Help to build a 4-string electric bass

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Help to build a 4-string electric bass

Post by mooshalah » Mon Jan 13, 2020 4:41 am

Hi fellow travellers!

I've been a strictly acoustic builder for many years, but I've just been asked to help a young acquaintance to build an electric bass, and I find myself lacking in both equipment and full knowledge to complete the task!

So, I'm looking for a little assistance in both of the above areas.

My young friend and I will be going to Mathew's Timber tomorrow, to buy a chunk of wood around 40mm x 520mm x 360mm (or something equivalent that will allow for the making of a book-matched pair of chunks), and a couple of pieces for a neck, but I fear that my "hobby" band-saw of many years will not be equal to the task of being able to cut pieces of hard wood as thick as 40mm to shape the profile of the body. Also, I don't have anything like a table-saw. I'm going to give everything a go, but will be crestfallen if I fail in my first few cuts of basic carpentry, and so I'm looking for a fall-back position!

I live in Emerald, Victoria (that's outside of Melbourne, for those unfamiliar with the south of the continent).

Thus my first question / request:
    Is there anyone nearby (say, on the eastern side of Melbourne), with a reasonably sized band-saw, whom I might be able to contact for assistance in accomplishing this task (and perhaps also sawing a few lengths of 40mm materials to make long pieces for a laminated, long neck-through neck)? I don't imagine that it would take more than 30 minutes to accomplish all the neccessary cutting.

    Second, my high-school-aged friend is working to a very tight budget, and wants to buy everything (frets, tuners, bridge, truss-rod, pick-ups, bridge/tail-piece, knobs etc) on eBay. I'm not averse to occasionally doing this myself, for the things that I know and understand, to do with acoustic instruments, but like many of you, I'm a habitual customer of places like StewMac, LMII for such hardware.

    And so to my second question:
      Are there any of the above peripheral bits and pieces that one should avoid buying off the internet (from places in say China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the like), and on which one should not skimp? (And one of the bigger issues may well prove to be the long lead-times in getting these - having to wait for perhaps up to two months to finish an instrument that we're going to start within the next few days). If we need to source such things locally, are there any Australia-based suppliers of items in the lower price range that sell such things?

      Any hands extended in assistance, or finger-pointing (hopefully in the right direction!) as replies, as either a Personal Message, or via the full forum, will be greatly appreciated.

      Kindest regards,


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      Re: Help to build a 4-string electric bass

      Post by seeaxe » Mon Jan 13, 2020 6:41 pm

      Im nowhere near you so...thats not much help.

      First thought is that i would have assumed that a combination of a new, sharp blade and a lot of patience would allow pretty much any bandsaw to cut 40mm.

      Another way to do it is to make your self a template and use a router with successive shallow cuts to get the shape. You're going to need a router for the electrics so I'm assuming you have one.

      You could also make the body in two 20mm laminates. This makes forming wiring channels easier. You are laminating the neck so why not the body? Might also make the wood easier to source as you can use floorboard sizes.

      Hth and good luck

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      Re: Help to build a 4-string electric bass

      Post by Blackstar1099 » Mon Jan 13, 2020 7:26 pm

      I cut out my first electric out of 45mm thick American white ash with just a jigsaw and a Ryobi router, so you don't absolutely need a bandsaw.

      I've now gotten a 14" bandsaw. I'm in Glenroy in the northern suburbs. If you can't find anyone closer and willing to travel for an hour or so I can help.

      As for cheap parts locally, you can try
      I've bought some hardware from them, they're pretty decent.


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      Re: Help to build a 4-string electric bass

      Post by 56nortondomy » Mon Jan 13, 2020 8:23 pm

      I've used a jigsaw also for thicker timber, I only have a small hobby bandsaw, it's only good for cutting acoustic tops and backs. What I have done just recently is join the local men's shed, best thing I've done for a while, they have everything in the way of machinery even a band saw that can resaw timber it's great, plus the one I've joined has a musical instrument day on Fridays, so there's a few of us building guitars, my advice is to see if there's one near you and join. Wayne

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      Re: Help to build a 4-string electric bass

      Post by mooshalah » Tue Jan 14, 2020 6:15 pm

      Hi, and thanks to everyone who has responded, and for your suggestions and comments.

      We went and bought a piece of Zebrano for the body, and a longer piece of American Maple, for the neck.

      As I suspected, the band-saw expectorated the pacifier, and kept stalling, as I tried to make long cuts through the 40mm Maple, and a piece of Redgum I'd bought, for the centre strip of the neck. I changed to a brand new blade, set everything up, and the band-saw repaid me by refusing to cut strait against the fence and wandering, so that I now have a whole lot of work, trying to plane some very hard woods into thin, long strips. Time to dust off the ol' Wagner Safe-T-planer, I think!

      I'm certainly well-endowed with routers - from the Dremel and its plasticey routing attachments, through my workhorse of a laminate trimmer that I use for cutting binding ledges and truss-rod slots, to the kick-horse big router and its plunging accoutrements - even the word "plunging" fills me with dread - that I'm too scared to use!

      Y'know that old adage - "When the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem you encounter looks like a nail"? - well, I notice on
      YouTube that some people use routers for EVERYTHING - preparing strait, flat lines and surfaces, when a plane will do; rounding and shaping edges when a rasp and sandpaper will do; cutting things in half, when a saw will do!

      And I don't even want to mention people with CNC machines!

      But this is all part of the journey. I'm supremely arrogant when it comes to the dark arts of producing acoustic instruments from sticks and thin sheets of wood, and so it's only right that I should be humbled in front of my young friend, who I imagine is beginning to wonder whether I know anything at all about how to make a guitar!

      I'll see how I go tomorrow.


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