Upright 4 String Washtub Bass

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Project by mcshaker posted 06-03-2009 06:58 PM 18605 views 7 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

So, I made a Bass. How awesome is that.

I cut the circle for the soundboard with the new(used) bandsaw from 1/4” birch plywood. The soundhole was cut using a jigsaw with scroll blade. I colored the top with oil stain and Mixol tints to get a sunburst effect. Then finished with some Poly.

The neck is 2 pieces 4/4 hard maple glued up. Cutting this part was definately the meat of the project. I ended up making 3 of these. The first was too short and scrapped early in the process. The second was I think the best but due to some hardware concerns had to be remade. Third times the charm, I guess? (Important note: always have hardware in hand before starting to cut.) The neck was finished with hand rubbed Tung oil.

The nut and bridge are made from scrap oak I had in the shop. I also had to make the bridge 4 times. First shot was too small and made the bass hard to play. 2 and 3 broke while test fitting because I had the string way overtensioned. So, #4 got overengineered and is basically just a big wedge but it works fine. Finished with oil stain and Poly.

The strings I found on eBay. Steel strings are too tight. Gut strings are too expensive. These are called Weed Whacker Strings. I think they started out as just that, for trimming lawns. But, they work great for this.

I tried to use cheap guitar tuners at first and it caused problems because the strings are so thick. I ended up breaking one trying to get them to work. I ended up having to buy the real electric bass tuners and the drill them out a little for the lowest 2 strings.

The best part of this project is – it sounds great. I placed it in a local music shop asking $300. I hope it sells quick. So I can make a new one for myself.

I figure I could complete this project again in 10-12 hours. You can find the free plans and guides I used at

9 comments so far

View Kent Shepherd's profile

Kent Shepherd

2718 posts in 4746 days

#1 posted 06-03-2009 07:11 PM

So Cool. Now I have to make one. Thanks


View CharlieM1958's profile


16292 posts in 5679 days

#2 posted 06-03-2009 07:18 PM

Very cool.

Kent, I can only imagine what yours will look like. :-)

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Les Hastings's profile

Les Hastings

1306 posts in 5233 days

#3 posted 06-03-2009 10:18 PM

Pretty neat, how’s the sound?

-- Les, Wichita, Ks. (I'd rather be covered in saw dust!)

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4794 days

#4 posted 06-03-2009 10:25 PM

Looks unique and fun. My brother once made a washtub bass, but it wasn’t nice like yours. He was playing in a group with his friends and the neighbor came over to yell at him. I guess it didn’t sound as good as yours either.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View SCOTSMAN's profile


5849 posts in 5045 days

#5 posted 06-03-2009 10:43 PM

I bet it sounds great too could you send us a video of what it sonds like I am longing to hear the special sound these beauties make kindest regards Alistair

-- excuse my typing as I have a form of parkinsons disease

View Loucarb's profile


2388 posts in 4905 days

#6 posted 06-03-2009 11:58 PM

That is great. Nicely done

View Junji's profile


698 posts in 4842 days

#7 posted 06-04-2009 01:41 AM

Looks great and wanna listen to the sound? Maybe you can upload the video with the sound?

-- Junji Sugita from Japan,

View a1Jim's profile


118322 posts in 5037 days

#8 posted 06-04-2009 05:31 AM

hey Mc
That is totally awesome way cool


View senselessdiver's profile


36 posts in 4499 days

#9 posted 03-26-2010 08:47 AM

Washboards and washtubs-awesome!

-- avid termite

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