no power tools?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Zebra, Jul 27, 2005.

  1. Zebra


    Jun 26, 2005
    My plans to start a project are at a dead halt as I don't have any facilities to do it. I'm not optimistic that I'll be able to get any tools or crap that I need to kick off. I'd REALLY like to start this, so is it possible to at least get a start on a body with no power tools? I've basically got saws and chisels to work with. What can I do with that and how would I go about making it fairly precise and not sloppy?
  2. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Saws, chisels and sanding blocks can do miracles. But you will need a drill, pretty soon...

    How to?
    Well, you draw your body on the blank, saw out the shape as close as you can, and then use whatever available and feasable tool you have to smooth it out.
    Then you use a drill and some chisels to excavate the holes for pups and electronics.
    The neck pocket will be the challange... Precision, please!

    Then you make some covers/pickguards to cover up the sloppy edges...

    Please tell me, in two or three years, how you are doing. ;)
  3. First thing is learn how to sharpen a chisel.

    A set of woodworking rasps would be a real help in shaping the body. The halfround ones are going to really get the use. You could probably find all that you would need at flea markets with the tool vendors. As for drills, a simple bit & brace or Stanley hand crank twist drill will do the job. I still use one of these for doing tuner and pickguard screws. If you make a jig, you can even bore perpendicular holes without a drill press.

    So you don't have a jig saw? Use the drill to make a series of interconnecting holes around your pattern like a chain of pearls. Then use your rasps to file to shape. Then your sanding blocks with course paper to further move the wood back the to the line should do the job.

    Some other hand tools that would be helpful:
    - Stanley surforms
    - Sanding bows
    - Spoke shaves
    - Draw knives
    - Automotive body files

    And now I'm going to take you to task for coming on here and shooting off about how MUCH you want to do this but how you CAN'T get tools blah, blah, blah. My friend - IF this is SO important that you feel the need to come on a public board and lament about your situation while you possess saws and chisels then you don't have what it takes to do this. Saws and chisels were just about ALL that was used to make the finest stringed instruments in the world hundreds of years ago and if one is so driven to build an instrument as you say you are, those tools would make a fine instrument today. The only difference is the ambition of the guy holding the handle. Here in the Atlanta area, we have a large illegal Mexican population. These guys come here to work with no possessions of their own. To work in the trades here, they need tools. To get those tools, they do what they can to get started and go to the local Goodwill's and Salvation Army stores and purchase $5 drills, $10 saws and any number of lowbuck tools to make their way. Again I say, someone who really wants to build an instrument would do the same and use the resources available to them and if a power tool was desired, seek one out from a Goodwill for next to nothing. If it's pride that keeps you from doing so - swallow it and get on with the work. If it's the $5 that keeps you from doing it - forget about the bass and feed yourself and your family with the $5 everyday until you can afford not to. But OPTIMISM is cheap in this country dude and I'm not gonna stand here and listen to an attitude like that ask for our help without pointing out that everything you want is here and the means to get it is here. The gumption to get it is here to but you've got to find it in you.
  4. Fasoldt Basses

    Fasoldt Basses

    Mar 22, 2005
    Stevens Point, WI
    Karl Thompson, Builder (Formerly Fat Karl)
  5. Damn Hambone! where I come from, we call that a 'BOCHE GRANDE!'.
  6. Zebra


    Jun 26, 2005
    Thanks, that sounds like some solutions that can get me started. I wouldn't have thought of the drill thing.

    And first off, I'm not coming here lamenting about lack of tools. I'm coming here and seeing what I can do with what I have. It's pretty clear. I don't take it lightly when I say I have made it through and put up with more than most people I know, and I tend to be modest, even moreso than for my own good. Maybe it's easy for you to mr. luthier guru to start in on a project with a rusty saw and old cheap chisles, but I'm coming from no experience, no money, and not even an empty square yard to work with. I think I have a certain level of proficiency at this point with the chisel, but chiseling out a bass from a block of wood doesn't seem like a viable solution to me. So next time I ask for an alternative save your illegal alien spiels. I view you as one of the most respectable people on this forum, but that just smacks of elitest ego.
  7. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Hey, Zebra, stay stripy! :D
    Ham knows what he's talking about, but sometimes talks rather...funny, but no fun. ;)
    A piece of advice to any reader of this forum: stay unoffended, regardless of what you get. It's normally not intended to offend, just...not as nice with words as with bass! :D
    (Ham, if you remember...this goes for myself at least as much as for you or any other bloke around :meh: )

    I still have only a hand drill, a hand router and a jig saw, plus files and chisels and a Black&Decker Workmate. No workshop.
    Making my way good enough, buying a new chisel or drill bit when need and finance coinsides. Works fine. The instruments, too!
  8. I tried last night to post 2 responses but neither one went up on the forum - either they were going into ether or into the moderation queue for review by JT. I dunno which if either :confused:

    Look, I built my second bass standing at an 18" x 48" table in an 8' x 16' storage shed. I had some hand tools and a drill press that I traded a computer printer for. It took me 6 months so I understand what it's like to be undertooled for the job. I just choose to not lament that fact and either...

    1. Learn really cool work-arounds that allow my small capability tools to work like large ones or...
    2. Get creative on ways to acquire something just a little bit better that would do that job the way I know it needs to be done.

    The latter has pushed me into building my own tools because I can't afford to buy them. I don't have any money - I barely make enough to keep my family out of debt and food on the table and this year we lost 20% more of our income to other circumstances but where there's a will there's a way and in this country, there's ALWAYS a way.

    Teej, a member of this forum, builds in his apartment. I don't know exactly how, but he does. Why? Because he's driven to build! I really admire that. A man that won't let circumstances stand in the way of his success is a man that will have success on his terms.

    And let's get this clear - I'm not a Luthier or a guru. I mess around with basses - simple as that, but I don't presume to encroach on the territory of skilled craftsmen that make their living repairing, refinishing, and building stringed instruments. They are artisans. I'm serious in my own mind about what I do but that rarely translates to most people's understanding of me. My offerings of help here are second nature to me as I come from a long line of teachers and it's in my blood. Elitists consider knowledge power and horde it like precious metal - I'm not that way. I believe that it should be given away freely and that everyone might benefit or have a laugh at my mistakes.

    My only point was that there are closets all across the land filled with guitar projects that began with good intentions and ended abruptly with clouded minds coming from statements like this one stated by you:
    I've often said this isn't rocket science but it's just as easy to get frustrated with it as it would be with rocket science if you don't go into it with the proper frame of mind. That little diddy above says to me that you aren't thinking clearly enough to tackle this project right now. And if you aren't "optimistic" enough, why should we be optimistic in your place? Please answer that for me?

    And Wilser, where I come from in South Texas, folks would hear that, look at you sort of funny, shake their heads and just walk on...'s "b o c a grande"
  9. HAHAHA, that's another way to put it. I'm sure there are a lot of spanish speaking people in south texas. I'm from the dominican republic where they ONLY speak spanish, so I know what I'm talking about. What you said means 'big mouth' ...what I said means 'getting yelled at in a big way' ...I guess in this context they could both mean the same thing. When you say 'hambone me dio un boche grande' it means 'hambone yelled at me, vigorously'.

    BTW, I don't want to get a big B O C H E from you, now! :cool:
  10. Wilbyman


    Sep 10, 2003
    Parkersburg, WV
    My wife is from Santo Domingo (about your age too, Wilser) and I looked at "boche" and thought...big mouth! She uses that word all the time. I didn't look funny to me at all.
  11. whooo-hooo, a fiestar los dominicanos!!!! dile que digo yo que 'que vaina es? que busca ella en WV?'

    hehehe, now, back to the subject, bass making without powertools!!!!
  12. Zebra


    Jun 26, 2005
    Yeah, about that...

    ....well, I've got nothing.
    Tomorrow I'm heading to the wood place to look for body wood. I'm thinking Walnut, but if it's too expensice I'll settle for alder. :D
    If nothing else, I'll pick up some cheap pine to make a "mock" bass to get some real experience with what I'm doing before making the real thing.
    I'm also thinking I'll just take the outlined body wood to a woodworker and have him cut it out for a few bucks. It took a tutorial for me to think of that. D'oh! I can probably borrow some little things from people. It'd be great if I could find this elusive dremel that's rumored to be somewhere around here.
    Yeah, I was lacking optimism when I made this post. It seemed like everyone here has more stuff than I do to work with, even if it's not that much. That still may be true, but it seems viable now that I know I have options.
  13. Zebra


    Jun 26, 2005
    Oh and keep the Spanish crap up, I'm supposed to practice it over the summer.
  14. Don't think that. I'm just getting ready to start my first project, I only have my apartment, a jig saw, and some of the body wood. That's it, but I am determined to to my build as slow as take to achieve my desired instrument. I'm only 25, and I hope to oneday be a true luthier. I even had to start my own build thread. (will be updated when I get all of the body wood.) I read all of the reccent threads here on the luthier's corner, daily, but will probably still have questions that I'll have to ask. Anyway I ramble, all I'm trying to say is keep on truckin'
  15. You've got enough to get you started.

    Why not buy the cheap wood to practice on, and save some money for used tools. You'll learn a lot in the process and can apply that to your next build if you want keep at it.

    Hambone's first post above has enough info (about some hand tools) to propel you into the build. Not everyone has powertools. For example, I don't have a thicknesser and there's no way I'd buy one. I thickness my boards with a scrub plane and it's not only to avoid paying a few dollars for machining at the timber yard.

    Man, it's easy to think, "what I could do if I had a...". Most of that stuff is keeping up with the so called "Jones'" (I don't know who they are, but there are so many people who want to be like them...). Using hand tools will teach you more about wood than any powertool will. What you should be thinking, if you want to start, is how to proceed with what you've got.
  16. Fasoldt Basses

    Fasoldt Basses

    Mar 22, 2005
    Stevens Point, WI
    Karl Thompson, Builder (Formerly Fat Karl)
    Just keep in mind that pine is a softwood and will behave quite differently than the hardwoods you'd be using for the real thing.:meh:
  17. That's a good point. Maybe some cheap hardwood, or maybe check the streets for it during the urban garbage collections.
  18. True, true.

    I would suggest using poplar. It's softer than maple but not unlike it when machining. Harder than pine or basswood and it works better without "stringiness". It's also a "real" tonewood and you'll make great sounding instruments from it. It's also not expensive. The drawback? Well, it isn't the prettiest wood out there - sort of plainly grained with an odd green/purple/brown staining and streaking but that all turns brown with stain. It's a great wood to paint though.

    Best yet - you can get it from Home Depot. Of course it will come in 1" (board feet) thicknesses so you'll have learn to glue stuff up but that's what this whole excercise is about. It glues up nice and you can put a nice top on it if you want to hide the uglies.
  19. Zebra


    Jun 26, 2005
    I've already returned from the woodstore. I've got two long, 1.75 in. thick basswood boards. I was attracted to the poplar but I came home with this, can't say precisely why. The guy at the store was an experienced luthier himself, it seems, and this is one he suggested. It's enough to make two bodies, so it's a good start. Basswood is also a tonewood, no? I think I might stain it over painting, how does it stain? It doesn't seem to have much grain at all, but that's fine.
    First thing to do is to glue it now. I need to get some glue and a planer first, but what do you think is the best way to go about it? I'm thinking I'll glue it, do the outline on one end, then lop the board in half and save the other half for the second body. Anything wrong with doing things in this order? Then I'll guess I'll take to lopping off wood around the body. My luck with the saw is that it's tough to get a perpendicular cut thickness-wise, but I plan to make pretty rounded body edges, so that won't make a difference will it? I looked at a set of rasps, but it looked like those are for tiny work, was I just looking at the wrong set? I also am under the impression that a spokeshave will be a invaluable tool to help shape the body. Will it be helpful to carve closer to the line after initally sawing off the big pieces?
    Those are my questions for now, that should keep me occupied for a while.