How to Build a Super Tub Bass (an improved upright gutbucket bass)


An old time cigar box guitar sometimes needs some accompaniment, so we offer some classic free plans for a hot-rodded washtub bass guitar. It plays more accurately than a conventional gut bucket and enables slap bass styles, too!


The bass shown in the photo above was built using these plans by Tom Thunder of El Dorado Hills, CA.


A classic set of plans for an upright washtub bass.  Parts needed:

  • Small washtub 9" x 18" x 15 (approx. 22cm x 46cm x 38cm)

  • Wood board, 2" x 12" x 62" ( approx. 5cm x 30cm x 157.5cm)

  • Two 5" (12.7cm) carriage bolts 

  • Standard guitar tuner

  • 10 x 24 eye bolt

  • D bass string (.70 gauge or close)


You're probably familiar with the Tub Bass, an inexpensive, amusing contraption that can emit suprisingly deep bass notes and has served as the bass instrument in many a fledgling band.

As well as it has served, the Tub has a few shortcomings, and the following conception of a Tub Bass is to remedy some of these flaws.


As well as it has served, the Tub has a few shortcomings, and the following conception of a tub bass is to remedy some of these flaws. The main disadvantage with the ordinary tub bass is that it cannot be noted accurately. So here is a design which uses a tub but also has a neck and fret positions.


Another Nice thing about this design is that it makes it possible to play "slap" bass. In other words, you can slap the string against the neck to add that little extra effort to your playing.


Cutting the neck is probably the hardest part. It is cut from a 2x12 board, 62 inches long.


  1. Enlarge drawing no. 1 onto the board and use a band saw to cut it out. You will be able to use some of the waste to make the tub brace.

  2. Enlarge the brace pattern in drawing no. 1 onto any unused section.

  3. Attach the neck and brace to the tub as in the drawing no. 3 (below). Use two 5-inch carriage bolts. (The tub I used was a small tub, but it seems sufficient. Its measurements are 9" high, 18" diameter at the top, and 15" diameter at the bottom.)

  4. As for a tuning key, a standard electric guitar tuning machine is best, but you can use your own imagination. I utilized a camper window crank and gears which I reworked. You might like to make an oversize fiddle key with a tapered shank. Refer to drawing No. 2 for details on the tuning head.

  5. Drill a 3/16 inch hole in the center of the tub and fasten the string to the tub using a 10x24 eye bolt with a nut on each side of the tub bottom.

  6. The best string to use would be a D bass string.

The Super Tub is tuned to the fifth step of the key in which you want to play. Examples: To play in G, tune to D. To play in A, tune to E.


Originally published in Mugwumps Magazine, Vol 5. No. 2, September-October 1976. Written by Martin Case


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