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What is a handmade bass?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by matante, Jul 5, 2012.

  1. matante


    Nov 3, 2003
    Los Angeles
    Is there an industry standard for what can or cannot be labeled a "handmade" instrument?

    There is a video on youtube of the Fender factory in 1957 and people talking about how these were handmade, yet I see plenty of machines in the video. The bodies certainly were not hand carved, only guided through the router by hand. I don't consider something made with a machine to be handmade.

    Any thoughts on what standards luthiers and consumers have about the term "handmade?"
  2. xander8280


    Dec 29, 2011
    Hand made is hand guided man. Otherwise it would be called hand carved. I see what you mean, even the Gibson plants use CNC's now, they are cut by machine but people still do the contouring and sanding. It takes a lot of skill and by no means do the machines just do it themselves.
    The necks are still filed by hand I believe, i don't know.
    OP, I know what you're saying, but somebody carving a entire instrument would take a LONG time, and be VERY expensive. Think about the labor costs for that. Lol

    I think if there's somebody there at every step and hand sanding and hand tools it's hand made. Wood needs to be worked, computer guided sanding hasn't come up yet I don't think:p
  3. matante


    Nov 3, 2003
    Los Angeles
    I know a woman who makes hats and sells them at a trendy farmer's market. She sells them as "handmade" simply because she makes them herself, at home, and she thinks that because she's not in a factory working for a big company that it makes her hats "handmade."

    I told her that for her hats to be truly handmade she would have to sew them together by hand--no sewing machine. This would take longer and make the hats more expensive, but this is the definition of handmade in the garment industry, and there are people who make clothes this way. Simply guiding the cloth through the sewing machine by hand does not make your garment hand made.

    There is plenty of furniture, art, and other products out there that are hand carved, and I wonder how anyone out there who hand carves basses, now or in the future, can distinguish themselves from other makers if everyone using machine routers, saws, etc. is claiming their instruments are handmade?
  4. davec

    davec Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 4, 2006
    bartlett illinois
    Owner; Cody Electric Basses
    I would say any instrument that is not robotically produced.

    For computer guided sanding search Ernie Ball factory tour on youtube, It's amazing.

    Simply put there are processes that machines are just better and more precise than humans. That said there are processes that require a human feel, but cause machines can not measure emotion. That's what musical instruments are mechanical tools used to express human emotion.

    I want to glue up my blanks to feel the wood and see how it comes together.
    I wish I could afford a CNC to carve out the body ( I use a pin router and fixtures). I want a machine to wind my pick ups and machine my hardware. I love guiding wood through the machines and turning wood into a neck. Feeling it and letting the structure of the wood tell me when the neck is finished. Finishing it, fretting it and putting it all together.
  5. davec

    davec Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 4, 2006
    bartlett illinois
    Owner; Cody Electric Basses
    To the OP what instruments do you consider to be handmade?
  6. Maybe "hand made" isn't the best term.

    Couple months ago someone posted a fascinating youtube vid showing the various steps involved in the building of a Hofner Beatle bass in Germany.

    There were machines involved, but I doubt if many would deny those instruments are hand crafted.
  7. matante


    Nov 3, 2003
    Los Angeles
    As far as basses, I don't know. Hence this thread.

    I know there are plenty of guys making classical guitars, violins, cellos and so on completely by hand, without any machines. No electricity involved.

    And for the record this thread isn't about handmade being "better". I'm not saying using machines makes an instrument better or worse. I'm only saying that if it's possible to make an instrument by hand, without machines, then it's wrong to make one with machines and then call it handmade.
  8. 66Atlas


    May 19, 2012
    The most sophisticated tool in the old BC rich shop was a bandsaw and router. Bodies were hand carved and shaped using various knives made in house. That's my idea of "handmade".
  9. jbossolo


    Sep 22, 2011
    Birdsongs are hand cut, carved, sanded and put together in a small shop right here in the great Republic of Texas! Best shortscales in the planet, and about as "handmade" as can be.
  10. Flaked Beans

    Flaked Beans

    Sep 9, 2005
    This one:


    They didn't have electricity back in 1820. :p
  11. davec

    davec Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 4, 2006
    bartlett illinois
    Owner; Cody Electric Basses

    I was really only trying to get a gauge, there are certain instruments out there that are more handmade, Handcrafted .... than others.
    I also agree that handmade and production is not really a question of better.
  12. I think if a machine can do a better or equal job of what something a human could do, why not use the machine?

    I think that if an instrument was made 100% by machines, like a factory mass producing toys for example, that is not handmade.

    Machines used to aid humans along the way but not solely relying on machines for the entire process, that is handmade as far as im concerned.
  13. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    I call my Roscoe hand made. Yes, they use saws and jigs to "rough cut" the bodies and necks, but the final sanding, shaping and fitting of necks to bodies is done by hand. I was so impressed after touring the shop and meeting the guys that do the work, I already picked put a top for my next bass.
  14. superdick2112

    superdick2112 Mile High Bassist Supporting Member

    Nov 20, 2010
    The Centennial State
    I call my USA Spector NS-4 hand-crafted.
    They do use power saws & sanders, but all work is done & guided by hand - there are no robotics or automated processes. I think this is about as close to "Hand Made" as basses come.
    After all, for an electric bass to be 100% hand made, the pickups would need to be entirely made & wound by hand, the machine head gears would need to be cast or forged & then hand cut, neck strap posts would have to be hand-polished sand castings, etc.
    At some point, you would need to draw the line, lest you end up with a $200,000 bass that would have a bit of a "steampunk" aura to it...

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