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chadbag

Electric Bass (and Guitar) building

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chadbag

I've been a bass guitar student since my son started 7 years ago on the bass when he was 8.  I had actually purchased a bass in 1994 and had 6 months of lessons before I lost my job and quit.

 

I also like to design and make things.  My brother, with similar genetics, also likes to make things.  He had made his own violin or two (and a Cello for his daughter underway) and he had also made a solid body electric guitar.  Between his projects and some stuff I saw on the web, I decided I could do this too.
 

So I planned out two bass guitars about 5 or 6 years ago.  One for my son and one for me.  It took me a year or two to finish the first one (for my son), and he has been playing it now for a few years.  I still have not applied the finish to the wood so I guess you could say it is not done yet 🙂

 

I had no experience woodworking, but I bought a bunch of tools (based on my brother's suggestions and reading stuff about guitar building online).  A guy at church was a professional  builder (buildings etc) and an expert hobbyist (and work) carpenter (since being a kid) so I bought a bunch of pizza and had him come over and show me how not to maim or kill myself.   He showed me mostly how to use a router (in a table) and a table saw with a few quick pointers on the band saw and planer (since those are harder to kill yourself with and I had them down).  I still have all my fingers!  so it was a successful lesson.

 

The one for me is mostly done, but I had to redo the "nut" (the part on the head where the strings cross) and have not re-cut the string slots in the nut yet.  Been a couple years.  It is a tedious job.  And i need to re-do the wiring as the initial job was to just test things and not a final layout.  But it played and sounded really nice 🙂 though some measurements were a little off and the cutout on the bottom for your leg (when seated) is a little off from where it should be.

 

Both of these initial basses were 5 string bass guitars.

 

I've since bought parts for several others and have actually started two twin six string bass guitars that will be the same, pretty much (except for being hand made, so they will be different), one for each of us.  My daughter started playing electric guitar about 4 3/4 years ago (she is now 10 1/2) and though I know nothing about guitar playing, I have a guitar also planned using the same wood and general body style (in guitar proportions, not bass) for the guitar so it will kind of be in the same family as the basses.  I have done very little work on the guitar up to now.

 

I have not done anything (except re-do the electronic in my daughters current guitar) in the last year, but am getting the itch to spend a couple hours a week on them to get the new ones finished up.  And further projects started...

 

I'll post some pics next.

Edited by chadbag
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chadbag

Here are the pics from the initial 2 basses.

 

First up was making the initial templates out of MDF.  The first one, for my son, was based on a shape he drew.  He drew kind of a battle axe shape so I took that and made a guitar body shape for it.   The second one is the one I am making for me.  A bit more traditional but still a very custom shape.

 

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The body is made like a sandwich.  I used maple (birds eye, though not greatly figrued) for the center piece with front and back of Wenge.  When I made the sandwich of wood, I accidentally flipped it over so what was supposed to be the back was in front, and vice versa.  The nicer looking Wenge is actually on the back.  It also means the interior chamber I had made to lighten it disappeared, as it was where I was routing out for electronics anyway...   Thw wooden knobs shown in the second picture were not actually used on this guitar.  My son did not like them.  They are being used on the second guitar below.  His has black plastic knobs, some day to be replaced with black metal dome knobs.

 

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Here is the body I made for my own.   It too is a sandwich with a spalted maple (the bug eaten kind with colorful streaks) with marblewood on the outside.  Beneath the front marblewood is a thin layer of Padauk (the reddish orange wood, that eventually turns more brown with time).  When I bought the marblewood, it was sold to me as zebrawood.  But it looks more like marblewood. In zebrawood the dark lines are usually thinner and closer together.

 

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Next came making the necks.  They are laminate of multiple strips of maple and the same kinds of wood used in the bodies.  For the headstock front I bought thing Wenge for his and thin Zebrawood for mine.   The necks have some carbon fiber tubes in and of course truss rods.  I bough the fingerboards pre-cut for frets.  I forget what sort of wood he chose for his fingerboard (brownish one) but I chose red bloodwood for mine.

 

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Next you cut out the neck pocket and put holes in so you can bolt the neck on etc.   Various end-stage pics of both the basses.   Both still need the oil finish and mine I had to take the nut off and put a new one on.  The new one is on but not yet cut.    He has been playing his for a few years.

 

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chadbag

Lastly here is some more stuff I have done.  I have built a lot of neck blanks for various projects, including the two 6-string basses.  I also bought the stuff to cut my own frets so all these necks will have fingerboards I cut myself.

 

Then there is some of the work being done on the two 6-string basses.   These have a back of walnut, old growth fir for the main block inside, and another layer of walnut and then nice myrtle for the top.  

 

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Here are the necks being worked on for these two basses.    The last picture is basically the stage I am at now.

 

 

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Sascha

Looks great.Very unique look. I just saw a video on Youtube yesterday where Brian May (Queen) showed off his Electric Guitar that he and his dad made when he was little. Do you got any videos playing it?

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Ken Ford

 

8 hours ago, chadbag said:

I've been a bass guitar student since my son started 7 years ago on the bass when he was 8.  I had actually purchased a bass in 1994 and had 6 months of lessons before I lost my job and quit.

 

I also like to design and make things.  My brother, with similar genetics, also likes to make things.  He had made his own violin or two (and a Cello for his daughter underway) and he had also made a solid body electric guitar.  Between his projects and some stuff I saw on the web, I decided I could do this too.
 

So I planned out two bass guitars about 5 or 6 years ago.  One for my son and one for me.  It took me a year or two to finish the first one (for my son), and he has been playing it now for a few years.  I still have not applied the finish to the wood so I guess you could say it is not done yet 🙂

 

I had no experience woodworking, but I bought a bunch of tools (based on my brother's suggestions and reading stuff about guitar building online).  A guy at church was a professional  builder (buildings etc) and an expert hobbyist (and work) carpenter (since being a kid) so I bought a bunch of pizza and had him come over and show me how not to maim or kill myself.   He showed me mostly how to use a router (in a table) and a table saw with a few quick pointers on the band saw and planer (since those are harder to kill yourself with and I had them down).  I still have all my fingers!  so it was a successful lesson.

 

The one for me is mostly done, but I had to redo the "nut" (the part on the head where the strings cross) and have not re-cut the string slots in the nut yet.  Been a couple years.  It is a tedious job.  And i need to re-do the wiring as the initial job was to just test things and not a final layout.  But it played and sounded really nice 🙂 though some measurements were a little off and the cutout on the bottom for your leg (when seated) is a little off from where it should be.

 

Both of these initial basses were 5 string bass guitars.

 

I've since bought parts for several others and have actually started two twin six string bass guitars that will be the same, pretty much (except for being hand made, so they will be different), one for each of us.  My daughter started playing electric guitar about 4 3/4 years ago (she is now 10 1/2) and though I know nothing about guitar playing, I have a guitar also planned using the same wood and general body style (in guitar proportions, not bass) for the guitar so it will kind of be in the same family as the basses.  I have done very little work on the guitar up to now.

 

I have not done anything (except re-do the electronic in my daughters current guitar) in the last year, but am getting the itch to spend a couple hours a week on them to get the new ones finished up.  And further projects started...

 

I'll post some pics next.

I thought your username was familiar!

 

Ken / HeavyDuty

Edited by Ken Ford

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chadbag
44 minutes ago, Ken Ford said:

 

I thought your username was familiar!

 

Ken / HeavyDuty

 

From Where?  My memory is not so great any more 🙂 😞  

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chadbag
2 hours ago, Sascha said:

Looks great.Very unique look. I just saw a video on Youtube yesterday where Brian May (Queen) showed off his Electric Guitar that he and his dad made when he was little. Do you got any videos playing it?

 

There are some videos of my son's band (from the music school we take lessons at) with him playing his.  I'll need to dig some up.

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marknewton

They're beautiful instruments you've built. I love the look of the natural timber. I have a Yamaha bass that's similar in style, though nowhere near as an individual looking as your two. Thanks for posting those photos!

 

All the best,

 

Mark.

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gavino200

Hey, Chad. I have a technical question about using a jig saw. Something I'm a total beginner with. Do you design the hole you cut to be slightly smaller than desired and then sand to perfection? What pointers can you give? 

 

Fantastic hobby btw. It's great when you can make a hobby out of making the thing you use for another hobby. Sort of like working on cars but much cooler. 

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chadbag
1 hour ago, gavino200 said:

Hey, Chad. I have a technical question about using a jig saw. Something I'm a total beginner with. Do you design the hole you cut to be slightly smaller than desired and then sand to perfection? What pointers can you give? 

 

Fantastic hobby btw. It's great when you can make a hobby out of making the thing you use for another hobby. Sort of like working on cars but much cooler. 

 

Disclaimer:  I am far from the expert woodworker

 

When you talk about -- hole you  cut -- are you referring to the things like the pickup cavities or the hole in the template where the cavity is ?   Ie some shape inside your wood is cut out?

 

If that is the case then I wouldn't use a jig saw.  But if I did not have other tools, then I would drill a starter hole with a drill, then cut inside your shape (slightly inside the hole) and then use a file or an oscillating spindle sander if I had one (I do have a cheap one -- you can see it in the pics above) to then file or sand up to the line.  Jig saws are "rough cut" instruments, not fine cut instruments so I would always cut outside a small bit from the actual line I want to be the edge.

 

I don't have a scroll saw and don't know how easy it is to install the blade after you put the wood in so you could use that inside an inside hole.   That is probably more a precision cutter.

 

I would create a template out of MDF myself, usually by using the drill press to get as much as possible out of the hole I was trying to make, and then use the oscillating spindle sander like a poor man's router to bring the cut up to the line.  Then I would use the template on the wood with my real router (and appropriate bit with ball bearing etc to follow the template) to make the finished cut.  Again, using the drill press to get as much wood out of the hole as I can without infringing on the line.  Then the router to finalize it.

 

For outside cuts I basically do the same thing.  I create a template with bandsaw and oscillating spindle sander and then for the final piece,  I use the bandsaw to rough cut it, leaving 1/8" or so outside the line and then put the template on and finish it with the router on the router table.

 

I do own a jig saw -- actually two -- one small hand held battery powered one and one corded one.  I rarely use them and there was no jig saw use on the guitars that I can remember.

 

Again, the real woodworkers and carpenters reading this may be rolling their eyes and these techniques but they work for me.

 

A router table or hand held router (especially) is one of those tools you want to get some expert training on before you try them.  Woodcraft stores often have free training classes on how to use the various tools.  I have not taken their classes, though my brother did, as I had the local guy who came over for pizza to give me private lessons 🙂

 

Edited by chadbag
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Ken Ford
13 hours ago, chadbag said:

 

From Where?  My memory is not so great any more 🙂 😞  

 

Talkbass - I’m a mod there. 

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chadbag
1 hour ago, Ken Ford said:

 

Talkbass - I’m a mod there. 

 

I was wondering if that was it but since I am mostly a lurker there and rarely post I dismissed the notion 🙂

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chadbag

Just need to brag on my daughter.   (The guitar she is playing is not one I built though I installed all new electronics in it).  That is me on bass (again, not one I built, though I did fix and re-do the electronics the former owner tried to put in).   

 

(Note that this video is "unlisted" on youtube -- I would appreciate it not being embedded elsewhere, though I realize it being here in a public forum makes it public)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by chadbag
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cteno4

Great to Anja! That’s a VPD there!

 

cherrs

 

jeff

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JR 500系

Wow that's just really cool! It always seems so cool to be able to play a musical instrument! I never get around to playing any... 

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chadbag

From my daughter's (10 almost 11 year old) perspective, the cool thing about it was that she got to play with Bogie Bowles.  Bogie is the guy on drums.  He was Joe Bonamassa's drummer for 5 years (has not been for several years now as he got tired of being on the road 200 days a year) and also played a year with Kenny Wayne Shepherd and played with a million other famous and not quite famous musicians.

 

It is times like this where you realize that all the money spent on lessons and fees, equipment, etc. and all the time and miles driving them to lessons and rehearsals, and the time spent "encouraging" and reminding them to practice, and all of it, was worth it.

 

Unfortunately my son (16 later this month) is in that phase where he wants mostly the opposite of what we encourage.  He still plays and practices, etc., because we tell him it is part of living in our house.  But he makes no bones about letting us know he does not like it any more.  I think deep down he does (little things you notice etc) and that he will be glad he did when he has matured some into adulthood.

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cteno4

arrrg the years of the teen warped reality bubble. black becomes white, stupid seems smart, something fun them now stupid because parents thing its good! Hang on!

 

man the pro musician's life is not fun. my wife is an old friend of bela fleck and hearing his stories of road, road, road make the glamor of being a star seem not fun at all.

 

jeff

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chadbag

Yeah.  It is mostly grind and work and for most, not a huge reward.  Bela has done a bit better than most 🙂  But he has really toned it down with the touring since he became a dad, though he still does.

 

These pics are when he and Chick were touring together and we drove down to Moab to see them.   I've been to a few of Bela's concerts and have a few selfies with him.  (The Chick one was when Chick was waiting to be called out to the stage at the beginning -- I was standing in the corner of the tent where they were playing outdoors and I turned around and he was standing with me so we had a quick chat and selfie before the governor or lt governor, who was there introducing them both, finished his long winded speech).

 

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cteno4

Yep being a dad has changed things! Tough for them as both parents are pro muscians! He is a mellow dude. Did you see his doc? Dorothy knew him when he was a street musician when very young in Boston. We get to see him now and then when he tours come thru. We took a couple of friends who are semipro Jazz muscians to the chic and Bella concert a few years back here, all really loved it. Think I liked the Edgar Myers stuff the most, quite a feat to make banjo and classical bass sing together! Not what comes to mind with instrumental duets!

 

jeff

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