basket
Store Locations (Mon - Sat: 8:00 am - 5:00 pm)
Outside Arizona: 800-423-2450    |   Phoenix: 602-504-1931    |   Tempe: 480-355-5090   |   Tucson: 520-745-8301
email newsletter


A High End for the Low End: Tom Garden’s Hand Made Bass Guitars

by Mark Stephens | October 21st, 2009
Tom Garden with one of his newest handmade basses featuring quilted maple and a sleek lightweight design and top of the line hardware

Tom Garden with one of his newest handmade basses featuring quilted maple and a sleek lightweight design and top of the line hardware

Ask any bass player, and he’ll tell you that his job is the least respected in the band.  Musically speaking, the bass takes care of the low end; and those who don’t know any better may think this position really is low end.  Did Elvis play bass?  Willie Nelson? Guys like Jimmy Page and Carlos Santana didn’t exactly summon an entire generation toward bass playing – they inspired kids to pick up a standard six string for stadium-filled solo guitar playing.

The bass gets little attention. In the movie “That Thing You Do” the bass player in the band never had a name, and gets credited as, “T. B. Player.”  Now that I think about it, there’s no video game called “Bass Guitar Hero” either, as far as I know.

But when you hear someone like Victor Wooten play the bass, you just might be inclined to go, “Wow, I never knew the bass could sound so refined.”  There’s hope yet.

What does this have to do with woodworking?

Figured bubinga bass guitar

Figured bubinga bass guitar

And right in our very own Tempe store we have a part time employee who builds only bass guitars.  At the store, you can find Tom Garden working in the mill and warehouse about one day a week.  The rest of the week he’s at his personal shop hand making incredible bass guitars.

In today’s age, you can see all the flawless CNC manufactured musical instruments or furniture that you want – to the point of total dissatisfaction with progress.  But as many musicians and woodworkers will demand, hand made pieces are far superior if only for the human energy put into them.  Tom admits that, “if you look close enough at my work you can find a flaw here or there.  They’re all hand made. ”

I don’t know.  Take a look at the pictures of these bass guitars he’s built.  You’ll be hard pressed to find flaws with the naked eye.

Tom puts in at least 80 hours into each bass he builds.  He’s recently started using graphite reinforcing in the necks, which is light, strong, and highly resistant to fatigue making his instruments very reliable for a touring player. Tom also uses a UV-cured polyester finish, which is pretty cool in both using it and looking at the final product.  He gets that classic slick-n-glossy coating but the polyester cures with a shot of light in a matter of moments.  Plus it’s more durable than lacquer.

Tom has a number of guitar shops stocking his basses and he also participates in guitar shows for promoting his work and landing commissions for custom basses.  Again, we’re lucky to have him in our shop from time to time.

Guess where he gets his wood?

Tags: ,

This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 21st, 2009 at 12:41 pm and is filed under Woodworking Projects. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

  • SWebb-Alpha Infinity Basses

    Great stuff! Love that finish! Well get a look at some of mine soon. Will appreciate your feedback.

    Stan

  • http://www.woodworkerssource.com Mark Stephens

    Tom’s Shop: http://www.togarguitars.com/

    As for the sealer, Dennis, it’s a UV-cured polyester. This is a good, detailed overview (PDF) that should answer nearly all of your questions: http://www.radtech.org/Industry/pdf_articles/uvcurewoodapp.pdf
    Hope it helps.

  • Milt Green

    Great looking basses!!! Please give me a link to your shop.

  • Dennis Russell

    I would like to get a response from the Guitar builder for the question I sent a few days ago guifiddle@roadrunner.com

  • RR

    “we’re lucky to have him in our shop from time to time.

    Guess where he gets his wood?”

    Guess why you see him from time to time? Heh.

  • Dennis Russell

    I build and repair guitars , build mandolins,Fiddles, I buy some of my wood from Woodworkers source. all of my builds are acoustic instruments, but I am starting to build a electric guitar, a kit I bought from Grizzley, a telecaster, I would like to know what you use as a sealer on your wood for your guitars. I used Hide glue on the recent electric guitar body I thinned it out put two coats on but sanded in between. Your guitars look superb, this coating you use what is it, how do you aplly it, where do you get it, what is the hazards of using it, protection etc…………………….soon………………….Dennis
    Desert Luthiery
    Yuma , Az

  • Toad

    Fantastic work Tom ! Keep it up – there’s no such thing as too many beautiful instraments.

  • Bill

    They are cool. I have One

  • Drew

    Those are absolutely gorgeous. Nice work Tom.