Making an Electric Bass

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Making an electric bass can be a bit of a challenge for the first time guitar maker. Every piece needs to be made, and they all need to fit perfectly. It can be done by anyone with some patience and a good book, but there is another way to try out guitar making without going for the whole thing on the first round.

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Electric Bass Body Swap

making an electric bassA body swap is a great way to get into making an electric bass or guitar. This allows plenty of room for woodworking and personal touches, but takes a ton of the fine detail work out of the equation. It is the perfect first time luthier project.

The price tag for a body swap is far less than a full build, especially if you will be using the same pickups and hardware. Other elements can be changed out as well, but it is not necessary at all. There will be a big change in the sound of the new instrument anyway, simply from changing out the body for something nicer.

The first step in making an electric bass with the body swap method is to find an inexpensive bass. These can be sourced online, second hand, or be something that is already owned.

If you can use a bass that you already have, you will save a lot of money. The wood for the body will not be very expensive depending on what you buy, so the project can have a very low price if you have a bass you can use.

making an electric bassNext, take apart the bass. Save the electronics, hardware, knobs, and strap locks. The body will not be used, but it will need to be saved for measurements.

Using the existing bass body, plot out a full size drawing of the body, but only the measurements for the neck pocket, pickups, and bridge placement. All other elements are completely open at this point, because the bass will function perfectly fine as long as the bridge, pickups, and neck are in the right places.  Use the old body as a guide, especially for the upper horn. Draw out a new body shape, or copy the existing shape. The new body will be made from nicer wood, so it will sound better even if the shape remains the same.

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When making an electric bass with the body swap method, be sure to use the old body as a reference.  It will tell you where things go, and which of the measurements are important.

Glue up a body blank and cut the shape. Route the neck pocket and pickup holes. Drill for wire runs and route a cavity for the electronics. Drill for knobs, neck screws, and the cable jack. Then, shape the body with files and rasps. Once you are satisfied with the look, final sand and finish.

This bass was finished with Tru-Oil, which you can read about in my Finishing With Tru-Oil article.  I also have a Finishing With Tru-Oil Video.

Once finished and cured, install the electronics. This should be easy enough, because they are already wired correctly. Then, attach the neck and hardware. String it up and give it a play. This is a perfect introduction to making an electric bass. You are able to skip most of the precision work but still make it your own.

If you still have the bug at this point, move on to making complete instruments. I have made several electric instruments, but my primary focus has been on the acoustic side. If you are thinking about making an acoustic guitar, my article on the Top 5 Acoustic Guitar Making Books can help. These are the five books that influenced me the most.

Do you have any tips on making the jump into guitar making? Share them with us and we can all benefit from your experience.

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brian forbes westfarthing woodworks llc owner

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