Hi from a newb , and a 100 questions for a five string build

Hello everyone thanks for letting me in finaly

I have come to that point in my life that I have to make a bass or two , so the first bass will be a 838.2 scale length ( 33'')  24 frets strung E-C five string. After making a rod I noticed there wont be much room left on the body for the pickups but im sure this being my first build it will be the least of my worries.

So for now I have a couple questions the first question is what size truss rod will I need, what will be the best type to buy , I want access from the head stock for adjustment , I will order at the same time stiffening fiber rods seems to be the norm for a five string.

My second question which im sure is a bit dumb but if I don't ask iLL never know, will Poplar be OK to use as strips on the neck, the centre of the neck will be American walnut tappering from 20-5mm along the length then each side will have Palm 5mm strips im not sure if Palm is the correct name its man made and very stable, then Poplar 10mm strips then Palm, and the outside edges will be Mahogany.

The body wings will be Mahogany or what looks like Mahogany, it came from a door frame and is nice and straight and true.

I have at hand a piece of book matched American walnut about 5mm thick that might be handy for the body but I dont think ILL need it, Oh by the way it will be a through the body neck build.

Hope I didnt woffle on too muck

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Welcome Patrick
Truss rod length/placement can be a bit variable, but roughly speaking, rods that are adjusted at the headstock end somewhere around the 15th fret or near the beginning of the heel. I like these truss rods from lmii, also a source for carbon rod stock:

I dont know what palm is, but your other wood choices should be okay, provided your grain orientation and gluing practice/method is good.

One suggestion I would make is to not build a neck-through your first time out. There is absolutely minimal room for error on the neck angle and its downright tricky. Of course I dont know about your experience/chops, but if youre asking beginner questions on truss rods, you could be over your head with a neck-through. Theres no shame in getting some practise in on a bolt on, and youll likely save yourself a headache.

Hi Andrew

thanks for taking the time to advice me, im surprised you reguard a straight through neck a more difficult build I wouldnt know but to me it looks easyer, my thinking is one would have to get  the neck pocket spot on where as a through neck you just attach the body wings after.

I feel confident i can build this bass I have good hands 25 years in carpentry/joinery and bespoke fitted furniture, I have made bush craft knives and folders, i worked with stain glass among other mediums, WATCH THIS SPACE im gonna eat my worked in a few months and wish I took your advise LOL

My old work place has a CNC machine and im hopping they will cut the fret slots, working to point of a milimetre is a bit beyond me I think. 

I was at my old work place yesterday scrounging timber and spotted what may be a piece of Wenge, which leads me to ask Is wenge really heavy and dense and is it used for decking ?

Here is a picure of the Palm it will be used as strips in between the different wood on the neck its very stable.

The thing about neck throughs is that you have room for about a half degree of error after you consider your final fingerboard thickness, frets, relief, and the height/adjustment range of the bridge if everything is going to turn out ideally. A half degree over the length of a bass neck is a tricky target to hit, and if you assemble the instrument and string it up and find out you cant set it up properly, youll be in for a lot of work to make it right. With a bolt on, you just need to make sure you have an accurate fit aligned to the centre of the neck. Of course those other factors still have to be considered, but if you miss the mark with the angle/alignment, all you have to do is shave or sand the pocket as necessary and keep a slightly snug fit, which is an easy adjustment to make after the fact.

wow I hadn't taken  the neck relief into account , I assumed the relief would come with the tension of the strings pulling on the neck. So do I compensate by moving the body wings off the  level of the neck beam a mill or two. or I will need to work this out when i have the bridge and decide on the thickness of the fretboard...right 

I see what your saying there must be a fomula though, I must admit i feel a bit stumped. 

Would it help to make the fretboard oversized and work the fretboard around the height of the bridge until it looks and feels right string the neck from time to time and check  the distances , before freting the neck.

I dont want to be beaten by this , Im sorry if this sounds harsh , I have stumble upon a bass maker on youtube mentioning no names , this guy gave up a city job to start making Bass guitars you can see he has no woodworking experience and his whole approach is rather unorthodox, nethertheless he makes through the body basses they look nice, he is well respected, and has a thriving business.

I suppose my point is if he can do it so can I...............Rant over...........

Patrick, I do not use surgeons who are self taught, nor would I attempt to take out my own appendix with a mirror and a steak knife.......I also have shied away from believing anything that is posted on the interweb.  

The statement "if he can do it so can I" is equally applicable to a successful self-immolation. 

Similarly, the thought that "you do not wish to be beaten by this" should be followed by the statement,  "so I am going to get a good book on guitar/bass construction and making and then read all the established books on similar subjects".   

Half the fun of building guitars is the process of learning to build guitars and if this stuff was easy everyone would be doing it.    But, 10 out 10 for enthusiasm,  which is half the battle won already.



Oh well it looks like im in the wrong place for help and advice

I apologize for wasting your precious time  Russell........ im not here for the butt of your entertainment or sarcasm I never expected Luthiers or should I say instrument makers to be elitists its not rocket science im sure.

I didnt realise this was the place to be discussing timber density or moisture content , oh while we'r on the subject do you think Tabebuia / ipe would make a good fretboard / fingerboard.......  sorry I forgot I should go out and spend a fortune on books, Thanks for your help 

Hi Patrick,

Every so often, we get someone new that's excited about building or repairing an instrument that tends to think the best place to start is to ask for instruction on the forum. 

 The truth is that this medium doesn't lend itself to that sort of instruction. The result often is that someone or another is accused of being "elitist" or some other title  when the original poster gets upset because they don't get the advice they want. Building a guitar isn't hard but it is filled with detail, many of which can make or break the project.  The BEST thing you can do is learn as much as you can about the design and building of the instrument as possible BEFORE you start cutting wood.

While I'm at it, I should point out that you arrived here looking for instruction and advice yet seem oddly reluctant to take advice given by people that know what they are writing about. That's not really a good idea when you need them a lot and they don't need you at all. THEY know what they are doing and rejecting their time and effort isn't the best way to continue getting their help.  No one here is required to answer your posts. When you get a response it's because someone took the time and made the effort to take your post seriously.  Rejecting their advice or, worse, attacking them for telling you something you don't want to hear is counterproductive.  

Rusty's advice is probably the best you could get at this point. It probably is the shortest route to building a good, functional, instrument. Frankly, anyone with some tools and some woodworking experience can build a nice looking guitar. The problem is that nice looking isn't the same thing as good sounding or even playable. That takes a bit more effort AND a LOT more information up front. It's not something that you should expect to get simply by asking 100 questions on a forum. 100 probably wouldn't do it anyway.

BTW, note the last name on Rusty's post and then go here to get an idea of just who you were denigrating in your post. He know what he's talking about and the time he gave you in giving that advice is worth much more than you seem to think.


Great post! :)

Hi Ned, I also agree with Hesh, well said.

Call in the cavalry , obviously I made the mistake of being honest upon arrival here which has ruffled a few feathers , I should of said hello from a new person that would like to build a guitar and has a little question if you don't mind.

Hesh please don't make it look like I attacked Russel not at all , I detected a note of him being sarcastic and using me as tool to entertain himself and others.

I never got upset reguarding Russel's advice disapointed a little maybe but then I didnt expect to be told its over your head, its seems to me that because I didnt take Andys  advice he started with the snide remarks.

If I take on something thats beyond my abilities and fail miserably thats my problem no one here is going to get the blame , I have the resorces tools a access to the all the woodworking machines needed , Here's one you can make a joke out of, and I have the skills required.

I didnt come here to be baited or used as a form of entertainment only as a person that doesn't have all the answers to a guitar build. I have spent months reading up and watching instructional videos. It hasn't made me an expert thats why im here, I was hopping i could get some tips and advice from real Luthiers I believe there are curtain things that can be past on that one will not get from books or videos , as a cabinet furniture maker myself I can say I have learnt as much from the older boys if not more than I did going to collage.

Im sorry if some of my questions seem dumb to me they are important , for example I spent ages trying to fine out what would be the appropriate size truss rod for a 33'' scale 24 fret neck until Andrew kindly advised me  which im very gratefull Thank you Andrew, but then he replyed back with words to the effect of if your asking question on truss rod like a beginner I advise you to take on an easter build , I may not have knowledge on the spec of the different componets but I can route out a channel for a truss rod with my eyes closed.


That what I posted was not sarcasm, it was good advice, I also am not given to entertaining myself by belittling or baiting  those who seek advice.  I will however hold up a red flag to prevent a train wreck from occurring.  For instance, you are a cabinet maker.

Cabinet making (and yes, I've done it) deals with gluing up dissimilar woods and the effects that mixing different species in a laminate have on stability and integrity of joins and joints etc.  Guitar necks are under stress and are exposed to varying bi-laminate stress,  temperatures and environmental factors on a regular basis, unlike furniture or kitchen cupboards.

Poplar and American Walnut flanked by mahogany and some unidentified man made synthetic* have significantly different mechanical and strength properties and densities and have very different gluing integrity and if they are left unfinished or oiled as is often the case with bass instruments they will move and/or the joint will be compromised.   Also, If you taper the strongest wood down the length of the neck as you propose you will introduce a significant  non linear resistance to neck tension relief which will result in a kink which may well affect the playability/action and prove difficult  to contol by the truss rod(s) which relies on a relatively consistent  tension along the neck.  Carbon fibre reinforcement rods will not help - their place in life is that of assistance not primary strength.

* FYI:   "Palm"  wood as you describe is actually a WPC (wood plastic composite) made from waste palm leaves and waste plastic (think chairs and food containers etc).  It is used for outdoor furniture and decking and may not glue very well, if at all, with any neck glues we use. 

Read your books again, do a building course or just copy what established bass makers do and use - wenge and maple is popular for instance and so too is walnut, cherry, some rosewoods and similar density and grained woods, but this is wood technology and the permutations are endless.  However, the mix is done with the qualities of the woods in mind and is part of the science and strength and tone requirement inputs to "simple" guitar neck building.

 As for truss rods, Stewmac has a whole page dedicated to truss-rod selection and installation and what length to use in what guitar/bass - as does lmii (which link Andrew posted).  They have a ton of free tips for 101 builds in the side bars and videos by professionals.

Every question you ask has an answer of course,  it's just that every single step and every single selection we make in conducting quality luthiery, be it at quality amateur or professional level,  has a large amount of background information, choices, and methods of executions. 

Patrick, you will find kind folk on this forum who will take the time and make the effort to help you comprehensively deal with all these things that you do not know or understand but this forum is, by its charter,  for those who are instrument makers, repairers or players. A lot of us are full time professional luthiers and repair techs (or both) and we are here to help our peers and appropriate newcomers to our forum with the day to day problems we come across.    It is not the problem that "if I fail that's my problem" it's the amount of time that we as a collective forum will need to put in to attempt to stop you failing, that is the problem.   Having access to all the tools and resources you suspect you need is a good start but a blind painter has little use for beautiful blank canvases....he needs to learn to paint first.





Patrick by my count I posted two words which are "great post" directed at Rusty for his logic regarding operating on oneself.  As someone who recently pulled a kidney stone stint over a foot long out of my own.... body.... that resonated....:)  Yep gross is an appropriate response and I'm just happy I didn't faint and hit my head...  Moving on....

For you to take it as far as you did from my two words completely understanding deep, hidden meaning in my two words I have several more words for ya.

If you are going to be smoking the drapes please have the decency to share?  :)  Please note smiley face since it's intended to be friendly and funny but also to make a point.

Sure from your perspective if you fail it's no big deal.  From our perspective if we fail and provide you with bad advice it's a VERY big deal to some of us and the very last thing that we want to do.

In addition the hell with me, the hell with us and the hell with you if we fail and subsequently you fail and what results is a guitar gets harmed that's even a bigger deal to some of us sick as we may be...:)  Guitars, unlike corporations... are people too ya know...:)

Lighten up and recognize that assistance even well intended assistance rarely provides a choice in the packaging....  

Some of the best advice that I ever received regarding Lutherie pissed me off to no end until I pulled my finger out and recognized that it was both well intentioned advice and also correct advice.  The advice that I speak of came from Rick Turner by the way well known for not mincing words AND being very knowledgable.

We are happy to help but again you may not always like the delivery.


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