New here, looking to build my first bass

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Digory, Oct 13, 2016.

  1. Hey, it was an honest mistake, I've have some history with these strings and the instrument. I had an Ashbory I picked up from a member of another guitar/bass forum many years back. Those silicone strings were so tacky it was difficult to play the instrument, but I liked the tone and it's portability. I could put it in the saddle bags of the motorcycle. Back then you could only buy the Ashbory strings as a set and they weren't cheap, the problem was the silicone "G" string would break, often. So I traded the Asbory for an Flea Market Ukulele.

    I joined a ukulele forum to learn more about the instrument and it's options and associated gear, it was an instrument I could still take on the bike. That's where I meet Owen, of Road Toad Music, he was building regular ukuleles and a bass ukulele, but his strings were black Polyurethan, of his design and patent. I contacted Owen privately and asked him about the possibility of me using his hardware and strings to convert a Tenor ukulele into a bass. He sent be a decription of the process and the parts I would need. I ordered the parts but I had some trouble with the idea of taking a perfectly good acoustic instrument and using it as an instrument that would only work plugged in. I decided to build the bass on a Cigarbox. I was accomplished and sounded really good, I've built them for a couple of my buddies. After many years of use one of the Pahoehoe strings finally broke so I tried a set of these Aquila Nylgut bass strings. Shown in this picture of the bass, the Fender Rumble 40 and the battery/inverter rig I put together for off road and sailing.


    As I mentioned, I have had a lot of fun with this bass, it is intentionally tacky, I jokingly call it the crown of my trailer trash line of nearly viable instruments.
    Gilmourisgod, Ortsom and Chris_Toot like this.
  2. Doner Designs

    Doner Designs Steve Doner Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2012
    Metro Chicago Area
    Doner Designs is an alias for Steve Doner
    Sounds like you are a woodworker and not looking to do a parts bass, is that correct?
  3. No worries @Chris_Toot ! You seem like a classy guy. =)

    @Doner Designs , yep! You got it. Hey! I have come across your Air Force bass before! To be honest, I was upset because I was planning on using a sidewinder "mudbucker" in the neck, p-bass pickup in the middle, and a Thunderbird-type humbucker in the bridge, but saw you already did it. =P I like the switches you used... definitely finishes the look.
  4. Doner Designs

    Doner Designs Steve Doner Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2012
    Metro Chicago Area
    Doner Designs is an alias for Steve Doner
    I probably was not the first and likely will not be the last do build something with the pickup configuration you mentioned...go for it!
  5. Question: should I continue this thread or open a new one for my planning/building? I wasn't sure, since this was mostly about wood, tone, strings, etc, but it does introduce my plan. Thanks! Plus... I was wondering if a new title is in order, 'cause this thing is going to be a little crazy. :D :hyper:
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2016
  6. I-Am-The-Slime


    Jan 8, 2010
    SW VA
    carry on and keep going crazy :D
  7. Alright, sounds good. I will continue on here. :thumbsup: Soooo.... my original plan has changed some. I need to set the stage, first, though.

    Almost a year ago, I started making plans to build a bass. I drew up some designs and settled on one. I bought some foam board and giant sheets of graph paper and made a full-scale mockup of it and everything. It was going to look almost like the child of a Les Paul and a Jazz bass look (single cutout, asymmetric waist) with a lot of my own design elements thrown in. But then, it happened....

    You see, I have this weird phenomena that happens when I design things. If I somehow get it in my head that something should be an animal, it becomes an animal. o_O For instance, the car that is currently in my profile picture was originally going to have a classy tuxedo-ish paint scheme (Black, white, and red), but while carving the front out, I thought of the perfect grille shape, which turned out to look a lot like a fox's nose. And so, I decided that it *had* to be a fox car, and thus, orange, pearl white, and black is what I wound up with.

    I tried my hand at designing driving (or newsboy) caps, and they were turning out quite nice. Then, I decided I had to try to put ears on it, and it instantly looked like a classy fox hat (if "classy" and "fox" can even be used together, ha ha). Once I see it, it cannot be unseen.

    Soooo.... my crazy brain struck again. Only this time, with my bass design. I'm not sure exactly what went through my mind, perhaps I was bored and wanted to combine animals and guitars, but I got an idea, drew a rough sketch, and tried to convince myself that I would do that one *eventually* (but not before my original, more dignified design).... But I knew it was a lost cause. :wacky: What's been seen cannot be unseen.

    Behold, the destroyer of all dignity, the "Don't-Take-Me-Seriously" Master.... I give thee:

    Giraffe Bass 6 String Sketch.jpg

    And here is the original inspiration, that fateful sketch that doomed me to this task: :help:

    Giraffe Bass Sketch.jpg

    :eyebrow: :rollno: :smug:
    Details! Here they are:


    6-string (originally planned on a 4 string, but messed up on the scale drawing and liked the new proportions better)
    Multi-scale (33" to 35")
    Flatwounds or Tapewounds (La Bella has a 6-string set of black nylons)

    Neck: Custom 6-string sidewinder (for ultra-boomyness. :hyper: Any suggestions on who would be up to making this?)
    Middle: Precision pickup (for clean sound :thumbsup:)
    Bridge: Not 100% on this one... I'm thinking two side-by-side Jazz pickups (like a cross between a traditional humbucker and a J) wound a bit on the hot side (maybe wound like a Thunderbird pickup, only in a double J setup, instead? Ideas?)


    Master volume pot
    Master tone pot
    Neck volume pot
    Mid/Double J Bridge blend and Mid/Single J Bridge blend push/pull pot
    3 position pickup selector switch: Mid+Bridge/All/Neck


    Help!!!! :help:
    I want as little exposed as possible, so as not to take away from the design. I'd like to throw all the tuners on the back (body, if possible... headstock, if necessary). I would also like to use a very compact bridge with a string-through design (obviously necessary, if I have the tuners on the back of the body) If you guys have any ideas for me to consider, please feel free to share them. I've been looking around a lot trying to figure out what my best course of action is with all that.


    The original question I had... :dead: I think I may wind up using curly maple on top and limba or something underneath.
    Here are my 2 ideas for the spots:
    1. (More likely) Route the outlines of them, dye the spots brown, and put either binding strips or some black or brown filler in the routed outline.
    2. Cut out the spots and put a darker wood (like black walnut) inserts, instead. (much more labor intensive, and possibly outside my skill-level).
    I'm not sure what I'm doing with the neck wood, yet.


    Perhaps some amber or yellowish dye and a clear coat (with a special surprise, if I have the motivation to carry it out once all this other stuff is done :eek:).

    So, there you have it... my crazy plan! I realize some of you (perhaps even most, I don't know) will think it is ridiculous or stupid, but I think it will be fun and totally unique!
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2016
  8. I-Am-The-Slime


    Jan 8, 2010
    SW VA
    I'm on board! Fun and unique without a doubt. There were a couple of threads recently with behind-the-body tuner concepts. Definitely seems like a challenge to make practicable, but it looks as if you're going more for form than function here
  9. Great! Hmm, I'll have to investigate these threads a bit, then, I guess.

    I'm getting visions of ridiculous headstock dive and a sore back. :p Yeah, I am definitely going for form over function, ha ha. That just tends to appeal to me more. I might wind up chambering the front leg and put a generous tummy bevel to try to keep the weight somewhat in check. I'm hoping that by not chambering the back leg and having the controls well past the bridge, and (hopefully) putting the tuners on the back, I'll have some counterweight to that neck.
  10. Attached Files:

    Last edited: Nov 12, 2016
  11. I-Am-The-Slime


    Jan 8, 2010
    SW VA
  12. Will_White


    Jul 1, 2011
    Salem, OR
    That might of been one of michaelwayneharwood's and IRC @Jisch was working on one as well.
  13. michaelwayneharwood

    michaelwayneharwood Builder of the Wastelands Commercial User

    May 1, 2014
    Owner Melodious Resonance Constructs
    My headless tuners are single string tuners and do not include a bridge assembly - you can see details of how I designed them here if you are interested in the design process. TalkBass is a great resource for a variety of different takes on tuner design - there's a lot of options depending on your goals.
  14. I have a half done headless eight string that I made using string saddles, honestly I had a lot of problems with strings breaking and had the fire before I got it figured out. The bass is salvageable, but I'm not sure I will.
  15. Thanks for all the feedback, guys. I don't mind the "egging on" at all, @I-Am-The-Slime . ;)

    The fabric idea would be pretty fun, @SLivinghouse ! I think my fear would be making it out of a "not-so-interesting" wood figure and then getting stuck with it if I couldn't get the fabric to work satisfactorily. You did give me an idea, though. I was already thinking about making a couple removable "accessories" for him (a driving cap, shades, etc.)... I could make a pair of giraffe-print pajamas, too! ha ha :laugh: I also need to make a tail out of fabric, so there's that, too.

    I like both of those takes, @michaelwayneharwood and @Jisch . Unfortunately, I don't have any access to a machine shop, so I'll probably have to bite the bullet, shell out some money, and re-purpose some commercial tuners.

    One of the inspirations behind the no-visible-tuner look was the Ritter Instruments' R8 bass. Looking around here, I think it uses an ABM headless tuning system? It looks like they come in 4 and 5 string, standard, but I could order a custom one (which I don't want to do :unsure:). I had an idea, though. What if I use the 5 string version on all but the lowest string, and used something like a Hipshot Bass Xtender on the lowest string? Would an Xtender be useful on a six stringer?
  16. Here is what little I've bought so far:
    Double action truss rod with a spoke wheel adjustment
    Copper tape of multiple widths
    Black TUSQ nut block (still too short, even though it's the biggest one they had)
    Stereo output jack w/strap button (Even though it's intended for an acoustic guitar, I figured, as long as it works, I wanted to mount the strap at the same location)


    The humbucker in the picture is for a guitar. For whatever reason, I discovered I really liked the sound of that one and decided I needed to buy it in case I ever found a good application for it (It's a Dimarzio Virtual PAF, which is no longer in production). I might stick it in my little brother's guitar (that is just sitting in his room).

    I still need to invest in tools, as I have hardly any. :crying: I have a handheld drill, a Dremel tool (with wand), an orbital sander, a handheld belt sander, a benchtop grinder, a coping saw, a little hand saw, and a bunch of miscellaneous tightening devices... that's about the extent of my tools. =P

    I am looking into getting a router. What is you guys' take on this:
    DEWALT 2 HP Electronic Variable Speed Plunge Router-DW621 - The Home Depot
    I'm a small guy (120 lbs), so I want a good router that is stable and easy to handle. I've never used one before (besides the little Dremel one).

    I've used a band saw before, and I almost bought a 14", but if I can get by without one for the first build, I might like to do that.

    Since I am planning on a multi-scale bass, I was wondering if I should get this, too:

    Not very exciting, sorry, but at least you can see I've committed some money and time to the project already (plus all the research that doesn't show up here =P ). I should probably add that this will likely take me a long time to finish, since I have no experience in this and need to buy a lot of capital, too. Hopefully it won't be too boring.
  17. Well, I just picked this guy up for $25... seemed like a good bargain.


    I figured I should probably buy a used not-so-expensive one for my first time. Hopefully it will work well.

    Now, time to buy some mdf board and bits to practice and finalize my shape. :thumbsup: I also need to figure out the pickups.
    reverendrally and I-Am-The-Slime like this.
  18. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    That router is probably fine, but does it have an option for a 1/2" collet?
  19. @Hopkins , it looks like it's 1/4". =/
  20. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    Its not a deal breaker, but its nice to have options for both. I personally prefer Porter Cable routers.
    rojo412 likes this.
  21. Primary

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    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

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