BYO: Build your own?

For anything related to customising basses. Tuners, Bridges, Pickups
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Cory
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BYO: Build your own?

Post by Cory » Thu Jul 12, 2007 11:48 am

Has anyone out there tried building a bass from scratch? Or at least from mostly stock parts. I was thinking about having a go at it as a "project". But having absolutely no experience as a luthier I have no idea how to start. Anyone have any words of wisdom?

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Jazzbass
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Re: BYO: Build your own?

Post by Jazzbass » Thu Jul 12, 2007 2:05 pm

Yes, I've built several.

My first was around 1962 and I shaped the body from Matai, with a rimu neck and a rewarewa fingerboard. I bought the fretwire in a roll and handwound my own pickups using some 1/4" rod which I magnetised with an electromagnet coil I made and powered from a car battery. I cut the rod to about 3/4" length and made the former from some thick plastic sheet. Once I wound it (lost count of the turns), I potted it all in paraffin wax (surfboard wax actually). It was a bolt-on neck, based (very loosely) around a Fender shape. I found a mathematical equation for working out the fret placements in the public library and calculated them all. I was 14 years old.

Remembering that at that time bass amps were about 20-30W valve jobbies, it sounded OK, I guess.

The others were all different variations, such as a Vox semi-teardrop shape etc, but for those I bought the pups. I was also into building my own surfboards and for one bass, I glassed the body. Looked cool, sounded crap!

Would I do it again? Smeg - no way!! There's too many low cost basses which are perfectly playable around, some of which are cheaper than the cost of the parts. Was it fun? Sure.

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Cory
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Re: BYO: Build your own?

Post by Cory » Thu Jul 12, 2007 3:44 pm

Wow thats a little more extreme than I was planning. I was thinking more along the lines of getting a preshaped Pbass body and neck and working from there. How did the homemade pickups turn out?

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Jazzbass
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Re: BYO: Build your own?

Post by Jazzbass » Thu Jul 12, 2007 5:38 pm

How did the homemade pickups turn out?
At the time, fine. By my standards nowadays - I imagine pretty crappy :)

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Cory
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Re: BYO: Build your own?

Post by Cory » Fri Jul 13, 2007 8:02 am

If I can get hold of a P Bass special body do you think it would be excessive or possible to replace the bridge pick up with Bartolinis and run them through a seperate jack, then amplify them seperately (Billy Sheehan style), to give me some fat bottom end but keep the P Bass high mids?

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Jazzbass
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Re: BYO: Build your own?

Post by Jazzbass » Fri Jul 13, 2007 8:47 am

Absolutely.

About 1974, I routed out a P to chuck a J pup in (although I placed it near the neck, rather than the bridge) and then wired the jack out as switchable stereo, with a stereo Y lead at the far end, so I could run each pup into separate amps, or even separate channels of the same amp. Sounded nice, too. Gave some amazing tonal range for the day. Definitely a decent mod if you like experimenting with tones.

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Cory
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Re: BYO: Build your own?

Post by Cory » Fri Jul 13, 2007 9:29 am

I thought it would be a great way to get an interesting sound. I'm hopeing to end up with a reasonably unique bass. I have a few ideas about other customisations I would like to trry out. If you have any tips for construction or know of any pitfalls to look out for, I would love to hear about it. (Sorry for the constant questioning but I can't pass up, leaching on a bit of experience)

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Jazzbass
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Re: BYO: Build your own?

Post by Jazzbass » Fri Jul 13, 2007 10:49 am

Personal preference, but I like just one master volume, with a blend pot.

If you're buying kitset necks etc, you won't have any problems, but all the same, I'd still be using a long straight edge during construction to get everything true. Pretty dreadful to be finally stringing it up to find the neck is at a slight angle and the strings don't follow the edge...

If you're putting new frets in - invest in some fret files (StewMac, probably). Costs a bit the first time, but everytime after that you want to sort out a buzzing fret etc - worth the money!!

I've tried brass, bone, plastic & graphite nuts and found absolutely no difference in tone. The same with bridges - I read all about how brass bridges, BassAss etc increase sustain etc - I certainly didn't find that. Same with string through - I can't tell the difference, so I choose top loading as it's simpler.

As always ymmv.

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Cory
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Re: BYO: Build your own?

Post by Cory » Fri Jul 13, 2007 10:56 am

Thanks dude. You have been a wealth of information.

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Jazzbass
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Re: BYO: Build your own?

Post by Jazzbass » Fri Jul 13, 2007 2:17 pm

You're very welcome, mate.

One other thing I just remembered. With parts-o-basses, you need to know that the 12th fret MUST be exactly halfway between the nut and the bridge. Therefore , its always a good idea to place the bridge AFTER you've got the neck bolted/set whatever on. Otherwise your intonation will forever be 'suspect'.

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Cory
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Re: BYO: Build your own?

Post by Cory » Fri Jul 13, 2007 5:00 pm

Ahhh very true and easily overlooked. That is the sort of thing that could be a big trap for a first timer like myself.

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Re: BYO: Build your own?

Post by BrendonM » Fri Jul 13, 2007 5:22 pm

when i was in 7th form and just starting to play i did the classic rip your frets out of your bass and make a fretless thing. I filled the gaps with wood glue and revarnished it. I actually did it as part of my bursary in art and music in developing a unique instrument, so I cut a monkey grip into the body like the Ibanez Steve Vai 777 Jem series and repainted it in candy apple red (if I can find a picture I'll post it up).
It looked great and sounded OK and led me on to the next project I did while studying at Whitiriea.
babybass.jpg
Baby Bass
babybass.jpg (27.85 KiB) Viewed 3818 times
which was basically a half scale bass. The dimensions were ALL done by Ray Mercer, in fact he did all of the basic design and build i.e. fret positions, body and neck dimensions as well as the cuts, and laying in of the pick ups and initial construction. Ray is a master - seriously.
The machine heads and pick up pots were all spare parts. It does'nt have a truss rod and is made of pine if I remember rightly... lol. The nice dark stain actually comes from a very very light layer of Kiwi boot polish, and has umteen layers of spray on clear coat. It actually plays but does'nt hold its tuning very well and the action is terrible. However, my 5 year old daughter has just grown into it and wants to learn how to play (Although she wants to learn with a pick and I suck at using a pick).
Since constantly going on to anyone who will listen about my wanting an American Fender Jazz Delux, someone mentioned a parts site which retail all the bits and that I may be able to build one for cheaper than retail and it would be still comprised of genuine parts. It does'nt appeal to me so much, but I guarantee it would'nt be that hard to do.

All the best with your build if you decide to take it on man.
Wow @ Rog - great posts man, you have validated a whole bunch of things I have wondered about string load options and nut types. Thanks for sharing.
cheers
BrendonM

Fender Jazz Deluxe 5 String, Ibanez, Takamine & Westone Basses.
Fender / Peavey Amplification with Ashdown cabinets, Zoom effects.
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john
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Re: BYO: Build your own?

Post by john » Fri Jul 13, 2007 11:41 pm

that bass looks cool as brendon, i've seen heaps of half scale guitars but never a bass. good work . id like to meet ray and have him tweek my basses. do you know how i would get a hold of him? i have a 5 year old also wish i could give him a small bass .
jazzbass god dam you know your stuff. very good reading, and you made your own pick up... who cares how it sounded ,it worked.

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Re: BYO: Build your own?

Post by john » Sat Jul 14, 2007 12:05 am

just a question for jazzbass , on how you said about 12th fret needs to be exactly between the nut and bridge, i just got the ruler out on my bass and on some strings its even and others its not (bridge adjustable for each string, of course). internation seems fine though. but im just going by my ears mind you. so is it ok that it is slightly not even

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Jazzbass
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Re: BYO: Build your own?

Post by Jazzbass » Sat Jul 14, 2007 7:45 am

John, you are correct - there will be some fine tuning to get intonation perfect, which is, of course, why bridges are adjustable. However, if the 12th isn't equidistant from bridge & nut to start, you don't stand a chance. :D

Of course, you will also know that you need to readjust your bridge for intonation if, for instance, you change string gauges or sometimes even with different string brands.

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