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Making a Bass

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by spyde223, Jun 15, 2001.

  1. spyde223


    Apr 11, 2000
    Dumas, Texas
    has anyone ever made their own custom bass. i was thinking of trying it. between warmoth and allparts i can get everything i need. i've been thinking about it and know how hard it would be. truss rods and routing the wiring would be a pain probably i would think but fun at the same time. i'm usually pretty good at figuring stuff out (been known to get bored and take apart my bass, it still works fine). warmoth sells books on it so i don't have to worry about that. is this task nearly impossible or can it be done and work good. i don't wanna go spend 500+ on stuff and just have it end up in a pile on the floor. i know it would take a year or so but i got the time, or can make it. i guess i'm asking if a beginner idiot like me could do this or should i leave to the pros.
  2. rllefebv


    Oct 17, 2000
    Newberg, Oregon
  3. pkr2


    Apr 28, 2000
    coastal N.C.
    We've got an excellent guy right here that can give you good sound advice on rolling your own. See if you can hit Hambone up for some advice. He's been there in spades.

  4. Thanx for the plug Pkr2. To be perfectly forthright though, I've completed one and since it's completion in December have been accumulating woods, parts, and plans for at least 4 more. The next will be started sometime this summer (depending on house buying plans) and completed in the fall. My experience however, has a bit more depth since I've been doing my own setups, modifications and additions for some time now. Sometimes I sound as if I'm the king daddy authority but I'm still quite the student on this subject. One thing in my favor is that I retain nearly all of the things I read and I read a lot on the subject. The only other point on my resume that I can point to is that all of the bassists that have tried my first creation tell me that it is a sweet player (if a bit heavy) and that I definitely should build more. OK, twist my arm ;)

    spyde223 to answer your question simply - JUST GO FOR IT!!! That's not a rally cry to rush headlong into it without research and careful consideration. That's just solid encouragement to explore the whole subject, learn, and eventually get your hands dirty. I've seen some fabulous creations from first time builders and I've seen some well executed turds. I believe the difference is the time spent beforehand in planning and design. My bass took 3 months and over 60 hours for design and building. Instead of choosing features that I "had" to have, I chose features that I knew I could accomplish with high quality results. That's what distinguishes it from one that is homebuilt with looks and feel to match and mine that has a professional feel and appearance.

    rllefebv's suggestion of the Hiscock book is a great place to start. This book is viewed as a definitive reference for the craft. There are others as well but they focus more on either a specific type of instrument or narrow feature of building like finishing or neck construction. You could easily put together a nice library on the subject. Not a bad way to go - spend $50 - $100 on reading material and make that $500 look like $1500! YMMV. The Stewart MacDonald link given is one of the best places to see just about everything involved with the craft. I prefer to call it a wishbook!

    Don't let Pkr2's nice recommendation of my work fool you though. Perhaps sometime you can get a look at some of his creations. They are professional and pretty. He also has accumulated a barrel of neat shop tips that he regularly shares. Another guy on here that has done his share of building is Rock'nJohn, who had his own custom bass business for awhile. From what I've learned, they did it all - necks, electronics, etc. He always has an angle on some of our hairbrained ideas usually cuz he's tried 'em first. I would guess that there are probably 20 guys on the forum that have rolled their own. I probably should get up a poll to see just how many have done it so we will know for sure.

    Oh, and in case you haven't noticed yet, I am absolutely enthralled by this craft. I WILL purchase another factory bass (I swear I will!!) but right now I am looking to really fill out my collection with my own creations both as a means of overcoming the vaporizing dollar and to keep my feeble mind active.
  5. spyde223


    Apr 11, 2000
    Dumas, Texas
    wow, thanks for the encouragement. Hambone, did you build the body from a block of wood or did you get it premade? what are some the tools you would need? any specialty ones that would help? thanks again.
  6. I built Hambone Custom Bass Ser.#0001 from 2 pieces of fabulous piece of curly maple that I joined myself. I designed the body in the computer and used a high end CNC router table for the cutting, inletting and some of the drilling. At $70,000+ for a machine of this type I couldn't afford one myself so used the one at work. The belly contour and the armrest contours were done with a flexible disc and a right angle grinder. Here's a link to some pics:


    The neck is an older Warmoth bought from ebay (birdseye maple/ebony). The pics were taken just after completion while I was awaiting some electronic components hence the vacant pot/switch holes. There isn't anything too unusual about the bass itself but I did incorporate some different things you won't find on some others like threaded steel inserts instead of wood screws to mount the neck and a modified Schaller bridge to allow stringing through the body. The finish is a light stain with a tung oil finish. The bass has since been re-oiled resulting in a slightly deeper hue and a brighter, glossier finish. It will likely undergo yet another finish

    As for tools you can do this with some simple ones but far more care must be taken with hand tools to achieve the parts fit desired. For power tools start with a hand router, joiner, planer, band saw, sanders, dremel tool, and drill press. On the hand tool side the regular lineup is all that is needed like screwdrivers, files, sanding blocks, squares, rasps, etc. Some folks like the experience of doing most of the work by hand with elbow grease but I prefer the computer router for the body allowing me a more perfect part fit and repeatable results. I haven't made a neck yet. I don't know exactly when I will since I have several necks in stock and have found a neat source for new ones in maple. This is a critical part of the bass and I don't really want to chance doing a lot of work only to fail with the neck and make a dog for playing. Keep in mind that you can design for your tools so don't get too discouraged if you don't have all that I have mentioned.
  7. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Well, not really... Just want to put in a couple of books that I prefer to Hiscock, namely Martin Koch (build your own guitar, available at an URL with a similar name .com (sorry)) and Siminoff. They cover about the same areas.
    But Hiscock is way over his head when he talks woods. Oh, my! He claims that elm and oak are useless for luthierie - two of the best woods ever for body and neck, respectively. Well, most of the book is good stuff.

    And talking wood...if you have any interest in woodwork, I'd suggest that you build from scratch!
    Lots of fun, more achievement;)
  8. spyde223


    Apr 11, 2000
    Dumas, Texas
    suburban, after looking at prices i believe it would be cheaper to. just imagine, a tranparent white explorer bound in black w/ black hardware :D. get chills thinking of it. my only scare of building from scratch would be the neck. oh well, i'll figure it out when the time comes.
  9. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Don't fear the neck! If you are just over particular about planing and the position of the truss rod, you'll manage. The fingerboard can be bought, finished or fretslotted, if you are worried about fretting.
    Well, if you are opting for a bolt-on or set-in you might worry over the joint. That *must* be exact.

    As the USC are supposed to have said: CHAAAARGE!
  10. I would recommend building a Warmoth. It's really simple and won't take you long. I did it and I am extremely pleased with the results. In fact, I'm thinking of another one. I want a Fender Jazz, but I thought, hey! I could build a Warmoth Jazz that would proboaly be better and cheaper (not much, though).

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