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Is modding a good way to get into building?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by dave_77, Jul 17, 2017.

  1. dave_77


    Nov 22, 2016
    As the title implies I would like to get into bass building and would like to ask your advice as to how to do it. I have all the tools that are mentioned on the FAQs so feel fairly well equipped in that regard, but am a little apprehensive to just go straight in and start a build with no experience. I was wondering therefore, if buying a dirt cheap bass off eBay (£20-ish) and butchering it so I can have a look at the insides, maybe try adding new pickups, taking the neck off to have a go at reattaching it etc. would be a sensible use of my time or if I really should stop messing about and just start a new build?
    Thank you so much in advance,
  2. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    central NY state
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    I think modding is part of learning, I would think the normal progression would be modding, then kits or parts builds, then full scratch builds. I'm also finding just hanging out here and reading responses from the real luthiers here is a great way of learning! :)
  3. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Build a parts bass! I have been playing for over thirty years. I do my own setups. I know electronics.

    I learned a TON from putting together a parts bass recently. There is SO much more to it than you think . It's not just bolting it togoether a soldering a couple of wires and BOOM, you have a fantastic bass. Not even close.

    My bass turned out great. And it was a lot of fun to do. But there was more to it than I ever imagined.

    I also gained even more respect for the builders who hang out in this section than I already had to begin with.

    It's the light blue 4 string.
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2017
    Axstar, andruca, JGbassman and 2 others like this.
  4. SunnBass

    SunnBass All these blankets saved my life.

    Aug 31, 2010
    Columbia, Mo
  5. Jon Clegg

    Jon Clegg Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2015
    Northern Virginia
    Modding or a parts/kit builds are good ways to get started. @two fingers is right; you can learn fundamental things like setups, fretwork, and electronics before diving into the more daunting aspects of shaping wood, finishing, etc.

    Also consider finding a cheapo bass on CL, in a thrift shop etc in need of love to hone your skills.

    PS, @two fingers that bass is a beauty! :thumbsup:
  6. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    Absolutely! My progression was simple mods and upgrades, then a couple Warmouth and Allparts parts builds, then building custom bodies using pre-made necks, and now a full neck through build. There are a lot of kit basses available now, some decent quality, though the hardware and electronics are usually mediocre. Pitbull guitars makes a whole range of kits that still require a fair amount of handwork and finishing skills. Lots of Chinese kits on EBay and Amazon too, though some a little sketchy. Take advantage of the huge brain trust here on TB Luthiers Corner, nice mix of pros and amateurs who want you to succeed.
    bholder likes this.
  7. I humbly disagree, start making mistakes as soon as possible, as long as you learn from them, you are moving forward.
    Learning to fix mistakes is another huge addition to your skills.

    Mods tend to hold value only to the modder, most folks will reduce the value on a modded instrument.

    Don't get me wrong looking at others works will provide insight and inspiration. Figure out what you want to achieve, and then piece by piece work it out. To me that will get you a lot further quicker, besides I think the world is pretty saturated with mediocre P and J clones.
    Unless that's what you want to build, then that may be the best way forward, and improve the design and make Leo proud. :)

    Good luck and come up with something great, you can't imagine the pride you'll feel playing one of your own creations.
    Joe Ty and William Shafer like this.
  8. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    I tend to be mistake-averse with expensive lumber, so I'm an incrementalist. Screwing up a $60 rock maple neck blank would be painful for me financially, so I practiced each new technique on scrap or simple mockups before butchering hardwood, but everyone comes into this with different skills. If you already have the tools and and some medium to high level woodworking experience, maybe you can leapfrog into building. My approach worked for me, but it was s...l...o...w. I'm finding that mastering finish work skills is actually harder than the woodworking, because I have no background using a spray gun. If you've done a lot of autobody work, it probably comes easy.
  9. William Shafer

    William Shafer

    Apr 25, 2017
    As Gilmourisgod said it comes down to your own level of comfort. I started with hand tools and on completely different instruments. I learn to use power tools slowly as I acquired them, starting with making wooden drums, then made flutes, worked on a kit then jumped right in. I'm on my second build right now. My first actual build taught me a ton. Dirk Diggler is right you'll learn a lot more off the mistakes you'll make.
  10. Arie X

    Arie X

    Oct 19, 2015
    go for it. i jumped into the deep end right from the start in 7th grade. cover all the bases- repair, scratch build, and modding -it couldn't hurt. these days i'll pretty much work on or build anything that has strings. except a piano of course.

    ime, modding for a client has a high level of risk, modding for yourself has less.
    William Shafer likes this.
  11. dave_77


    Nov 22, 2016
    Thank you all so much for the repsonses, that blue bass is lovely. I'm still a bit unsure as to what to do, I guess I need to think about it a bit more. Thank you all.
    Gilmourisgod likes this.
  12. Plucky The Bassist

    Plucky The Bassist ZOMG! I'm back from the dead! Supporting Member

    Jul 30, 2010
    Houston, TX
    Yup, as said already... mod -> kit/parts -> full-on from scratch
    William Shafer likes this.
  13. William Shafer

    William Shafer

    Apr 25, 2017
    Funny, guess I've done it backwards... I did a scratch first, now finishing a kit, doing a partcaster for a friend, and after that I'll be de-fretting a bass. :D
  14. RBrownBass

    RBrownBass Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2004
    If (IF) it isn't neck-thru/set neck, more than 20 frets or shaped differently than a Fender P or J, what is the purpose of carving out one's own body? I get the sense of satisfaction, sure, but beyond that it seems time-consuming and unable to produce a better overall instrument.
  15. William Shafer

    William Shafer

    Apr 25, 2017
    Well, all the things at the beginning are a good point (my first build was a neck-through) otherwise I'd say that choice of wood is a big part of it. I personally love figured wood, and like to do drop tops. Of course you could always buy a body blank, router plane off a 1/4" - 1/2" and glue on a top.
    RBrownBass likes this.
  16. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    I can think of lots of reasons, but in my case my first real body build was a one-piece mahogany body for my Steinberger bass. The original "flying-vee" body looked cool, but it wasn't designed to be ergonomic or optimized for seated play. What had become an occasional player turned back into my #1, and it sounds a little warmer to boot, which was a secondary goal. If you are satisfied with the standard Fender-ish offerings, that's cool, but a lot of people have a specific set of ideas they want to incorporate into an instrument, and a strong desire to scratch a creative itch. I suppose we could have all said, "nah, good enough" when Leo invented the P-Bass, but then all we'd have are P-Basses.
    RBrownBass likes this.
  17. Frederiek


    Aug 8, 2016
    Do whatever you are slightly uncomfortable with ;) Some tension is good for progress and learning. If it doesn't matter that you screw up you will never be as precise - that's my experience at least.
    JIO, William Shafer and Gilmourisgod like this.
  18. Lonnybass

    Lonnybass Supporting Member

    Jul 19, 2000
    San Diego
    Endorsing Artist: Pedulla Basses
    Parts basses and modding is a great way to get yourself acquainted with components and certain fundamentals. Quite worthwhile in my opinion. But it's not going provide you the kind of experience that comes with careful, meticulous planning in three dimensions - where every step in the sequence needs to be done just the right way and translate into the many hundreds of steps to come. Each tool requires a healthy respect and practice as well. My advice, work on your modding, and also spend designing and building full-size prototypes out of pine. You'll discover a lot about your workflow and methods that work for you.
  19. RBrownBass

    RBrownBass Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2004
    I confess that I didn't consider a nice figured top.


    I assumed (should not have) that I was clear in posting that I completely understand carving non-Fender shapes. It's when someone carves out a standard alder or ash body (revised: see my reply above) to Fender dimensions that I ask myself why.
    Last edited: Jul 17, 2017
  20. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    If I had several hundred board feet of well-dried figured walnut or fiddleback maple lying around in inconvenient piles, I'd probably throw caution to the wind and start hacking away while whistling a jaunty tune. Unless you are lucky enough to have a local source of luthier-grade wood (I don't, nearest decent lumber yard is around 60 miles away), the cost of mail-order lumber becomes a factor. Its totally worth it to me to practice a brand-new technique on something like pine or poplar.Given my relative inexperience, the "pucker factor" is always present, which makes a successful step all the sweeter.