INTRODUCTION: The following is my first complete bass guitar build.  I learned a lot, made a lot of mistakes, read a lot, and sometimes just plain guessed on how to do certain things.  The project took place over a seven month process on the weekends.  I started to reduce the detail in my documentation here, but decided not to reduce it too much because you need to understand that this is not a project for the faint-hearted.  There are far more steps to this process than I expected.  If you decide to build one, your steps may change based upon your design, tools, experience, acquaintances, and skill level, but maybe my process will help you with some of the steps. 

If I were to win the contest and win the grand prize, I would be closer to quitting my current job and concentrating on a business to design and make items for resale.  That may include bass guitars.   My background in computers, software, and manufacturing are all pieces to the foundation for my desire to expand my CNC and design skills.

Step 1: General Planning / Tools / Suppliers / Sketches

GENERAL PLANNING: The first step is to plan out what you want for a bass guitar.  I currently have a bass and wanted to make one very similar, only with a smaller width neck.  I have a CNC router, but this is by far the most complicated build adventure I have taken and it challenged my skills repeatedly.  I have seen a CNC machine used to make guitar bodies and guitar necks, but my plan was to try to machine the entire thing – the body, neck, and headstock – all in one piece, since the plan is for a neck-through bass.   In retrospect, it is advisable to plan out your guitar and purchase all of the components before starting your project.  I did not do that simply because I wanted to get started with what I had – the wood.  But not knowing all of the extra components and their sizes did cost me a lot of setup time.  Repeatedly going through the setup process of putting the guitar back up on the router table within .005” multiple times is a pain, but I wanted it to be right.

TOOLS: These are the primary tools that I used: table saw, planer, hammers, digital caliper, many files, lots of clamps, router, cordless drill, various drill bits, small digital scales, dremel (with at least the cheap plastic base), spray paint equipment, headset magnifying glasses, dremel buffing wheel, and a CNC router with router bits helps.  I had most of the tools but did have to buy a fret file and fret nippers for the planned fret work.

Other supplies include razor blades, carpet tape, painters tape, lots of sandpaper from 220 to 1000 grit, face masks/respirator, rubber gloves, wood glue, super glue, clear epoxy, feeler gauge, fret oil, polishing compound, binding tape, razor blades,  ½” tap and tap handle (due to my table mounting process, and a board to mount the guitar onto for the routing).  You’ll need the finishing material, but more on that later.  Add in some 3D software for drawing the guitar.  You should stock up on a lot of patience, too.
I ordered hardware and parts for the guitar throughout the process and will mention them at the point they came into the build process.

SUPPLIERS: These are the primary suppliers I used.

PLANNING THE GUITAR AND SKETCHING THE BUILD:  My plan was to build a neck-through bass versus a bolt-on neck style.  I also wanted to do the 3D routing over the full length at one time and then be able to flip it over to machine the back side.
The first step was to take my current guitar and sketch it out with any dimensional changes I planned.  The following is just one of the sketches to show the detail I captured.  I did separate sketches for the back side and the fingerboard to capture the dimensions accurately.
WOW. That is a beautiful instrument!
<p>how did you clamp the bass to the cnc bed?</p>
As shown on the 3d cad type drawing, I put a small round piece on the bottom and top of the guitar. That allowed me to bolt it down and to flip it over to do the back and keep it centered. The round pieces were cut off with a hack saw later and sanded smooth.
<p>Absolutely gorgeous bass, and great project write-up! Would you mind sharing some info on the CNC machine you used, as well as CNC software? I have some experience with CNCs in the machine shop, but not machines that would be feasible to use at home. Anything you could provide (make/model, pics?) would be most appreciated.</p>
<p>I have a Shopbot Standard 96&quot;x48&quot; machine. You can find them at shopbottools.com and see pictures there. In addition to using Rhino from rhino3d.com for modeling, my primary cnc software is Aspire from vectric.com. Aspire has modeling too, but I was not as proficient with it at the time I built my guitar.</p>
<p>Excellent job! I've been CNCing guitar builds for a year or so.<br>Interested in doin a bass at some point understanding there are potential additional issues relating to the increased neck stresses in a bass.<br><br>I was surprised that you hand cut the inlay pockets! I do all that work, pockets and MOP, with the machine and it make s short work of it. I have done it by hand and it's laborious to say the least. I use end mills down to 0.5mm for fine detail and leave remove 0.05mm on the pocket and the MOP so facilitate fit. Also do the entire fretboard and slotting on the CNC.<br>steve</p>
<p>Thanks, I may do the pockets next time with the cnc. I decided not to on this one since I had not practiced with my software's letter pocketing at that point. I may also try the fretboard too.</p>
<p>philmylius, Sorry you seem offended; but some clarification is in order. I love a challenge. When I decided to build this, it was a long learning curve. It took me around 1 1/2 years in my spare time to complete the guitar. That was after buying and learning a complicated piece of 3d software. Maybe 5 percent of the time spent on this guitar was with the cnc and the rest was massive amounts of detail work. Just as you have employed the tools of your trade to create your guitars, and just as Stradivarius no doubt utilized the tools he had for his crafting, I had the privileged of using the tools I have acquired. From one old man to other, thank you for your comments of appreciation. And rest assured, if I build another guitar - it too will be one of a kind, even though the shape may be similar. </p><p>Regards</p>
<p>I love the finished item which is no doubt very desirable, however as someone who has dedicated their life to carpentry and joinery it fills me with horror that cnc machining would even be considered for a bespoke guitar like this. I am by no means a Luddite and have embraced modern technology with open arms, but reading this makes me shed a tear that hand skills with all their comparative inaccuracies are being lost and that as guys my age pass away there will be no more teachers. In England we already suffer a massive skills gap and I fear this will only worsen with time. Some projects deserve the dedication to learn personal skills and take pride in their outcomes, would Stradivarius if alive today allow machines to form, carve and shape his instruments, I doubt it. I think he too would cry that a touch of a button an exact replica could be produced thus doing away with exclusivity. Maybe we will be 3D printing all the old masters such as Gainsborough to copy their paint application precisely.....................Terrifying. </p><p>Anyhow enough said from a sad old man who really is impressed with your undoubted skills and talent, who is thinking to present a similar project only employing more traditional methods. Watch this space.</p><p>Kindest Regards..Phil</p>
I give up! I've been looking for good wood for some now. please tell me good sir, where did you order the wood? thank you.
<p>I was fortunate enough to have the walnut and birdseye maple. The only piece I had to buy was the center strip of hard maple. I bought it from Frank Miller Lumber company in Union City Indiana. There is another Amish place in Millersburg Ohio that had a lot of wood - if I were looking. Their name is Keim Lumber.</p>
awesome, I'll take a look at it. hopefully I can find a place in Kansas City.
Thanks jasontsitra. One suggestion. Walnut is pretty but it's heavy. The next one I would make a little thinner - to lighten just a bit.
<p>That is one fine instrument. Great work, man :) about to go outside and cut out a piece of this black walnut tree trunk and start on mine!</p>
<p>I like your example, I too am going to make a custom bass guitar from scratch for My church and this will really help, keep up the good work.</p>
so all said and done, how much was it to make? is it worth it to make your own?
I am glad I did it since I play it every week in our church. I also enjoyed the challenge. I'm starting on serial number 2 now - mainly so I can keep track of the total time by recording the time for each step.
Hey. This is an awesome tutorial and I hope to build a bass at some point. I did some online research and wanted to know if I was correct in saying that if I don't plan to record with this bass and always use an amp, that I wouldn't need to put in a preamp. If anyone could confirm this or give me the correct info that would be great. Thanks in advance. : )
Sorry, I am not an expert in that area. I have never heard it put that way though. I think I read that a 'passive' bass - without preamp - has a better chance of feedback do to other electrical interference; but again, I am not sure. You may want to go to one of the bass guitar forums and check for an answer. Here is one of those forums: http://www.talkbass.com/forum/f45/<br><br>
beautiful. fantastic work.
This is amazing craftsmanship.
Thanks. I am about to start on bass guitar - serial #2. This one will be the same general design but will have Brazillian Cherry (Jatoba) in place of the Walnut. This time I am going to try to track the time for all of the operations - just to see if I could make a small business out of building these. Thanks again for your comment.
Congratulations! It was a tough job, that you did beautifully!
That is just beautiful! Excellent work. <br> <br>Makes me miss my my 4 string Peavey Tiger Maple Bass I sold a few months ago.
this is a beast!
wow that is awesome , i am wanting to make my own bass aswell could you possibly send me the sizes of the bass so i could get sizes for my one if that's ok cause i couldn't read them on the paper diagram <br> <br>thanks <br> <br>columbiad
The bass is roughly 47&quot; long, about 12 1/2&quot; wide, and the body/neck is about 1 3/4&quot; thick.
Beautiful! Nice job on the design and they instructions. This is something I'd like to attempt some day. Your instructable has confirmed what I already knew, I'm not ready. ;) Truly a beautiful instrument.
Love it, all of it!! <br>I don't know that much about bass's, but what did you do about the truss rod in the end it's no longer visible at the back side of the neck. how did you cover it? <br>I am going to build a bass myself to but i've not yet started the physical work, I'm still in the planning phase. My biggest problem is absolutely that I have not nearly a tenth of your equipment (no cnc and other heavy machinery), this means I'll have to do almost everything by hand. <br> <br>GRZ Pieter DC
The truss rod is not too bad. If you do not have a cnc, you would need to make a fixture for a router and have a small enough router bit to cut the slot. If you look at about the 6th picture (there are 2 on that page), one picture shows the truss rod laying in the slot and you will notice that I just have a couple pieces of tape holding it in at that point. Once I was ready to install the rod, I use small dabs of silicone to hold it in the general position, then glued on the fret board. Here is a link to some general information on installing the rods. <br> <br>http://www.stewmac.com/freeinfo/Truss_rods/i-0975.html <br> <br>They are not really hard secured in the slot. The ends just fit snug so that any tension on the adjustment rod bows the rod. <br> <br>Good luck.
OH, and if you could also tell me how exactly you installed the truss rod. Because I don't really get it, it has to be secured on one end otherwise it's useless but I dont really see how to.
I must say this is one of the most beautiful bass guitars, used to have a through body and miss it, great build and congrats on being a finalist.....wow
gud pm nailscott do you sell your bass guitar?? i'm interested i'm going 2 buy it..tx me up up..09168567965...thanks
I had not before even considered selling it since I made if for me. Besides, I think the price would be way out of range for the average buyer. I am out of the country and cannot do texting until I return on Mar 17th.
tx me or call up i'll wait..thanks a lot...
that is sooooooooooooo cool
Congrats on being a finalist, and good luck!
Hey thanks. I can only hope it does well.
Thanks for all the comments. I really appreciate them.
This is a hot hot hot looking ax! The nice thing about your CNC process is the level of repeat ability you have now that the drawings and tool paths are done. I am having some CNC envy now.
Great job ...also great design
wow! this is so cool, I would attempt this but I don't have a CNC machine. you probably said it somewhere in the ible' but what type of wood did you use?
This could all be done without a cnc machine, it would just take more time for router fixtures and shaping - but it could be done.<br><br>On the wood, the body dark side wood is walnut; as well as the small 1/8&quot; strips that run from top to bottom through the neck. The very center piece is hard maple, and the two pieces on the outside of the walnut strips are birdseye maple.
You are my hero.
Man, that's a beaut.<br><br>Reminds me of an Alembic with the laminated woods. And you can never have enough clamps.
Thanks caitlinsdad. You are right about the clamps. I think I used everyone in the shop when I clampled the full body and neck together.
I can re-call a clamping event that ended in a frantic search for a diver's weight belt- the glue had introduced an unpredicted chaos the dry fit had not revealed! Nice 'ible, passing it on to my son- who is nagging for a bass!
The greatest story ever told <a href="http://www.gibson.com/en-us/Lifestyle/Features/brian-may-red-special-521/" rel="nofollow">http://www.gibson.com/en-us/Lifestyle/Features/brian-may-red-special-521/</a>&nbsp;If you really want it, you have to make it yourself.
I will pass this on to him! Thanks!

About This Instructable



More by nailzscott:Building My First Bass Guitar 
Add instructable to: