After many years of GAS I finally purchased my own Wendler Elecrocoustic bass. While I held to the basic Wendler formula I asked for a few special specifications.
-Elongated body rather than neck.
-Same upper horn length as regular 34" model
-Target length of 48"
The one options from his usual list that I choose was
-Satin Sunburst finish
Necks are always carved to customer specifications, mine were:
-String Spacing between 18 and 19mm.
-1st fret 19mm
-12th fret 21mm
-Width at nut 1.75 inches
-Neck profile gentle C shape
-Fingerboard radius between 10" and 12".
At first it seemed a bit muted but then I looked over and realized I had the amp gain down a bit which is common when playing my Darkstar bass or my Quarter-pounder equipped P-bass. With the Gain rolled up it began to sing. Plenty of Mwah, though the sustain does seem to be less than you would get from a bass with a solid metal bridge bolted to the body and a harder body wood. It does have a single metal saddle, but the bridge and nut are wood and the tailpiece is floating.
I had a tendancy to favor the mag pickup for a stronger output, but rolling in some of the piezo and increasing the gain at the amp brings in alot of the "acoustic" charachter. Pushing a bit more towards the piezo brings in a bit of the string noise which can help you cut through a bit. Even sweeping all the way to the piezo doesn't result in the harshness that one would expect but it does have a lower output than other settings. I don't pretend to understand Dave's passive "MagPi" electronics which I think use the mag to buffer the piezo and has only Volume and Blend controls, but I like it.
It's wearing flatwound strings and it's character ranges from P-bass (not surprising since there's a split coil "P" under the soapbar) to something more like an upright. It doesn't have the hollowness of an upright, but has alot of the resonance of tone (hard to describe). Not surprisingly, this is overall a deep and warm sounding bass.
I had requested an elongated body for 3 reasons. First, to visually counter the longer neck on 35" scale. I was fine with as few as 18 frets, but Dave got me 20 frets which is the same as my P-bass and T-40 and more than I'll ever need on a fretless.
The second reason for the longer body was to avoid having to lengthen the upper horn. I'm just not a fan of long horns. Still, the end of the neck is about parallel with the 10th fret as opposed to the 11th fret on a P-bass.
Despite being 35" scale, the reach feels the same as my P-bass. Putting both basses on the same strap I did an unscientific test placing my elbow next to my body and seeing where my hand meets the neck in an aproximate playing position. On both basses my pinky hits just about at the 3rd fret.
The 35" scale and 1.75" nut is a very unusual combination for a 4 string bass (part of the impetus for going custom), but it and the neck dimensions are about the same as on my Carlo (custom 4-94 style instrument) and it fits me like a glove.
Here's a bit more of the neck side profile which also shows the neck dots which are at every fret but are larger at the frets that would have dots on a fretted instrument. Very clever.
The third reason for a longer/larger body was to increase balance even if it added a few ounces of weight. On a narrow leather strap there is zero neck dive and the sub-6-pound weight feels like a feather. I put on my long, slippery seatbelt strap and I was able to get just a bit of dive by swaying back and forth a bit. Even with the slippy seatbelt though, it took only the smallest bit of pressure to steady it. I was genuinely surprised by this. I wasn't worried as my frettless playing position is high enough that my arm will rest across the body but I was fully expecting to receive an instrument that with notable neck dive. Thus, the nice balance was a pleasant surprise.
Of course, because of the overall length (also due to the upright style bridge/tailpiece) the butt of the bass extends further away from the player than most other basses. The resulting plucking position pushes more towards the neck which really suits the acoustic tone this bass is going for. Plucking near the bridge is easy, but those used to plucking at the bridge might find their hand instinctively settling over the pickup instead.
I was a bit worried from the last set of pics (taken in full sunlight) from Dave that the sunburst would be a bit too yellow, but indoors, it's warm and subdued. The edge of the body looks opaque in pictures but in reality is a warm ruddy-wine-brown that you can see the cedar grain through even at the body edge.
Depending on the lighting the dark color is a bit hard to capture. It's somewhere between these two.
I was also not sure how the pickguard would look, being rather towards the butt of the instrument rather than the tradtional instrument position of more towards the neck. However in person and when wearing the bass it looks very natural. I felt the same about the larger magnetic pickup that Dave has recently switched to, but in person it also looks fine.
Other Construction Details
There is no control cavity in the bass. The controls, mag-pi circut and input jack are all mounted on top of the body and under the floating pickguard. except for a small bit for the wire, there is no route for the magnetic pup either. It floats above the body on two thin (possibly foam) spacers.
As seen above, the body is carved/arched front and back. Seems about 30-50% thinner than my P-bass depending on where you measure. This is clearly the source of the incredibly light weight.
Interestingly he used square head screws to hold the neck in place.
I had to look very close to find anything imperfect, but I found three.
-Just next to the fingerboard, on the treble side of the neck heel there is a small dark flaw in the finish on the body. It looks to be the location where there had been a finish flaw that had caused two delays in the delivery of the bass. It's in the darkest part of the finish and is hard to see, but it is there.
-The neck heel is tight all the way around except for the gap near the bass side heel corner extending a bit along the neck heel. You probably couldn't fit the edge of a business card in there, but it seems right to note it.
-There are a couple rough spots on the edge of the pickguard where it was cut or routed. Really a niggling thing, but it is something that could have been sanded away
I don't really consider it a flaw, but I should note the delays. This bass took almost 2 months longer to deliver than was originally projected. There was an illness, and two issues in finishing that slowed things.
However, Dave was in touch all the way along and provided some in-progress pictures as well. I wasn't in any particular hurry so it doesn't bother me, but folks -especially those who have not ordered a custom instrument before- should probably be aware that it may take a bit of time for delivery.
Also, it came in a free gig bag which was a nice touch since Dave had lowered the cost a bit because I was willing to forego a case.
All in all I'm very happy with this bass. It's very handsome, has the tone I was looking for and the weight and ergonomics are quite impressive. I really liked my LTD 214 Fretless P-bass (with EMG Geezer Buttler P/J pups) which I sold as part of getting the $ for this bass but I don't regret/miss it at all. This bass does everything that bass did (except for the soloed J tone which I didn't use anyways) and is way more comfortable with a much richer tone.
$1400 seems rather like a bargain for a custom bass that ticks off all the boxes and matches my prefferences so precisely. Dave was open to all my requests and though I haven't taken a calipers to every dimension yet he seems to have met all the specs I wanted.
A unique fretless electric bass.