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Old 02-15-2007, 10:14 PM
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Lightbulb What's in a Restoration?

I am starting this Thread to bring to light the various things that get done during a full or partial restoration. Depending on the actual Bass under the knife, it may need some or all of the mentioned procedures if not more. I am calling out here to Arnold, Jeff, Bob, Nick and all the other practitioners of this field to share and discuss their views, knowledge and methods if they are willing to share them. Some of the Luthiers might have a special method or formula they wish to keep secret so we must respect their choice to keep any secrets proprietary to their trade.

Over the Years I have had several Basses that had full or partial Restorations. Many of these are on my website but a few of them pre-date the internet and have long since found new homes as well.

These are some of the operations that my Basses have had; Scroll repair, Neck Graft, Tops reshaped from sinkage, Re-graduation of one or both plates, cracks repaired (on Top, Back or Ribs), Neck stand re-set, Block cut, string length altered, Varnish touch up, Worm damage repaired, New Bass Bar, New cross bars (all or just some), Bass Bar re-shaped, Cosmetic plates on Back and Shoulders replaced or added, New Neck block, New Tail Block, Corner Blocks repaired or re-placed, New lining, New Fingerboard, Scroll cheeks added, Tuner holes plugged and re-bushed, Tuners replaced, All set up items (including Bridge, adjusters of all types, saddle, tailpiece, nut, endpin unit etc.), Purfling repaired or replaced, Half edging, re-edging, New Corner tips, inlaid Breast patches, Inlaid Sound Post patch, Wood grafts in cracks, lower wings added for yield, button grafts, block area grafts, Ribs shortened at Block for Rib/plate overhang shortage, Rib punctures pieced back together from 'puzzle pieces', Ribs and blocks re-leveled for top/back fit, Neck block re-built, 4 to 5-strings conversion, 5 to 4-string conversion, old repairs un-done and re-done (a lot of that!) and 3 different C-extension types added on several Basses over the years by 3 different luthiers to name a few things here...

Please fell free to ask, discuss or contribute to this tread in any way. All levels of knowledge or lack thereof welcomed. We can discuss any repairs or restorations you have had seen or may have in the future right here with some of the best guys in the biz.

If you have a Bass that needs repairing and would like advice before you take it to wherever, please start a new thread with as many pictures as possible as well as all the information you can tell us about your Bass and what you think it might need. You can expect then to get loads of valuable information on how to approach the job needed as well as being prepared mentally and financially before she goes under the knife. Often a Bass needs more than what is expected from the outside. On occasion, it needs a bit less.
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Old 02-16-2007, 01:40 PM
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Please fell free to ask, discuss or contribute to this tread in any way. All levels of knowledge or lack thereof welcomed. We can discuss any repairs or restorations you have had seen or may have in the future right here with some of the best guys in the biz.
OK, so the door is open for me here. I'll go with the "lack thereof welcomed"! Recently there was a topic discussed not so much here about a Prescott bass that was restored by Lou DiLeone. Most of us know of Lou and he is very respected as an expert in his field. He made several changes to the Prescott and in general I would say that almost all of these are definitely changes that made the bass more useful, better sounding, more easily maintained in the future, and more modern in features. Among the changes were the installation of a neck block, new neck grafting back the original scroll, converting the pegbox from 3 to 4 string configuration, new tailpiece with 4 holes. Im guessing, but I don't know, at least it is plausible that it got a new bass bar, some regraduation and other changes. It also got new varnish. I don't want to start a heated debate, just hear some knowledgeable responses about rebuilding / restoring a bass in such a radical fashion. To me, that bass is a Lou DiLeone bass made from Prescott parts now. Not that there is anything deleterious in that action or anything negative about it in my estimation. It is just giving credit to Lou instead of Abe for the instrument's current sound and characteristics? Any commments?
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Old 02-16-2007, 03:00 PM
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Cool Abe?

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OK, so the door is open for me here. I'll go with the "lack thereof welcomed"! Recently there was a topic discussed not so much here about a Prescott bass that was restored by Lou DiLeone. Most of us know of Lou and he is very respected as an expert in his field. He made several changes to the Prescott and in general I would say that almost all of these are definitely changes that made the bass more useful, better sounding, more easily maintained in the future, and more modern in features. Among the changes were the installation of a neck block, new neck grafting back the original scroll, converting the pegbox from 3 to 4 string configuration, new tailpiece with 4 holes. I'm guessing, but I don't know, at least it is plausible that it got a new bass bar, some regraduation and other changes. It also got new varnish. I don't want to start a heated debate, just hear some knowledgeable responses about rebuilding / restoring a bass in such a radical fashion. To me, that bass is a Lou DiLeone bass made from Prescott parts now. Not that there is anything deleterious in that action or anything negative about it in my estimation. It is just giving credit to Lou instead of Abe for the instrument's current sound and characteristics? Any comments?
First off, in my opinion for what it's worth, that Bass is NOT a Prescott Bass. What is it then? I think it is a Yankee Prescott "School" Bass made by someone who 'copied' or was 'influenced' by his work or model. The Scroll is not a Prescott Scroll and the FFs are not Prescott either. The body, well that is a Gamba shaped Bass that could be made by any 19th century Bass maker.

Now, my Prescott, a real one was restored by Arnold who only did what was needed. I have since sold that Bass by the way. The Varnish, corner blocks, tail block and FFs and Scroll were all in its original condition. The Scroll needed repair and a new Neck graft. The Bass was cut from the C-bouts over 100 years ago and was converted to a 4-string. A Dearborn Label was in the Bass as well and I suspect the did some of these modifications for a customer. The Varnish is more of a stain and Shellac than Varnish that we know of from Europe either Spirit or Oil based. Arnold cleaned it as best he could and did minimal touch-up only. All the crossbars were replaced and only one corner block repaired or replaced (not sure which). The Bassbar was not the original but the second installed as we could see a scar from the original next to it. The Top was in perfect shape with the FFs wings still attached so he just trimmed the Bar slightly as it was on the crude side look wise. It was not even completly sanded so you can see the old oxidation where it was left alone.

A restoration should only fix what needs to fixed and modifications kept to a minimum in order to keep the integrity of the maker. Exceptions being re-finish IF is was done before and botched. Re-graduate only if it needs to be from over thickness and sound loss or add breast patches to restore overly thinned wood and then re-graduate with the added wood. Block or shoulder cut only if the Bass was made unplayable by today’s standards and/or the string length is too long for today’s orchestral players. Change Tuners or Tailpiece IF they are broken, don't work or don't match the Bass.

Currently, I have several old or original non-ebony Tailpieces on some of my Basses. These Basses are the Gilkes, Batchelder, Martini and Cornerless Italian. They will remain on the Bass as long as I own them unless something breaks beyond repair.
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Old 02-16-2007, 10:43 PM
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Thank You!!!! Mr. Smith! You weren't there to comment, and I knew it would be well worth hearing. I did follow the posts on the restoration of your Prescott on the "Yankee Bass" thread.

I really don't know if Lou changed the bar or not. So don't quote me on that one. The big controversy was over the varnish. I just find that kind of ironic considering the more serious changes, and now I think it is even more ironic if this is, as you say, not really a Prescott.
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Old 02-16-2007, 11:03 PM
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Cool TB..

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Originally Posted by David Powell View Post
Thank You!!!! Mr. Smith! You weren't there to comment, and I knew it would be well worth hearing. I did follow the posts on the restoration of your Prescott on the "Yankee Bass" thread.

I really don't know if Lou changed the bar or not. So don't quote me on that one. The big controversy was over the varnish. I just find that kind of ironic considering the more serious changes, and now I think it is even more ironic if this is, as you say, not really a Prescott.
I have been banned from posting over on TB ever since I dared them to be fair, honest and truthful but the fact remains that it's a cash-cow for paul and he wont let any threads or posts interfere with his advertisers. One of my posts was deleted for no reason other than thru a light joke on the theme set, incriminated an advertiser. The one who owns ALL the banner ads there or at least 90% of it.

Trust me, if that was a Prescott it would have Prescott FFs and Scroll and not a partial look-a-like. On the Bassbar, it's no biggie. It should only be changed if it need to and at that point the Top should be fully restored. I would rather have 20% original varnish left and the rest touched up and matched under a clear coat then to see any bass re-finished to look pretty. I know some out here have a past and a love/respect with Lou. I have talked with him on the phone a few years ago about the origin of my Mystery Bass and he was a gentleman 100% of the way. As far as the re-fin practice, I think it's a bad habbit that he's stuck in in his mind. Old dog/new tricks syndrome maybe.

Hey, at least he gave Arnold some help when he started out in the biz so he can't be all that bad if a Luthier at that high level respects him. On the Prescott naming, more shops make that mistake for one reason or another than shops that stick to the facts for accuracy rather than the easy way out or for profit. Sometimes it's best to say "I'm not sure who really made it 'cause I wasn't there" or "School of _____"!
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Old 02-16-2007, 11:50 PM
Bob Branstetter Bob Branstetter is offline
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"Restoration" is a word that I've come to despise when I see it used by people who think that restoration consists of buying a can of paint stripper and a can of varnish at Lowe's or Home Depot and then completing the job over a weekend.

Real professional "Restoration" can mean different things depending on who the restoration is being done for. A true restoration, the kind that a museum would want, would be returning the instrument to near the condition that it left the maker's hands or at least as close as is practical considering the modifications that might have been made over the life of the instrument. (Just try to find a Stradivarius violin with the original neck.)

Restoration for an instrument that is going to be played by a professional player is an altogether different thing. You won't find too many 3 string basses being used today. Neck grafts to change the string length and modifications to change the neck angle and over-stand are the norm. Even cutting down the body is considered acceptable. The emphasis is on making the instrument structurally sound while making the instrument meet modern playing standards and retaining most of what the original maker created. In truth, most of the time, we do what the owner wants done even if it is not necessarily the way we would like to do it. (Few luthiers are so well off that they can afford to turn away big money making jobs.)

Refinishing is something we all try to avoid for all but the most extreme cases, but there is disagreement among luthiers as to the type of varnish that should be used for "restorations". On old basses, the goal for most of us when doing retouching or when refinishing MUST be done, is to use a varnish that is as close to the original appearance as possible since it's anybody's guess as to the actual composition of the original varnish. On some of the modern factory produced basses, like the Kays, we may know the composition of the finish, yet some try to "improve" them by using oil varnishes. I still enjoy taking an old Kay or King and doing my best to return it to near-mint appearance using the same Nitrocellulose lacquer and aniline dyes as were used when they were made and even reproducing the painted purfling. To me, that is a restoration even though the bass may not be considered old by some purists.
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Last edited by Bob Branstetter; 02-19-2007 at 08:49 PM. Reason: minor clarifications
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Old 02-19-2007, 02:07 PM
David Hosking David Hosking is offline
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Default Neck radii over the centuries

Ken,
The work in the neck graft photo looks classy.
Have neck radii changed much over the centuries? David
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Old 02-19-2007, 03:57 PM
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Cool Neck Graft..

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Originally Posted by David Hosking View Post
Ken,
The work in the neck graft photo looks classy.
Have neck radii changed much over the centuries? David
That was my Prescott. Arnold did a great job keeping the shapes original. If you look close thru the Varnish you can see his work next to Abe's.
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Old 05-12-2007, 12:05 PM
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Lightbulb Hart Bass under the Knife!

A few days ago I visited Arnold and saw the Top of my Hart Bass hitting the home stretch. The Top was pressed out from some sinkage but as Arnold explained, some areas were pressed back in. Apparently, when the center is pushed down under the Bridge other area bulge out like a balloon when you squeeze. It took several months to get the Top re-shaped but it least one restorer in London re-graduated the Top if not more than one. The last being done in 1944 as inscribed in the Bass "Repaired and Tone improved by _ _ _". A dangerous statement made by a Maker/Restorer noted by his timeless inscription carved into the inner Back.

From that 'Repair' in 1944 if not others before, the Top was left too thin in a few areas so new Wood had to be added and then once again, re-graduated to meet with the existing old wood. In about a month or so, all the cracks will be studded and edge work completed. (Arnold? You taking pics as usual? I forgot to bring my Camera on Monday.. swy..)

The Ribs on this Bass were completely doubled and it was not really necessary. Around the Block area a separate Rib was grafted meeting the other tow a few inches from the Block making it a 3-pc lower section. This piece needs to be replaced and re-grafted as well. Doubling in this area will most likely be needed but as for the other Ribs, they all need new Linings as they were either missing or completely 'shot'.

The Flat Back of this Bass is about the best I have ever seen wood and condition wise combined!
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Old 07-28-2007, 01:39 PM
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Thumbs up Block Repairs..

I currently have two olde English Basses in Restoration at two different shops. Arnold has my Hart Bass and Biase has my Mystery Bass. Within the same week recently I visited them both and to my surprise I saw the exact same type of method/concept use on both Basses by these two experienced Luthiers.

The Neck Block in the Mystery Bass may or may not be the original but it is very old. The Bass has repairs from 100-150 years ago and the Bass was old at that time as well. The current cut in the Neck Block is an old Dovetail joint but it's pretty messy and can easily be an alteration if the Block is the original. Also, this Bass being build with more Viol style internal work than Violin, could have been a Dovetail as well being that the olde English followed the German School way before they went Italian. This Bass being more of a 4/4 size with about a 44" String length needs a Block-cut to help shorten the playing length. The Block is not quite big enough to cut into and have enough support for the new Neck Graft so Biase laminated a piece of Spruce along the bottom of the Block to make up for the cut that will be made as well as change it from a Dovetail to a standard Mortise. The rest of the length will be made up with the Neck Graft which will be about 1" shorter than the current Neck which may have been an 'Eb' as well. WE should end up with a D-neck just under 42". The Bridge will also be cheated if and as needed being that the Top is very strong and the FFs Eyes are a 'mile' apart (190mm or so). Moving the Bridge forward brings the notes closer to the player.

A few days later I was up at Arnold's shop looking over the work on my Hart Bass (while picking up my Martini and dropping off my Batchelder mainly) when I looked at the Neck Block. Arnold had laminated a piece of Spruce along the bottom of the Block just like Biase did to 'beef-up' it's holding Strength as the mortise area needed to me re-cut slightly. This Block looks to be its original as well.

Two different olde English Basses. Two different Luthiers trained by different people doing the identical type repair. In both Basses, I had expected them to make a new Neck Block because there were problems with them in similar by also different ways. In both cases, the Luthiers decided to preserve the integrity of the Bass as best possible and repair the existing Block.

For this, I thanked and complimented them individually at the time of discovery. A warm feeling in my body went thru me when I saw how much they each respected the Bass they were working on.

On the hart Bass, it did have to get one new Cornerblock made and a new Tailblock. I have the old ones in my collection saved in my office.

On the Mystery Bass, all the Blocks that were on the Bass are still on the Bass. They are ancient and still in 100% working order but with about 200 years of oxidation on them.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it!"
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Old 07-28-2007, 07:09 PM
Charles Federle Charles Federle is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken Smith View Post
I currently have two olde English Basses in Restoration at two different shops. Arnold has my Hart Bass and Biase has my Mystery Bass. Within the same week recently I visited them both and to my surprise I saw the exact same type of method/concept use on both Basses by these two experienced Luthiers.

The Neck Block in the Mystery Bass may or may not be the original but it is very old. The Bass has repairs from 100-150 years ago and the Bass was old at that time as well. The current cut in the Neck Block is an old Dovetail joint but it's pretty messy and can easily be an alteration if the Block is the original. Also, this Bass being build with more Viol style internal work than Violin, could have been a Dovetail as well being that the olde English followed the German School way before they went Italian. This Bass being more of a 4/4 size with about a 44" String length needs a Block-cut to help shorten the playing length. The Block is not quite big enough to cut into and have enough support for the new Neck Graft so Biase laminated a piece of Spruce along the bottom of the Block to make up for the cut that will be made as well as change it from a Dovetail to a standard Mortise. The rest of the length will be made up with the Neck Graft which will be about 1" shorter than the current Neck which may have been an 'Eb' as well. WE should end up with a D-neck just under 42". The Bridge will also be cheated if and as needed being that the Top is very strong and the FFs Eyes are a 'mile' apart (190mm or so). Moving the Bridge forward brings the notes closer to the player.

A few days later I was up at Arnold's shop looking over the work on my Hart Bass (while picking up my Martini and dropping off my Batchelder mainly) when I looked at the Neck Block. Arnold had laminated a piece of Spruce along the bottom of the Block just like Biase did to 'beef-up' it's holding Strength as the mortise area needed to me re-cut slightly. This Block looks to be its original as well.

Two different olde English Basses. Two different Luthiers trained by different people doing the identical type repair. In both Basses, I had expected them to make a new Neck Block because there were problems with them in similar by also different ways. In both cases, the Luthiers decided to preserve the integrity of the Bass as best possible and repair the existing Block.

For this, I thanked and complimented them individually at the time of discovery. A warm feeling in my body went thru me when I saw how much they each respected the Bass they were working on.

On the hart Bass, it did have to get one new Cornerblock made and a new Tailblock. I have the old ones in my collection saved in my office.

On the Mystery Bass, all the Blocks that were on the Bass are still on the Bass. They are ancient and still in 100% working order but with about 200 years of oxidation on them.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it!"

This story makes me very happy, not only because instruments that really should be taken well care of are, but because in my opinion they are being taken care of correctly.

I just had to have major surgery for my bass since it was damaged in transit, and I keep almost the exact same sentiments. Don't remove original woods if you don't have to. To me regraduation and refinishing are extremely unwanted operations to be done to a bass.

Through my basses life as I could afford it has undergone many things in order to be restored. These have included a new bass bar, setting the bass up properly, converting it from a 5 back to a 4 string and mostly the repairing of alot of bad work. The bad work is what has been the worst to deal with, the bass used to have alot of extra wood (maybe five pounds of unneeded or extremely heavy cletting was removed and recletted as needed), the bass bar was closer to a 2x4 then anything I had ever seen before, and to make matters worse most of the repairs were done with white glue. I have had to have this all done in 3 stages over the last ten years (being a poor student and having costly repairs are a bad combination), and there are still some work to the bass that could be done, mostly taking apart the rest of the cracks and putting back together so that they are all pretty, but that is something I will have done if and when the top ever needs to come off again. I agree very much with Ken's opinion -- If it is not broke then don't fix it. I do have to say though each time I had a major set of repairs done the bass has come back at least twice as good as before.
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Old 05-01-2010, 11:53 PM
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Lightbulb did I mention..

Did I mention Scroll repairs from being cut in the past to fit a C-Extension.

A neck graft was performed a few decades ago and the pitch of the Scroll to the fingerboard plane did not allow for an Extension FB without the cutting of the Scroll. Amongst all things about the condition of this bass at time of purchase the thing that bothered me the most then was the cutting of the Scroll.

This is how it looked when I took off the Extension and made new Nut so I can play it normally strung until it went into restoration.


I just got some email pics from Arnold showing the repair of the Scroll cut. Although the repair wood is still in the white I an confident under varnish it will match up just fine. The grain and type of wood used for the repair matches the original very well.

Maybe Arnold will post some pics of it in progress. And then again, maybe not. It's totally up to him. It's my bass but it's his work. When all done, of course I will show it off. Until then, it's in his hands.
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Old 11-11-2012, 10:24 PM
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Thumbs up Tweaking the Hart..

I posted this in the Classical Strings/new Pirastro Deluxe, but it's mainly about the bass itself, the Hart. I think this is something people should be aware of when major restorations are performed.

That Flex proto set I was on the fence about? On and off the Hart, then Mougenot and then back on the Hart? Remember my comments here about that?

Well then, we did something..


Unrelated (partially) to strings, I sent the Hart in to Arnold for a 5-year check-up on the restoration break-in. A lot of new wood in there. The Back has a new center and lower brace, the upper-mid left out and only studded on the angle-break. New half-edging all around and 3 different breast patches. One at each end of the bar and one under the post. so.. I asked Arnold to take off the Top and examine the repair wood and see if anything is making the bass overly stiff. The Flex Deluxe's were smooth one one bass and stiff on the Hart so after some nearly out-patient surgery (some of the repair wood trimmed), the Top back on and re-strung with the
same strings, a 4th time going on a bass, 3rd time on the Hart, the bass is like half new again. Not new in sound, just improved as if it's a different bass. Twice the power on the bottom as before and the upper notes, as smooth as they were before the first restoration. These strings NOW sound and feel great on this bass as opposed to before.

I attribute this to two possible things. The bass is improved and the strings are broken in combined but, they were broken in the 2nd time they went on and the bass sounded like itself, so it's beyond the break-in theory.


If a bass is tight within itself, a tight string will not help it. It will only amplify that situation. Like putting dark strings on a dark bass. In many cases between a bass and its chosen string, opposites attract.


The Hart is a dark smooth bass. Just not overly powerful, before! Now, it's a cannon and the Flex Deluxe set seems perfectly at home with it. I will play these strings till they 'go'. Then I will put a new set of them on that I already tried on the Panormo. I took them off after a brief trial and will have them available for the Hart when needed. These strings can make your day!


Theadditional work just performed on this bass is something I experienced on my old Italian bass over 35 years ago. Trimming the repair wood that was added can make a huge difference but you have to test the bass for awhile with the work done as-is before determining if the work needs to be trimmed. If repaired too lightly, the repairs could fail causing damage to the bass that was just repaired or new damage. Going back in after the restoration within a reasonable test/break-in time (2-5 years) is preferred.
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Old 11-12-2012, 10:36 AM
Scott Pope Scott Pope is offline
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I agree. It's all a balance between strong enough to withstand use, but still light enough to not impede resonance. I wish I could hear the Hart in person.
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Old 11-12-2012, 02:21 PM
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Cool

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I agree. It's all a balance between strong enough to withstand use, but still light enough to not impede resonance. I wish I could hear the Hart in person.
Well, I will be playing it starting tonight, Monday thru Sunday with Tuesday off. Come by any night and hear it with an Orchestra. Call me for directions!
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Old 11-13-2012, 03:59 PM
Scott Pope Scott Pope is offline
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Can't afford to get to the east coast from the mid west right now. Thanks for the invitation. One of these days I will take you up on that.
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Old 11-13-2012, 05:39 PM
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Cool

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Can't afford to get to the east coast from the mid west right now. Thanks for the invitation. One of these days I will take you up on that.
Ok, I played the Hart last night and it gave out much more sound than ever before. My newly acquired old Lionhead (Bohemian/German?) is another bass I need to break in and evaluatenow as well

I the case of the Lionhead, it came to me already restored in Europe shortly before its arrival. Some of the things done inside are not exactly the way I would have had them done here but I was assured it's well restored. I am also considering a C-extension for that bass if I decide to keep it for personal use. I have used it on a few rehearsals but never in concert.

One way to see if all is done well inside is to just put it thru the test. Use it and see what happens. I just finished dressing the fingerboard to correct some buzzing on the G-string that only happens in pizz, not arco. That means the high spots are minor. Now, the bass plays just fine without any buzz with my set-up and playing style. I have off from this rehearsal schedule for two days but I have another orchestra rehearsal tomorrow, different program. On the concert for this weekend though, I have need for the c-extension but it is not a must. I can tune down to Eb on one of the pieces and play the only Db in the piece up the octave while my partner plays the lower note on his bass with a German mechanical Horst extension. There are a few Eb's in another piece that I can play up and maybe one low C so the conductor said it would be ok to split the octaves in those few spots. There are some other spots that are already divided and I am playing the upper part being the first chair and him with a couple of extension notes so playing a few more notes up would fit in just fine.

So, now that I know the Hart is fine and ready for anything or anyone, I need to better evaluate this old Lion and see if it's been 'tamed' or not with that last restoration. The only way to know is to play it and see if anything breaks. I still need to get some set-up things changed including bridge, post, tailwire and maybe a few other things so until then, the bass is playable to test. If I like the sound now and after the set-up, then an extension is on the menu, Lion and all!

I LIKE how this bass sounds, feels and plays. It slightly reminds me of the Storioni I recently let go. More of a 'butterball' sound as one luthier referred to about the Storioni's sound as compared to a Gagliano and Guadagnini we compared it to a few years ago. My kind of sound!
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