Frequently Asked Questions

About Bass guitar construction

About Tonewoods

About Blueprinting

About Active Electronics

About Custom Wound Pickups

About Scale Lengths

About Hardware

About Inlay Work

About Side Dot Markers

About Finishes

About Cases

About Build Time

About Shipping

About Serial Numbers

About Placing an Order

About Bass guitar construction

What do I need to know?

For starters, you should know that all of our basses are made from carefully selected, beautiful, highly resonant WOOD. We normally build them with a neck-thru-body construction, although set-neck or bolt-on-neck styles are available on request. We prefer to build our bass bodies with a thick central core, and thin top and back Using a separate back allows us to cut the rear control cavity covers from the actual back wood, thus making a perfect seamless match in the wood grain. The body can be contour-carved any way you wish, and both the top and back may be carved (arched) in any manner you like.  If you are planning an opaque finish, then separate decorative top and back woods are optional. Our basses are usually solidbody, but chambered hollow-body construction is also possible.

When is neck-through-body construction better?

For most applications, 'almost always' - since it gives much more predictable results. With a neck-through-body instrument, we can predict the final sound (based on the interaction of the neck woods, fretboard wood, body woods, top and back woods) much more reliably. When a "neck joint" is used, then the Tonewood-to-Sound equation can get a little fuzzy... but (as always) - you can certainly have it "your way"! Lots of people still enjoy the "classic" sound of a bolt-on neck instrument...

Do you make 6-string basses? 5-string? 8-String?

Yes!  We make all kinds of basses: 4-string, 5-string, 6-string, 7-string, and 8-string hardware is readily available. And 8-string (octave tuned) hardware is also readily available. Using special custom hardware that we machine ourselves, its also possible for us to make 9-string, 10-string, 11-string or 12-string instruments - as well as 10-string (octave tuned), 12-string (octave tuned),  15-string (octave tuned)  or 18-string (octave tuned) basses.

God is in the details?

Yes! (well, that's what we believe, at least...) Attention to detail is VERY important to us! Each bass we make has at least TWO truss rods. Control cavities are all 100% shielded. Star-grounding techniques are utilized to further minimize noise. Truss rod covers and covers for control cavities are attached with threaded inserts and machine screws. (no wood screws to strip out!) Each of the countersunk holes for cover attachment are reinforced with hand-made ebony inserts. String nuts are usually made of petrified Woolly Mammoth Ivory from Siberia. (20,000 years old!)

What is this special magical secret glue recipe I have heard about?

We use a unique kind of "hide glue" made from a 200-year-old recipe (based on a the skin of a certain fish found here in Russia) which was passed down to us from a violin maker's family. The resulting glue joints are not only stronger than the wood, they are also effectively  "acoustically transparent" - they don't dampen the instrument's resonance the way that modern synthetic glues can.

Can I watch??

Yes, you can!! Well, you can't stand over your luthier's shoulder (due to the dangers of flying wood shavings and such) but if you are in the area you can certainly drop by the shop anytime to check on the progress of your instrument. 

For all of our overseas customers, we photograph the work-in-progress at least once a week (often much more frequently) and email you nice hi-resolution photos! Smaller versions of the same pictures are posted on our online "Gallery Forum", so you can follow the progress of your build online, even if you are away from your email. When we ship your bass, we will include a CD-ROM with all of the "build pics" and also any interesting video clips I can shoot for you ( top carving, neck carving, etc...)

About Tonewoods

Whats the big deal about tonewoods?

The way we see it - if you care about TONE, then wood is everything! The reason its called tonewood is that the wood physically interacts with the vibrating strings, and creates the "harmonic signature" that makes your bass sound the way it does. We take enormous care in hand-selecting woods to make sure that they do indeed have optimum resonance. Wood comes from trees  - which are quirky individuals... :-) We have to check every board individually, as even boards which come from the same tree are not created equal. One of the major reasons that our basses sound so much better than the basses available from larger manufacturers is that we buy our wood by the board, not by the pallet!

What kind of tonewoods are available?

For neck laminates, we recommend various combinations of Maple, Purpleheart, Ebony, Bubinga, and Rosewood. 

Body cores are often made of Mahogany, Korina (Limba), Myrtle, Walnut, Ash, Maple, or Alder. 

For decorate tops and backs, we recommend highly figured Maples, figured Walnuts, Bubinga, Bocote, Rosewood, and Maccassar Ebony. Fretboards are generally Rosewood, Bubinga, Figured maple, Black Ebony, or Maccassar ebony. We can use many other woods as well, like Wenge, Koa, Shedua or Sapele, (to name a few). For tops and backs and headstock facings, almost any highly decorative wood  - such as burls or crotch pieces or spalts  - can be used, as long as the wood is not too soft and 'punky'. 

Virtually any beautiful piece of wood can be incorporated in your instrument...

How can I know what woods to choose for my bass?

With a neck-through bass, a great deal of the tone comes directly from the neck laminates, since they interact with the vibrations of the string from one end to the other! We strongly recommend a neck laminate made of maple and purpleheart to get a solid and balanced response with very clear overtones. For extra enhancement of the lowest fundamental frequencies, a most  excellent choice is to incorporate extremely dense woods such as Ebony,  Maccassar Ebony or Katalox into the neck laminates. Bubinga and some of the denser Rosewoods can be added to the neck to accentuate "bell-like" tonalities. Unless you are looking for a really warm 'jazz' sound, we don't recommend using mahogany for neck lams, as it tends to muddy up the sound too much.

Typically, 60 percent of the tone comes from the neck laminates, and another 10% from the choice of fretboard wood - but the body wood contributes the remainder. We select all of our woods very carefully to assure maximum resonance. Decorative tops don't have a lot of impact on the tone - even if your bass has both a decorative top and a decorative back, it accounts for maybe 15% of the overall tonal contribution. So if you desire a strikingly beautiful 'natural wood' look, you can choose from a huge range of interesting figured woods! Depending on what kind of sounds you want to get out of your bass, we will recommend woods that provide a balance between optimum tone, and maximum aesthetics. 

Can I choose the "exact" piece of wood for my bass top?

Yes. We always try to have at least small stock of premium exotic figured woods on hand, but we also have an extensive network of suppliers who can provide us with photographs of all of the choice woods in their stock. After we receive your deposit, the first order of business is to get you photographs of all the awesome woods that are currently available, and have you select your exact top wood. Once we get you the pictures then you have to act fast, as the market for the best "instrument grade" figured woods is very volatile, and choice billets rarely stay on the market for long! 

Can I provide my own piece of wood?

Certainly! If you have a nice board that you want to be used in YOUR bass - we will use it! You will need to make sure that the board is of sufficient dimensions for its intended application, and that it is free from checks and bug holes, as well as any cupping, bow or twist. We prefer to work with AIR-DRIED woods - since many kiln-dried woods have lost a lot of their natural resonance (Because the water is literally "steamed" out of them, and this destroys some of the structure of the wood fibers on a microscopic level). 

Also, because the neck laminate is CRUCIAL, it is not recommended that you supply neck woods - its best for us to select them in person due to our extremely stringent standards for resonance, structural integrity, and dimensional stability. For our own wood stocks, we check EVERY board for resonance by hand before we purchase it. Typically we reject about 50 boards for every one we purchase, so a trip to the lumber distributor takes a whole day!  'Decorative' woods for tops, back, and headstock facings are not so critical, so its generally safe for you to supply them, as long as they meet dimensional  requirements.

About Blueprinting

Why blueprint before building?

Well, because we must! We need to know the exact dimensions of all the woods, and its critical that we consider grain orientation before we cut. So before the woods can even be selected, we have to have the entire full-size blueprint  made. Blueprinting allows us to take into consideration ALL of the factors (woods, hardware, electronics) to create a perfectly harmonized instrument.

I have pictures of the bass I want, do I still need a blueprint?

Yes. Its very helpful if you can provide us with pictures, since we can (and will) utilize them in the production of our blueprints. But a photograph is no substitute for a blueprint! We hand-build to tolerances of 1/10th of a millimeter, so precision is very important from the outset of your bass's design process.

I have this cool napkin sketch, will that get us going?

Yes. Many of our basses start from only a crude pencil sketch, which we can refine in our drafting software until it comes to life on your blueprint, precisely as you intended it. Any sketch you can scan and email to us can be the starting point for your new bass. Composite Photoshop creations are welcome too!

Can you make a blueprint for me to approve before I place my order?

Yes, but in order for us to embark on this kind of work, you will need to send us a "blueprint deposit". (Which will of course be deducted from the cost of your bass.)

Can I provide my own blueprints?

Yes, we can usually import scale blueprints created in common vector formats such as DXF, AI, or DWG. We use Corel Draw for own own blueprint production, so Corel files are ideal. But as long as we can import your drawing successfully into Corel, then we can use it - and we will deduct the standard blueprinting fee from the cost of your bass. But please note that the drawing has to conform to our blueprint specifications, so please email me for details before you start working on it!

What if I change my mind about something during construction?

We hope that you considered long and hard about what you want, BEFORE you placed your order! But yes, we will accommodate your changes and spec additions whenever possible... For example, its not hard to add a headstock inlay, or to change a fretboard inlay design, or move the location of a knob -  as long as we get the update soon enough. (And any change in cost resulting from your updates would simply adjust your final balance accordingly). But we do discourage wholesale changes on-the-fly, as it's important that our crafters do not have to 'put your bass on hold'  a month for us to obtain a different wood or parts! Once construction is underway, its important that we proceed smoothly and directly.

About Active Electronics

What do "active electronics" do?

First - I would like to emphasize that active electronics are of course, entirely optional! Your bass can be ordered fully passive if you wish.  But active electronics can do a number of things... First, they can add "impedance buffering" to your bass, so that it can drive long cable runs without any degradation of the signal. Second, they can add "gain" to make your bass louder than it otherwise would be. Third, they can provide onboard "tone-shaping" at your fingertips - beyond what is available with a simple passive roll-off control. Fourth, they are essential if you want to mix the output of  'piezo' sensors with your normal pickups.

Can I have a special custom circuit made just for me?

Yes, our experienced electronic engineers are on hand to make you any kind of custom audio circuitry you desire. Here in Russia, refinement of discrete 'audiophile' designs has progressed considerably beyond what has been done in the west (where transistors were essentially abandoned in favor of off-the-shelf 'integrated circuits' more than 20 years ago).

What kind of batteries are necessary?

Typically, one or two "9-volt" batteries are all that is required.

How long do batteries last?

It depends on what circuits are involved! We do install output jacks that automatically shut the battery power off when the bass is unplugged. Typically, you would need to change batteries 2 or 3 times a year

What about rechargeable batteries?

Modern rechargeable batteries are very good, we recommend the hi-capacity NiMH batteries. Buy a couple of sets and a fast charger, and you will be in good stead.

About Custom Wound Pickups

What kind of pickups can you make?

We make EVERY kind of pickup  - single coil, humbucking, with all sorts of magnets and all sorts of coil wires. Pickups are built one-at-a time to your EXACT requirements, and each pickup has the exact custom string spacing it needs to fit YOUR bass precisely. Special shielding is incorporated to make our hand-wound pickups as noiseless as possible!

Who is this Chernishev guy, anyway?

'Chernishev' is our own Fyodor Chernishev, Russia's pickup-making GURU. He has been winding pickups for 25 years now, and that is all that he does. You just need to tell us what sounds you want, and  he will make it so!

What about custom pickup covers?

Every pickup we make can have custom wood covers. They are typically made of solid ebony, but can be made of any wood you desire. They can have exposed pole pieces or hidden pole pieces, and can be made in every size and style.

Can my bass have "brand x" pickups?

Sure! You can have whatever you want, after all  - ITS YOUR BASS  :-) We can obtain any pickup currently on the market. And you are welcome to supply your own pickups, if you have some you would like us to use...

About Scale Lengths

What scale lengths are available?

For fretted basses - standard 34 inch "long scale", 32 inch "medium scale", 30 inch "short scale" or 36 inch "extra long scale" are all available at no extra charge

Fretless basses can be any scale length you want, no extra charge.

Can I get a custom scale length?

Yes! Custom scale lengths are available for no extra charge on fretless basses, and only cost a little extra for fretted basses.

I heard that "longer is better", is this true?

It depends! Its possible for a 30 inch scale 4-string standard tuned bass to sound just as "big" as a 36 inch scale bass. But certain limitations may exist, when you factor in preferences of  "feel" and "string tension". Smaller scales require a heavier gauge string - so (for example) due to difficulties in obtaining really huge strings, its not really practical to make a low F# contrabass any shorter than 36 inches!

About Hardware

What hardware is available?

We can use any hardware you like. Gotoh, Schaller, Hipshot, and Sperzel are some of the brands that we especially recommend. We can however obtain for you anything that is currently on the market. And if you have something 'special' on hand - you can mail it to us, and we will use it for your bass.

Can I have special custom hardware made?

Yes, all kinds of custom machining are available. But custom hardware could add considerably to the build time of your instrument. We don't recommend it unless its essential for your application!

Can I have my hardware engraved or plated?

Yes, either laser or hand-engraving is possible, and plating services are also available. They will typically add a month or two to the build time.

About Inlay Work

I always play with my eyes closed, so can I have a blank fretboard?

Yes, blank fretboards certainly are available. (no extra charge!)

What kind of inlay designs are available?

Any kind of inlay design, within the limits of your budget, and the limits of what's possible to do in a given material. (Extremely fine lines can be impossible to execute in Pearl, for example). If you can supply a photo or sketch, our artists can transform it into an inlay design. We do have the ability to perform elaborate "scrimshaw-engraving" in Mother-of-Pearl, for inlays that require intricate details.

What kind of inlay materials are available?

We prefer to make our inlays from WHOLE natural shells, not cheaper shell laminates. White Mother of Pearl, Abalone, and several other kinds of shell are available. We can also make very nice  inlays out of Baltic amber.

Can I put an inlay on the body?

Yes, but depending on the situation, it may need to be inset into an ebony oval or plate. Not all designs are suitable for inlaying directly into the body wood!

What does custom inlay work cost?

It varies... it all depends on the complexity of the design, the amount of design work we have to do (if you supply us with a full-sized inlay design, then its a lot less work), and of course - the cost of the materials. Custom inlay work can add several weeks to your instruments build time. Simple things like dot inlays and block inlays can be done in a couple of days!

About Side Dot Markers

What kind of materials are available for side markers?

Mother of Pearl, Abalone, Silver, Bronze, Plastic (many colors)

Can I get rectangular side markers?

Yes! Rectangular markers can be inlaid as "side blocks" (bottom edge of the fretboard) or as "3D-blocks" (see P-03 prototype photos) that can be seen from the side or from the top. Rectangular side-markers can be made of Pearl, Abalone, contrasting woods, and some plastics.

Can I have those side markers that light up?

Yes! We don't like to install LEDs in the fretboard, since that requires REPLACING the fretboard should one burn out. (and sooner or later, one will burn out!) 

However, we have perfected a method of lighting your side dots with Fiber-Optics. The light source is located inside the control cavity in the body, where it can be changed, if it burns out (or if you decide to tweak the color of the side dots). The side dots run on their own separate battery, so if your lights run their battery down, it wont effect the performance of any other active circuitry that may be installed in your bass. Its also possible to use a couple of different colors.. for instance, you could have a set of  green side dots - but use amber for the double dots at 12th and 24th fret.

IN ADDITION, your fiberoptics can have VARIABLE colors... you can change the colors to suit your mood with a selector switch, or by using DIP switches inside the control cavity. With certain pickup switches  - it is even possible to have the side dot color change AUTOMATICALLY  - as you switch pickups!

Available colors are red, blue, green, white, orange, yellow, amber, orange, pink, and violet...

How long will a side dot battery last? 

Typically, they will run for about 40 hours of continuous lighting (when powered by a single 9-volt battery). We install a switching jack that turns them off when the guitar is unplugged, and we can also install an 'override switch' so you can turn them off when the guitar is in use, or conversely, wire a switch to show off the dots when the guitar is unplugged. Rechargeable NiMH batteries are recommended, although any standard 9-volt will work fine.

About Finishes

What kind of finishes are available?

We strongly recommend clear nitro-cellulose lacquer (for the best tone), but polyurethane lacquer is available on special request. We can also do a hand-rubbed oil/wax finish, although this is only suitable for woods like mahogany, wenge, walnut, rosewood, and ebony. Many other woods  - such as maple - really require more protection than an oil finish can provide! 

Can I have a sunburst finish?

Yes! Any shade of sunburst (or transparent tinted  finish) you like. No extra charge. But please keep in mind the limitations of transparent finishes... For example, we cannot apply a bright transparent yellow over a dark Maccassar wood, and have the resulting finish look like its bright yellow! Really vibrant transparent or bursted colors are best applied over a light colored wood like maple. "Bursting" the back, sides, neck, and back of headstock too is possible for a small extra charge.

Can I have an opaque finish? 

Yes! Any shade of opaque lacquer is available. No extra charge. 

Can I have a metallic finish?

Yes! You can have have any metallic, pearlescent, or metal-flake finish, for a small extra charge. "Bursting" the back, sides, neck, and back of headstock is possible (for example, the popular 'silverburst') for a small extra charge.

Can I have custom graphics, or a mural that covers my whole instrument?

Yes! Our incredibly talented logo artist can translate any photo or graphic into an original hand painted work of art, executed under the clearcoats for lasting beauty. 

Can I have my name painted on the front in big bold letters?

Yes! Its YOUR bass, why not? Any kind of graphic art or text slogan can be incorporated in the finish (even over exotic woods - the artwork is between the "sealer" lacquer and the clear-coats)

Can I have my name inlaid into the headstock?

Yes! Any font or style you like.

Can I have my own logo?

Yes! Your personal logo or 'band' logo can either be hand-painted (under the clearcoats) or inlaid in pearl or abalone. If your logo occupies the entire front of the headstock, then we will move our ShamrayBass logo (see top left corner of the web-page) to the back of the headstock

About Cases

What kind of cases are available?

Case availability will depend on the size and shape of the bass we build for you. A variety of different hardshell cases may be available  - if your bass is of fairly conventional shape and size. However, we can always provide you with a beautiful custom-made lightweight flight case, or alternatively -  a custom-made heavy-duty ATA flight case (Recommended if you do a LOT of air traveling).

How does the case affect the shipping cost?

The larger and heavier the case, the more it will cost to ship. An ATA ("a ton, almost") case will typically double your shipping costs! We pack all of our basses EXTRA-WELL so they will safely handle the trip home even in the lightest flightcase.

About Build Time

How long will it take to build my bass?

Usually, the actual build time is around 12-16 weeks. (This could be somewhat longer if your bass includes a great deal of custom inlays or graphic artwork.)

Is there a waiting list?

As of right now  - we have no waiting list. In our busy season, the "lead time" is usually no longer than 12 weeks  - from the time that we receive your deposit, until the time work will actually get underway. 

During this lead time, your wood is selected, and any parts that need to be ordered are ordered, and its a good time for you to send any materials that you may want us to incorporate into your bass. Lead time varies with our workload, and also depends on the time of year  - festive Russian holidays take place for a couple weeks in January, a couple weeks in May, and in the summer, many of our crafters like go camping and fishing for a couple of weeks. (especially Mr. Chernishev!)

About Shipping

How long will it take to ship me my bass?

We ship via EMS "7-day" air courier, which takes anywhere from 3 to 7 days to go door-to-door anywhere in the world.

What about customs fees in my country?

Customs fees vary from country to country - you should check with your local customs office. Happily, 95% of our export shipments have arrived with no duty or taxes payable. The other 5 percent paid less than $100. We have shipped instruments to customers in Sweden, Germany, Canada, USA (AK, OR, AZ, MS, OH, MI, MA, PA, WV, NJ, TX, WA, MD,VA, CA, FL, OK), Austria, Norway, Holland, England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Israel, Norway, Finland, Estonia, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong.

Thanks to favorable Russian trade laws, we are able to set the "declared value" of your shipment relatively low, so should it happen that you do get 'dinged' for customs, it wont be for a huge amount.

Can I have it shipped to me on my Fedex/UPS/DHL account?

Yes, we can ship by any carrier you like.

About Serial Numbers

How do ShamrayBass serial numbers work?

The Bass Custom Shop is a limited series of 9999 instruments. Serial numbers start at BCS-0001, and end at BCS-9999.

Can I have my own custom serial number?

Yes and no! Your serial number can only be of the format BCS-XXXX. Other serial formats were limited to pre-production instruments and prototypes only. You may however choose any "personal" 4-digit number you like, (if it hasn't already been taken!). Or you can just elect to receive the next available number in chronological order.

Can I reserve a future serial number?

Yes! With each ShamrayBass purchase, you are entitled to reserve one future serial number at no cost. Serial numbers are returned to the 'pool' if not used within two years.

Can I lock in a serial number before I place my order?

Yes, but only if you make a "pre-deposit", such as a blueprinting deposit, artwork proofing deposit,  or a top wood deposit.

About Placing an Order

How much is my deposit?

The deposit required is 70% of the total order cost. (If you have already made a "pre-deposit" for blueprint work, inlay drawings, or top wood shopping, then a further deposit to bring your account balance up to 70% of the total cost will put your bass "in the build queue" and really start the ball rolling!)

How do I pay for my deposit?

Typically a bank wire transfer (which costs about $25) is the most economical way to make payment. My bank is in the USA, so if you live in the USA and happen to bank with "Bank of America / FLEET" then you may be able to do a branch-to-branch deposit and save yourself the wire fees. If its more convenient for you, then alternatively you may make payment by PayPal, but it costs a little more. 

Do you accept credit cards?

Yes! But only through PayPal! So in order to pay by credit card you need to open a PayPal account, if you do not already have one. Currently, PayPal "instant payment" fees costs require us to have you add 4.5% to your deposit total if your Paypal account is in the USA, or 5.5% to your deposit total if your PayPal account is located outside the USA. If your paypal account will deduct funds from your BANK ACOUNT ( rather than your credit card!)  - then you can use the Paypal "E-CHECK" option instead. This is not as QUICK ( it takes 8 working days for an e-cheque to "clear") - but its only a flat rate $10 fee...

Can I make my ShamrayBass purchase on an "Easy Payment Plan"?

Yes! You can lock in a serial number and get the blueprint started with an "EPP" pre-deposit of as little as $300. However, your bass will not be assigned a crafter and "go into the build queue" until such time as your 'deposits on account' total 70% of the total order cost. We can then "go live" and schedule your construction to be underway so as to be completed whenever you can commit to making your final payment coincide with our estimated delivery date.

ANY OTHER QUESTIONS???  send an email to ...