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Tips for body design

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by kb9wyz, Sep 25, 2008.

  1. kb9wyz


    Sep 8, 2008
    I have been considering degining a bass and have come to realize that there may be many things to consider when designing the body for it. So other than the obvious considerations like weight, bulk, comfort, etc, are there any tips y'all might be able to throw my way about this so I can avoid making stupid mistakes, that may cost me money I really don't want to waste?

    Also, since I have a severe lack of tools, I may have a luthier actually make the body for me once it is designed. What are all the things that I need to tell a luthier so that I don't make his (her) life more difficult?

    Thanks all,
  2. Personaly what I do........

    I start with a fender jazz or P, and work off of that, modifying what sizing that I want different. I really feel the size of a jazz is what is comfortable to be.

    And btw, my designs are not fender clones, I just use it as a starting point.
  3. tjclem

    tjclem Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 6, 2004
    Central Florida
    Owner and builder Clementbass
    Print or draw it on paper along with a neck and make sure you measure the scale and avoid having the bridge hang off the back of the body :eek: or there not being room to bolt the neck etc.etc. good luck
  4. Make sure theres enough space between the neck and the lower horn to comfortably fit your hand when fretting the top frets.

    See what shape you like your hand to make on your current bass and allow room!

    (Im having to modify my design on the fly to make room :()
  5. uprightben


    Nov 3, 2006
    Boone, NC
    "I start with a fender jazz or P, and work off of that, modifying what sizing that I want different."

    +1, use something you know is proven, successful, and that you like as a starting point. I haven't gone past the design phase on my eb yet, but I found that laying out the unmoveables (neck pocket, bridge, etc) and then drawing a line, erasing the parts I don't like, drawing again, and repeat, gives good results. I like to establish my design goals and then focus on visual balance and lines that flow in a natural way.
  6. eleonn


    Aug 24, 2006
    Lima - PerĂº
    There was a thread about a year ago were several guys gave lots of tips about how the design and things you have to have in mind when doing it. Maybe you should look for that thread.
  7. +1 on starting with another instrrument and adjusting. without a relative starting point you will find it quite difficult, and things may not look right.
  8. +1 on starting with other instrument designs and modifying.

    +1 on drawing it full size on paper and cutting it out. Do each component as you plan to build it. You get a really great idea of how your design will work from the full-scale paper model, so don't skip that step!

    Also - those paper parts you create become excellent tracing templates for when you are ready to transfer that design to wood.

    Here's a link to a photo album of my entire build process.

    There are things I will definitely do differently on my next build, but as a first try goes, I think this one went pretty well.

    I have virtually no formal wood working experience but I have been around it all my life - so I guess some of my dad's knowledge rubbed off. But that's also why I worked closely with him on this one - and will on future builds.

    Also - think about how the body will feel both sitting and standing. The lower horn (treble side) of the body plays a big role in how the instrument will interact with your body when playing seated - the upper horn will not only help provide the proper balance (say NO to neck dive!) but it will also factor into how the instrument feels against your body when standing.

    You also don't really need to have the world's most elaborate wood shop to cut your own body. If you have friends or relatives who have tools and experience you can do a lot with their help (and I am a big proponent of working with someone who knows their way around a wood shop - especially when it comes to table and band saws!!!).
  9. XylemBassGuitar

    XylemBassGuitar Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 14, 2008
    Durango, CO
    Owner and Operator, Xylem Handmade Basses and Guitars
    I usually make sure that the strap button on the larger horn is just over the 12th fret (or a little farther up the neck if it's going to be a six-string or have a really heavy neck). Doing this will help to improve the balance of the bass.

    +1 on Mikey R's suggestion regarding enough space between the lower horn and the neck so you can comfortably reach the higher registers of the bass.

    Also, +1 on everyone's suggestion on a full scale drawing. You'll want to have your design completely planned out and finished before you start anything else.

    With regard to body design, look around this forum and the internet for custom builder's websites. There are a lot of innovative and creative designs out there, find one that really interests you, then modify it to your tastes.
  10. eleonn


    Aug 24, 2006
    Lima - PerĂº
    Be sure to make the scale plan with a front view and with a side view as well.
  11. hbarcat

    hbarcat Supporting Member

    Aug 24, 2006
    Rochelle, Illinois

    I've had this luthier (Gene Liberty) rough cut two bass bodies for me that I finished myself and he does fantastic work. His shop is about 70 miles southwest of Chicago so it's within a resonable drive of your location in Bloomingdale. He's always willing to give advice on bass and guitar making to those who ask. Give him a call.

  12. if your lazy like me you can start drawing out the body design on the ply you use for a template. then cutting it out is easy, as you dont need to transfer it from the paper to the ply.
  13. That sort of defeats the purpose of the full-scale paper model, doesn't it?

    Forgive me if I am misunderstanding your approach, but for me the ability to see my design translated to full-scale not only showed me where it worked really well, but also where things that looked like they'd be OK at small-scale were actually not quite right.

    Being able to take an x-acto and modify the paper model with a few quick slices was a very convenient way to adjust the design where having to cut up a wood model would be significantly less easy.

    In my project, seeing how the cutaway for the lower horn worked full size was critical.
  14. Its even more complicated than that - something that looks and measures fine in 2d may actually be wrong when you try to wrap your hand around it in 3d. I totally misjudged the angle my hand makes way up there, and Ive probably misjudged a lot of other aspects too. But its only a first attempt :)
  15. THSL


    Jun 3, 2007
    New York, NY
    For balance, make sure the top horn extends to the halfway point of the entire bass from end of the body to the tip of the headstock... This is especially important on 6+ string basses...
  16. i meant adjusting it using a pencil, then when i'm happy i cut it out.
  17. That's what I thought you meant. The point of the paper model is to actually see the real shape - not the shape drawn on a surface. Even though it'll be full scale, it's still not 'cut out' and you won't get the same benefit.

    You could make your pencil adjustments and think your good. Go through the trouble to cut it out, the realize it's not what you expected. Now you have to adjust and re-cut the wood. It's just easier to make quick and effective adjustments with an x-acto knife on a paper model.

    The paper model with give you a very good feel for whether or not your design has flaws. Then using the paper model to transfer your shapes to a more sturdy material for templates is a breeze.

    But either way - as long as you end up with a full scale model (paper or other) prior to committing to your good wood, you be fine.
  18. kb9wyz


    Sep 8, 2008
    Thanks all,

    I had an idea for the final "mock up" before actually cutting. I was at a craft store the other day and noticed the green craft foam. They had big sheets of it that could be glued together into a "body blank." The stuff was about 1 1/2 inches thick, too. I don't know if anybody has tried that before.

    I am thinking of a fairly different kind of shape. I want to try to make the thing as ergonomic to my body as I can. This includes a cutout section in the lower bout area so I can sit the bass up on my leg to play in the "classical" position. I find this position to be terribly comfy.:bassist: I find my bass sliding down and wracking my nuts, NOT comfy:bawl:
    This is a bass with the type of lower bout cutout I'm talking about:

    Consequently, can anyone give me guidelines for how to place the control cavity. It will have to be an odd shape, I know. I just don't know about how far from the edge and how thick I should leave the top.

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