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First Time Luthier With Lots Of Questions


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Howdy all!

So I stumbled in here from google while trying to nail down information to get a project going. To give you a little background about myself; I took woodshop for a semester in highschool about 10 years ago and had a good time, but wasn't in any sort of position to continue on with a woodworking hobby as I lived in an apartment without a garage or any other place to keep my project mess and tools. In the years since I've become very handy with doing custom automotive work and even have some experience with metalwork fabrication and machining. I've never learned to play an instrument, and honestly don't think I have the desire to learn; however I do have several friends who are musicians and I have a deep desire to create something which they could appreciate and likewise they could use to create music which others can enjoy. So, I bought myself a copy of the Hiscock book and a bunch of tools. So far I have the following:

  1. A large workshop
  2. A 10" drill press
  3. A 2HP router with plunge and fixed bases
  4. A Stanley block plane
  5. A set of spoke shaves (curved and flat)
  6. A small jigsaw
  7. a 2 piece mahogany blank from lmii
  8. instrument glue
  9. wood epoxy

So, for my first project I'd like to build a through body lefty 5 stringed bass. I don't know exactly what size or what material to use for a neck, although I expect it'd need to be somewhere between 46 and 48 inches long to accommodate the scale length appropriate for a 5 string bass (34 or 35 inch).

Am I barking up the wrong tree with this project? Most of the tutorials I've seen seem to be for bolt on or fixed neck instruments and none of them really seem to have any information (caveats etc) with regards to building a bass guitar. I'm thinking I should probably go with a maple neck and a double truss rod to account for the strain of a long instrument strung with heavy gauge strings. Is that a good way to go? I have also been considering laminating a top sheet on the body, but I am unsure as to how that will affect the sound characteristics of the finished product. As for hardware, I'm sort of a gearhead and I really like the look of bits like Floyd Rose Tremolos, locking nuts, headless instruments, and things of that nature; I have zero clue how to pick hardware that is all going to work together and also I don't really understand how to determine a good neck angle to compliment a given bridge/trem setup. I really like the look of some customs I've seen which used Steinberger gearless tuners mounted on the body and then used through ferrules at the headstock.

Any input would be greatly appreciated. And anybody with a line on a good lengthy neck blank would be doubley appreaciated :D

Thanks in Advance

-Dave

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Hmm, where to start!

You should be more than able to make an instrument with your current tools. I would honestly find it tricky making an instrument and having no experience playing one. Regarding the hardware for the bass, you should leave this up to the guy you're building it for, or have a talk with him to get a better understanding on what kind of hardware is out there for a bass. I'd stick with one truss rod on a 5-string bass, maybe add carbon rods in there for extra re-inforcement. But just so you know, maple is very dense and will provide a lot of strength.

There are headless style basses. Floyd rose does not make a tremolo for basses. However, there are tremolo systems for basses, look for Kahler and Hipshot if your friend is interested in a trem system for a bass. Locking nuts are required for trem systems. If you do not use one, the strings will practically work as files on the nut when you use the tremolo.

If you friend is interested in a headless type bass, you can check out -this site here- and possibly get an idea on how it works, or what that will look like on a bass. If you need a more specific explanation on hardware, let me know.

Edited by Jon
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The one thing you didn't mention possessing was CLAMPS. You will need lot of them.

On the hardware side... keep it simple (especially as its your first go!!)

My advice would me to go to the Compleate and in Progress work section find some similar projects and take ALOT of notes.

next

Befor you start buying $200 bridges and $500 worth of wood for your impending masterpiece. Get with the show...

You havn't done this before!!!

The first time you try it it will go wrong!!!

Get some practice in with some cheap wood and some chap hardware from ebay.

THEN once its going well spend a fortune on wood and fixtures.

This is a hobby that will last you the rest of your life.... Theres no great hurry

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The one thing you didn't mention possessing was CLAMPS. You will need lot of them.

I have MANY clamps. I'm not sure how I ended up with this many clamps actually since I don't use them very often.

On the hardware side... keep it simple (especially as its your first go!!)

My advice would me to go to the Compleate and in Progress work section find some similar projects and take ALOT of notes.

next

Befor you start buying $200 bridges and $500 worth of wood for your impending masterpiece. Get with the show...

You havn't done this before!!!

The first time you try it it will go wrong!!!

Get some practice in with some cheap wood and some chap hardware from ebay.

THEN once its going well spend a fortune on wood and fixtures.

This is a hobby that will last you the rest of your life.... Theres no great hurry

I appreciate that advice, but really I don't want to spend the time and effort and end up with something of really mediocre quality. The way I figure it I'm gonna keep reading and practicing techniques on scrap wood and take my time with the actual build. The difference between difficulty in fitting cheap hardware vs. more expensive hardware doesn't really seem to be a matter of skill (AFAICT) looks like making routes and bolting things together is one of the parts that is going to be basically the same (procedurally, not dimensionally) regardless of which parts I use.

At any rate I'm just doing it one step at a time. I'd really like some help with figuring out what neck angle to use for a given bridge height. That info would definatly help me in the planning stages, but I can't seem to find any "rules of thumb" or antyhig to get me started.

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Start by producing an accurate full size set of plans, and be sure to make them extreamly accurate and as complete as possible. Create at least a plan view front and back, and a side view(profile). If you spend the time to generate good drawings you will answer most of your questions. Use these plans to create your needed templates, as well as for reference during building. Your plans will also be useful in determining size of the lumber you will need. A neck through bass or guitar is not more difficult than a bolt or set, but you need to have all your ducks in a row before you start cutting.

If you are familiar with some form of drafting software that is great way to make plans. I personally use Auto Cad to draft plans.

Good luck,

Rich

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The one thing you didn't mention possessing was CLAMPS. You will need lot of them.

I have MANY clamps. I'm not sure how I ended up with this many clamps actually since I don't use them very often.

On the hardware side... keep it simple (especially as its your first go!!)

My advice would me to go to the Compleate and in Progress work section find some similar projects and take ALOT of notes.

next

Befor you start buying $200 bridges and $500 worth of wood for your impending masterpiece. Get with the show...

You havn't done this before!!!

The first time you try it it will go wrong!!!

Get some practice in with some cheap wood and some chap hardware from ebay.

THEN once its going well spend a fortune on wood and fixtures.

This is a hobby that will last you the rest of your life.... Theres no great hurry

I appreciate that advice, but really I don't want to spend the time and effort and end up with something of really mediocre quality. The way I figure it I'm gonna keep reading and practicing techniques on scrap wood and take my time with the actual build. The difference between difficulty in fitting cheap hardware vs. more expensive hardware doesn't really seem to be a matter of skill (AFAICT) looks like making routes and bolting things together is one of the parts that is going to be basically the same (procedurally, not dimensionally) regardless of which parts I use.

At any rate I'm just doing it one step at a time. I'd really like some help with figuring out what neck angle to use for a given bridge height. That info would definatly help me in the planning stages, but I can't seem to find any "rules of thumb" or antyhig to get me started.

step by step is good; and you have a good attitude about begining aswell;

what i think he means is, something along the lines of, igorance is a buetiful thing, until you realise it;

in that i mean, a book cant teach you experience; and no matter how slow you go and how good you are in doing individual steps, its the whole picture that is going to make your build sucessful;little things that stress someone out; or make it damn near impossible to do imperative things that you just dont think about until you go to set it up! and you will be less discouraged if you use some (lets not say cheap but maybe easy)usable materials that when you make something thats beutiful and working (remember this is a functional thing; not like furniture (which i guess is functional)) you will feel good about dropping 1K in materials.

theres a post somewhere about 'mistakes' people have made which is a good read; and you would be suprised (looking at their work) who has contributed to this list!

at the very least if you have no ambition to learn to play, go to the stores and hold a couple, find out why there are certain cutaways and good weight and all the stuff that impossible for someone else to tell you what is right

and good luck, you made a good start in comin here!

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Hi Dave,

I am a newbie as well, although I have played guitar for more years than most people on this forum have been alive - probably! I too, have more questions than answers, but am using this and a couple of other forums to gradually trying to understand that the heck I am doing.

I am using another book as my "bible", and it does have a project for a 4 string neck thru bass - not to my taste in terms of combinations of wood - but that's why I am making my own 6 string from the other project in the book.

It's called "make your own electric guitar and bass" by Dennis Waring and David Raymond, published by Sterling Publishing.

Hope this helps

Denis

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