My first kit bass build

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Chris Todd, Jun 6, 2020.

  1. So this is my second post on Talk Bass. I'm going to assemble (and possibly/probably customize) this 5 string fretless Jazz bass kit. Someone said you all expected copious pictures, so I'll do my best.
    Here are the starting materials:

    I don't actually own a bass amp, so I started by simply assembling the hardware - I screwed on the tuners, the bridge, and the neck, and strung it up. It's been 20+ years since I strung a bass, so I'm not even sure I did that correctly, LOL. But... It makes BASS sounding noises! W00t! :)
    Here it is strung up:
    I'm pretty happy so far, even though all I've really done is turn some screws, hehe. But I didn't mess it up! Baby steps.

    I'm pretty impressed with the kit. There are three minor issues/dings I need to sand up, but the neck seems straight and flat without any twists or warps. It fit snugly into the neck pocket. I certainly wasn't expecting Tobias or Ken Smith quality for a $180 kit, but I'm actually quite surprised I got something this good for that little.

    I like the way it sounds, though there's probably a lot of adjustment to do. The actions feels quite high... I think the nut may be too high, but I haven't adjusted the bridge at all, nor the truss rod. Then again, strings have been on for less than a day, so the wood is still adjusting. Plus, I'm going to disassemble it anyway once I figure out how I'm going to carve and finish it. And I need to either get an amp or a USB interface to plug it into my Mac. But I like how it sounds acoustically. I also discovered that playing a fretless is hard without lines, and the side dots are where they would be if they were between frets, so that's really confusing. I'm going to think about either removing the side dots, or if I feel bold, maybe I'll buy a fret saw and inlay my own lines. I've never done anything like that before, so that would be an adventure. Then again, that's why I started this project; to learn some new skills, have some fun, and come out of it with a 5 string fretless Jazz bass!
  2. Looking good so far. There are a couple of builders on here who install a line just at the bass edge of the board. I did that on a Squire 5 string neck I converted. Installed matching lines on most of the board and white at the edge. I like that look. It might be @Beej ? If not, he might remember who it is.

    As far as stringing, I usually measure 2 tuning posts past where the string will hit the tuner, or a couple of inches, put a 90 degree bend in the string and cut it off an inch or so past the bend. Then the bent part goes down in the hole in the center of the tuner and start winding. Ideally, you’d want 2-3 wraps around the posts. Once you start to actually set it up, go to the hardware, setup and repair forum and search “witness points” and do that. Also, you want the winds to go down the tuners, towards the headstock. It looks like yours might be going up. That helps pull the string down through the nut and gives a good break angle and will help avoid rattles and all sorts of other odd issues.

    Keep us posted and welcome to TB!
  3. Thanks for the tips on stringing, I appreciate it!
    Reedt2000 likes this.
  4. dwizum


    Dec 21, 2018
    Where'd the kit come from?

    What are your finishing plans?

    And, welcome!
    Reedt2000 likes this.
  5. The Fretwire: DIY Electric Bass Guitar Kit - Fretless 5 String J Bass Build Your Own
    I have absolutely no idea! :) I don't have any experience with finishes, though I did buy the Stewmac "Guitar finishing step-by-step" 2nd edition, I just haven't read it yet. I'll probably KISS, and just use tung oil or something super simple.
    Novarocker, Reedt2000 and dwizum like this.
  6. Actually I do know one thing - I will not paint it. Wood is beautiful, and every piece is unique, so I will try to find some way to emphasize this piece's natural beauty as best I can, while staying within the boundaries of my meager skills.
  7. dwizum


    Dec 21, 2018
    Every builder has their own favorite finish, but I really like the ease of wipe on satin oil based poly. It's forgiving and easy to work with and builds thickness in fewer coats than many "oil" finishes.
    robert43, Novarocker and Reedt2000 like this.
  8. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    I suggest Tru-Oil, it really is stupid easy, just sand up to 320 or 400 grit, wipe on the Tru Oil, wait a few minutes, then wipe off the excess. The more coats you put on, the shinier it gets, so just keep putting it on until you like how it looks. Be warned, this bass building hobby is addictive, and may lead to from-scratch builds eventually. Have fun!
  9. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    Good call going fretless. Pics when your finished.
    Reedt2000 likes this.
  10. funkinbottom

    funkinbottom Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 23, 2006
    Northern CA.
    Looking great so far. A kit is a fun, educational way to get to building stuff. Have fun and keep posting progress pics.

    Oh, it starts out innocent enough with a kit. "I can just build one, I can't get hooked just building one" Then you move up to a couple parts basses for a little bigger thrill. "No prob, I can quit any time I want" Yeah, you keep telling yourself that, But..... inevitably you will find yourself with a pile of wood for scratch builds because you have a bass building monkey on your back, and that monkey has claws and long sharp teeth.
  11. That's exactly how I started in the Amateur Astronomy hobby 15 years ago, so I know *exactly* how that song goes... One $50 used telescope led to... an obsession. I feel it coming on again... I'm trying so hard to resist, but I will probably fail. You see, there's this Maple tree stump in my backyard, and it only takes two years to dry wood, and who knows, it could be spalted or have an interesting figure, and it's just sitting there dead, doing nothing useful... ;-)
    Novarocker, funkinbottom and Low8 like this.
  12. bassingeorge

    bassingeorge Supporting Member

    Jul 28, 2003
    San diego, CA
    This bass has interested me for a looong time now.

    I have a few questions. Are the neck pocket dimensions same as what fender/squier uses on their jazz bass V's?

    I wouldn't mind building that bass at all fretless as it comes, but it is obviously better if it fits a squier jazz bass V neck for a quick conversion down the road.
  13. I like it w/o the p-ups, perfect for some ‘players’ I know.
    five7 likes this.
  14. Doner Designs

    Doner Designs Steve Doner Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2012
    Metro Chicago Area
    Doner Designs is an alias for Steve Doner
    Looks like pretty good quality for that price. So long as the neck is good you can always upgrade electronics and hardware if needed. Have fun!
    Gilmourisgod likes this.
  15. lark_z

    lark_z Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2020
    Georgetown, TX
    Reedt2000 likes this.
  16. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    Danish is great if you want a satin finish, but it never really gets up to a high gloss, and seems to take longer to cure. I've used it on a lot of furniture over the years, and it holds up well. One nice thing about Oil finishes, is you can wet sand with the oil itself to fill the grain if you really want to get up to a high shine. I like to let a little grain show through on oil finishes myself, so I tend just to skip the wetsanding or grain filling. Oil finishes can be "repaired" (within reason) by adding more oil, but if you tend to beat on your guitars, or want something more durable, a wipe on poly might be better. How are the pots and wiring in the kit? That's often where they cheap out, with little Alpha mini pots, thin gauge wire, and bad jacks. Luckily all that stuff is pretty cheap, switchcraft jack and a couple of CTS pots is short money.
    robert43 and Reedt2000 like this.
  17. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Gold Supporting Member

    looks good, OP! congrats on your fretless choice --- and good luck with your kit build! :thumbsup:
  18. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    Wow, checked out the website. Really good deal for a low risk build, you've got to let us know how it turns out.
  19. JeezyMcNuggles

    JeezyMcNuggles Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2018
    Santa Maria, CA
    I suck, but nobody really notices
    Right on. Stain it purple!
    Chris Todd likes this.
  20. five7

    five7 Supporting Member

    Dec 5, 2009
    Plus, I'm going to disassemble it anyway once I figure out how I'm going to carve and finish it.
    What "carving" are you planning?