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Thread: Building a bass guitar from a kit

  1. #1
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    Default Building a bass guitar from a kit

    I stumbled across this kit while browsing the web, and thought it might be something both fun to do, and small, to keep me away from the TV in the evenings for a little while. For only $105, is seemed inexpensive and potentially fun.



    The body is machined from Paulownia, a lightweight hardwood from Asia. Admittedly, it's hardly inspiring... the body is 'pieced' at two points, so the grain is certainly not symmetrical, and the machining is rather rough... but whaddaya want for only $105?

    The neck is much nicer, and I think it's actually carved by machine from maple... very smooth, and clean. The headstock shape is rather bizarre... I suppose that I could cut it to be more attractive if I had a decent scroll saw, but I think I'll leave it as is. I paid $5 extra for the rosewood fingerboard, and it's surprisingly nice... the fretwork is smooth and level, and the rosewood is defect-free.

    Aside from finishing the body and neck, this is just a 'bolt together' thing... maybe 2-3 hours to assemble... but, of course, finishing the body and neck will take time.

    After a lot of googling and watching YouTube videos, I'm going to finish it natural, with Tru Oil... this is yet another of the polymerizing oil finishes, actually marketed to finish gunstocks, but apparently popular with amateur guitar builders. It supposedly produces a finish which is somewhere between fine satin, and glossy, and since it dries quickly, I'm advised you can apply three coats in a day, with only a few hours of drying, in between. The first few coats can be wet-sanded to help fill the grain. Based on my research, this is vastly easier than trying a nitrocellulose, polyurethane, or other conventional finish.

    The kit comes from www.guitarfetish.com... they have many other kits, so if you wanted to build yourself a phony Telecaster, Strat, Gibson GS, or Les Paul, they have inexpensive kits available.
    Last edited by Norman Bernstein; 11-16-2017 at 12:27 PM.
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Building a bass guitar from a kit

    Quote Originally Posted by Norman Bernstein View Post
    For only $105, is seemed inexpensive and potentially fun.
    I've seen acoustic kits that cost MUCH more than that. You found a real steal. Good luck. Do you play?

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    Default Re: Building a bass guitar from a kit

    Quote Originally Posted by CWSmith View Post
    I've seen acoustic kits that cost MUCH more than that. You found a real steal. Good luck. Do you play?
    Do I play? Sometimes.. in my office.. when no one can hear me

    The $105 price isn't THAT much of a bargain, per se. If you presume that the resulting bass will be on par with the low end 'Squier' stuff from Fender, then it's not that much less.... I own a Squier 'Bronco Bass' which cost me $149, I think, brand new.

    The problem with the Bronco bass is that it's so 'low end', that it's very hard to set up properly.... I never bothered to work on that, but it wouldn't help... the Bronco bass bridge is really cheap, doesn't permit fully independent adjustment of each string. The bridge that came with this kit, on the other hand, permits fully independent adjustment... and the fingerboard is MUCH nicer.

    Then again, for just $105 (I can spend more than that in a sushi restaurant), it will hopefully be fun to build.
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    Default Re: Building a bass guitar from a kit

    I agree, looks like a fun bargain. My only complaint is that I much prefer shaping wood to finishing it, so probably not a good bargain for me.

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    Default Re: Building a bass guitar from a kit

    Quote Originally Posted by ron ll View Post
    I agree, looks like a fun bargain. My only complaint is that I much prefer shaping wood to finishing it, so probably not a good bargain for me.
    Well, for $105, you can throw the body away and build your own, taking measurements for things like the heel, pickup pockets, etc. Guitarfetish.com also sells parts, so you can buy the components separately. The stuff that came with the kit is 'bottom end', but you can get better pickups, gold-plated bridges and tuners, and so on.

    If this bass comes out well, I think I might try the 'Gibson SG' style 6 string kit... I've always liked that shape.
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    Default Re: Building a bass guitar from a kit

    I've cobbled together two strats and a tele from bodies and bits bought from Ebay and other places such as Guitar Fetish. I'm now working on telecaster #2 (P90 in the neck and a humbucker at the bridge). I have used two pre-finished bodies and have painted two myself. The bodies have been made from mahogany, paulownia, pine and alder. A few thoughts on the subject:

    1) Do you want to build a guitar a) more for the fun/experience of building, or b) because you want something decent to play but are too cheap to buy a "good" instrument? If you answer is "a", then the kit will be fine. if the answer is "b", you should realize that the hardware and pickups supplied in the kit are probably not going to be satisfactory. You can always upgrade them later, though, so that might not be an issue for you.

    2) If your answer is 'b", you have three options: 1) build your own from higher quality components (=more $$, but not that much more if you're careful), 2) buy something like a Squire, Yamaha or an Xaviere bass which will cost $75 to $130 more than the kit but will have better components than the kit and you won't have to do the finishing work yourself, or 3) buy a "real" bass used. (kinda' like the whole "build or buy" discussion re: boats, isn't it?)

    3) Paulownia bodies are very light which is nice on your back and they seem to be nicely resonant. The down side is that they are soft, easily dented and you have to be careful not to over-tighten screws because they will strip out the holes very easily. Another drawback is that because they are so light, the center of balance can be strange and the guitar may have a tendency to "neck dive" - tip downwards in the direction of the neck. Personally, guitars made with paulownia bodies don't feel like "real" guitars to me - too light, too insubstantial, but that's definitely a personal preference thing. Other folks love 'em.

    4) Finishing - Prepping a body for paint, painting it, clear coating it and rubbing out the finish is a time-consuming, frustrating and rewarding experience, at least for me. It takes practice. Your idea of using Tru Oil is going to be considerably easier. I've read about it and know that it's popular for necks but have never used it. I have seen and played guitars that were finished with tung or "danish" oil and they were very nice.

    5) If you are interested in putting together your own "kit" of higher-quality (and more $$) components, Ebay is a great place to find bodies and necks but the prices vary considerably so it takes some searching. Guitar Fetish sells decent bodies (finished and unfinished) in woods other than paulownia and good necks too. I've done considerable comparison shopping for pickups and hardware and Guitar Fetish is probably you best bet for that stuff too, although you may find better deals on individual items on Ebay if you're patient/lucky. You should be able to put together a bass with good hardware and excellent pickups for $200 or less.

    6) Last thing: It seems lilke GFS has sales about every three or four weeks and around every holiday so if your not in a hurry, wait for their Thanksgiving sale. If you get on their mailing list, you'll receive notices of the sales in your email.

    7) actual last thing: Whatever you decide, go for it! It's fun. Just know that this probably won't be the only guitar you'll build. Like potato chips and wooden boats, building guitars is addictive.

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    Default Re: Building a bass guitar from a kit

    Quote Originally Posted by BrianY View Post
    1) Do you want to build a guitar a) more for the fun/experience of building, or b) because you want something decent to play but are too cheap to buy a "good" instrument? If you answer is "a", then the kit will be fine. if the answer is "b", you should realize that the hardware and pickups supplied in the kit are probably not going to be satisfactory. You can always upgrade them later, though, so that might not be an issue for you.
    For me, it's c): I think that this kit will be more fun to play.. by myself, with nobody listening... in my office, than the 'Bronco bass' I currently own. If I was even slightly more serious, I might have bought a 'good' instrument... but I'm definitely NOT more serious. I'm just screwin' around, and though it might be fun to build this.

    Quote Originally Posted by BrianY View Post
    3) Paulownia bodies are very light which is nice on your back and they seem to be nicely resonant. The down side is that they are soft, easily dented and you have to be careful not to over-tighten screws because they will strip out the holes very easily. Another drawback is that because they are so light, the center of balance can be strange and the guitar may have a tendency to "neck dive" - tip downwards in the direction of the neck. Personally, guitars made with paulownia bodies don't feel like "real" guitars to me - too light, too insubstantial, but that's definitely a personal preference thing. Other folks love 'em.
    Yeah, I expect that there will be some 'neck dive'... not an issue, for how I'm likely to play it.

    I WAS a bit disappointed that they don't offer bass kits with short scales. There are other vendors that offer kit parts which feature 30" or 32" scales, but not as a complete kit. I didn't want to deal with having to pick out all the parts... and then discover that I neglected to get some critical stuff.

    Quote Originally Posted by BrianY View Post
    4) Finishing - Your idea of using Tru Oil is going to be considerably easier. I've read about it and know that it's popular for necks but have never used it. I have seen and played guitars that were finished with tung or "danish" oil and they were very nice.
    Yeah, I was looking for the simplest possible finishing system... since finishing the body is NOT the part of building that I would consider 'fun'. I liked the Tru Oil approach because it dries fast enough to apply 2-3 coats per day... so here in my office, I can spend a few weeks at it, and get a nice deep finish.
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    Default Re: Building a bass guitar from a kit

    Cool project. I am surprised at the low price of the rosewood fingerboard--not that I have ever built a partscaster--but because a lot of the major manufacturers are offering substitute woods and even composite materials.

    Looking forward to seeing ( and hearing? ) your project.

    Kevin
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    Default Re: Building a bass guitar from a kit

    Quote Originally Posted by Breakaway View Post
    Cool project. I am surprised at the low price of the rosewood fingerboard--not that I have ever built a partscaster--but because a lot of the major manufacturers are offering substitute woods and even composite materials.
    The rosewood fingerboard, as an alternative to maple, was just $5 additional.
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    Default Re: Building a bass guitar from a kit

    Thank China for the cheap rosewood necks. You can find a good quality strat or tele neck made from American rock maple with a rosewood fingerboard with decent frets for $35 - $50 on Ebay these days. Now, these aren't Fender quality and the rosewood may not be the nicest but they're perfectly serviceable, especially if you're willing to put in a little bit of time going over the frets.

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    Default Re: Building a bass guitar from a kit

    Cool beans. I'd definitely have a go at that headstock, that's just nasty. Hope you show us some pics and maybe some video when you're done. Have fun...!

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    Default Re: Building a bass guitar from a kit

    Quote Originally Posted by lupussonic View Post
    Cool beans. I'd definitely have a go at that headstock, that's just nasty. Hope you show us some pics and maybe some video when you're done. Have fun...!
    *laughs* The shape is so ugly, I think I'm gonna keep it... it's one way to absolutely guarantee that nobody would mistake this guitar for an actual Fender

    Even more of a laugh: it comes with your choice of funny headstock decal.. here's one of them:



    It says 'Faker Phonycaster'
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    Default Re: Building a bass guitar from a kit

    If finish work, fret work and soldering are what are interested in it's a deal or something.

    with a small wood work shop it's not hard to make a body and neck from scratch, a bit more rewarding.

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    Default Re: Building a bass guitar from a kit

    I started working on the kit yesterday. The first task was to create some clamping approach to make it easier to work on the body... so I took a piece of scrap mahogany, and screwed it into the neck recess on the body, where the screw holes would be covered by the neck. This allowed me to clamp the body to the edge of a table in my lab, which should make it very easy to apply the Tru-Oil:



    After examination of the body, I realized that there was no way that simply wet-sanding the first coat or two of Tru-Oil was going to be able to fill the pores and grain of the wood. This Paulownia is hard, light, but variably porous, and the edges of the body unquestionably need substantial filling... it isn't the most precise machining I've ever seen. I've started with a tube of Elmer's 'natural' wood filler... but I can see that it's a bit too viscous, and there isn't that much in the tube... so I'll have to pick up a larger container, as well as figure out a way to thin it just a bit, or else I'll be wasting a lot and having to sand away quite a lot.

    Interestingly, in many of the guitar-building videos I've watched, there are all sorts of different approaches to filling grain. One builder actually uses ordinary joint compound, the stuff you'd smooth a drywall with, tinted slightly with a water-based acrylic paint! I guess the material itself doesn't matter, it's all an issue of how well it matches the color, and how easy it is to sand to a fine finish.

    I got as far as being able to sand down the filler on one of the horns of the body, and the filler appears to be doing a credible job... the color match is pretty good.
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    Default Re: Building a bass guitar from a kit

    I ran into a small-time acoustic guitar builder from Maine today. I had the chance to check out his work. It was a real bargain for the quality - $1300 to $1700. I do love the intersection between craftsmanship and art.

    It's probably too late now, but there are a number of paste-based wood fillers that work quite well on porous wood. Bartley made a good product that I used on mahogany for years.

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    Default Re: Building a bass guitar from a kit

    I've actually had good luck on a couple projects using the satin Minwax Wipe-On Poly varnish to generate a surprisingly tough and easy oiled-ish looking satin finish, as seen on the back and neck of this six string. From what I can tell, it holds up quite well and is dead easy to touch up if ever needed. When I need to fill grain for gloss tops, I use WEST epoxy, scraped into the pores with an old credit card. A couple applications and a light sanding does the job. For oiled/satin stuff, I just leave the grain texture.




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    Default Re: Building a bass guitar from a kit

    Quote Originally Posted by Todd Bradshaw View Post
    I've actually had good luck on a couple projects using the satin Minwax Wipe-On Poly varnish to generate a surprisingly tough and easy oiled-ish looking satin finish, as seen on the back and neck of this six string. From what I can tell, it holds up quite well and is dead easy to touch up if ever needed. When I need to fill grain for gloss tops, I use WEST epoxy, scraped into the pores with an old credit card. A couple applications and a light sanding does the job. For oiled/satin stuff, I just leave the grain texture.
    That's really excellent work, Todd... I don't hope to do nearly as well, as this trivial little project of mine. The Minwax thing sounds like it would be an option, but I think I'd like to try for a flatter, deeper finish than that... not truly glossy, as the various revues of Tru Oil have stated, but glossier than satin.

    I wonder, though, about the advisability of using WEST epoxy as a grain filler.... it's so damned hard to sand. I was amazed at the guy who advocated using ordinary drywall joint compound, tinted for color... now THAT would be easy to sand.
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    Default Re: Building a bass guitar from a kit

    Fillers which are basically tinted drywall compound are one of the hot "new things" in some of the woodworking catalogs. I bought some to try and wasn't impressed. I want something which is much more stable and sturdy. I got the WEST as grain filler idea from a guitar builder (Mike Doolin) who uses System3 epoxy to fill and then follows that with KTM9 waterrborn lacquer (sprayed). There really isn't much epoxy sanding involved. You apply the stuff by scraping it down into the wood under pressure with the card or squeegee and leave as little as possible remaining on the surface or needing to be sanded off. Usually it will take a couple applications to finish the job, then after a light sanding you are ready for the finish. Thanks to the fact that epoxy resin doesn't soak in (or need to soak in) anywhere near as far as people think it does, what's left between the filled pores after sanding is bare wood, ready to seal, stain, oil or whatever.

    I did actually epoxy coat one, but it was a simple, small job. I assembled and finished a Telecaster-styled mandolin kit for my brother. The body wood was boring, so I veneered it with maple set in epoxy and then gave it a heavy resin coat on the top. Once the resin cured, the orange peel was sanded out of the epoxy and the entire instrument was spray finished at the same time I finished the black RIC bass. These waterborn varnishes are allowed to cure for about ten days and then wet-sanded by hand all the way up through 12,000 (yes, thousand) grit. After that a rag and polishing compound finishes the job, as I don't own a buffer.


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    Default Re: Building a bass guitar from a kit

    To digress a bit,I have used a wipe on grain filler on a few pieces of furniture prior to varnishing and it worked well.

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    Default Re: Building a bass guitar from a kit

    I like that Telecaster mandolin... I had never seen one, until a few years back, when we attended a Patty Larkin concert in Sanders Theater at Harvard. Her warm-up act was Catie Curtis, yet another singer songwriter who writes a lot of 'girl meets girl' music (hey, it's in Cambridge ). She had a Telecaster mandolin player in her band... never knew such a thing existed.
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    Default Re: Building a bass guitar from a kit

    My brother collects mandolins, many of which are electric - 4 string, 5 string, 8-string and octave-strung models. He has most of them custom built by a guy in Nashville who does fantastic work. Some are solid body and look kind of like a Paul Reed Smith guitar, some semi-hollow and somewhat RIC-ish and he even has one that looks like an old Gretsch hollow body. I keep trying to convince him to have one built to look like a Mosrite.

    http://www.manndolins.com/sem--4-5-8.html



    [img][/img]

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    Default Re: Building a bass guitar from a kit

    The first coat of Tru-Oil goes on:



    I reviewed at least a dozen videos on YouTube about how to apply Tru-Oil, the most credible of which was from a professional luthier, who uses it for his custom ukeleles. The stuff is wiped on with a lint-free cloth, thinly, and then any excess is wiped off with a soft cloth. The dried coating is leveled with some fine ScotchBrite or steel wool, and subsequent coats are added. Supposedly, 2-3 coats can be done in a day... but I'll let this first coat cure for 24 hours, before the next. The luthier stops at 4 coats, which provides a soft satin finish, but I'd like mine to be a lot deeper, so I'll do many more coats.

    In retrospect, this paulownia body would be fine for a lightweight guitar that would be finished in some solid color, where the body could be completely filled and smoothed with Bondo... but not really a good choice for natural finishing; especially, the end grain defects which I filled were pretty big, and will be blatantly obvious once the finish is complete. It's too bad that guitarfetish.com didn't provide an optional upgrade for the body. I don't regret it, though... this kit was cheap, and if I end up enjoying the process, I might build another, this time, with a far better body.

    I did at least come up with a better solution for a filler. I bought a small tub of natural filler that was water-based, and thinned it with water, from its initial peanut butter consistency, to something more like mayonnaise. This turned out to be an excellent idea. The problem with using the stuff, without thinning, was that the moisture was being drawn out of the filler by the pores of the wood, as it was applied, and what remained above the surface was too dry and crumbly... thinning the stuff made application far easier, and it sanded cleanly.

    The neck (not shown) is a completely different story: it appears to be made from maple, is quite fine-grained, and defect-free.
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    Default Re: Building a bass guitar from a kit

    Quote Originally Posted by Norman Bernstein View Post
    The first coat of Tru-Oil goes on:



    I reviewed at least a dozen videos on YouTube about how to apply Tru-Oil, the most credible of which was from a professional luthier, who uses it for his custom ukeleles. The stuff is wiped on with a lint-free cloth, thinly, and then any excess is wiped off with a soft cloth. The dried coating is leveled with some fine ScotchBrite or steel wool, and subsequent coats are added. Supposedly, 2-3 coats can be done in a day... but I'll let this first coat cure for 24 hours, before the next. The luthier stops at 4 coats, which provides a soft satin finish, but I'd like mine to be a lot deeper, so I'll do many more coats.

    In retrospect, this paulownia body would be fine for a lightweight guitar that would be finished in some solid color, where the body could be completely filled and smoothed with Bondo... but not really a good choice for natural finishing; especially, the end grain defects which I filled were pretty big, and will be blatantly obvious once the finish is complete. It's too bad that guitarfetish.com didn't provide an optional upgrade for the body. I don't regret it, though... this kit was cheap, and if I end up enjoying the process, I might build another, this time, with a far better body.

    I did at least come up with a better solution for a filler. I bought a small tub of natural filler that was water-based, and thinned it with water, from its initial peanut butter consistency, to something more like mayonnaise. This turned out to be an excellent idea. The problem with using the stuff, without thinning, was that the moisture was being drawn out of the filler by the pores of the wood, as it was applied, and what remained above the surface was too dry and crumbly... thinning the stuff made application far easier, and it sanded cleanly.

    The neck (not shown) is a completely different story: it appears to be made from maple, is quite fine-grained, and defect-free.
    A ukulele maker? Good choice. Id listen to anything anyone associated with ukuleles says.

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    Default Re: Building a bass guitar from a kit

    I have been toying with the idea of making a cigar box bass. Maybe buy one of those necks and put the other parts on it. I don't play, but have a friend that I would give it to if she wanted it.

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    Default Re: Building a bass guitar from a kit

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmy W View Post
    I have been toying with the idea of making a cigar box bass. Maybe buy one of those necks and put the other parts on it. I don't play, but have a friend that I would give it to if she wanted it.
    Do it! As soon as I find a nice box Im gonna make a uke.

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    Default Re: Building a bass guitar from a kit

    Quote Originally Posted by Norman Bernstein View Post
    Well, for $105, you can throw the body away and build your own, taking measurements for things like the heel, pickup pockets, etc. Guitarfetish.com also sells parts, so you can buy the components separately. The stuff that came with the kit is 'bottom end', but you can get better pickups, gold-plated bridges and tuners, and so on.

    If this bass comes out well, I think I might try the 'Gibson SG' style 6 string kit... I've always liked that shape.
    I built one of the Gibson SG kits a couple years ago for the same reasons. The Paulownia body with a glue-on adjustable neck, and a rose wood finger board. Those parts are just fine. However the bridge and pickups are less then 'c' grade, and I'm not keen on the tuning pegs either.
    I haven't done it yet, because I've found the wide Gibson style neck to be clumsy, but upgrading those bits would make it a descent guitar.

    To harden up the paulownia, I filled and sanded the surface, stained it with a semi-transparent stain, then put a coat of epoxy over the whole thing. Ended up with a semi-gloss finish.



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    Default Re: Building a bass guitar from a kit

    Zook?
    Someday, I'm going to settle down and be a grumpy old man.

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    Default Re: Building a bass guitar from a kit

    Irish Bouzouki / octave mandolin
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    Default Re: Building a bass guitar from a kit

    There's a brit maker called "Crimson Guitars" who has done a huge number of videos on this subject.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ll83DQg7PZs <<< start of a kit guitar build - body finish
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGtK3_lh2zQ <<< neck
    Someday, I'm going to settle down and be a grumpy old man.

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    Default Re: Building a bass guitar from a kit

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimmy W View Post
    I have been toying with the idea of making a cigar box bass. Maybe buy one of those necks and put the other parts on it. I don't play, but have a friend that I would give it to if she wanted it.
    www.guitarfetish.com has a variety of remarkably inexpensive necks... under $50, with rosewood fingerboards. If the one I got, with the kit, is any indication, their neck quality is remarkably good... the one I got is clearly made of hard maple (unfinished), very smooth, and well-machined:

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    Default Re: Building a bass guitar from a kit

    After 6 coats of Tru-Oil... the pickguard, control panel, and bridge are just temporarily placed to get an idea of what it will look like:



    The finish isn't bad... not truly flat and glossy, but decent. I haven't decided if I'll do more coats, or stop here.

    One problem: the body wasn't routed for a ground connection to the bridge. I don't see a way to do it easily... I MIGHT be able to drill at a shallow angle into the wall of the rear pickup pocket, towards the bridge... but doing the same, under the bridge, towards that hole, would be very difficult.

    One possible alternative: drill a long hole, from the rear edge of the guitar, all the way into the rear pickup pocket... and then drill down, under the bridge, to intercept the long hole. I'd have to plug the hole at the rear edge of the guitar somehow.

    By the way... the finish on the neck is far better. The neck was machined from hard maple, and was remarkably smooth and clean, as delivered... much better than the body.
    "Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it."
    --- Charles Pierce







  32. #32
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    Jan 2005
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    Default Re: Building a bass guitar from a kit

    The only time I've needed to deal with this as a problem, the guitar was going to have a painted finish - so a small channel was routed from bridge to control cavity, a length of solder wick (braided copper) laid in the channel and then filled with auto body filler.... not good on a natural finished instrument.

    Long shallow angle holes are notoriously difficult - but it might be worth trying a long hole from strap button position to the rear pickup cavity, and an intercepting hole beneath the bridge plate....

    Others may have better ideas.

    Some people like a resistor inline with the ground connection to the strings..... your choice.
    Someday, I'm going to settle down and be a grumpy old man.

  33. #33
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    Nov 2004
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    Default Re: Building a bass guitar from a kit

    Quote Originally Posted by P.I. Stazzer-Newt View Post
    Long shallow angle holes are notoriously difficult - but it might be worth trying a long hole from strap button position to the rear pickup cavity, and an intercepting hole beneath the bridge plate....
    Yeah, that is exactly what I was trying to describe, in post #31. Its the only reasonable way I could see, to do it.

    Quote Originally Posted by P.I. Stazzer-Newt View Post
    Some people like a resistor inline with the ground connection to the strings..... your choice.
    I'd love to know what the circuit logic for that would be... since I can't think of a good reason... and I'm a circuit geek
    "Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it."
    --- Charles Pierce







  34. #34
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    Jan 2005
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    Default Re: Building a bass guitar from a kit

    Screw ups on extension cables can lead to the chassis on an amp being at line voltage while the mic stand - grounded through a different system, is at earth - guitar player touches mic and BANG!.

    Seen it happen once. - -It's what killed Les Harvey.
    Someday, I'm going to settle down and be a grumpy old man.

  35. #35
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
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    Default Re: Building a bass guitar from a kit

    I'm glad somebody else remembers Les Harvey-hes been gone a while.

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