In the early ’80s, Tom Clement had a
friend build him an electric guitar to his
specs, long before building an instrument
himself even crossed his mind. Fast forward
to 2002 when Clement decided to go
DIY with his appreciation for handcrafted
instruments. He’d been playing in several
bands in Florida with his trusty ’66 Jazz,
and found himself wanting to add a fretless
bass to his arsenal. Rather than buying
off the shelf, Clement decided to have one
built and left raw so he could do the sanding
and finish work. After contouring the
body, reworking the control cavity, and
reshaping the neck, Clement was hooked.
He enjoyed the process so much that he
sold the bass for a small profit and began
buying more wood and tools.
Clement started building basses in earnest
by selling them through eBay. He soon
developed a name for himself and was able
to raise his prices enough to pay for more
than just his next set of materials, and in
2008, he became a full-time builder.
Self-taught Clement cites music as the
main influence for entering the instrument-building
arena (prior to this, he had no significant
woodworking experience). “I am not a
good player, but I do enjoy the back and forth
of working with other players—especially the
magic that can happen when an audience
is paying attention and really enjoying the
music,” says the builder.
He brings that passion of working with
other musicians into his shop, but running
a one-man operation doesn’t come without
its day-to-day challenges. “Balancing the
time I spend in the shop with the time
spent on the computer looking at woods
and materials while dealing with customers
and potential customers is challenging,”
says Clement. “There is also trying to have
a variety of wood choices for the customers
to chose from with a limited budget and
space to store the woods.” Clement says
his basses are consistently complimented
by customers for the feel of the necks and
the playability of the machines as a whole.
“I have been blessed to have some awesome
repeat customers, including one that
owns nine of my instruments.”
For custom basses, Clement offers a wide
variety of body shapes and sizes, and prefers
to use lighter-weight woods including cedars,
mahoganies, and limbas. For electronics, he
prefers a simple, passive setup, but realizes
that players may want something more in a
custom instrument and will install as needed.
Clement also prefers a preamp that doesn’t
have too large a boost or cut, which is why
he regularly equips his instruments with
Nordstrand and Bartolini products.
Pricing and Availability
Clement builds approximately 40 basses annually,
and an average build time ranges anywhere
from three weeks to three months. “A 1-piece
swamp ash body is going to come together a
lot faster than a 2- or 3-piece chambered body
with a book-matched top,” says Clement. The
base price for a 4-string is $1,450, but because
all of Clement’s builds are custom, pricing will
vary depending on the myriad of options,
which are detailed on the builder’s site.
The redwood-topped, swamp ash body of the
Clement 175 features a “Kim” body shape,
which is a smooth and streamlined take on a
Jazz-style body. This 34" scale, 6-string bass
has a bloodwood fretboard topping the maple
neck and is outfitted with a pair of active
Steve Bailey Basslines from Seymour Duncan
Built for the bassist in need of both a fretted
and fretless, both of the headless necks on
the Clement 211 are constructed from quartersawn
mahogany and capped with extra
thick Macassar ebony. The swamp ash and
mahogany body is topped with highly figured
redwood. Clement’s 211 is loaded up with
two sets of Nordstrand Big Single pickups
paired with a Nordstrand preamp, and weighs
in at an incredibly light 11 3/4 pounds.
The body of the Clement 217 features
Clement’s heavily chambered “Anne” body
shape—a larger, asymmetric style meant for
better balance while playing in the seated
position. The redwood-topped, swamp ash
body is joined by a bolt-on black limba neck,
and this 8 1/2 pound 5-stringer is outfitted
with a P/J-style pickup configuration from
Bartolini, along with a Bartolini piezo buffer for
the Hipshot piezo bridge.
The “Jon” body style on the Clement 233 is
another heavily chambered design from Clement
which helps deliver its 7 1/4-pound weight.
The single-cut, mahogany-core body with black
limba wings is dressed with a figured koa top
and has a single f-hole. Equipped with a piezo
bridge from Hipshot, the Clement 233 also
features a Stellartone tone control and Graph
Tech’s ghost Acousti-Phonic preamp.
From his Ergo Bass line, the Clement 254
features Clement’s “Wide Joan” body style,
constructed from limba with a myrtlewood top.
Loaded with a Bartolini 59CBJD1 in the bridge
and a Bartolini 58CBP in the neck, the pickups
are paired with an Aguilar OBP-3 preamp.
After a brief residence in Nashville to be signed
by various notable musicians, the bass was
auctioned in September 2012 with all proceeds
benefiting the Ronald McDonald House.
Clement’s Modern Doublecut basses boast a
slim body shape that complements a shorter
scale length, and this model is highlighted by
decorative chamber holes that decrease the
instrument’s weight by a pound. The 34”-scale
Clement 275 was built using swamp ash for
the body’s “Phoenix” shape, figured swamp
ash for the top, and Port Orford cedar for the
neck. For electronics, the 275 is equipped with
a Hipshot piezo bridge, preamp and pickups
from Nordstrand, and a Bartolini piezo buffer.