the pickguard has netted me no more than about 6 .oz, or a little over 1/3 lb … and that was an aggressive route, almost taking more off that I would ever do again ... hardware can net a bit that helps, and those are generally at both ends of the bass, headstock for machines, and bridge at the other end … on a 4 string bass, a BAII is about 1/2 lb., a simple bent plate Fender bridge ranges from .22-.24lb, just under 1/4 .lb … a multi ply pickguard on Fender Precision is usually in the 1/4 lb range, a thin single play can cut that in 1/2, but is only 2 .oz, or 1/8 lb … the heavy chrome knobs on a P style bass can make a difference too … the problem with hardware changes, is it often involves a $$ expense, sometimes which cannot be justified …
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2019
    davidprice and BaileyMan like this.

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