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Your first ever build..what you would do different?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by LightGroove, Mar 26, 2013.

  1. Greetings,

    Been a loooong time lurker in these parts and fascinated beyond belief with the talent shown. Im beginning my first ever build and really wanted feedback from others about their 1st experience. I have the tools now and some woodworking experience but nothing to this extent.

    So...with your first experience...

    What did you learn?
    What would you do different?
    What have you done different?
    What can I expect to experience...besides frustration of course :) ?

    I understand I want to start with cheap woods and possibly a neck through design to ease into the work.

    Right now I have some free African Mahogany for a 3 piece body and thinking of a 5 piece (3 maple, 2 african mahogany) neck. Looking at a top to add a little thickness and to cover the neck through lams
  2. HaMMerHeD


    May 20, 2005
    Norman, OK, USA
    I find bolt-on to be a lot easier, in spite of the added step of routing a neck pocket.

    Things I would have done differently if I had known:

    -Shop around more to find a better price on a figured wood top. (I bought it from LMI.)
    -Bought a pre-radiused fingerboard (hand-sanding a 10" radius in Select grade malagasy ebony...blech)
    -Used an LMI or Grizzly/Bestbassgear truss rod instead of the stewmac Hot Rod (rod depth affects minimum neck thickness, and stewmac's rods are a full 1/8" deeper)
    -Used a template and pattern bit to trim the neck blank to the final shape (I was impatient and just used a belt sander. It looks fine now, but it was a messy process.)
    -Glue and sand the headstock veneer sandwich LAST.
    -Larger headstock
    -Truss rod access at the headstock. (Turns out I hate it at the heel)
  3. Yelo


    Jul 2, 2012
    South Africa
    I'm in the final stages of my build, well I just need to finish the actual bass setup... here

    Here's what I'd do differently next time:

    Bolt on Neck, I'm glad I went with the neck-through as I was under the impression it was easier... but in the end, I don't think it's easier. I just think with a bolt on neck I'd enjoy working on the bass in two parts. Working on a neck-through means always working on the whole bass all the time.

    Also there is more control of neck position with a bolt on, whether you want to raise it or lower it in the body or even angle it a bit... All this would have prevented me having to route the bridge into the body.

    And then the bolt on would also have simplified my painting of the bass. I wanted a painted bass but because of the neck through I was forced to paint the bass from head to toe. I like the idea of having more control of different finishes for the body and neck.

    I'm not sure I would have done anything different (But Bass #2 will be done a whole lot different in terms of confidence). I learnt so much that all the tasks that are behind me seem a lot less daunting now. I just have a MUCH clearer view of how everything will go the 2nd time around.

    Edit: I remembered something else I'd like to do differently!!!

    Next time I'm going to buy everything I need for the bass upfront! All the hardware and really important stuff that affects the bass's geometry. It's not essential... but for the first build it would really have helped me!
  4. Lonnybass


    Jul 19, 2000
    San Diego
    Endorsing Artist: Pedulla Basses
    Blueprint everything, in actual size, in three dimensions.

  5. Wil_Couch


    Mar 12, 2013

    Don't underestimate the importance of design and planning. It's a lot easier to change a drawing/rendering than to make adjustments on the fly.

    I was fortunate to be able to build my first two basses with my grandfather, a professional luthier. He had never built an electric instrument or bass, so it was a bit of a learning experience for him as well, but his knowledge of building in general saved me untold amount of hours.

    That said, I would have used better/more permanent templates (not just paper) on my first build, and used additional strengthening rods in the neck. I only went with a double truss rod, and left the neck fairly thick.

    On any build the condition of your tools is paramount! They don't have to be expensive, but the do have to be straight/sharp/tuned/etc.
  6. I took the advice on a guitar building website to use small nails as side dot markers.

    I started putting in one nail and <CRACK> split the fretboard on the side.
    To salvage it, I had to clip the nail with pliers, and I can't flatten it down now without redoing the finish.

    Don't use nails....anywhere.
  7. thebassbuilder


    Mar 7, 2012
    Spartanburg SC
    guitar builder, Meyers Guitars
    I would not do it at all! It is a drug once you do one you cannot stop. Things I would do different.

    Start out with easy plans and specs/design. My first build was a neckthrough that has a Warick thumb shape about it with the arched body and all. Never done since but I still love the bass.
  8. seang15


    Aug 28, 2008
    Cary NC
  9. Meatrus


    Apr 5, 2009
    I wouldnt do a five piece neck for your first, or a 3 piece body if your gluing it yourself. Keep it simple, one piece body, one piece neck (plus a fingerboard!), bolt on is a good idea too.

    In order: Far too much to list!

    Take longer to make sure things are square and checking templates and more time practicing with chisels (you will need them to get the parts your router cant in the corners).

    I have done the above on following builds!

    You will learn patience by learning to stick at things and carry on no matter what....Thats if your willing :)
  10. WOW! Thanks for the great feedback/input already...I appreciate you guys/gals taking your time in your thoughts especially.

    As far as templates I was thinking of getting the "electric bass secrets" and CAD drawing
    I will def. look for a 1 piece setup..the 3 pieces were gifted to me for doing some chainsaw work. This would be my first "glue up" persay and have purchased a glueline tablesaw blade..I will heed the warning and start simple... Im known to jump head first in the shallows and expect good results if ya know what Im saying.

    Just an example..Im harvesting my own lumber off the family farm for future builds...my dream is to build a bass from felling the tree..to final product....:rollno:
  11. SaintMez

    SaintMez Commercial User

    Jan 3, 2010
    Meridian, idaho
    Blood Brothers Guitars - Luthier, Porter Guitars - Contractor
    If I could go back to start my first build over I would do a couple things differently.
    I should've chambered the body. I used Northern Ash and had no idea how heavy it would be. Body design is also a factor in this instance. My first was a single cut with a walnut top and I didn't account for the combined weight of the hardware and wood. I ended up with a boat anchor instead of a bass. Also, it may have been smarter to do a bolt on neck for my first just because it may have been easier to finish and do final adjustments. And I would have spent more time drawing a plan and making templates... a full size set of plans from the top and side is a great place to start. Someone around here said the best way to make an unplayable instrument is to not have full plans (I'm paraphrasing but you get the idea).
  12. I've have got a different headless bridge. Don't get me wrong, it's ok, but it's very stiff and hard to tune. I might also have radiused the fingerboard, but I'm still not fully sold on that as essential.
  13. Smilodon

    Smilodon Supporting Member

    Feb 18, 2012
    The main thing I would do differently is to replace the trussrod. I used a Hotrod from stewmac. They are nice, but a bit thick.

    As you can see from my build thread I did start a bit on the deep end with a 7 piece neck and a 5 piece body on a necthrough. In the end it turned out that most of the mistakes I did was from lack of attention to what I was doing...
  14. gbarcus

    gbarcus Commercial User

    Jul 20, 2008
    Minneapolis & St.Paul, MN
    Owner of Barcus Basses barcusbasses.com
    I would have bought a fret saw with a depth guide and made full size neck and body templates from mdf. I would also have made sure the upper horn goes to the 12th fret.
    I keep my first bass in my office. Even though I'd never play it again, I still like to look at it. :)
  15. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    I don't know what I would do differently? Honestly the mistakes I made on my first build were invaluable. I guess I would have done a bit of grain filling so the finish would have been better.

  16. With my first build I did a bunch of stuff that I would (and have since) done different.

    Probably the one that stands out to me most is that I would have mocked my body shape on an inexpensive medium (i.e. foam) where I could tweak things until my template was correct. I had drawn everything out on paper but as I discovered, things on paper look WAY different than things in real space.

    My first instrument sits in a closet, hidden away from view. It sounds great, plays great, but I hate the shape. I will play it occasionally for fun or when recording, but I won't take it out and gig with it. Call me vain, I guess. :) That cool idea I sketched out on paper didn't translate well to the 3d world.

    My 2nd thing I would do different is to not over-complicate things. I included an array of electronic switching options which I find never get used. I tried to include every bell and whistle on one instrument. I tried to "re-think" a lot of traditional construction methods that I later discovered became tradition because they work the best. These days I enjoy a clean and simple build, with maybe an embellishment or two.
  17. Neek


    Nov 26, 2008
    South Florida
    I learned so much from my first build. No matter how many times you read someones warnings on the internet, you'll never understand until you make the mistake yourself. Then you have that "Aha! That's what they meant!" moment.

    A few of mine would be:
    -Make sure your router bit is long enough to cut the entire depth of the body (if using a pattern bit/template method to shape the instrument)
    -Triple check your clamps/double sided tape on your template. Be absolutely sure they will not move while you are cutting.
    -Do not skip any steps when sanding. Some scratches don't show up until the most inconvenient time (after spraying paint)
    -Take care of your wood. Even though you are nowhere near finishing the body, being careless where you lay it down or work on it will result in deep gouges and dents that will make more work for your to remove later on.
  18. TheEmptyCell

    TheEmptyCell Bearded Dingwall Enthusiast Banned

    Use power tools.
  19. ctmullins

    ctmullins fueled by beer and coconut Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 18, 2008
    MS Gulf Coast
    I'm highly opinionated and extremely self-assured
    Absolutely! Experience is the best teacher, no doubt about it. It's all part of the process. :)

    But me, I would have spent more time smoothing the curves on my body template, so that those ripples wouldn't get transferred to the body itself. I just last night finished a two-week re-work on mine, to correct that flaw...
  20. Love the input folks.... while Im a little more anxious (now) I think you guys have helped temper my expectations... I would be the "bells and whistles" guy from the get go but realize this is not practical for a 1st build.

    Oh and thats 2 negatives for the hotrod truss...will check that off the list.

    Also I do expect to make a number of mistakes...my goal is the keep the fingers and hands safe so i can actually play it when all is said and done.. :)

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