Designing a Custom Double Bass


The construction of a double bass is a big project that requires lots of room and some really special wood. Because of the scope and size of the jigs and templates required for construction, I currently build only one 3/4-sized model. This is a design of my own, compiled from the best of all the basses I've worked on over the years. Both top and back are fully carved and graduated, and the back has a compound arch much like that on a formed plywood bass. This design has proved very stable, and the sound produced is big and robust. The relatively slim upper bouts make it ergonomically efficient and comfortable to play.

The availability of wood -- maple for back and neck, spruce for the top -- for a project this size is a primary determining factor in how the construction takes place. If the budget is a healthy one, one-piece or bookmatched slabs can usually be obtained; glued-up backs and necks also produce a satisfactory product. The one-piece back slab below weighed about 65 pounds before carving; nearly 60 of those pounds were removed, leaving me with a thin, graduated back and a truckload of shavings.

Even the ribs require that sizeable slabs of wood be cut and accurately bent. The construction of a simple internal form can devour a sheet of plywood. The work is done primarily with hand tools -- saws, planes, gouges, chisels -- and while it's underway not much else happens in my shop: there's just not enough room. I've often compared constructing a bass to that of carving a house.

Many questions about a Skipper double bass can be answered by watching the construction step by step. A wealth of this information is available in my Archives section, where all the instruments I've built in the last several years are presented in detail. Since the bass is such a unique and individual instrument, I haven't provided a form-type quote request. If you're interested, please contact me, and we'll work out the details.

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