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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Thanks guys for making me feel a little more comfortable ,

Russel im not going with Poplar I don't feel its right for guitars not with a natural finish that is, so yes I am using the palm but only as two 8 mm strips each side of the walnut down the centre.

I have taken into account the end grain it is quarter sawn and book matched and cramped together in opposing directions to prevent twisting.

The Palm glues up really well by the way and the mixture of Walnut and mahogany with a tabebuia as a fretboard will give a great tone in my opinion.

However I am worried the Tabebuia may make the neck far too ridged , I also read that some have had problems with its oil content and the fretboard coming apart after gluing , I have also read this can be rectified by wiping the gluing face with acetone or similar product.

So far iv glued the pieces for the neck iLL leave it  cramped for 24 hrs then machine the top face and bottom face so they are squire and leval and leave it to rest until the russ rod and bridge arrives which will be a couple of weeks or so.

Im not a Death metal fan ( Immolation ) Russ


welcome!  I have never built a bass and having worked and set up many I wont.  Bass necks are touchy to build as there is a lot to study before starting.  First is the wood. The grain is very critical as when the neck is tuned up the neck will do humps and hollers and with the frets in how do you straighten the thing? The truss rod will not do the job.  The neck needs to be straight with no truss rod.  It will have a bow but the truss rod maby can pull it straight.Good luck!!

I would start by making a side view  and draw all the bridges pickups tail pieces in with the neck through angled . It can not be a level with the body . if the strings pull the neck up and the truss rod wont pull it back you have a problem!! The strings pull more than 2 or 3 times the lbs than a guitar. I would mock up the neck with the truss rods and expement with 2 truss rods and see what happenes. 

Good luck! have fun and let us know what happens.  Enjoy the experance!


Thanks for the advice Ron 

I have drawn a birds eye view to scale of the bass 33'' scale 24 frets and noticed right away 

there is little room for pickup placement but not a problem. Reguarding neck releaf I will do a side profile drawing

when the bridge arrives , it seems there is a formula for finding the back tilt and I will try and work this out once I have the bridge , now im going to wish I eat my words because I can imagine the come backs from the doughters

 I havent decided on a cut away horn on top or more of the body going down the neck like a ( Janek Gwizdala signature Bass ) the upper part of the body goes all the way to the 13th fret , I don't know if this type of body design will create more problems or help to provide more neck stabilty. 

Im not being gun ho about building this bass and taking my time to an extent , im lucky enough to have been able to use wood that has come for free , so the only cost will be the hard ware and electronics.

That side profile drawing of the string path, neck, bridge etc is crucial for neck throughs. You dont need a formula really, just an accurate straightedge and protractor. If you draw out the components and consider all the factors accurately/approrpriately you should have no difficulty arriving at the required angle. Then you just have to translate that to the real wood.

If you have the time or just make the time , glue up a neck suspend it and weight it in the middle with 30 lbs and see what happened. I have done this with every wood I had at the time.

mohagony is a soft wood but I have found why most guitars are made of this  1 it is stable in most weather  2 it is soft and very easy to carve & 3 the truss rod works very good.  Hard and stiff woods  you can not streighton with the best rods.


Thanks again Guys

I will take your advice on board , As far as can tell the way to achieve the neck brake angle is to draw out the desired scale length in my case 838mm 33" One end will be the bridge the other the nut face, then mark out where the 16th fret will  be the point where the neck joins the body.

The scale length line will be the string from there work downward 3mm for the fret plus 2mm vibration, then the fretboard thickness 6 -7 mm for a guitar 8-9 for a bass.

Lets say the bridge is 17mm including room for adjustment ,from the bottom of the bridge to the 16th fret draw a line this will be the angle.

This way of working out the angle I got from Crimson Guitars on youtube based on a Gibson style guitar, so obviously scale length , fret distance , string height , bridge will different for a bass.

Hi Patrick,
I've been looking for a certain book ever since you started this post. I've got about 30 books on electric guitars and basses, and only one makes mention of where pickups are to be placed. The book is, "Build Your Own Electric Guitar", by Martin Oakham. Published in 2006 from Quarto Books. Much like many other books, but with the chapter on pickup placement.

Quote, "A string can only vibrate at whole number multiples of the fundamental frequency, (1x, 2x, 3x, etc.) the point of minimum movement is called a node and the point of maximum movement is called an antinode."

It goes on to describe the antinodes and how the pickups are located at the first and third antinode, and while it doesn't give an exact formula for finding it, it describes how it can be found by finding the points at which the string rings. These points can be found on the upper strings when tuning, when you find the "Harmonic", and these are the nodes. So, these will be at the lower end of the string the same distances from the opposite end. I won't go into the entire chapter here, but you get the idea. This antinode moves as you fret farther down the neck, so a best average must be found. But to place the pickup at a node would cause your output to be muted, or if you hit an even order harmonic with one, and an odd with the other, would cause cancellation.

It doesn't give a direct formula for finding these nodes, and antinodes. So some experimenting with a mock up may be in order? Or just steal the measurements from a respected instrument of the same length. Many a genius have been designing instruments for a very long time, no need to reinvent the wheel. Perhaps you can find some better information online or on YouTube? A lot has been published since 2006. But it's something to be aware of in your design.

Another thing I wanted to mention, which you may already know, but theoretical scale length and actual string length are not exactly the same, by a phenomena caused by string stiffness. I could never explain it anywhere near as well as David Collins (a respected member of this group) has in this video, " ", entitled "Temprament for Fretted Instruments". In fact he has many videos there that may help with your design.

Well I hope I've helped in some small way on your design! I'm a bass player myself, and I wish you luck on your endeavor!

Russell Kingery

Hi Russell

Thanks ever so much for putting so much effort and research into my build and pointing out the pickup placement. I have to admit I feel like i have just been blinded by science ,( Thomas Dolby) lol, I have to take my hat off to you guys I admire your dedication and passion im very greatfull to you all .

As the timber has come for free so far and the hardware and electronics will be the only cost involved I thought it wouldnt matter if I did fail on my first build , but from the impression I get from the people here this is unexceptable and there shouldnt be any reason to fail , this has changed my thinking on the whole process.

Going back to the subject ( pickup placement ) there is an interesting clip on youtube by ( Dave's world of fun stuff ) he's a bass and guitar tec he demonstrates a sliding pickup on rails on a Westone bass , you hear when the pickup hits the sweet spot as he slides it back and forth interesting.

sliding pickups

The bass I am trying to build is based on this bass 

janek gwizdala bass  im hoping i will have the budget for the pickups and active circuitry and that its not going to be rocket science to wire it all up, not my strong point and yes probley more than I can handle but if I can get a wizard to help I will , having said that Im currently living in Israel and its hard to find people that take pride in thier work quality is none existent.

Here is another clip of Janek demonstrating the TC Electronic RH450 amp with his Bass I love this tune and his tone very bright , warning if you are a rocker skip this clip it wont be your cup of tea.

Tone clip

Im sure my Bass will not sound the same because of the wood and hardward, but for now i at least hope to 

achieve the same feel. Hopefully in the future I will be able to clone his bass and achieve the same tone , I may well chance things along the way in order to make life easyer with my current build.

May the 4s be with you

I watched your video clip and the maker's page. That is an interesting body style, I don't see why it would be any more difficult than a more traditional looking bass? I have seen a few around similar to it, and his burl top is right awesome!
I've been working on a bass restoration / hot rod project for a friend, just a standard Fender P bass. Hardware has run me close to $400. For Seymour Duncan pickups, Hipshot tuners, Babicz bridge, all new pick guard and electronics and every screw or strap pin, it adds up! Plus it did require a few specialized tools. Luckily I had already collected most of them. Or made them myself. I've made my own leveling beam, radiusing block, fret end dressing block, they were more time consuming than most of the guitars I work on. Next time I'll just buy a radius block, they aren't that expensive. So just me personally, if I'd spent that much just for hardware, and maybe several hundred hours into an instrument, I'd want to be fairly sure of success!

I know what you mean about being blinded by science, those videos from David Collens on Temperament were very eye opening for me as well! That's the kind of stuff people have to go to college to learn!

Looking at the Gwizdala bass, it seems he has some movable pickup arrangement too? With those burl blanks on either side of his pickup in the factory picture, and a much different pickup pattern in the video. I guess there is always more than one way to skin a cat?

Russell Kingery

Hi Russ

yeah I thought the body shape was ugly when i first saw it but I think iv got used to it or maybe just ignor the shape cos i love the tone so much. Your right about hardware costs i was looking at Babicz bridges ummm sooo nice but out of my price range £130 for a fiver not this time.

As for pickups id like to try and achieve the same sort of spec / tone  as the Janek bass but if its going to be rediculously expensive then its not worth it on a first build, having said that I don't want to put in a couple  of P or J bass pickups I have two jazzers and have a love hate relationship with them.

WARNING dont get me going on the subject of Fenders.

Reguarding tools your right this is a good idea and money saving making your own tools  and is also quite satisfying too , I am also going to buy a radius beem they are quite cheap on flee bay I saw a nice one made from Mohogany, a fret dressing file too but not from Stu mac expensive.

Sorry back to the subject of pickups on a future build id like to try a couple of things for types of tone , one is a Wal bass sound British made basses with thier own unique pickups, if you didnt know each pickup has two round bobbins per string and some sort of unique active circuitry, resolting in a tone that sounds like nothing else. Mick Karn of Japan, Mark king for a while, and that Guy something Lee played them , expensive basses but they are unique and well made and hold thier value.

Another tone im interested in is the Steinberg bass L2  Devo's bassist Gerald Casale played one and I aways noticed how the bass cut through the mix well , also jean jacque burnel of the Stranglers played one on the odd track which again sounded very different from thier normal stuff.

I think Seymour duncan do a Steinberg pickup I have no idea how good they are.

I've used Seymour Duncan pickups almost exclusively on guitars of late, but this P bass I'm working on now is the first one I've used a Duncan Bass pickup on. So soon I hope to know what that sounds like. I do see they make a pickup for Steinberger, but have never heard one. Both of my Spector basses have EMG pickups, both are active as well, and I wouldn't dream of changing them! My NS-2 has a P-J setup, and my NS-2000 has wide soap bars. Both have great control of the frequency range top to bottom and the NS-2000 has the tiny EMG circuit in it, that offers two knob, bass / treble boost or cut, very simple and effective tone control. I know Duncan and others make active bass pickups, but few have the experience to compete with EMG, they have a great variety of offerings, and should be on your list to check out.

I've got a few books on winding your own pickups, if you really want to go totally home made! Bobbins and magnets and wire will run you about the price of medium range pickups, especially if you're only making one or two. if you can learn the specs of the custom pickups you like, you may be able to come close. I considered starting a hot rodded pickup company at some point in history, but the competition is steep, and there are many new entries into that market, but I may try my hand at it if just for my own projects. As with everything else, so much to know about pickup winding, and it's hard to beat a man at his own game. Meaning companies like Duncan, and EMG. Exotic pickup makers or should I say very high priced makers, can be mean to deal with, lots of shielding and special tone circuits may be required. While Duncan and EMG have great wiring diagrams and circuit schematics to help the novice deal with their installs, and even telephone support! Something to consider.

And odd combinations can sometimes produce unexpected results. i have been weary of choices customers have made in their pickup choices, but in the end, most often it turns into something nice! i can only recall once that it didn't turn out so great. Although I have seen many poor installations that made it sound bad, but once I fixed it all was well. My personal touch for pickup installation is to line the cavities with copper tape, they make magnetic paint for the same purpose but I prefer the tape. You can solder directly to it, and it's a lot thicker and seems to work better. I ground all cavities together, shield all cables and just go overboard on grounding everything, using a decent sized wire for ground as well, and most of all, ground the bridge! I hate a guitar that hums until you touch the strings! And it's dangerous, a poor ground will shock the crap out of you when you touch your microphone. Power from the amp has insuffencient ground back to its own circuit, so it grounds through you, and you touch the mic and it goes through you to a better ground in the mic, most unpleasant. I use a decent 16 or 20 gauge ground wire to the bridge, and make sure all bridge saddles are conductive. Sometimes what seems to be raw metal is actually clear coated, and may require sanding where the strings contact it. I can't stress enough proper grounding of the bridge. And don't forget to cover the backs of the cavity covers, to seal the electronics from all the stray magnetic fields on a sound stage. At least half of the hot rodding I do is for people who tried on their own and failed to observe these details.

But I'm sure by the time you get to that point of your project you'll know what kind of pickups you want, and the advantage of active pickups is the ability to boost and cut each frequency band, while passive pickups can be just as awesome, they can only cut the treble in their tone circuit.

I hope I've said something that was helpful? Best of luck!


Hi Russ

Thanks again as usual you have been more than informative and please keep me posted on the installation of the Seymour Duncan pickups im sure it will be interesting your oppinion . I may well go for the EMGs as they are more user friendly in terms of installation plug and play.

Iv taken note reguarding earthing and isolating hum , my 75 jazz bass has an issue with hum and as you mentioned once you put your fingers on the strings it stops , im also in the process of making some changes to that bass replacing the neck , which is taking far too long as i have had some set backs.I bought a Mighty mite maple neck which fits the pocket perfectly so that was a good start but had a little disaster spraying it, the spray gun started choking and spluttering and fooked up the fretboard so I had to take it all off, now iv been waiting 8 weeks for some tru oil to arrive whick looks like its not going to happen.

So I thought id go ahead and drill out the pocket for the micro tilt washer/ plate what i didnt realize is the truss rod goes nearly to the end of the neck and has a quire block on the end , so when i drilled into the desired location the bit buckled around all over the place. Its not very pritty but working I also had to cut the threaded screw down as well, luckily the retaining screws miss the truss block.

Im not too upset the neck is only a temporary neck until I decide what my best option is with the original neck which has been messed around with. Someone in the past has put an ebony fretboard on and made it fretless, Im not sure if i should get a Luthier to get it back to the original design with maple and inlays and binding or just try and get another 75 neck, a replacement neck could be as much as £750 is it worth it and would it be cheaper to get a luthier to do the work.

I was in a famous guitar st in London called Denmark st , I tryed to talk with a Luthier there and he wouldnt give me an idea of the price not even a ball point estimate one of his quote was how long is a piece of string , im sorry to say but it just made me feel suspicious and that he was a dickhead , I got the impression he wasnt gonna be honest , im sure this is not normal behaviour and people like him give Luthiers a bad name , I suppose because he worked in a famous place he had his head up his own ass also not a place id recommend to go and buy a guitar they are push thier prices sky high eg £13.850 for 64 p bass is that right come on your havin a laugh its only a fender.


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