Building your own acoustic bass guitar is a rewarding experience. It enables you to make a guitar to your own unique specifications. You can acquire a self-assembly kit or individual parts. The advantage of buying a self-assembly kit is that all of the pieces will be made to measure. But if you have time to salvage the parts, you can make substantial savings on higher quality woods and parts. Although it's a basic process, some of the skills involved are quite advanced. It's smart to practice your woodcutting skills on scrap before you start this project.
Establish a suitable work area. The work area must have enough space for you to lay out all of your parts for inspection. It must also be well lit and well ventilated.
Inspect all of your parts for damage. Examine the body for cracks or dings. If you discover any, discard the part and order a replacement. There's no point starting off the project with damaged parts.
Measure and sketch exactly where you want to fit your bridge. It should be located central to the fret board so that the strings run straight from the headstock to the bridge. Some guitar kits come with diagrams that show exactly where the bridge is fitted. If you don't have a self-assembly kit, look at images of similar instruments online to get an idea of where to put the bridge. The Bass Centre and Z Zounds websites have a range of acoustic bass images.
Attach the bridge to the guitar's front board. Your bass guitar body will either come assembled or in three separate parts. It's smart to attach the bridge to the front panel before you assemble the rest of the guitar. This way you won't need to put any pressure on a recently glued guitar body. Use a good-quality polyvinyl acetate to glue the bridge in place.
Assemble the bass guitar body.Glue the bindings onto the inside of the front panel, side panel and back panel and leave to set. It can take two hours or more to set. Once set, carefully apply another layer of glue to the top of the bindings on the side panel. Then gently place the front panel onto the side panel and leave to set. Once the front and side panels are fixed to each other, apply the glue to the bindings on the back panel and place the bottom side edge of the side panel onto the bindings of the back panel. Leave the body assembly to set.
Attach the tuning keys to the headstock. You can do this while the body is setting. Slot them through the holes in the headstock and screw them in place.
Glue the neck into the neck pocket. Apply the glue to the bottom of the neck and slot it into the pocket on the bass guitar body. Clamp the joint using a vice and leave to set. Once it's all set, put on a set of strings. Traditional bass guitars have four strings. Slide the ball end of each string into the its hole on the bridge. Then firmly push the peg into the hole. Thread the other end of the string through the hole in the tuning key and gently wind the string to tighten it. Use a tuner to get the right pitch.
Use a chisel to edge off any glue that has seeped from the bindings. Be sure the acoustic bass guitar is set before sanding.
Use a good-quality polyvinyl acetate. Cheap glue won't do the job.
Tips and warnings
- Use a chisel to edge off any glue that has seeped from the bindings.
- Be sure the acoustic bass guitar is set before sanding.
- Use a good-quality polyvinyl acetate. Cheap glue won't do the job.