Righty and Lefty Basses

The bass guitar on the left is one I built for myself a few years ago.  I took it to a family reunion and my Grand Nephew, who is left handed, started playing it upside down and backwards.  That looked pretty awkward to me so I offered to build a left handed bass for him.  I used the same Mezzaluna bass plan from Liutaio Mottola but mirrored the image before printing it out..

On the left, my bass

  • body – Black Limba body
  • neck – Maple
  • fingerboard – Rosewood
  • bridge – Schaller chrome
  • pickup – Bass Lines
  • tuners – Gotoh chrome

On the right, Matt’s lefty

  • body and neck – Mahogany
  • fingerboard – Ebony
  • bridge – Hipshot black
  • pickup – Bass Lines SMB-4a
  • tuners – Gotoh black

Short Scale Bass Guitar

For the past 40+ years, a dominant feature at my residence has been a magnificent Black Walnut tree in the back yard.  We loved that tree.  Not so much in the fall, it did drop a few leaves, but in the summer it was wonderful.   Especially sitting on the deck, looking up into its canopy and enjoying the shade.  Our kids, of course, grew up in, under, and around that tree. 

Unfortunately it became diseased and threatened to split apart and crush my house, or my shop, or my neighbor’s house; and anyone in them.  So prudence demanded that we have it removed.

Once it was safely on the ground, it was cut up on site by NW Specialty Lumber and Milling and the slabs were taken to their facility in Sheridan to be dried.  Part of the deal is that I get some of the wood back for my own personal use.  So a couple of months ago, I drove out to visit my wood and brought home a sample. 

The first item built from my dear old tree was a bass guitar for a seventh grader at Forest Hills Lutheran Christian School.  Ellianna is just learning to play bass and I have been giving her a few pointers.  A normal 34” scale bass guitar looks HUGH in her hands. So, I decided to make a smaller one for her; a 30″ scale version of the Mezaluna design I built for myself

Elli came to visit the shop a few times during construction and was able to participate in some design choices.  She was so excited and appreciative.  You just gotta love building for someone with a smile like that!

The body blank for this guitar was just a chunk we whacked off a slab that was too long to fit in my truck.  That piece of firewood made a fine looking guitar.











  • 30” scale 4 string electric bass guitar
  • Body and head plate – home grown Black Walnut
  • Neck – Maple
  • Fingerboard – Ebony
  • Pickup – Seymore Duncan SMB-4a; passive; one volume & one tone control
  • Tuners – Gotoh Compact
  • Bridge – Shaller roller
  • All hardware – chrome

Acoustic Gallery

After finishing the first two guitars at home in my own shop, and proving I could do it,  I launched off and built 8 more.  The first of these were for my son and my brother-in-law.

Back and Sides are Myrtle; Neck is Mahogany.

Tops are Sitka Spruce, Headstocks are Myrtle and the Rosettes are Applewood

I like building guitars in pairs.  Once I set up for an operation I might as well do it twice.  The next pair was for my brother Keith and my friend Mike.

My brother opted for a Maple back and sides and Ebony bindings. The neck is also Maple.

The Fingerboard is Granadillo, the headstock is Ebony and the Rosette is Tigerwood.

Here a short video of me playing Mike’s guitar soon after it was finished.

The next I built guitars for two of my Nephews

Back and Sides are Myrtle Wood and Necks are Maple.

Pat chose the Ash binding while Ken opted for the Ebony.

Here there are at the Family Reunion holding their guitars for the first time.  Maybe it is just me but I think they look happy with them.

Next I built guitars for a friend and another nephew that both happen to be police officers.  I offered to inlay a cracker-jack sheriff’s badge into the headstock.  But, in the end, we all agreed that a more tasteful and yet appropriate motif for their guitars would be a Thin Blue Line.

Back and Sides are Walnut.

The Blue Lines are made of acrylic sheet from Tap Plastics.  I do like the way it goes with the walnut.

And it looks even better in Ebony headstock.

The position markers were cut from the same acrylic sheet with a plug cutter.  And, serendipitously, someone had just given me some blue stabalized maple that made fitting rosettes.

Building my first guitars in my own shop.

My first guitar, built at the American School of Lutherie, was completed in two weeks.  When I came home and tried to repeat the process in my own shop it took one year!

In class, Charles would hand us a jig and say “Do this…” and we would do it.  At home, before I could do anything, I had to make a jig.  I had taken some good notes and photos in Charles’ class, but many of the jigs and fixtures had to be re-designed and constructed to suit my own environment.  I enjoy that part of the process but it is time consuming.

My first build was to be for my daughter.  Not wanting to start with anything too simple or ordinary, we chose Douglas Fir from Oregon Wild Wood for the back and sides.  I had never heard of a guitar make of Doug Fir but she was hooked on the idea of it being Oregon’s “state tree” so it was settled.

Since this was such a new adventure, I decided to build another guitar simultaneously using less expensive materials.  That way, I could at least test every step of the process on the cheap stuff before endangering the good stuff.  (Spoiler Alert! I ended up with two nice guitars).

I did a few things differently, of course.

A typical Fox Bender uses a dedicated framework with its own press screw and occupies a large chunk of counter space.  It occurred to me that I could accomplish the same thing using my Shopsmith in drill press mode.  I made a mold and clamped it to the table.  A waist caul is mounted on the spindle where the drill chuck would normally go.  The heating blanket and metal slats are the same as a Fox Bender.  The major advantage is that I do not have another large contraption to store when not in use.




And it worked quite nicely!  Here are the Douglas Firs fresh out of my Fox/Shopsmith guitar side bender.



Another thing that I fashioned differently was the rosette.

We once had an old apple tree in our yard.  When I cut it down, my daughter, who was 10 at the time, said I should save some of its wood. So, being a dutiful father,  I took a slice from the trunk, wrapped it in newspaper, and put it on a shelf in the garage where it remained for 25 years.   While watching videos about how to make rosettes from wood I remembered the apple wood in the garage and knew where it had to go.

Of course, I had to figure out a procedure and make a couple of jigs, perhaps I will describe that in another post, but for now let’s just say that I had enough Apple wood to for rosettes in four guitars.

So, one year later, here are the first two guitars constructed at home in my own shop.




Guitar # 1
Back and Sides – Rosewood
Soundboard – Douglas Fir
Neck – Mahagony
Fingerboard – Ebony
Rosette – Apple





Guitar # 2
Back and sides – Douglas Fir
Soundboard – Sitka Spruce
Neck – Douglas Fir
Fingerboard – Ebony
Rosette – Apple



Building my first guitar at American School of Lutherie

In September of 2014, I acted on a long held desire to build a guitar and enrolled in a workshop with Charles Fox at his American School of Lutherie.  I chose the Steel String Acoustic Guitar course which promised that we would build a playable guitar from scratch in only 2 weeks.  Mind you, that meant 6 days a week and up to 11 hours a day.

It turned out to be two of the best weeks of my life.  In addition to coming away with a great sounding guitar, it was wonderful fun.  And the shop techniques and habits that I learned from Charles provided me with a firm foundation for my retirement hobby.

What follows is a very brief overview of what we did on each day.


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We began by getting to know each other ( there were four students), finding our way around the shop, and examining our materials.  Charles provides a few things but most of what we needed came from Luthier’s Mercantile Int’l.

We began by prepping and glueing up the Rosewood plates for the back.  When they were dry we rough cut the perimeter, and glued on the back strap using a “Go-Bar Deck” and a radius dish.  We bent the Rosewood sides in a Fox Bender (more about that in a later post).  We also started on the neck by milling the Mahogany billet to dimension and making the scarf cut.  The cut off piece was flipped over and glued back on to form the headstock.


We learned very quickly that lutherie requires many clamps.  On the left is the head stock being attached on to the neck shaft.  We started working on the top, or sound board, by joining the Spruce plates.  Next we routed two channels around the intended sound hole and inserted pieces of abalam and purfling to form the rosette.  Then we soaked it all with super glue and left it to dry.


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After scraping and sanding the rosette level , we cut the sound hole and the perimeter of the top.  Next we cut and shaped braces from Spruce and glued them on to the sound board.  The pattern is very typical X-bracing and in this picture there is much carving left to be done.


The previously bent sides were placed in a form while the head block and tail block were glued on.  Then we installed linings on the edges all around.  By the end of the day we had solid rim that definitely was starting to look like a guitar.


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We installed and carved the rest of the back braces.  The edges of the rim had to be planed and sanded down to the proper profiles.  Then we glued the back to the rim with another gaggle of clamps.


With the rest of the braces carved and sanded smooth it was time to autograph the top and glued it on to the rim and back.


With the box now closed, we started making it pretty by routing channels and inserting an Ebony tail graft and bindings and purfling all around the edges of the body.  The bindings are held in place with strapping tape and then adhered with thin super glue that is wicked into the joints.


After much scraping and sanding the box looked beautiful.


Then it was all about the neck. On the left, the headstock is on and marked for the tuners  Also, the slots are ready for the truss rod and two carbon fiber reinforcement rods.  On the right, position marker dots are being installed on the edge of the fingerboard.  Obviously, we had already cut the slots for the frets.  At the end of the day, the finger board was glued onto the neck and left to dry over night.

DAY 10

With the fingerboard glued, we attacked this bulky square block of wood with chisels and rasps and sanding blocks and transformed it into a smooth and graceful neck.

DAY 11

We installed, leveled, dressed, and polished the frets.  The neck was then bolted on to the body to stay; although it can easily be removed again if necessary..

DAY 12

On the last day we installed the tuners, located the bridge, made and installed a nut and saddle, stung it up and did a basic set up.

After only two weeks in the shop I was the proud owner of fine looking, great sounding guitar that was fun to play!  It was still just raw wood with no finish on it.   That would come a few months later.  But I already knew I couldn’t build just one…..  I would have to build another one, by myself,  at home in my own shop.