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Making a basic body blank?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by rojo412, Feb 25, 2014.

  1. rojo412

    rojo412 MARK IT ZERO! Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2000
    Cleveland, OH.
    Long story short, I've been bitten by the bug and I want to start making basses and parts. Getting the right tools opened up a whole new world for me, and I'm loving it.

    One thing I've noticed is, you pay for more finished materials. A finished body could be $400, unfinished for $250, body blanks for $60-100.
    But in essence, the basic ash or alder body blanks I see are a plank of wood, cut in two pieces and glued together.
    I feel like I could probably do that myself, with a little bit of know-how.

    So here's my questions:

    1) Can I get the proper ash/alder planks that are "ready to go"? If so, where?
    I read a few things about proper dryness and seasoning, but I don't have a kiln and don't intend to ever.
    Does a place like WOODCRAFT sell anything like that?
    Where should I be shopping for such planks?

    2) Once a plank is ready to be glued together, what do I need?
    I read that TITE-BOND is a good glue to use. True?
    And I know I'll need clamps... what are best and how tight do I have to clamp?
    How long does it have to dry?

    3) Will I always need to plane wood or can I buy it easily enough, already at the right thickness?

    I'm really just starting with a basic project for now.
    If it's stupid for me to try this and I should just buy a blank, please let me know.
    But if I can cut costs by doing this and not shoot myself in the foot by doing so, I'm all for it!

    Any help is very much appreciated.
  2. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    1) Woodcraft will sometimes have 8/4 lumber, the problem is finding a piece wide enough for anything less than a 3 piece body. I have never had any moisture problems with their woods, though you would be well served to find a local hardwood supplier.

    2) Titebond is excellent. The more clamps the better, and the tighter the better. Some people believe that you can over tighten causing to much squeeze out causing a dry joint. IMHO this is nonsense. Let it dry overnight.

    3) I have never glued up a body blank that didn't need some thicknessing. I usually use a drum sander for this. If you don't have the equipment, a local cabinet shop will usually help you out for a minimal fee.
  3. You can do it yourself with a little know how. But it will take a lot of know how.

    If you are looking to save money, buy a finished (painted) body from Warmoth. They do good work and at a reasonable price. It's absolutely the cheapest way for a beginner to get right results. Or have access to tools.

    1) Maybe. You want to find a local hardwood supplier. You are looking for a piece of 8/4 lumber at least 14 inches wide. Getting it the right length should be a breeze. A lot of lumber yards will offer milling services. Have them flatten and thickness plane the board to about 1 and 3/4. You might also save yourself a head ache by having them also straighten one of the sides.

    2) If you bought your board the right size you wont need to glue it up. If not, watch youtube videos ad nauseum until you feel you have a handle on it. I like the Wood Whisper's channel. Also, this guy https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0nNrFjIBDMrPAbbij6oXIw

    Titebond is great. Read the instructions on the bottle.

    Proper glue ups take some practice. Clamp just tight enough, but not too tight. Dry it at least over night.

    3) Depends upon your hardwood supplier.

    It might be stupid of you to try this. But its the right kind of stupid. I say go for it.

    Painting (or finishing) is strangely more and less complicated than it ought to be. That's a whole separate discussion.
  4. rojo412

    rojo412 MARK IT ZERO! Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2000
    Cleveland, OH.
    Yeah, I'm going to tackle painting later.

    This is more of a "can I do it?" thing. I would hate to destroy a $100 block of wood, so I figure that a plank would be cheaper.

    What's the typical price of a piece wood for such a project?
    And do I have to specify a level of dryness?
  5. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    There is no such thing as to much clamping pressure.
  6. Rojo,

    Based on your questions I have to ask..how much wood working experience do you have? Also how much time and $$ do you have to waste? This will allow folks to give the right advice.

    As far as Woodcraft I think others nailed this. They are a retail outlet so expect to pay retail/premium prices. They do have some good dry stuff so may be worth it to you.

    A kiln is not necessary. I would start with dry wood.

    If you do buy wetter wood you can make a "drying room" in your house using a closet,heater,dehumidifier and fans. This will function similar to a kiln but cheaper...

    As far as moisture content: 75% of the US has a (RH) relative humidity of 45-50% ...this equates to 8% or so ideal wood moisture content. Expect air dry to be somewhere in the 12-14% ballpark depending on how it is stored. Youll want to allow it to get to ideal moisture (again 8%) before working to allow it to "move". You are talking about thicker body stock so it wont move as bad as a neck lam/blank but still can.

    A lot of lumberyards do require minimum purchases when selling wholesale..something to think about.

    As far as glue. Titebond is good but may not work 100% with some exotic/oily species. Some you can wipe down and then apply while other folks recommend epoxy or something similar..do a little digging on that.

    Based on what Ive read thus far I have to recommend a precut blank. I think this will get you familiar with the process and physical properties of components. These and ALL other lumber can be found moderately priced on evilbay. Shipping is a killer but again will allow you to locate what you need and get you going forward.
  7. Jefff


    Aug 14, 2013
    While I have seen a glue starved joint come apart, I have never seen a body blank do it.

    The stress just isn't there to pull it apart.
  8. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    If it was a glue starved joint I guarantee that it wasn't caused by clamping pressure. Clamping pressure will force the glue into the wood causing a stronger bond.
  9. Jefff


    Aug 14, 2013
    Over clamping can leave a joint with too little glue. I have seen it on a table top. I know It was over clamping because I know I spread the glue over the entire surface.

    I also know how hard I clamped it.

    However, it was 3/4 by 6ft., not 1/34 by 16 inches.
  10. lbridenstine


    Jun 25, 2012
    PRS has presses for glue ups that are 4 tons of pressure per square inch (I know, this is for laminating thickness, they show the side to side clamping about 1 minute earlier in the video) at 4:00 in this video, I doubt that any of us can apply that much pressure with hand turning clamps.


    Anyway, rojo, I think if you're planning on doing more than 1 or 2, then go for doing it yourself, but it you're only planning one (your plans will change later) then just buy one already glued, because clamps, wood, and glue will probably add up to about the same price if not more. Clamps can get expensive.
  11. rojo412

    rojo412 MARK IT ZERO! Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2000
    Cleveland, OH.
    I have very little experience with woodworking, but I'm mechanically inclined, driven, and a fast learner. This is really the beginning of any kind of serious wood work at all for me.

    Currently, my plan is to see if I've got any future in it. While I realize that I could make attempts on $6 worth of pine from Home Despot, I'd rather make a go on something that could be useable, should I succeed.

    And unless I somehow stumble upon the secret to the future of bass building, I don't plan on making a career of it. Essentially, I just want it as an extension hobby from my love of bass in general.
    This is the next phase of the journey for me. I started with setups and electronics, moved to more serious repair and fretwork, so why not give this a shot? That's where I'm at.
  12. Scoops

    Scoops Why do we use base 10 when we only have 8 fingers Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 22, 2013
    Sugar Creek, Wisc
    I am me
    The only place that I know of to buy ready to go blanks are Carvin and Warmoth. Other places like Mighty Mite may sell you a blank. There are other places like Gilmer Wood Company, Northwest Timber, and Cook Wood, that sell "guitar sets".

    To drive down costs, I go to my local hardwood lumber store. I'm eying a slab of maple right now. Its about 6' long and about 20'' wide. There is one absolutely primo (really gorgeous figure) instrument in that slab, and probably five or six others too boot. the Slab is $365. If I can get 7 bodies out of it, the cost comes down to $52 ea. They do have a piece of ash that has some curly figures to it. I could probably get at least 3 nice bodies out of that piece. they want $140 ($46 ea). I don't have all the equipment to plane and sand flat these pieces. This shop charges me about $5 to $15 get them to the thicknesses I want. This is about the cheapest way I know.
  13. I would def. get some literature and learn the ins and outs of wood working. The machinery involved is highly dangerous and not recommended for those with no experience. Perhaps see if you can locate a local cabinet shop or take a course at a community college to get familiar with the equipment involved.

    It def. sounds like you would best be served with a Warmoth parts bass.
  14. rojo412

    rojo412 MARK IT ZERO! Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2000
    Cleveland, OH.
    I'm not afraid of power tools. I've done a lot of work on my own cars over the years and most of that was a hell of a lot more lethal than a router. Yeah, I know, you have to respect the tools. I certainly don't want to lose a finger... That would put a serious damper on my bass playing! :D

    And no offense to Warmoth lovers out there, but every time I've virtually built a body from them, I've ended up saying to myself "hell, I could buy a good used bass for that and modify it myself".

    That said, it's what I have been doing. I just got a Squier and put P2 sized routs into it, a battery box, and drilled it for a side mounted jack. Not rocket science, I know...
    With a routing table, some bits, and a jigsaw, I believe I could make a body.

    That's what I'm attempting... that's why I'm asking about it.
  15. OP, I say go for it. Alder is like $3 a board foot. A bass should run you like 9 or 10 board feet. When you screw up your blank you can laugh about it to us and your friends. When you get it right, you'll walk tall, magnificent in your success. It's only money and time.

    I've seen guys on wood working shows plane and glue up a couple of 4/4 boards in real time as they are talking to the camera and move on to the hard part of their project. Look up butcher's blocks and cutting boards on you tube.

    From my own experience, I bought a few body blanks from warmoth and hacked away at those. I'm pretty pleased with the progress I've made so far, and it's been pretty rewarding.

    However, I have a few boards in my shop (it's a garage when the GF's car is in it) destined to get chopped up to become body blanks for my next several builds and I'm pretty stoked.

    At a certain point, if you go far enough along the path, you will start looking at trees like, "I'm so going to mill the business out of you."
  16. mapleglo

    mapleglo Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2013
    phoenix, az
    I bought a piece of maple from the local lumber yard for around $35 (they also carry alder and ash which is less expensive), and you can get bar clamps at Habour Freight for less than $10 each, even less on sale. They're not very good quality, but they worked. I tightened them down as hard as I could and it glued up just fine. I got 6/4 maple, which is just over 1-1/4" thick, and sanded smooth. No thicknessing was required.
  17. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    Be careful buying body blanks. Make sure they are long enough for the body shape you are considering. If you were closer I would just sell you one but shipping would add up most likely
  18. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    The most important part of this process, in my opinion, is getting a truly flat, joinable gluing surface. You'll need either a mechanical jointer, or a jointing hand plane.

    They will rip and chop it to size for you, but a sawn surface really isn't great for a solid glue joint. You really want to joint that edge.

    I prefer mechanical jointers as I am not good with hand planes. I have a WW II era Boyce-Crane model I got on Craigslist for $20. I had to add a motor and stand, but after scrounging the motor, I still managed to build the thing out for under $100. It works well.

    So equipment deals are out there, but you'll have to do a lot of looking.

    1) Lumber you buy will be raw, S2S, or S4S. S4S is the way to go if you can find it, because it requires the least amount of work. Most Woodcraft lumber is S2S. I have made a few bodies out of wood from Woodcraft, and I haven't had trouble. It can be hard to find the wood you want in 7+" wide 8/4, but at least the one in OKC tends to rotate stock pretty regularly. They have a 17" wide 8/4 purpleheart slab that is just staggeringly purple, and I really want, though I have no idea what I'd do with it.

    2) Titebond is what I use. For clamps, I use these :http://www.harborfreight.com/24-inch-bar-clamp-96213.html

    3) You will probably need to do some surfacing after you glue. How much depends on how thick you want the body to be, and how well you align your parts when you glue. I glued a cherry body slab together that required only about 10 minutes of scraping and sanding to get everything level. And sometimes I have to feed the whole thing through a giant surface planer to get it level. The more you do it, the easier it will get.
  19. OP, It seems like your contradicting yourself a bit here.Why ask if you should just buy premade blanks and then shoot it down when its suggested? Based on what youve asked and shared it doesnt sound like you have a bunch of wood working experience..Sure stuff can be learned but I dont suggest jumping in and ripping lumber down without help..this is dangerous. Working on cars is no where near as dangerous and not relevant really.

    Not sure what answers you are truly trying to get. Can you cut lumber and glue it together? Sure. If you bought Warmoth and thought "hey I can do this" ... then I think you answered your own question.

    Also it wasnt necessarily the router I would concern myself with but more of the saws and planer as you size things down. Research the ins and outs of these machines...and again perhaps find a local cabinet shop and ask to observe for a bit. I realize it is not rocket science but your working with some tools at a high rate of speed that take a nanosecond to severely injure you.

    Remember to measure twice, cut once.