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  #1  
Old 03-11-2017, 10:50 AM
Michele Caramazza Michele Caramazza is offline
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Default My new (to me) BT6!

My introduction to Smith basses was some years ago with a bolt-on CR5. Later I had one of those Burner Feraud made by Sleek Elite. You could tell I have a soft spot for the vintage body style...
Well, look at what I grabbed today...
A nice vintage BT6. Don't know if it's a 88 or even an 87... Serial is 87791 (aren't the first two digits the year of manufacturing?) while quality control date on the label says 02/10/88.
You could tell from the pictures it has been played. A lot, and for a reason: this thing is the most amazing piece of wood I've ever put my hands on. Period.
It's full of nicks and have lost a good part of its lacquer finish (especially the neck). There are grey (from skin friction) bare wood areas in the pop area below the C string, between the pickups and where the previous owner forearm stayed for years. But I can't even put into words how this thing vibrate and resonate. I've spent about two hours just playing single long notes all across the fretboard for the mere pleasure to hear this bass resonate. Just to hear the pure, organic, deep, incredible voice of this baby.
Pics or it doesn't happen...








Last edited by Michele Caramazza; 03-19-2017 at 11:45 AM.
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  #2  
Old 03-11-2017, 02:30 PM
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Ken Smith Ken Smith is offline
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Probably finished in late '87 and numbered then but not set up till early '88 when it was sold. This is a different finish than the more durable one we use not but still, it can be worn thru with enough playing or abuse.
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Old 03-11-2017, 03:18 PM
Michele Caramazza Michele Caramazza is offline
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Thanks Ken.
I would like to ask you a question...
The female parts of the strap locks (those recessed into the wood) aren't perfectly firm but they move a little, maybe because of wood shrink or glue that hardened and molded over time, I don't know... Of course they don't come off because of the screw but is there anything that I can do to have them fit tightly again?
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Old 03-12-2017, 02:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Michele Caramazza View Post
Thanks Ken.
I would like to ask you a question...
The female parts of the strap locks (those recessed into the wood) aren't perfectly firm but they move a little, maybe because of wood shrink or glue that hardened and molded over time, I don't know... Of course they don't come off because of the screw but is there anything that I can do to have them fit tightly again?
Screw them back in. Vibrations over time loosen all screws. Your tuners are probably loose by now, both the top nut and the rear screw as are your bridge screws and even the nuts that screw the circuit in place. When old basses come in for just a set-up, we tighten up all the loose screws.
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Old 03-12-2017, 04:42 PM
Michele Caramazza Michele Caramazza is offline
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Played the bass all day long today. What a beautiful instrument it is!
The feeling of it is immense. You could feel what a labor of love and exquisite musical instrument it is. It's not easy to put into words but it feels like holding into the hands something that has been done just right, with a lot of love and passion put into it!
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Old 03-19-2017, 11:40 AM
Michele Caramazza Michele Caramazza is offline
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Default Setup question: have I a nut issue?

I have a question for Ken. I could have asked by email but I thought this could be of general interest here...
I checked the setup on my bass. I noticed that the bridge saddles on my bass are almost all the way down to the bridge plate. I firstly suspected that this was done to accomodate a front bow in the neck but I was wrong..
I checked the relief (capo at first fret, B string fretted at 15th fret) and to my surprise the neck is pretty straight: it reads 0.35 mm (0.013") at 7th/8th fret.
The action at 2.25 mm or 0.088 in imperial (measured both at 12th and 24th fret) is a little higher than the crazy low I was accustomed to (1.5mm).
That's good to me as I've recently found that with an action not that crazy low my playing is cleaner and the tone improved as well.
I noticed however that the bass is a little hard to play in the first four/five frets.
At first I tried to go back to my old setup, flatten the neck even more to lower the action but, while this eased things for my left hand, I hated the general feel of the instrument, not mentioning that the tone immediately deteriorated. I could have probably go on raising the bridge saddles and lowering the pickups but didn't want to mess with it and preferred to bring the bass back where it was.
Then I noticed that the nut is probably a little high. Fretting at 3rd fret reveal a gap of about 0.45 mm (0.017") between the bottom of B string and the top of the first fret. Isn't that a little high? Maybe the nut could have been slotted deeper?
Thoughts? Opinions?
Please see the attached pics...





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Old 03-19-2017, 01:22 PM
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Cool shim

It looks like someone shimmied the nut from that first pic and not how we make things here. The Nut should be seated all the way down to the wood. Possibly he last player had a heavy touch and wanted the strings higher so it got shimmed somehow.

Without having the bass here in my hands or on my bench, I cant say for sure what needs to be done. I, personally do not use measurements in the set-up. Only feel.
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Old 03-19-2017, 02:10 PM
Michele Caramazza Michele Caramazza is offline
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Nut shim... please look at the first pic, Ken. Doesn't it look like there's a veneer of some sort at the bottom of the nut?

Also, look at the second picture. At the B string side, the nut is about 1 mm inside from the edge of the fingerboard (sorry, can't explain that any better in English..) On the C string side the edge of the nut is perfectly aligned with the edge of the fingerboard. So looks like someone messed with the nut and sanded 1 mm off that side of the nut (???). I already imagined the bass didn't left the factory that way 30 years ago...

Anyway, if I was in the States, even on the Pacific Coast, I wouldn't wait a minute to send the bass to you. But shipping costs from Europe to the States have gone crazy, not to mention the mess with customs..

Is purchasing a new nut from you a possibility? I have a local luthier/repairman which is pretty good and I would trust him replacing the nut.



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Old 03-19-2017, 02:22 PM
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Making a Nut is like fitting a tooth or crown in your mouth. We need the mouth! Nut's are made from a small block of brass. No way to make one without the bass.

Making a new Nut TO a bass on the bench is a 3-4 hour job with the set-up included. Good work takes time and cutting, fitting and polishing brass is an art.
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Old 03-19-2017, 02:53 PM
Michele Caramazza Michele Caramazza is offline
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Looks like I had to live with it. At least for now. Or until my next trip to the East Cost of USA..
Anyway, not a big issue... the bass is absolutely functional, just a little hard in the 1-4 frets region.
I guess the raised nut explains the fact that the bridge saddles are slammed down. Otherwise the overall action would be very high. Fortunately the neck is straight, very stable and trussrod works perfectly.
Anyway, just for information.. how much would approximately be the cost of a shipment back to Italy from the States? I guess I could send the bass to you with UPS for about 150 euros...
Just in case I get the itch for a full setup, new nut and the such
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Old 03-19-2017, 02:57 PM
Michele Caramazza Michele Caramazza is offline
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Default Or...

... what about taking off the existing nut and getting rid of that shim? Doesn't that looks to you like there's a wood veneer of some sort in there (first pic)..
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Old 03-19-2017, 04:05 PM
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Lightbulb

I would need the bass here to make any kind of decision or estimate in reality.
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Old 03-20-2017, 02:07 PM
Michele Caramazza Michele Caramazza is offline
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Smile Whoaahh!!!

I made it!!!
Today I took the strings off to see what's goin' on with the nut and, to my surprise, the nut just came off as I lightly pull it! It was just seated in the slot without any glue... no harm done to the fingerboard or to the headstock veneer!



As I suspected a tiny strip of wood (about 0.50 mm) was glued to the bottom of the nut..



As Ken suggested this was probably done because the previous owner was a heavy handed groover and liked higher action in the first five frets region. It also explain the wear on those frets and the fact that the finish in that area of neck back is totally gone...

Anyway, I cut off the wood veneer with a razor blade and then sanded off any glue residual with a fine sandpaper. Here's how the bottom of the nut looked like as I finished the job..



A nice rub of metal polish and here's the nut in its all original shining glory...



Fitted the nut in its slot, strung the bass and... voilą... PERFECT.
I also discovered that the nut wasn't damaged or sanded in any way. That small gap on the B string side was because it slightly shifted when it was installed. So I put under slight tension the outer strings first, perfectly centered the nut and then strung all the strings to pitch. Worked like a charm!



Now, the action dropped down of 0.50 mm and the whole thing plays like butter all across the fingerboard with no fret buzz at all! I'll probably wait a little and then will raise the bridge saddle a hair to better suit my right hand touch.
I'm soooo happy!!!
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Old 03-20-2017, 04:01 PM
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Here, we spot glue the nut in with Elmers white School Glue. Easy to take off if needed. Also, after WE polish the nut by hand, we spray it with can lacquer or acrylic. This helps prevent oxidation of the brass over time.

Good job!
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Old 03-21-2017, 07:05 AM
David Whalen David Whalen is offline
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Default Thanks for The Great Pictures

Congrats on that cool bass. You didn't mention having done any fret work, though you probably at least cleaned them. It is excellent that you got good action. It is a testament to the build quality and materials. That bass was played hard and still plays well with a set up and cleaning. Nice work.
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Old 03-21-2017, 12:19 PM
Michele Caramazza Michele Caramazza is offline
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Thanks! I haven't done any fret cleaning myself but I bought the bass from the Uk shop where luthiers Martin Petersen and John Chapman make their Sei Custom Basses, so maybe the bass had a fret cleaning and basic setup there before it was shipped to me.
The first four/five frets have wear from the previous player as I explained before, but still the bass have an amazing low action and no buzz... truly a testament to the exquisite craftmanship behind Smith basses.
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Old 03-28-2017, 03:23 PM
Michele Caramazza Michele Caramazza is offline
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Ken, given that my bass has the lacquer finish and that it 's gone leaving bare wood in many parts, especially the neck, which product you'll recommend to use for cleaning and polishing?
Any reccomendation for tbe bare wood areas?
Also, I have some green grime build up into some parts of the bridge and on two of the screws that secure the bridge to the body. Should I use metal/brass polish on it and should I replace the bridge screws?
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Old 03-28-2017, 06:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michele Caramazza View Post
Ken, given that my bass has the lacquer finish and that it 's gone leaving bare wood in many parts, especially the neck, which product you'll recommend to use for cleaning and polishing?
Any reccomendation for tbe bare wood areas?
Also, I have some green grime build up into some parts of the bridge and on two of the screws that secure the bridge to the body. Should I use metal/brass polish on it and should I replace the bridge screws?
Polish does not replace worn finish. Polishing worn areas next to finished areas can creep under the wood and lift the finish. You can try some varnish in the wood and seal it in some way. A full refinish is the only cure. Stained wood might not clean up all the way.

Tarnished screws may have lost their plated covering so nothing will put that back. Only new screws can look new.

Rubbing the gold in anyway might rub the gold off so be careful. We do not send old parts out for re-plating.
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Old 03-29-2017, 01:41 PM
Michele Caramazza Michele Caramazza is offline
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Ken, thanks for your reply.
Actually, I'm not for a refinish job. First, I'm a firm believer that if a refin job is for whatever reason needed, the instrument maker is the only person entitled to do that. So, given distance and costs, my BT stays the way it is.
Second, I actually LOVE the signs of time on my bass.

My goal is not to make the bass shine like a brand new one. I just want to take some of the previous owner DNA off

NECK:
The back of the neck is bare wood in the frets 1 to 7 area: down there it's really smooth from years and years of hand friction. The rest still have lacquer but at the headstock end of the neck, just before the Coat of Arm carve there's some nasty, sticky grime build up. Same on the body end of the neck, where the lower horn cutaway is.
Could I gently rub the grime away using naphtha? To my knowledge naphtha (or white petroleum..that it is) is safe on bare wood but under the grime there's still lacquer...

BODY:
The body really has almost all it's lacquer on except for the spot between the pickups (thumb resting), the "I plucked the hell out of it" area, the right forearm rest area.
I guess that I could safely use a lacquer polish product. Just a little amount, sprayed on the cloth and not getting into those worn areas to avoid what you said about the product finding it's way under the finish. I have the Alembic polish handy and I've previously used it without harm even on nitrocellulose lacquer.

I would also add that I have a bottle of Howard's Feed and Wax. Carl Thompson gave it to me when I picked a bass from him years ago. He uses it all over his basses. The bass is gone, the Howard's I still have.
It's a mixture of wax and essential orange oil. Could I use this product to feed and give some protection to the worn area of the neck? Could I use it also on the fingerboard?

Last edited by Michele Caramazza; 03-29-2017 at 03:36 PM.
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Old 03-30-2017, 11:37 AM
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Exclamation No polishes

Do not use any polishes. Naptha or soap and water. If you get polish in the wood, finish will never stick to it in the future and can also start to lift the finish where it meets bare wood. Be careful.
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