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.