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Starting my first

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by TheBassmeister, Aug 8, 2004.

  1. TheBassmeister


    Nov 23, 2003
    Austin, TX
    Hi everyone, I havent posted here in a while, but then again I didnt post that much in the first place for a bit. Ive (like many bassists/musicians) been interested in building my own instrument. Ive ordered several books that have not arrived yet, and searched through alot of catalogues, websites, price lists, and how-to websites to get myself a little bit informed.
    I purchased a 3 piece purple heart neck already slotted for a LMI truss rod, and plan on purchasing a nice set of cocobolo fingerboards. Seeing as this is my first bass, I wanted to see everyones opinions on what would be the best for someone starting from scratch with only a paperback guide on my side. As far as I can tell, the problem areas I am having are:

    • Body-Woods, Solid or multiple pieces?
    • Adhesives-Gluing the fingerboard to neck?
    • Tools-My father has plenty of tools for most purposes in the industrial work area, but I need some possible luthier specifics.

    I also would like to possibly inlay something into the headstock for a bit of personal identity, and have some abalone blank slabs laying in my garage that I could use. I am not sure what tools could be used to get decent shapes out of them without damaging them. Then theres the issue of actually putting them in...

    Well, it seems that I came into this post not knowing what I needed as much, and now looking back at it all it seems Ill need quite a bit ;) ! I would really appreciate if someone left feedback! Thanks a million!
  2. JSPguitars


    Jan 12, 2004
    Grass Valley
    Sounds like your headed in the right direction. As long as you have an idea of the methods you're gonna use to get the end result you want (in your head)......it's just a matter of "performing".....
    I just finished my first bass, and I would make these suggestions:
    I decided to make a 'prototype' for the design I came up with. It's also kind of nice to make 2 basses at 1 time.
    Get all your designs/measurements on paper first!
    Stick with a solid piece of wood for your first, or the prototype, and maybe make the second one a laminate.
    As for the fingerboard, I understand you are planning to use cocobolo?? From what I've heard, it's oily and sometimes difficult to glue. I have used it once before and what i did was get some acetone and wipe on a bunch on the side you're planning to glue. You'll see the oil come out on the rag you use to wipe it on. I also used Gorilla glue, which worked well but leaves this crazy foam aftermath to deal with. THis glue is probably NOT a good glue to use on a fingerboard (my cocobolo was for a topset for a body)....and as long as you clean the bolo up with acetone, you could probly just use Titebond.
    As for the inlay, I've only done it twice. The first time I inlaid in an ebony headplate. This makes it much easier to hide mistakes of over-routing the pieces. It cleans up really well and you can fill in. The second time was in some maple, and let's just say it came out like SH*T!!!!
    I'm still learning how to cut the abalone/shell nice and smooth....takes some practice!!!
    use scrapwood to do tests.....cheap wood from Home Depot or something to practice on before you hit your good wood.
    Keep it simple! for the first
    lookin' forward to seeing some progress pics!
  3. TheBassmeister


    Nov 23, 2003
    Austin, TX
    As far as the gluing situation I looked at LMI and there is a epoxy glue that states it works terrific for oily woods such as cocobolo, so Im thinking that might be my best bet.
  4. PasdaBeer


    Nov 2, 2002
    Santa Rosa California
    SandStorm Designs
    you still want to wipe it down with acetone before glueing

    as for body woods, usually laminate peices (2-3 peice blanks) are alot CHEAPER then slab bodys, a good reason to start with them, i got some real cheap body blanks if you need a couple to start ( there not super supergreat quality, but they work fine!)

    id suggest making a body template out of 3/8-1/2 ply wood or particle/mdf to make it a bit easyer on ya, and so you can recreate your body design later.

    also, using pure purpleheart for a neck is gonna be one heavy SOB, is suggest purple laminates with maple

    just what ive used at least

    12" bandsaw 6tpi blades and 18tpi blades
    1 1/2 HP fixed router
    dremel for light sanding
    12" table planer
    6" joiner
    lots of C and bar clamps
    lots and lots of sandpaper
    9" belt sander
    1/4 finishing sander
    Random files/rasp
    good ole hand drill
  5. TheBassmeister


    Nov 23, 2003
    Austin, TX
    As far as the neck, I dont really have a choice, it was a premade blank that I bought on ebay, let me post a few pictures of it up and see what you think. Im not sure if it is pure purpleheart, didnt look at the actual construction that detailed.


    Im glad that actually displayed as a picture, never had good luck with pictures on talkbass.com. The description names it as a 3 piece purple heart blank neck, but Im not sure what the wood in the middle of the darker pieces are (I feel kinda foolish for not knowing but what can I do :p ).

    I think a solid body construction would be best for me at this point with a more common wood like alder or ash or something, just for my first one though. I do like the idea of a laminate body also, so I might do that on my second project.

    P.S. PasdaBeer, if you could e-mail me at bassmeister@austin.rr.com about those blanks I would really appreciate it.
  6. teacherguy


    Feb 21, 2004
    Cincinnati, OH
    id suggest making a body template out of 3/8-1/2 ply wood or particle/mdf to make it a bit easyer on ya, and so you can recreate your body design later.

    Dude, definately!!
    I'm also undertaking my first attempt at building. I haven't used tools since high school shop class. I just cut out my body template out of MDF and it already taught me a lot.
    I now know I need more patience on the band saw and that some kind of drum sander is a good thing (I have one mounted in my drill press!)
    I am getting a small taste of how much skill and care I will need when I do cut out my body blank! Any small flaw on the template will be transfered onto the blank and then MUCH more difficult to correct!

    Keep us posted!!
  7. PasdaBeer


    Nov 2, 2002
    Santa Rosa California
    SandStorm Designs

    deffintly, be careful with the routing also, set up some kind of support.....im in the middle of sanding out all the routing dips i put in my body blanks!

    btw, that neck looks like purple heart/maple/ purple heart
  8. A good way to support the router is first to add a larger base to the unit. I use a 12" x 12" x 1/4" thick piece of clear polycarb for my base. That way I can use widely spaced supports and still have the support I need.
  9. PasdaBeer


    Nov 2, 2002
    Santa Rosa California
    SandStorm Designs
    heh, ive been trying to set up a unit like TB kahuna uses, 1/4 lexan base, 2 inch rails of pine with a 1/8 layer of lexan on top, with a 1/4 lexan router base that slides along on top, i havent been able to get the curve out from the weight yet, awaiting some 1" steel railing......then it should work : )

    can then also use it to shave the body down another 1/4 inch
  10. Bass Kahuna

    Bass Kahuna

    Dec 3, 2002
    West Lafayette, Indiana
    Luthier, Custom Builder
    For the body shape, I rough cut it first (to within 1/16") with a band saw first. I then put my MDF template on the body wood with double sided tape, and then with a pattern cutting bit (bearing guide on the top of the router bit) in a router table I do the semi-final body shaping there. Usually, I have to flip it over when I get past the halfway mark and then put a laminate trimming bit (bearing guide on the bottom of the router bit) in the router and finish it of there.

    Then, on to the oscillating belt / spindle sander for final shaping.

    I then do the body edge curves on the router table with a round over bit.

    All of the above is done before gluing the body wings to the neck blank.

    The jig Pasabeer is referring to above I use for rounding of body edges for basses where a figured top needs to cover the whole top (vs. having the neck blank show through) and also to "plane" the whole top down to a level surface to put the figured top on to cover the whole top. I also use it to do the end of the neck drop off to the level of the top of the body.

    I'll got a pic or two of it that I need to post so you can see what I'm referring to. For those of you who have seen JP's fingerboard radiussing jig, it is very simiilar to that.

    I'll get the pics up in the next day or two at the latest, I promise!
  11. TheBassmeister


    Nov 23, 2003
    Austin, TX
    For the last few posts talking about routing...Im completely and utterly lost. If by any chance someone could explain this stuff in a little better detail Id greatly appreciate it.
  12. PasdaBeer


    Nov 2, 2002
    Santa Rosa California
    SandStorm Designs
    bassmeister, drop me a line again on aim sometime and ill attempt to give a hand, im not the worlds best with a router by any means though!