Psst... Ready to join TalkBass and start posting, make new friends, sell your gear, and more?  Register your free account in 30 seconds.

1920's French bass

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Scot, Aug 13, 2004.


  1. Scot

    Scot Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2004
    Pacifica, CA, USA
    What do you guys think of this bass at a glance?

    http://www.thestringbass.com/french.html

    I'm looking hard for a bass in this price range but it sure seems to be slim pickins here in the SF Bay area when it comes to older carved basses. I've only been able to play 2 early-mid 1900's German flatback basses so far.

    Back to the French bass - If I end up checking it out and liking it I'm going to have my teacher check it out but I would like to hear if you guys have any opinions just from looking at the pictures and reading the shop's descriptions/appraisal. It's located an hour away from me but I'm thinking about taking a trip up there this weekend.

    Thanks in advance.

    -Scot
     
  2. From the photos, it looks like the scroll has been broken off at some time and repaired. I suggest that you insist on taking the instrument to an bass luthier not associated with the transaction for a second opinion prior to the sale. I'm always wary of those kind of repairs.
     
  3. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    The neck repairs with bridge, fingerboard, strings and set-up can easily run 5K with a few touch-ups on the Bass. The Bass needs a clean-up at least and who knows what else.

    The Scroll has a bit more curve/sweep than most late 19th century French Basses and the wood on the head looks more of the type used in Eastern Europe like Germany, Czeck and Hungary.

    The Gears are also turn of the century German and not the typical French made gears. The Bass does have a French look but I am not convinced of that origin.

    Look at these pics to compare some heads;

    French; http://www.worldofbasses.de/Instrumente_03/Jaquet_Gand_1895/Gand.html

    German; http://www.worldofbasses.de/Instrumente_04/Neuner-Hornsteiner/Neuner.html

    Hungary; http://www.worldofbasses.de/Instrumente_04/Paulus-Pilat-Budapest-1907/Pilat.html

    Although all the Basses posted are nice instruments, but in the class we are discussing, price is secondary. The Bass for sale wether it be French, German or other doesn't matter at that price. Repairs cost the same regardless. You can put 5-10k of repairs into a French, German or Italian Bass just the same.
    Time is money and the Luthier doesn't care where your Bass was made or how valuable it is. It will cost the same to repair regardless.

    Get a good Estimate of repairs before buying the Bass. A reputable seller should let you give a 'full price' deposit to check these things out with the option the return or re-negotiate the price after a reasonable trial period.

    I recently bought two Basses in NY and paid the 'Full' asking price to hold and evaulate the Bass. One of them settled at the asking price, the other was negotiated down a bit and recieved a check for the difference.

    Either one could have been returned at any time for a full refund if returned in "as-loaned condition". The seller just held my payment untill all was agreed. That's the professional way in my opinion.
     
  4. Scot

    Scot Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2004
    Pacifica, CA, USA
    Thanks for taking the time to look, guys, and thanks for the links, Ken. I think I may still try to take a trip up there but I'm a little discouraged now. If I do consider buying it I will definitely take it to my teacher and a luthier to get an apraisal. I'll let you guys know if I do get up there, although my hopes are not very high now.

    Jeez, it's difficult to find a bass. I figured the hardest part would be getting the financing, but not the case it turns out. :bawl:

    It sounds like I may need to take a road trip down to LA and see Lisa at Bass Works and World of Strings in Long Beach. Shoot, I'm even considering taking a road trip to NYC. I keep checking the classifieds here and on Bob G's site but there's not many basses available and nothing in this area. I guess when you find a good bass you hang on to it.

    Thanks again for the help!

    -Scot
     
  5. Scot

    Scot Supporting Member

    Mar 20, 2004
    Pacifica, CA, USA
    Thanks for the tips and for posting the link, Maestro. Man, you've been so helpful with all of my DB needs that I feel like I owe you a dinner or something! Also, I don't know if you read my other post but my rented bass is playing great after having Kamimoto install the adjustable bridge and lower the action. As far as I'm conserned, it plays and sounds better than the 2 old German flatbacks I've played.

    -Scot
     
  6. bassphase

    bassphase Supporting Member

    Jul 26, 2004
    San Francico Bay Area

    I just got back from Bruce's shop in Petaluma and played several of his basses including the French bass mentioned. It sounded very nice but not amazing. It looks like somebody jumped on the top. The sides were split and the scroll had been broken off. Everything had, of course, been repaired probably by various luthiers. It looks like it could be a maintenance nightmare.

    A couple of Bruce's Chinese basses sounded better. He has a German bass that was very nice. I thought the instruments he had set up were very nicely done. I wouldn't have a problem having him do work for me. He seems a little eccentric but very professional and I'm guessing his time is very vaulable to him.



    bob
     
  7. Maestro

    I've had work done by both Jon and Lisa and they are both excellent. Both have a lot of basses, but I like Jon's shop better since it is less cramped. Lisa has basses laying or standing on every available surface in her shop, and it's hard to move around without risking stepping on someone elses bass. As far as the slab cut bass goes, I had that very bass on approval for about a month. Here's my assement of it: It sounds good but is not loud and is not even in all registers. My teacher did not like it for the price. It weighs a ton and the scroll hits the floor when you lay it on it's side. At the time I was considering it (when Lisa had it), I was told that the owner claimed it was Italian - be cautious. I had another luthier look at it with me for their opinion. The thinking was that it looks a lot like a faked eastern european bass - the inside is artificailly darkened. Also the construction is suspect. Epoxy was used to fill a bad knot on the neck heel. The glue joints on the plates looked like they were ready to come apart with glue foaming out the sides. Regardless of where it was made, it is not old and was not well made. It does look cool though. It would be worth condidering but not at 10k IMHO. I wish people that sold basses were more honest and open about what they were selling.

    Jon
     
  8. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    San Francisco, CA
    No, I think you're right in the fact that it's hard to find a decent expensive bass. My teacher (Glenn Richman) is having a hard time finding something in the $10k range and wasn't happy with anything on this side of the country. He said he went down to World of Strings and was still disappointed in what they had to offer. He was looking for a vintage bass. So now he's probably going to jump on a plane to go to NYC to look.

    I helped him search around a little bit and I found nothing myself online that is nearby. And if I did find something, the selection usually is pretty limited, except for new basses for <$5000. But then again, he's picky too. None of the Christophers (even the 500 series) was good enough.
     
  9. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    On that Red Slab Cut Sloped shoulder Bass; I saw it advertised a while ago as an old French Bass "with highly figured top". Sounds like a Guitar Ad !!

    I have NEVER in my life seen a French Bass with a Slab top. It even looks faked and new in the poorly shown web photos I saw in the last year or so.

    Sound IS the Key. If the sound is not there, even with a big name Label or attribution, Don't buy it.

    For Basses in NY, don't forget to check at Paul Biase's (Biase-Fantoni Violins). They have a great selection up to and over 150K as well if your going into a Major Orchestra or 5-15k For regular Professional Gigs. Basses move in and out so it may be best to call and see what he has in your range. The visit 'will' be an experience either way.
     
  10. godoze

    godoze

    Oct 21, 2002
    I'll second that.
     
  11. godoze

    godoze

    Oct 21, 2002
    I just looked at the pictures. Doesn't look at all French to me. I have to agree on the difficulty of finding the right bass.

    I've played about 60 basses in the last 6 months and i've yet to find the one to call "home." I'm about ready to give up the hunt for an old bass and just buy smoething new.
     
  12. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Don, A new Bass? You? Common..... Home is "after" you do your stuff to it. NO Bass was EVER Home for me until I put 'my touches' to it !!

    Maestro, You know my Martini I think. It is a 1919 made under the 'eye' of Scarampella if not within the shop. BY 1942 they are more likely his 'settled' style as in the beginning, young makers usually follow the leader (master) which is not always the case in thier latter years. Your Bass may with all intentions have been copied from a later Martini.

    I know both Father and Son Woodall thru the phone and mail. They seem to be reputable but opinions can vary greatly.

    http://members.cruzio.com/~gwfine/

    Your own Eye and Ear should be the final judge.
     
  13. godoze

    godoze

    Oct 21, 2002
    I don't mind laying out the cash for it. I just haven't found Mrs. Right. That, and at this point I do not have a "decent" bass to play in public.
     
  14. godoze

    godoze

    Oct 21, 2002
  15. Thanks Maestro

    I didn't mean to come across as paranoid, and I don't mean to question the Owner's honesty. I understand that with some basses there realy is no telling what is original and was isn't. I just get discouraged when it seems like people are making up pedigrees just to ask for more money. Educated guessing is another story. It is interesting to note that the slab cut top is more indicative of Italian than French origin. My first guess was that it was an amateur maker from somewhere. The outline is kind of guarnerian. I think I saw that french bass at Lisa's. Was that the one with the really wide grain on the top in the main room or was it one of the basses in the downstairs room? When I was last at Jon's, I ran into Robert Hurst who was getting his Bohmann (like Paul's only 4-string) worked on and getting it fit with a new set of Obligatos. He was really nice to talk to although I didn't know it was him until after he left. He is a certainly a monster player.

    Jon
     
  16. Hey Scott

    That bass is cute. If the structural problems with the scroll/neck were OK and it sounds good it's probably worth it based on the pictures alone. It looks to be an intrinsically better bass, regardless of origin, than the typical German factory bass but may not be as sturdy. Those German basses tend to be to thick in the top sometimes.

    Jon
     
  17. Bruce Sexauer is an extremely well respected luthier! It seems he told you the truth about the consignment bass. Have you seen any of Bruces work that make you conclude that you would not take your bass to him? It seems illogical to infer that if a professional chooses to work out of his home or in the boonies he must be second rate. I believe Bruce has a looong waiting list for his handmade instruments. Why in Gods name would he move to San Francisco when he could work from home and be close to his family? That seems like a personal choice rather than a reflection of his professionalism.
     
  18. Consignment is always a problem, because the seller wants top dollar, but does not want to invest any money into fixing it up to get it there. Kind of like selling a house in fixer shape for retail. But with basses, one needs to be able to play it and hear it and fall in love with the sound. I personally started requiring all who sell on consignment at our shops to invest in a setup and repair before I would sell the instrument. It weeds out the serious ones and makes sure that all are good representatives. I think it helps.

    I have heard great things about Lisa and her work. I just think that she is too busy to get to setting up consignment basses, especially if she has other paying jobs lying in wait.

    Also, the new Hammond Ashley shop in San Diego is open and you should go and visit down there and say hello. www.Hammondashley.com