This past weekend I had the pleasure of visiting Regenerate Guitar Works in Bothell Washington, just outside Seattle.
Regenerate is one of large number of small builders that make limited quantities of high quality hand built instruments.
The company builds mainly basses and these instruments are primarily rooted in Fender designs. Rod Banach is the owner of Regenerate guitar and he runs the operation from his Bothell home.
His operation is divided in to two parts. A wood shop and a music/setup room.
The music room is a really cool place to hang out. Well if you’re a bass player that is. What could be better than to be in a room filled with basses, amps and all of the bits to make even more basses. Rod has a number of his own Regenerate instruments of course, but also has a good selection of basses from the likes of Sadowsky, Kenneth Smith and Fender. The Fender is a ’65 Precision with a rosewood fingerboard. There’s a couple of amps in the room but the primary amp is a SWR Redhead.
The actual number of completed Regenerate basses was only two, but this was because the company had just sold eight of the ten basses that they’d taken to NAMM a few weeks ago.
Rod is a bass player himself and his large collection of “Other Peoples Basses” gives some benchmarks to compare his own instruments against. And they compare very well. There’s something special about a hand made instrument. A kind of humanness that you don’t get with Epiphones and Fenders.
Going over to the woodshop, I’m always completely amazed at how much work can come from such a small space. Rod’s shop is not as large as a double garage, but is the model of organization and efficiency. There’s lots of heavy equipment here, such as band saws, surface planers and router tables. All mounted on wheels so they can be tucked against the wall when not in use.
Everywhere you look there are various types of wood. Everything from thin slices of rosewood that will someday be a bass’s fingerboard to heavy sawn cross sections of tree trunks. The large cross cut sections of tree roots become what is called burl. The grain in these pieces of wood are absolutely beautiful. One rough cut of burl in the shop was several inches thick and five or six feet in diameter.
Rod explained that wood will come into the shop and will be stock piled for as much as a year for the moisture content of the wood to stabilize. Only then can it be cut to it’s final size and shape.
One of the more recent additions to the shop is a CNC machine. For those unfamiliar with this, it is basically a large roboticly controlled router. The exact shape of an instrument as well as all the cutouts for pickups, electronics and even the bodies contours can be cut via computer to precise measurements.
Even with all this automation there is still lots of work to be done in constructing a body or neck and even with the CNC Rod will still spend many hours rasping and sanding to get the woodworking just right.
Rod spent a lot of time going through the process of building basses with us. There really is a lot to know about it. From knowing how to place a truss rod to leveling a fretboard and installing the frets. This is definitely a job for the someone with a lot of skill and a lot of patience. But its all worth it. In the end the result is a truly fine instrument.
The nicest surprise for me was the price. These instruments are really only a few hundred dollars more than the Fender American Deluxe series basses.
So if you want a custom (American) built, one of a kind, hand made, professionally setup bass that’s as good or better than the best of what the major manufacturers can make, you may just want to check out Regenerate Guitar Works.
Stay tuned for a test drive of Regenerate basses.