My first NSNT build

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by sikamikanico, Oct 1, 2017.

  1. sikamikanico


    Mar 17, 2004
    This is my first build, where NSNT refers to "No Skills, No Tools" - essentially trying to do something useful on a limited budget and maybe learning a thing or two along the way. I willingly sacrificed the looks, but aimed for a structurally solid bass (as much as possible).

    This bass started as a modification project. I was curious how pickup placement actually influences sound, and decided to do a small experiment. To control other factors, I bought a cheap Silvertone P-bass for $50 and “routed” (hand drill and screwdriver method) a swimming-pool rout to place pickups in various locations. I also got a DiMarzio Model P (it was cheap due to it’s “unique” color), and at some point that bass looked like this:

    I learned that I prefer having one pickup, and in the general location of Precisions and other similar basses. I wanted to try some other pickup types, and while I liked that bass, the body was thin and it cracked between the neck pocket and the pickup rout (it was cracked when I got it, but I may have made it worse). It was a very light bass, and overall it just did not feel solid enough to make fair judgements on sound. So I decided to get a new body for it.
  2. sikamikanico


    Mar 17, 2004
    I wanted to stay on the cheap side, so I bought on eBay an ash P body with a misplaced pickup rout. This was perfect, because I could simply enlarge the rout to accommodate different types of pickups. I even invested in a $10 chisel, so that it was not a complete hack job, like the Silvertone :)


    I also came across a cheap Cimar neck which seemed promising. The Silvertone neck was OK, but the nut was damaged, and it felt a bit flimsy overall.

  3. sikamikanico


    Mar 17, 2004
    There were a number of issues with the body and the neck that made this a bit more complicated than a parts build I wanted. The upper horn was cracked, so with the help of TB I learned I can just glue it back together. Upper horn crack - how bad is this?

    The neck had it’s original holes filled, new ones drilled in wrong locations, and the heel was not sanded flat. I filled the holes (toothpicks and glue method) and sanded it flat. Again with friendly advice from TB, I decided to just attached the neck slightly towards the end of the heel, drilling into the intact parts of the wood. Neck plate placement

    The neck pocket was also poorly routed, leaving an uneven gap at the end of the neck heel. There are gaps all around the pocket, but I wanted a better fit at the end. Since I didn’t have a router and did not want to invest in one, I started shaving off the excess wood by scraping it with a chisel. This allowed me to go slowly and maintain close to 90 degree angle. I also bought some cheap sand drums I could attach to my handheld drill, which helped speed up the process. In the end, I improved the fit. While far from perfect, I decided it will have to be good enough because it was taking too long. I also started “routing” a truss rod access channel, using my trusty handheld drill method. I really should stop doing that…

  4. sikamikanico


    Mar 17, 2004
    I then started positioning the bridge and marking the pickup rout. Second pic shows the large route. After learning how to use a chisel, I managed what I think is a decent job. I could spend more time cleaning the edges, but I thought it was OK for this project. I need to learn how to get a straight floor, but it’s good enough.

  5. sikamikanico


    Mar 17, 2004
    Here it is assembled. I used the bridge and the neck plate and screws from the Silvertone. I forgot to document drilling neck joint holes, but it went reasonably well with a hand drill. I used 90 degree brackets to help ensure straight drilling, which worked quite well for me. The bigger problem was aligning holes on the neck and the body (I drilled them separately) and while they’re slightly out of alignment, the neck attached just fine. The other thing not shown was drilling a bridge ground channel. It became a little project, since all I had was my hand drill with fairly short bits. But I had some other bits that worked reasonably well as extensions, and I got to drill the hole right to the edge of the control cavity. I used the chisel to carve a hole in the cavity wall and get the wire through.

    Of course I first mounted the bridge without the wire in place… After reassembling, I also managed to break two bridge screws, where I’m now stuck with them inside the body (you can sort of see it in the second pic). Any advice on how to get them out appreciated. For now, the bridge seems stable enough to work without those screws. If nothing else, I will eventually need to move the bridge further back, since I just about run out of room to intonate E properly (and I have plenty of room left in front of the G string saddle). That, plus I might get a new bridge, hopefully with a different screw pattern.


  6. sikamikanico


    Mar 17, 2004
    I'm still messing with electronics, hence the alligator clips. I tucked them away under the pickguard/control cover, wired straight to jack. I'll mess with the finish next spring (thinking a few coats of BLO I have around for my rosewood fingerboards). TB experts, is it OK to leave it unfinished another winter (I bought the body a year ago)? What's the worst that could happen?

    Another question: how do you all drill pickup screw holes to ensure the pickups align with the strings? I was really careful, but they're all shifted towards the G side... I want to get it right next time, any advice?

    2017-10-01 09.56.14.jpg
  7. sikamikanico


    Mar 17, 2004
    Backside.... see that nice ash! :)

    2017-10-01 09.56.40.jpg
  8. Looks a lot like my early adventures. Just keep playing around with it, reading how the people around here do things, and asking questions. Oh, and start buying tools when you can. It's amazing how a couple years of finding things on sale/clearance can add up to a workable toolbox!

    Not sure where you are, but here in Ohio I've left bodies bare for a couple years with no issues, but these were generally older bodies that were stable. I'd try and use either a small awl/pick or even just a tiny screw driver to mark the pickup holes. String the bass up and line the pickup up where you want it, then make marks through the mounting ears into the wood. Should get you closer.


    PS: keep in mind that I'm nowhere near a pro myself. Take any advice given to you under consideration, but never take anything on the internet as absolute fact(especially from me ;) )
  9. sikamikanico


    Mar 17, 2004
    Thanks, that's the plan! I thought I'd start with modding, but got drawn into a parts build. It's addictive, I'm already thinking about my next bass, but I want to go slow, develop skills and find tools along the way. There's plenty to do and learn on this one. Since it turned out OK, I got encouraged to keep at it. Working with wood is very satisfactory, a good counter balance for my day job.

    That's what I did, which is why I'm surprised it's so far off. Though, I did just use the screws, so the may have been at the wrong angle. I will use a screwdriver or something long next time, it should be easier to tell if it's straight.

    Goes without saying :) Sometimes I actually find it easier to learn from non-pros. Pros usually give good advice in terms of where you want to end up, but getting there is sometimes easier by learning from others on the journey.
    RBS_Johnson and Beej like this.
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