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Parts bass?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by DaveSill, Jan 27, 2013.

  1. DaveSill

    DaveSill Supporting Member

    Jan 25, 2012
    Firstly, let me make it clear that I understand that assembling a bass from a kit or parts is not luthiery. However, while I lack the time, equipment, skills, and inclination to build a bass from scratch, buying the various pieces and parts and assembling them is something that I'm pretty sure I'd be able to handle without buying lots of tools, spending a lot of time, learning major new skills, etc.

    So, that out of the way, does it make sense to build a bass from parts? Aside from being able to control all of the details--which would be nice, of course--and gaining a better understanding about how everything goes together, is the end result likely to be as good as a name brand instrument that costs about as much as the parts? Can I build a MIA-quality p-bass from parts for significantly less than I could buy one new? Obviously a parts bass will have limited resale value compared to a name-brand.

    If it does make sense, are there any good resources beside those listed in the How-To geared specifically towards assembling parts basses?
  2. DaveSill

    DaveSill Supporting Member

    Jan 25, 2012
    Hmm, OK, maybe if I start talking to myself someone will join in...

    Looks like the cheapest mostly-Warmoth p-bass would run a little over $800. I'm thinking that's got to be comparable in quality to a MIA Fender. Unfortunately, at that price, one isn't able to exert much control over the details--it's cheapest everything. I could save a little by finishing it myself. So I'd be trading lower cost for even lower resale value, but getting some satisfaction for assembling it myself.

    I haven't found a supplier of imported necks/bodies, but I'd expect they'd be substantially cheaper, lower quality, but maybe a better value. Hmm, maybe eBay...

    Here's another approach that occurred to me: buy a used Squier p-bass for $125-150 and upgrade key components like bridge, pickup, maybe neck someday. Seems like that would be a good way to get an inexpensive, good playing, good sounding bass.

    Comments? Suggestions?
  3. Arial Bender

    Arial Bender

    Oct 28, 2012
    Largo Fla.
    Lots of options on evil bay but updating a Squire would be the most economical IMO.
  4. RxFunk


    Dec 2, 2012
    For roughly $500 you can order a mighty mite body and neck and put fender parts on it(bridge, tuners, pups, pickguard, string tree, bridge/pu covers, etc.) Although, I should say, I have not done this, so I have no idea how it would play/sound, it was just an idea I had that never came to fruition.
  5. dls59

    dls59 Supporting Member

    I made a killer sounding P bass with the following cobbled together parts:

    SX body and tuners
    Mighty Mite neck
    Fender wiring harness
    Quarter pounder pickups
    Badass bridge
    Anodized pickguard

    The body is alder, so it beats other options like basswood and agathis. The tuners are surprisingly sound. This is my go-to bass these days.
  6. I have put a kit together albeit for a 12 string les paul copy.


    If you want an end result that sounds good and gives you the satisfaction of saying I put that together then a Kit is an excellent way to go, you will need some tools, and you will need an area that is dust free to finish the guitar, I guarantee you will learn a great deal and still end up with an instrument you will be able to set up and tweak to your hearts content.Whats more once you understand how its built and how its wired you can customise things like pups and bridges (some kits allow you to order upgraded components at time of purchase) the ones at Guitarfetish offer upgrades.

    Or if you dont want the challenge then get an old squire and refinish it and upgrade the parts as you like. Myself I would get a kit.
  7. Scott in Dallas

    Scott in Dallas Commercial User

    Aug 16, 2005
    Dallas, north Texas
    Builder and Owner: DJ Ash Guitars
    Actually, it is. The dictionary definition is one who builds or repairs stringed instruments. My definition is anyone who creates an instrument where one wasn't there before. Almost all of us build instruments containing parts that someone else made to some degree. Directing how an instrument is put together, picking the parts, and assembling it is all part of the art of luthiery.

    It's also an excellent way to get started. Add one ability a year and in 20 years you're building your own instruments from scratch.

    I agree with every bit of that. If resale value doesn't scare you, then you can build an absolutely stellar instrument from parts. Know in advance that some skills make the difference between a good instrument and a great instrument, like fretwork and nut cutting. You could buy a used instrument and have some work done on it, but where's the fun in that?
  8. Scott in Dallas

    Scott in Dallas Commercial User

    Aug 16, 2005
    Dallas, north Texas
    Builder and Owner: DJ Ash Guitars
    I have two Strat type six strings that I've built this way. Any Strat player would like how they turned out.
  9. JoeWPgh


    Dec 21, 2012
    If you enjoy working with instruments and enjoy learning how to make them great, this is the way to go. But, if you're not careful, you can spend almost as much as you'd pay for a new brand name bass. The best of this and the best of that, and it starts to add up pretty quick. To do it right, you'll also have an investment in files for crowning frets and cutting nut slots.

    I agree with the others to start on the cheap end and cull eBay for cheap body parts. Put most of your money into the pickups. Learn to assemble, install electronics and maybe start to deal with nut and frets. Maybe you'll be happy with your creation and stop there. Or maybe you'll get the bug and want to do one up nicer the minute you finish the first.

    If you want to spend more, USACustomGuitars makes some very nicely cut parts out of very nice wood. Warmoth too, but I've never bought from them. (I was actually looking at a chambered Jazz body from them the other day, but they informed me that for some reason they won't route for a Hipshot A bridge??!!??)
  10. Mixnulty


    Jan 15, 2013
    Do most fender necks fit random fender bodies? Do CIJ fender P bass tele necks fit Jazz bass Bodies?? i would be nervous putting random pieces together.
  11. Tomis17


    Jan 21, 2007
    You've gotta make sure the measurements match. Don't assume that any jazz neck will fit any jazz body or any P bass neck will fit any P bass body. Be especially careful when mix matching. Even some parts that are supposed to be a perfect fit are not so perfect. I've learned this the hard way.

    That said, I've assembled about half a dozen basses. It is a lot of work (related to what I mentioned above), but there is a whole lot of satisfaction when you've got a masterpiece at your hands. Nothing beats the feeling "I did this." I would say a couple of my parts bass are on par with some of the big name basses.

    From my experiences these are key components in order of importance:

    1. Overall instrument setup (neck adjustment, nut cutting, bridge height, etc.)
    2. Quality neck and body that fit well together. This plays a huge role in the tone of the instrument.
    3. Quality electronics (pickups and preamp/pots) that will amplify the tone of the bass well.
    4. Quality hardware (bridge and tuners) that will keep the bass sustaining well and keep the bass in tune.
    5. The look you are after...YES it is the least important factor of the 5 mentioned but, it is also why I put my parts basses together. :hyper:


  12. JoeWPgh


    Dec 21, 2012
    Yes. But the keyword is 'most' You have to watch vintage and manufacture. You might run into probems with very early actual Fenders, or early Mex and Squier builds. But, for the most part? They usually are interchangable.
  13. BAce


    Jul 31, 2012
    I have a parts bass that I assembled completely out of parts purchased separately on ebay. I built it with one purpose in mind--to use on outdoor gigs and shall we say, the not so savoury pub gigs. Places where I don't want to bring a $$$ bass.
    I started with an Ovation Ultrabass neck (very "P" ish), Washburn Bantam body, Hipshot Ultra light tuners, Seymour Duncan SPB-1 pickups and assembled the whole works together with AB pots, Switchcraft jack, Rubycon PIO tone caps, straplocks, and a no-name high mass bridge. Fully shielded with brass foil. I think I have less than $200 into this bass. Plays great, sounds great, looks passable. Exactly what I needed.
    However it was a bit of a crapshoot as to how the neck would fit the body. In my case, it was a perfect fit. I spent so little on the body that if it didn't fit, I would have tried again on another body. The neck was the most important part to me.
    The other option is to find, say, a Mexican Squier and upgrade everything that isn't wood. You wouldn't be too far off a MIA Fender when you were done. The Mexican Squier basses used necks and bodies made in Corona and sent south of the border for assembly.