Starting out - first build, hopeful to build many

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by dmarino, Jun 9, 2019.

  1. dmarino


    Jun 1, 2019
    Hi, I'm Donnie in Colorado.

    I'm a decent, but decidedly non-professional bass player, but I really get off on the gear side of things. I've built a decent collection of bass guitars over the last several years, and I started thinking a lot about building solid-body electric bass guitars for fun. Randy Fullmer's "Restrung" documentary really inspired me and I started thinking I need to build some bass guitars. Once I had dug around on the internet a bit, I realized there was endless knowledge and instruction available and I decided to start collecting tools and wood and do some drawings. Props to Ben Crowe at Crimson Guitars, I've devoured his YouTube channel, even though he doesn't build many basses, there's a lot of good info there. So, I've built a small shop in my one-car detached garage and gotten on with it.

    I've been reading the forum a lot this year, thanks for the collective wisdom here. I've been documenting things with phone pics. I thought I'd share this build and maybe solicit some advice about how to finish strong.

    Most of my egregious errors have been process errors, getting the order of operations wrong. This is my biggest takeaway from the first build. I've learned painful lessons about what to do first.

    On to the pics


    Neck glue-up. On or about March 25th, 2019

    Also made a purpleheart & hard maple neck

    Used the purple neck as a fence to rout the truss rod channel. It was a little nerve-racking to roll the router over the workpiece for the first time! It went well, though.

    On with the ears

    Drew up both a scarf tilt-back and a flat F-style headstock. Decided to make one of each style to see how it goes. Here's the scarf glue-up for the purple neck.

    Neck with rod and rough-shape on the headstock, ready to continue

    Mahogany and flamed maple wings, traced the template onto the body and didn't like the body shape anymore, so I did some in-place redrawing and came to this:

    Playing with stains. This was stew-mac water-based blue and black. Not 100% sure about the finish at this point

    On goes the fretboard

    Fretboard on, rear control cover made. You can't see the backstrap, but it's the same ebony as the control cavity cover.

    Started carving the neck. Used files and basic facet method to start. Putting a small volute even though a regular F-style headstock doesn't have them

    Gluing up body wings. You can see that I installed frets. This was a huge process error. The rough-cut frets got in my way for a long time while working the next few steps. Lesson learned. Wait on the fret install!

    Laying out parts, it's staring to look like a bass

    Body glue-up. This was probably my worst moment. Even though I has dry run this several times, when I put the glue on nothing would stay where I wanted and I struggled to position everything for a couple tense minutes as the glue started setting up. I finally did manage, but it was stressful, I thought I was ruining everything while it wasn't working out.


    Attached Files:

    Gilmourisgod, BishopJP, Beej and 8 others like this.
  2. dmarino


    Jun 1, 2019
    Here's a look at the back. Ebony backstrap and rough carved heel.

    Cavity templates made. Not too sure at this point, better test out...

    Tested the rout.

    And routed 'er out.

    Mocking up is fun! Aguilar 4M and an OBP-2 hipshot kickass and hipshot ultra-lite tuners

    Installed some luminlay side dots. I hate them. They don't glow that great and you can hardly see them in daylight. There is a likelihood they'll get replaced with some larger plain white dots.

    Black stain. Nerve-racking to start throwing this on your workpiece. Will the masking tape hold?

    Sanded back, looks good.

    First color coat. More forest green than the teal I was looking for. Sanding back anyway no biggie

    Coloring in with more blue, pretty close the teal I was looking for
  3. Looking great so far! What are you going to use for a finish? I was surprised how much Tri Oil darkened up the stain.
  4. dmarino


    Jun 1, 2019
    I'm not entirely sure how I want to try to finish the wood. I bought some Varathane Ultimate Water-Based and started testing on some extra pieces. I don't know anything at all about finishing, like literally nothing.
    I do have a compressor and a cheap gun, but I've never sprayed anything before. I was hoping just to wipe it on to keep things simple, but I am afraid I'll pull the teal stain onto the naked maple and ruin it.

    So, that's why I stopped here. I think I probably shouldn't have thrown the color on before doing base coats or something, but they are there, so I'll have to deal one way or another. I may work on the woodworking of the purpleheart 5-string while I experiment with finishes and such for this first bass.

    Anyone have any salient advice on getting a decent finish on top of this?
  5. Biffa

    Biffa Inactive

    Apr 16, 2019
    County Durham, UK
    Going really well, body looking very Parker Fly
    Slinger likes this.
  6. thehindteet


    Jan 15, 2013
    man nice work!!
  7. Paulabass


    Sep 18, 2017
    Nice work!
    I had trouble gluing on the wings the first time. Now it drive in two brads, trim them off about 1/8" proud. They make contact before the glue does, and no slippage at all.
    MVE, dmarino and jchrisk1 like this.
  8. BEADG63

    BEADG63 Supporting Member

    Jul 7, 2015
    Buffalo, NY
    Subbed...very cool work so far!
  9. Fat Freddy

    Fat Freddy Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2016
    Albany NY
  10. Skillet


    Nov 25, 2011
    It takes a ton of coats, but wipe on Poly can be almost foolproof. A lot of people swear by Tru-Oil too. Both finishes can be put on with cloths instead of spraying.
  11. Hey, Donnie, welcome to TB. Beautiful workmanship going on there. Keep it up. Thanks for giving us a chance to enjoy this project. Have a great night.
    Spidey2112 likes this.
  12. looks fantastic. nice work.
  13. bbh

    bbh Supporting Member

    Sep 27, 2011
    Very interesting. Thanks.
  14. murphy

    murphy Supporting Member

    May 5, 2004
    That was so interesting....and tools tools
    Spidey2112 likes this.
  15. Spidey2112


    Aug 3, 2016
  16. Jon Clegg

    Jon Clegg Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2015
    Northern Virginia
    Looking good, Donny!:thumbsup:
  17. dmarino


    Jun 1, 2019
    Well, between having a couple weeks of family/visitors, other projects to do, the day job, and all the other stuff of life, this build has made it to the finish line.

    I'm very proud of this bass, it's probably better than what I expected from the first attempt.
    That said, there are so many mistakes and such. To my critical eye, I see so much wrong with it!

    Here's where we left off on the build thread: Body mostly done, color stain on the bass, wondering what to do for a finish

    Decided to go ahead and try wiping on some Varathane Ultimate. Was going ok I guess, but it seemed like it would take forever, and I was removing some color from the teal area with the cloth. This did make a cool looking "faded denim" type effect, so I wasn't too unhappy

    Decided to go ahead and get a new gun and try spraying. I matched up the specs on my compressor with a cheap Kobalt HVLP type gun from Lowe's and got to spraying the Varathane. I fiddled for a long time with the gun settings, spraying straight water, and finally figured I'd just throw the varathane on and sand it if it didn't work so well. Fortunately, it went ok and after a few coats, it started laying down into a nice looking satin finish. I decided to be satisfied with the satin look, put quite a few coats on (this stuff dries really thin), and go about assembling the bass.

    Everything went well with the electronics and it was a great pleasure to plug it into the tuner and see signal, then into the SVT-7 and it worked great and sounded great first time out. Great moment after 3 months of building!

    There's still a couple little things to do. The nut is just held in place by strings, still need to finalize. I am tweaking string spacing and setup. I still don't like the side dots on the fretboard. But, basically it's a good looking, good feeling, good sounding bass! On to the next ones!

    Thanks for looking and supporting!
    - Donnie

    All assembled in the shop, ready to emerge

    Strap locks, etc. installed
    Satin finish kinda worked out


    Attached Files:

  18. bbh

    bbh Supporting Member

    Sep 27, 2011
    Love the body shape. You’re the man...
  19. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Vancouver Island
    Nice job! :thumbsup:
  20. Fat Freddy

    Fat Freddy Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2016
    Albany NY
    First build?.....Great result....:thumbsup: