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thinking about building a bass from scratch.

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by wildman2, Feb 24, 2020.


  1. wildman2

    wildman2

    Jun 8, 2016
    So I've been kicking around the idea of putting a wood/shop workshop in my pretty much unused barn/garage.
    I would like to build a bass and some cabinets for the kitchen in the house in the shop. I've got enough tools now to open a small construction business.
    Is it too difficult to make a bass from scratch?
     
  2. dmarino

    dmarino

    Jun 1, 2019
    Colorado
    No, it's not. You should build one if you're thinking about it.
     
    james condino, GreyMark, eSam and 3 others like this.
  3. Sooo...you are putting bass cabs in your kitchen right? Respect!
     
  4. review a few threads here, by looking at a few you should get a pretty good idea of what is involved in the process. Be careful, it's addicting!
     
    Means2nEnd, TerribleTim68 and Beej like this.
  5. wildman2

    wildman2

    Jun 8, 2016
    Been eyeballing alot of the threads for some time now. Drooling at a lot of the basses that are made.
    I've seen that you don't need a boat load of expensive tools to make one.if you are patient But on that note I may have an opportunity to get some time saving equipment relatively cheap. My brothers father in law won a wood working contest in a magazine. He has several huge boxes in his barn, full of tools he got from it. He never opened them and have been just sitting there. Think band saw, drill press,planer etc. What should I look for with as far as things not working. Stuff has been sitting in garage/barn for 20 yrs..
     
  6. @Bruce Johnson can probably add some insight into it. Anything rubber or plastic would be suspect, 20 years sounds like such a long time ago, but that's the 90's, so it's not like those are exceedingly old tools. Lubricants probably have dried out and settled. Most of the tools I've bought new come coated in a wax/oil on the machined surfaces, but you may have some rust issues to contend with.
     
  7. Gilmourisgod

    Gilmourisgod

    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    You’ll probably be dealing with a lot of surface rust on anything sitting that long, but I’ll bet the motors will fire right back up. Try turning stuff by hand to make sure everything is free moving before turning on. A lot of the old cords get brittle, or have no ground lug, replace them if they look even a little sketchy. Old drive belts will take a “set” and need replacement too. Good news is you can find replacement parts for almost anything now. @Brucejohnson is the resident tool expert on TB, if you post photos, he might have some advice, but he’s a very busy Pro, so he may not have time. I’d say for bass building you need an ideal minimum of:
    Table saw
    Drill press
    Jointer
    Thickness Planer
    Router
    Bandsaw or coping saw
    Basic hand tool set

    Obviously you can substitute hand tools for a lot of that, but unless you have a lot of time on your hands, motorized tools speed things up hugely. I have massive admiration for people who can build guitars with hand tools only, a lot of quiet satisfaction to be had there, but use what you have.
    There are a few specialized tools required for fret and nut work, but shop around. Stewmac has EVERYTHING, but their prices are outrageous. Almost all they sell can be had elsewhere for less. Haunt a few build threads, so many scary-smart, ingenious builders here on TB, there’s a workaround or jig for just about every step of bass building, and no judgement or snark. Welcome!
     
    mikewalker, Jisch and Beej like this.
  8. wildman2

    wildman2

    Jun 8, 2016
    Thx for the info.
    Already have table saw,chop saw of needed, powered coping saw with attached sander, plenty of drills and bits some small hand saws plethora of screw drivers all types cpl different Sanders belt and palm.very few chiselss.cpl jig saws.200 psi air compressor 50 ft hose, paint sprayer with multiple tips.prolly a way more stuff than I can post from memory.
     
    Gilmourisgod likes this.
  9. wildman2

    wildman2

    Jun 8, 2016
    Forgot router with basic set of bits and small router table 20x18in approx May be a little smaller, clamps out the wazoo of different sizes.etc etc etc
     
  10. dwizum

    dwizum

    Dec 21, 2018
    For your first bass, don't focus so much on the tools, or speed. Tools are less important than the mental thought process of designing and building. Faster tools just let you screw up faster!
     
  11. wildman2

    wildman2

    Jun 8, 2016
    Hehehe that be me..screwin up faster.I'm retired and have plenty to diddle around with making one. Could prolly engrave it also with the wood carving kit I've got if I'd want to. Researching neck pockets,fret jobs,nuts,tools for doing it. Measurements for placement of pick ups. Shape will be basic fender at first then who knows from there.
     
    dwizum likes this.
  12. Beej

    Beej

    Feb 10, 2007
    Victoria, BC
    For dimensioning the lumber into pieces ready for glue-up, I use:
    - long ruler, short rulers
    - combination square, machinist's square
    - table saw
    - band saw
    - router table
    - router sled (check this thread: Router Planing Fixtures ) (large mortising bit for planing pieces flat)
    - hand planes

    For making the body, I use:
    - 70000 clamps (you can never have enough clamps :D )
    - drill press
    - jig saw (or band saw)
    - router (pattern bits - top and bottom bearing, roundover, bevel, etc)
    - lots of MDF templates
    - random orbital sander
    - sanding blocks (flat)
    - titebond original glue
    - System Three G2 epoxy glue

    For making the neck, I use:
    - 70000 clamps (you can never have enough clamps :D )
    - drill press
    - jig saw (or band saw)
    - router table
    - router sled (check this thread: Router Planing Fixtures ) (large mortising bit for planing pieces flat)
    - lots of MDF templates
    - random orbital sander
    - sanding blocks (flat)
    - titebond original glue
    - System Three G2 epoxy glue

    For finishing, I use:
    - lots of grits of sandpaper, 80 through 400, plus abralon pads
    - lint-free cloths
    - denatured alcohol
    - titebond original glue
    - System Three G2 epoxy glue
    - LePage "Wood Filler" (actually a pore filler, not a wood filler, despite label)
    - Mixol colour tints
    - Tru-Oil
    - Minwax Wipe-On Poly
    - Varathane Ultimate (as seen on TB) - not using this anymore as we can't get it here easily
    - Saman Water-based satin or gloss poly
    - air compressor
    - spray rigs

    This is lifted from my process lists. Everyone's mileage may vary... :D
     
    Means2nEnd, Scoops, JC76 and 3 others like this.
  13. wildman2

    wildman2

    Jun 8, 2016
    Post saved as a sticky note on desktop. @Beej
     
    Joshua and Beej like this.
  14. Gilmourisgod

    Gilmourisgod

    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    What he said^^^^^^^
    As @dwizum said, we probably can't stress enough the value of planning and template-making. Make all your mistakes on mockups or templates made out of MDF or plywood, a whole lot cheaper than figured Tonewood. I know I spent at least an hour of planning for every 5 minutes of cutting. Full-size drawings and well made templates make the actual fabrication a relatively stress-free process. You will still screw-up, that's inevitable, but the heart of amateur luthiery is recovering from mistakes, and we already made them, so you don't have to! You can "wing-it" a little on the body, but the neck has to be as close to perfect as you can make it, or it will never play right. FINISHING a bass is a whole different kettle of fish, if you have any auto or furniture finishing experience, that's a big leg up. Personally, I find finish work the hardest part of the build. I had done some hack auto work in my youth, but it didn't help much. I used Water based Varathane Ultimate (there's a whole thread devoted to new water-based finishes) for color and cearcoat, it's great stuff, non-flammable and much less toxic than nitro or other VOC based paints, but if you are already good with a particular process, use it.
     
    TerribleTim68 and Beej like this.
  15. Buy a kit and be done with it !!
     
    eSam likes this.
  16. Gilmourisgod

    Gilmourisgod

    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    Some of the kits are excellent, the Cheaper Chinese ones generally have crap hardware and electronics, but the CNC woodwork is good. If you want to go slow, build a Fender style parts bass, literally thousands of options for every part, at every price range. Mighty Mite makes decent necks, also Carvin/Keisel, those are “paddle” style uncarved, headstocks, but all the neck carving and fretwork is done. Warmoth has the best parts I’ve seen, but $$$$.
     
    Beej likes this.
  17. John Childs

    John Childs

    Oct 10, 2018
    Reminds me of one of the greatest movie scenes of all time...
    Spicoli: "My old man has this excellent set of repair tools, I can fix it".
    In this case "I can build it!" Good luck have fun and most importantly post pics!
     
    TerribleTim68 likes this.
  18. Beej

    Beej

    Feb 10, 2007
    Victoria, BC
    Kits are a good way to get your feet wet in building, but if you think about it, a kit is just a CNC body and neck, plus a bunch of uber-cheap crap hardware and pickups. Almost better off to just buy a body and neck from an online seller (there are a jillion choices) and then kit it out with the quality hardware and electronics of your choice. :thumbsup:
     
    pappabass and Gilmourisgod like this.
  19. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Colorado
     
    rwkeating likes this.
  20. wildman2

    wildman2

    Jun 8, 2016
    Right now I'm in planning stages for the shop area and research for tools ,techniques,planning,stages for build etc. . Garage has to be cleaned out of junk that's stored there and spruced up a bit.Anything to do with my hands making stuff I'm pretty good at.But making an instrument is a different animal altogether. That's why Ive been asking questions.
    To give yinz guys an idea of what Ive done in the past.Ive already painted multiple cars sanded,masked,primed and painted by myself, one with metal flake. Did the body work also with no waves.They all turned out pretty good.So I'm pretty comfy with paint guns and spraying sanding etc.Its been awhile since Ive gunned but some test piece's of wood should bring back the muscle memory.
    I made my dad a closet that went from wall to wall in a week for his bedroom while he was on a cruise. It turned out pretty good he loved it.Wasn't absolutely perfect but I only had a week to do it by myself. Whole exterior of the closet was stained wood. with a stained glass door in the middle with sliding wood doors both sides.I have a polariod pic of it somewhere if I knew where it was Id show ya.
    I did think about a parts bass for awhile but got the itch to do it from scratch, gas maybe rearing its ugly head.Warmoth would be my choice if it was a parts bass though. I pretty much want to make one myself to see if I can and to see if it'll play good.Then pass it down to son kinda thing when Ive gone to the great gig in the sky.Sorry for the long post.
     
    TerribleTim68 and Gilmourisgod like this.

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