Introduction: Diy Cheap Bass or Electric Guitar

Picture of Diy Cheap Bass or Electric Guitar

this is my first instructable.

this is an unconventional way of building an electric or bass guitar. i have built a total of 14 including this one.
one of the electric guitar that i have built has lived for 4 years now, but still plays that good.
my building construction has a downside, and i'll talk about that during the build process.
the advantage of this instructable is that it is cheap.

since i have have 7 guitars i decided to build a bass.

i dont know why, but this bass design from rickenbacker is so captivating to the eye.

Step 1: Prepare Materials

-guitar hardware
machine head, pick ups, female jack, potentiometer, string

any hard type of wood, since the goal is to minimize the cost, salvaging wood is the best solution..
the only wood i bought is for the neck which cost about $8..

main tools -->hand saw, chisel, hammer, ruler(a T-square is much better), isometric triangle 30x60(it'll come in handy), sandpaper.
electronics-->soldering iron, soldering lead.
other tools -->scissors, screwdriver.

-marine epoxy
i dont know in some countries if this is available, but i think any industrial glue can be used.

to keep the budget low i used enamel paint

-other materials
big sized paper, pencil, shoe laces/clamps(is much better), G.I. wire, 

and pure muscle =) (for those with less muscles)..

Step 2: Design the Body

using any big-sized paper, draw your pattern.
things to consider when creating a pattern:
check if you have proper tools for creating the desired pattern.
if you dont have power tools, then i suggest you build an easier pattern.. i.e a flying V or a Dean ML
but if you are like me who is patient and wants to put a lot of sweat to their work, then go with any design.

also design the headstock, as for my build i took a rickenbacker design.

Step 3: Building the Neck

Picture of Building the Neck

when choosing a wood for the neck, it should be hard types of wood, since most guitars use maple neck and rosewood fingerboards and has a truss rod. the wood that i bought is primarily used in building tables or door jambs it is even used for framing houses here in my place, and since i have build that many guitars before i can trust the wood i is 2"x3"x10ft.

f.y.i. --> it took me almost 5 attempts on building this type of guitar just to know what typical wood to use..

i cut it in half, the neck design is a neck through, all of my last guitar are design this way. i failed when i used a bolt-on design, so i never consider it anymore, and designing a bolt-on needs accurate wood work.

after cutting, find the right edges that would fit perfectly,

draw an outline of the guitar neck in its side, i suggest angled headstock.

Step 4: Shaping the Neck and Head

Picture of Shaping the Neck and Head

this is the most gruesome part of the build, if you dont have proper tools.. if you have power tools, then you have reduced your workload.

Step 5: Adding the Fretboard

Picture of Adding the Fretboard

cut a piece of plywood for the fretboard.. the fretboard should at least be wider than the neck.
since my neck scale is 34" the last fret, the 24th fret's length from the nut is 647.3mm / 64.73cm so add a least 1cm to accommodate the 24th fret.

Step 6: Adding Holes for the Machine Head

Picture of Adding Holes for the Machine Head

if you have a drill then work is much easier. if you dont have then follow my way of putting holes on the headstock.

first pound the nail to create a little whole to place the tip of the screwdriver,
using the screwdriver, twist the tip through the wood make sure you are perpendicular to the guitar head.
after you've punch trough the wood, use the chisel to broaden the hole, this is much more easier. if the machine head can fit in through then you're done, in my case i used a broken scissors to widen up the hole for the machine head.

Step 7: Adding Wood to Create the Body

Picture of Adding Wood to Create the Body

if you have a long plank of wood then it would be easier to build the body of the guitar.
in my case i didn't have that option, so i recycled any wood i could find that is still in good condition,
i held it together using epoxy.

Step 8: Shaping the Body

Picture of Shaping the Body

Step 9: Fretting

Picture of Fretting

Step 10: Routing the Pickups, Electronics and the Bridge

Picture of Routing the Pickups, Electronics and the Bridge

route for the pickups for the electronics part and for the strings access.

Step 11: Painting

Picture of Painting

this one depends on you..

not really an EVH fan, but i like the paint jobs on his guitar.
started out with white paint.
then using a masking tape, cover, to create the white stripe,
paint it with black, still the same put some tape on it.
finish off with red.

after the paint has dried, slowly remove the masking tape.

there is a downside when using enamel, when you paint it on top of an enamel painted surface, the paint does not hold that much to the surface, to alleviate this problem, let it dry on a warm weather, dont put it under direct sunlight, let warm wind dry it off.

Step 12: Soldering Time

Picture of Soldering Time

depending on you, on what pick up configuration you use.
for my design i use a single humbucker with one volume.

Step 13: Other Hardware

Picture of Other Hardware

as for the bridge i used any metallic hardware, it could be any from bolts to concrete nails.
for the cover i used a plywood.

Step 14: Test It

Picture of Test It

plug it into an amp and test it.

and there you have it a cheap way to build an electric guitar or bass.

conclusion i spend only about 85$.

some of the guitars i have built.


dreamer10 (author)2017-04-21

i really loved this build it gave me an idea and im trying to put together my own instructable any advice ?

carlmatthew (author)2017-01-10

sir giunsa nimo pag butang ug space sa humbucker?

VAustin89 (author)carlmatthew2017-01-10

tigib lng gamit nko..

lsakaguchii (author)2015-08-10

Sir.. pano mo sinukat ung fretboard mo.. may gamit kb

VAustin89 (author)lsakaguchii2015-08-11

google fret board calculator

lsakaguchii (author)VAustin892015-08-11

Sir.. san ka bumibili ng bridge ng bass mo.. san juan city lng ako eh.. mtgal ko na gusto magbuils ng gitara kaso ung nagtuturo skn pano gumawa eh nawala.. may ginawa sya .. rhods ung body then dime ung head. Tulad dn sau walang bolt.

VAustin89 (author)lsakaguchii2015-08-11

made one out of wood and epoxy..and place a metal strip on top, in some of my builds i use an acoustic bridge, plastic ones to keep it cheap.

MorticianK (author)VAustin892015-08-13

Ok dude. Thanks for the info.. ill make my own too .. credits to you

lsakaguchii (author)lsakaguchii2015-08-11

Tapos 2x2 a ung size ng neck tapos pagdidikitin lang sila? May design kasi ako sir. So pag gawa lng ng neck pinoproblema ko.. sana matulungan mo ko

VAustin89 (author)lsakaguchii2015-08-11

yes 2x2 would suffice.. you could just add more wood on the headstock if you want to have a wider headstock

MorticianK (author)2015-08-12

How did you find the right width of the fretboard..

VAustin89 (author)MorticianK2015-08-12

well I modeled my fretboard from an can go in their website and look up at the specs of the neck. I think most guitar manufacturer's sites have specs on the width and length of their instruments neck.

MorticianK (author)VAustin892015-08-13

Well thanks sir. I hope i can build my own guitar. Im here in manila. Same country folk. ;) can you give me an example of best wood glue

BVB_Army (author)2015-01-18

I'm a bit confused as to how you made the frets and stuck them on. Can someone explain?

VAustin89 (author)BVB_Army2015-01-20

I used GI wires, cut them and stick them on using marine epoxy then clamped and let the epoxy set..

samran.upan.9 (author)2014-12-13

The body should be made from solid wood so that it gives sustain. Here is my DIY body made from jackfruit wood. The orginal is a Maya brand made from plywood I bought 30s years ago.

samtechpro (author)samran.upan.92014-12-19

its a machine made guitar

VAustin89 (author)samran.upan.92014-12-14

nicely done \m/

chetfield (author)2013-05-29

how did you route the pickups hole?? Did you use chisel?? Anyway I'm a Metallica fan too and from Malaysia :)

samtechpro (author)chetfield2014-12-19

you can use pin grinder for this purpose if you don't want to work hard

VAustin89 (author)chetfield2013-05-29

yes chisel and muscle power. I do not have any fancy power tools. But I would recommend on using power tools if you want to have a pristine and clean work.

samtechpro (author)2014-12-19

Nice post dude. But as i did this hack. I made a fantastic strat guitar within 25$. You used several layers of wood to build and design the bottom main body of guitar. You could use a single and wide piece of wood. and then you could rub its edges to turn it into desired shape. The style you used for bridge isn't good. You can purchase a perfect electric guitar bridge for 5$ and you can fit that. I was going to post my instructable so i thought that i should watch out what others did. Well i used three pickups and tremolo bridge of original strat guitar. I'll share it to you soon. Have a good day :)

Forgot to write..You are a real hardworker you proved in your instructable.

jude allen (author)2014-04-21

are you a filipino?? where did u buy the humbucker pick up?

biomech75 (author)2014-03-19


VAustin89 (author)biomech752014-03-19

thanks \m/

14395122Jj (author)2013-08-25

This is a nice tutorial but I don't like that you show all the pictures of rickenbackers and other basses. Kinda misleading to think you can make a ric that's what the picture showed

chetfield (author)2013-05-30

can you please upload the video on how you route the pickups hole

VAustin89 (author)chetfield2013-05-31

didn't have a video when I made this one. Just trace the pick-up on the body and start hacking and chipping the wood out.

chetfield (author)2013-05-28

Great job but i got questions, can i use plywood for the body and how you know if the neck is strong enough to hold the string tension. How to test if the string can withstand the string pressure? How does it sounds and where you got the explorer shape, can you give me the link? Anyway thanks in advance :)

VAustin89 (author)chetfield2013-05-28

any wood will do for the body, the cheaper the better. well that is what this DIY is all about. I do not have a specific wood I use, I use what I can find, as for guessing if it can hold the tension, look for hardwood, most hardwood, have darker color, they are quite heavy. I know what I look for in a wood because I had learned from previous errors, trial-and-error my friend. The shape of the guitars are not that accurate, I just drew it on a big sheet of paper, make it look good and that's it, didn't use any templates.

mje (author)2013-01-10

Very creative, although as others have noted there are Chinese imports that are cheaper. One thing puzzles me: There's no reinforcing rod in the neck, so far as I can tell. Even a set of 10s will put over 100lbs of tension on the neck. I'd guess that this neck will bend quite a bit if you tune it up.

VAustin89 (author)mje2013-01-10

yes chinese copies are cheap but wood-wise it is not mad from pure solid wood. It can handle 10's without a problem, it comes down on choosing the right wood that fits the bill. The explorer shape has already been 6 years and for 3 years it had an acoustic set of strings, then I added a humbucker to it and changed it to 9's, there was no warping at the neck at all. But I have to admit I did built a guitar that the neck bent badly, after that I learned what kind of wood to use.

Paranoiker (author)2012-12-30

It's your business, of course, what to use - I don't tell epoxy does not work as a glue, it does, I tell it doesn't work as the glue should work in music instrument, 'cause it's a damper.

Yeah, I've seen those Vigiers some time ago but hadn't a chance to hold and to play play. They look great (sound too, but it's all about amplifying), but I don't get what is used on the fretboard? Looks like it's some kind of copper alloy - brass or something? I just don't wanna know how it could be worked out without CNC at home. :-D Also I wonder how the fb is attached to the neck?

It seems like there is an ebony that's almost as hard as steel, I have some oldies more then 40 years old now and fterboards are still in great condition and their fbs are not made from the hardest kind of black wood, one fb was made from European ebony substitute! By the way, that's an endless theme - substitutes, pretty interersting and allows to build an instrument that's pretty cheap and sounds like angel song (of course, the wood should be selected). Ebony FB works for ages when is made from properly selected wood (when dried in wrong way cracks it early), so Vigier perhaps made just some kind of marketing trick, then engineering breakthrough, so be on alert.

Good luck with your fretless and more to come!

VAustin89 (author)Paranoiker2012-12-31

Yes that shiny mysterious fretboard has me puzzled for months now after I saw guthrie govan did a demo on that guitar. I

Paranoiker (author)2012-12-29

Replying works strange for me (don't work at all). I post and see nothing, even no system messages, so I repost like this...

"Your love for me has just... it's got to be real" Nice choice. It sounds suitable for this song, I guess! And yes, that's what I was talking about - the concept of this bass is very character by it's own and will affect sound too much, still it can be used for something piercing. For me BG should be able to provide nuances. Incidentally, I have some very special bass guitars, for example, one has short scale and cavity in the neck hill, thats why that bass sounds like contrabass and, what I like most, it has a block of frequency filters, damn... :D Still can sound in different ways (with me dripping with sweat).

It looks for me that the goal is to make ideal join with PVA alike glue (Titebond and stuff like Moment "Joiner", seems like scrapings glues are the best, cause they provide seam retraction after drying up, but PVA provides stable results and is being used by manufactures). Epoxy seems "unmusical" for me, 'cause it provides brittle seam that becomes a barrier for sound transmission - refracting medium. It's still cool for, well, using with filler, when you need to glue in inlays on your fretboard.
That's why you had "no problems" - epoxy fills gaps and do not have shrinkage and could glue "over the abyss". When you use pva you need an excellent edges and high pressure. I duno for sure how many kilograms they have, but I use five "uberclamps" for the neck, and it seems, that they are many more then 100kg each. For fixing an old bass, that became headless I used two clamps, that provided excellent seam. Judging by my friend's happy face, that work like a charm. I saw many home-fixed guitars glued with epoxy and never saw a nice seam, that might be not so important, but they were also played out of tune, cause fragments were usually shifted. The thing is they couldn't be fixed properly after that, you can heat seam and unglue parts, but you'll never be able to glue it "obey the rules", 'cause it's nearly unreal to rub epoxy off and all you can - apply epoxy again and it's tone killing...

Finger joints will become a problem in real conditions, even solid necks break down easily sometimes (when have no volute)...

Those are looking very promissing! What about fretless - does it have a mahogany fretboard? Strings (if not "half" or flat wounded) will destroy fretboard soon, neck can use an ebony veneer sheet on top!

VAustin89 (author)Paranoiker2012-12-29

The epoxy I prefer using is the marine one's since they are meant for heavy duty work. I believe I haven't have a problem with my wood because the woods I use are acclimatized to the climate here.

Well I haven't got the time to work on my fretless due to my work. I wish I could find the material used in those Vigier Fretless guitars for my fretboard.

Paranoiker (author)2012-12-28

Oh, what a cutie you've done here! Just few advices for ones who are going to accomplish a feat of building guitar from scratch. It makes no difference if you're making a cheap guitar or costly as hell - some things are invariable:
1)do all preparations before you start and think over every operation, make some tools (it's still could be very cheap and work as "adult" ones). Right, you don't have clamps at home and what is on market makes you shiver (overpriced or poorly done, I have some clamps at home that costed me much and make me amaze at how they work from time to time, that's why I use some primitive substitutes I made by myself now). But you NEED them - ropes won't give enough pressure when used like this. It causes weak seams and gaps. When guitar will face temperature and humidity differences or just fall from strap (it happened fairly often to me, when I didn't know about straplocks) and it will fall to pieces or crack. You can use rope layup (just a rope with twisting stick-lever, witch you just tie to what you're gluing together when it's "winded up"). Or you can make clamps by yourself, I use just two pieces of wood attached to each other with plain M10 rods, washers and nuts. Not so user friendly as "real clamps", but still better: a)you can make a clamp for your own needs - king-size, you know (very helpful when you're building something big) . b)it can give you more pressure, then "real clamp". с)costs nearly nothing.

Next, if clamps are already made you need a grinding table (I'm not sure if it's called like this...). Edges must be perfectly flat, so you'll need a sheet of thick glass (it's nearly perfectly flat) an some sanding paper attached to it...

2)physical laws are common for every guitar-shaped object on Earth, so you have to keep in mind your scale and choose a place for your pickups "under harmonics". Of course if you put PU near the bridge you'll get sharp sound and output will be weaker (what is important, when you use a cheap PU) then in neck or middle position. By the way, for me it seems that split-coil PU in the middle position is the most universal solution. It will give you a chance to hear the difference in picking, it's extremely important for bass! And will be helpful for bass-newbies - you're not going to play with mediator through compressor-limiter all the time, it's а defiant behavior!
When you gluing together a neck or body of guitar, keep in mind that acoustic waves run in parallel of center line of guitar (roughly). It's still ok to laminate wood stripes from side to side when you're making central block on neck-through or regular bolted neck and body, but never ever think of gluing wood planks perpendicularly (not parallel, all right) to a center line. It will influence deeply on result - you'll get parasitic overtones, if you're unlucky. Basically, "dead note" appearance (it's when guitar sound wrong or weak in some position(s)) results from just using a plank with knots or defects... Well, using something with finger joint like VAustin did is a deadly sin, I think... :) And it's really dangerous, because string tension is pretty high - neck can crack and your (and guitar's) heads will meet. I hope, they however won't.

It's time to stop, 'cause that's a way to much for a comment... Still there are so many things to mention like fretting and painting (I suggest to take guitar to workshop for this) and so on... Hope it helps in spite of my ultimate brain-cracking English. :D

VAustin89 (author)Paranoiker2012-12-29

I am a hard critic of my work and I think tone wise this bass really sucks, though I love its punchy sound but other than that I hate the sound of it not that versatile at all, so that is why I made another one which I think sounds great just check this lame attempt of a classic sabbath tune
and the guitar I used was still something I built.

VAustin89 (author)Paranoiker2012-12-29

About the clamping, I haven't had any problems with this method so far since I make it a point to look for "super-duper" flat slabs of wood to use for the neck. The oldest of the guitars I have built (w/c is the explorer body) is nearly six years and it still sounds great to me.

Finger joints are not a problem, I always make sure to find wood that have that "hard-wood" characteristics, I am not worried on that tension since I use wood that are typically used for house-buiding.

Well after a month finishing this I made another bass and this was the result
a new bass the other is a fretless which I haven't found a body at that time. Well this build is different since I made "wing" for the body and pain-stakingly carved it down to its form (a lame attempt of a music man. haha).

ritchie56 (author)2011-09-28

Did you use any kind of truss rod?

VAustin89 (author)ritchie562011-09-28

nope, just relied on the strength of the wood..

noingwhat (author)VAustin892012-09-14

Seeing as it has been at least a year and a half or so since you built this, how well has that held up for you so far?

VAustin89 (author)noingwhat2012-09-15

In the last pic(the picture with all my guitars in it), the "explorer" type is almost 6 years and hasn't had any problems like neck warping or any signs of wood stress.

iferdey (author)2012-09-10

Very nice tutorial, im gonna start making my first today!

VAustin89 (author)iferdey2012-09-10

thank you.

gravien (author)2012-04-20

$85 NOT CHEAP dude.... for me better buy made in china guitar just like Caraya, prince, Vorson, they even have $70 products with better wood (Candle wood, scrap maple that has many hole, and scrap mahogany wood ) and also better hardware, paint job and design..

noingwhat (author)gravien2012-06-07

Where do you buy your guitars from? I live in a first world country and the beginner guitars still cost a minimum of about $130.

VAustin89 (author)noingwhat2012-06-07

I am from the Philippines, cheapest guitar that I can get hold of would be around 100$ and this are unnamed copycats coming in from China, but the quality of the wood is not good, and does not survive well with the climate here,so I made my own guitar with wood native in this climate.

Entry level Ibanez guitars, fender squires, are the only available entry guitars that I have seen so far. Most stores here would sell higher end guitars, like Ibanez RG premiums(I believe this are the ones indonesian made), PRS SE's, some Dean guitars, MIJ and MIM Fenders, Hamer, Fernandes, Godin and other well known brands. This would range around 30,00 to 50,000 Peso around 600$ -1000$ so this guitars are really toys for rich boys here.

noingwhat (author)VAustin892012-06-08

But that is exactly my point, the guy was complaining that $870-85 is not cheap, and while, yea it's not an amazing price, it's not super expensive for a fully custom made guitar either.

VAustin89 (author)noingwhat2012-06-08

I really don't know why he complained, maybe he doesn't have a true-heart of a DIY folk =D hehe. True, custom guitars here would go cost around 500$ - 1000$ depending on hardware and wood. Even acoustic guitars are expensive, I find it funny since I live in Cebu, which is a guitar capital in our country and ordinary folks like me could not afford a good quality guitar.

About This Instructable




Bio: i love building and recycling things, since i was young, but now i got more on to guitars and electronics..
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