Practice/Test Bass?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by bronzehydra, Jan 11, 2009.

  1. bronzehydra


    Oct 14, 2008
    Mukilteo, WA
    I'm planning on making a bass in the near future. But I'm not sure if I have all of the skills yet. So:

    Would It make any sense to build a "Practice" or "Test" bass?
    That meaning, build a bass (one I wouldn't string up or play) in woodshop to see if I'm up to making a bass for real. It probably sounds like a waste of time, but my reasoning behind it is that I'd rather figure out I'm going to do bad on the cheaper school supplied wood, rather than ruin expensive wood trying to build a bass.

    So should I do it? or spend my time building something else?
  2. Stealth


    Feb 5, 2008
    Zagreb, Croatia
    By all means I'd say do it. Nothing will ever tell you if you're up for real production like your own homegrown bass. :smug:
  3. JoelEoM

    JoelEoM Guest

    Mar 11, 2002
    Lancaster, PA
    im doing that very thing, and will feel much more comfortable about chopping up a few hundred dollars worth of wood once i've done the prototype and have a better idea of what im dealing with.
  4. bronzehydra


    Oct 14, 2008
    Mukilteo, WA
    Thanks guys!
    I think I'll do it
  5. bass_freq

    bass_freq Guest

    Oct 24, 2008
    I'm in the same boat, I made a design and priced out hardware, electronics, ect. and the guitar would have costed me $900+... I'm a student and don't have $900.

    I was trying to sell my 4 string to make up the cost but no one wants to buy it in my city (its a good bass to :( ) so I decided the cheaper way to go is to use all the parts from my 4 string (though I wanted to build a 5 string) and build a bass from that, which subtracts $600 from the original building cost, so a $200 first bass build is more managable (especially if I screw up alot, which I don't think will happen)

    all I can say is take it slow and plan every step and you shouldn't make too many mistakes, only common mistakes that happen (I'm talking in general as I don't REALLY have experience building a bass) is from rushing the bass too much, and not planning ahead far enough... maybe? hehe

    good luck
  6. T2W

    T2W Guest

    Feb 24, 2007
    Montreal, Canada.
    yep, 100 000 000% do exactly that. Pine is cheap and you can easily build a bass in hours with 7$ of pine. You can spend 21$ of pine and build three, until your design is just as you want it, build good templates so you can reuse them on your final build, don't rush... Indeed some people might think its a waste of time, it might take you a few weekends in the shop, but thats how we learn. And after all, how many of us have that first build hiding in a dark corner, with the hardware gutted (which is now on another bass)?? If you take your time and plan ahead, you will actually keep your first and not need to build a second one to suit your needs. Although I wish you luck with the not-building-a-second one.
  7. Build it and see the project through even if you mess up somewhere along the way.

    With my first build I initially was going to start all over from scratch after I screwed up on shaping the neck but I decided to continue with the build and learned a lot in the process. Had I kept starting over everytime I messed something up I would have ended up with at least a dozen useless bass carcasses lying around the wood shop but instead I ended up with one fugly bass that actually played and sounded rather nice.
  8. I asked that very question before my first build and got very different advice.

    1) What if you nail it? Why spend $$ + time on an instrument you really don't plan to play. Wouldn't it suck to have invested all that time and energy (not to mention $$) in your practice build and you NAIL IT? Now you have a bass built from 'junk' that would've been perfect - 'cept it's made from junk...
    2) You can practice your more critical cuts and other things on scrap before digging in on your good wood - so you really don't need to build an entire 'practice build' - but it certainly is a fine idea to do lots of 'practice' on scraps before committing.

    I didn't go with a practice build and I was fine. Like all first builds, there are many things I'll do differently on future builds, but I am very happy that I didn't spend all that time and $$ building a 'scrap' bass.

    Just do your initial leg work thoroughly. Ask lots of questions here (and elsewhere), measure 3x's, cut once, get a friend/family member who may have some expertise in the areas of woodworking or (even better) instrument building to help.

    But really, there's no need to spend the time and effort on a bass you'll ultimately not play or consider sub-par.

    For the record, here's the bass I built - no practice build required.

  9. Arx


    Jan 22, 2008
    I'd say build yourself a real playable bass, but just do it with super cheap wood and cheap ebay/salvage parts.

    I spent too much on my first bass, and while it turned out really good, I definitely learned a ton of things I could have improved.

    If I was doing it all over, I would have built the first one as cheaply as possible, while still making something playable.

    A "practice bass" never to be played seems like a bit of a waste, when for a little more money, you can make a usable "practice bass"

  10. Mikey R

    Mikey R Guest

    Apr 14, 2008
    North Yorkshire, UK

    Bear in mind figured woods are tricky to work, so spending some time on plain woods would be good practice.

    Building is also very adictive, whilst building your first you will without a doubt be planning your second. Roll with it.

    There would be nothing wrong with a bass made from a maple neck and poplar body, both are dirt cheap and not too tricky to work :) Not all custom basses need to be made from bubinga and wenge :D

    Whilst starting on my birch beauty, Ive messed up a whole load of times and learnt a whole ton of skills to fix the mess ups. The thing is, if your neck blank set you back all of £10 then you wont be scared of ruining it and starting over.
  11. Eilif

    Eilif Grooving under the MDW runway.

    Oct 1, 2001
    I would endorse the middle ground. Build something out of cheap but sturdy woods. Functional woods can be quite reasonable if you're willing to buy less attractive, sightly lower grade stuff. If it comes out well, you can drop some cheap pups and hardware in it and have a playable bass. If not, you're only out a few bucks more than if you had built with crap wood.

    It would be supremely frustrating to have it come out really well -or even reasonably functional- and have the wood be unable to support a working instrument.You can pickup all the hardware and electronics you need (functional but cheap) for under 100 bucks anyway.
  12. bronzehydra


    Oct 14, 2008
    Mukilteo, WA
    Yeah, that makes sense now.
    I'm probably going to make this a cheap playable bass.
    Luckily My school has some alder laying around I can use.
    Is alder strong enough to be used as a neck? Or should I go down to Home Depot or something and pick up some maple?
  13. Arx


    Jan 22, 2008
    alder's pretty soft. You might get away with it if your neck is fairly thick.

    I know the home depots in my area are pretty useless for hardwood. You might need to go to a place that's more wood specific. There's a plywood store near me that has a good selection of hardwoods, both exotic and conventional. You might want to look for something similar in your area.

    Or just try the alder and see how it goes. It certainly won't be the toughest bass, but it would be nice and light.

  14. madmachinist


    Dec 28, 2008
    home depots i've seen have red oak and poplar .
    something called ASPEN .
  15. Go ahead and get yourself some maple for your neck. Look for tight, straight grain. It's not expensive and it's very good for necks.
  16. bronzehydra


    Oct 14, 2008
    Mukilteo, WA
    Yeah, Maple sounds like a good idea. And one more question:

    Would some type of oak be good for a fretboard? Or is there another, more well suited wood that is also cheap which can be used?
  17. Arx


    Jan 22, 2008
    well, there's no reason you couldn't use it. Maple is okay for fretboards too.
  18. bronzehydra


    Oct 14, 2008
    Mukilteo, WA
    Is there a certain type of finish I need to use with maple, or can I just use an oil finish?
    plus, does oak need to be finished?
  19. Arx


    Jan 22, 2008
    normally maple is finished with polyurethane, otherwise it tends to get dirty/ugly very quickly. Oak is probably similar that way, but it likely wouldn't show as bad, since the colour's darker.
  20. I replaced the fretboard on a junker bass with red oak and it worked out just fine.


    I probably won't use it on any builds - but I also don't want to say 'never'. But for that project, I picked up an 1/8" thick plank of red oak from Home Depot and was pleased with the results I got.