Life on the frozen tundra of South Dakota Life on the frozen tundra of South Dakota

A Hofner Style Bass For My Son

A Hofner Style Bass For My Son

Instrument completed on 9/3/2016

Instrument completed on 9/3/2016

So the Tundra Boy is a budding young musician. He's been gifted with the ability to quickly pick up and play pretty much any instrument he's tried. His primary instrument is the drum set. He started playing drums seriously when he was three, and is now among the more talented drummers in our city (regardless of age.) Granted, being a father I'm admittedly biased in that statement, but thankfully I've had that opinion backed up by others.

In addition to drums, he also plays string bass, piano, baritone, bassoon, lots of different percussion and electric bass. At the time this project began, Tundra Boy had noodled around a little, but had not yet started playing electric bass seriously. He had expressed an interest in learning, and I decided that it would be cool to build him a bass of his own. Besides, if he decided he didn't like to play bass I could always play it myself.

Well as it turned out, he did enjoy playing the bass. Maybe not as much as the drums, but enough for him to stick with it. As a testimony to his progress, in less than a month after he first picked up the instrument he filled in quite successfully at a gig with my band when our usual bass player couldn't make it. A few days after that, he auditioned and was awarded the primary chair in electric bass in his school jazz band. Less than six months later he was selected as the bass player for the All-City middle school jazz band. So I guess I now can justify building a bass just for him.

Construction began on the Tundra Boy bass in 2014. In the mean time Tundra Boy has been playing the other basses I built.

When we were beginning this project the first thing that we had to do was decide what kind of bass to build. I had taken Tundra Boy up to Minneapolis to see Paul McCartney in concert (he called it a "bucket list" show) and McCartney played his old Hofner 500/1 violin bass. Tundra Boy decided that he'd like to have his own version of that bass. However, he wanted to put his own personal touch on it, so he hunted through my lumber inventory and picked out a chunk of zebrawood for the body, and an impressive piece of figured maple for the neck. I suggested adding in some decorative layers of walnut and mahogany to compliment the timbers he selected and he agreed that those would look good too.

With the wood selected the next thing I had to do was come up with some sort of a plan. I watched an excellent video on how the original Hofner basses were made. This gave me some insight on the construction methods and details of this type of instrument. I also found a PDF of a scale drawing of the Hofner 500/1 bass which I could use for reference and to building my templates. Here's Tundra Boy proudly posing with the drawings posted on the shop's closet door.

Tundra Boy posing with the plans for his bass.

This project was the first one to be built in my new shop. We moved into a new house in early 2013. My old shop was 12' X 16' (192 square feet) and shared space with the boiler and hot water heater. I'm extremely blessed because the new shop boasts nearly 500 square feet of unshared space. I am now able to position my tools in permanent spots where they are easily accessible and usable. In the old shop I had to re-arrange every time I wanted to use a different tool.

Not to say this project went without any problems though. Specifically I wound up having to make both the body and the neck twice due to issues that will be explained in more detail on their respective pages. Needless to say, that slowed down my already slow build pace to that which would rival a snail. However, nearly two years after we started, I finally got this bass done. In fact, you can see how much Tundra Boy grew from the pictures at the beginning compared to the pictures at the end.

Here are the specifications of the instrument:

  • Neck Type: Set neck (glued in.)

  • Neck Wood: Curly maple with walnut and mahogany stripes. Zebrawood headstock face.

  • Truss Rod: Dual action

  • Reinforcement: Two carbon fiber rods

  • Headstock: Angled, scarf jointed

  • Tuners: 2+2 mini bass tuners.

  • Nut: Bone

  • Body Wood: Zebrawood top and bottom. Walnut, mahogany and maple inner sandwich.

  • Body Features: Hofner 500/1 shape. Hollow. Carved top and bottom.

  • Fretboard: Rosewood, 12" radius

  • Scale Length: 30"

  • Pickups: Seymour Duncan SSB-4 Blackout Soapbars (passive)

  • Controls: Two volumes, one tone.

  • Hardware: Chrome. Trapeze tailpiece with a floating rosewood bridge.

  • Finish: Gloss nitrocellulose lacquer

  • Weight: Seven pound range

You can check out the construction photos of this bass.

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This page last updated on 06/28/2018