By Bailey Hudson
Maybe you’ve wanted to purchase a bass guitar for a while, but never seem to quite have the funds. Frustrated, you decide to do things the old-fashioned way, and make a bass guitar yourself.
But making a guitar isn’t quite as easy as it sounds, and there are a number of ways you could go about the project. Where do you start? What’s the best way to make your own bass guitar? Are there any tools you really need?
In this article, we’ll give a quick overview of two different methods used to build a bass guitar. We’ll also cover some of the pros and cons of each.
Method #1: Woodworking
Perhaps you’ve obtained a lovely piece of mahogany or another fine-grained hardwood. Or maybe you’re already a woodworking enthusiast, and a bass guitar is just the next project on the list. Regardless, woodworking is a time-honored method for making a bass guitar.
What you need:
- Selections of different woods.
Hardwoods are best, although for the different parts of the guitar – headstock, body, and neck – it is possible to use different species of lumber. You’ll want to make sure that the pieces you have available are the right dimensions for their intended purpose.
- Basic woodworking tools.
There are a vast number of tools you could use for this project. You’ll want vises and clamps for holding pieces in place while you cut or glue them; power saws and drills for the sectioning; planes and routers to smooth some areas and bore out others.
- A plan
You can find a number of sample bass guitar plans online, ranging from solid-body versions to acoustic guitars. You’ll want to choose a design based on your purpose for the project and the extent of your woodworking skills.
- Time and patience
Building a bass guitar is not for the faint of heart. Unless you’re a highly skilled woodworking enthusiast, you’ll need patience to handle your own mistakes and to master the new skills you’ll need to develop. And it will take a considerable amount of time.
- Can result in a truly gorgeous statement piece
- An acoustic work of art
- Develops time-honored woodworking techniques
- Can be expensive
- Requires an extensive workshop or access to a variety of tools
Creating a bass guitar entirely from wood can result in a breathtaking finished piece, but requires more knowledge and skill than most people possess. If you’ve got the time and skillset, there are a number of plans available for free online to help streamline the process. At the end, you’ll have a bass guitar that you can safely describe as hand-made, and a story to tell every time you play it.
Method #2: CNC
Using CNC tools to create a bass guitar isn’t so much an entirely different method as a refinement of the woodworking one. Of course, CNC machines include tools like routers and metal lathes, but they can also be used with materials such as wood or plastic.
Let’s back up: what is CNC? Computer Numerical Control (CNC) uses a Cartesian system of coordinates and a computer language known as G-code to program a machine tool with a set of instructions. In short, CNC lets an operator program a machine to make a series of cuts and other actions without manual operation.
This has two primary advantages. A CNC machine will (generally) execute the program exactly, ensuring a high degree of precision. Once a program is written, it can be run an infinite number of times – meaning that two parts made with a CNC machine should be exactly the same.
For guitar-making, the most important CNC machine is a router. CNC routers are commonly used for woodworking, but can also be used with certain plastics, meaning that making a bass guitar with a CNC router is a reliable choice.
What you need:
Choose your block of wood based on appearance or on practicality and cost. Be sure you have enough material for all the parts you’ll shape, from the body to the neck. If you’re making each piece from a different material, be sure they’re the correct size and shape.
Programming a machine might sound like a tall order, but there are a number of tools to support programming CNC machines. A number of Computer-Assisted Design (CAD) programs let you enter or create a design for the part you want, which is then exported and converted into G-code for your CNC machine.
A CNC router can help shape the main parts of the guitar and bore out insets, through-holes, etc. You’ll still need clamps, vises, drills, and your normal woodworking tools to finish the project off.
As stated before, you’ll find a vast amount of resources for a CNC bass guitar on the internet. Remember to start with a design first!
- CNC allows each part to be made precisely
- Can incorporate CAD templates
- Requires some CNC knowledge
- CNC is only as good as the base program
A CNC router, late, or mill opens a whole new world when it comes to woodworking in general. The possibilities for making a CNC bass guitar are nearly endless – you’ll just need some time to learn how to operate a CNC machine.
When it comes to building your own bass guitar, the choices are almost endless. Crafting a bass guitar by hand or using a CNC machine requires patience and the willingness to learn a new skill. You’ll be rewarded in the end with a bespoke, one-of-a-kind statement piece, which will look (and sound) incredible.