After 20+ years; what do I have? (Any info appreciated!)

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by RobTheRiot, Apr 1, 2018.

  1. RobTheRiot


    Aug 31, 2016
    las Vegas, nv
    Hello DB side of TB!

    As a courtesy to those w/o much time, and knowing I will probably go on for a bit...
    TL;DR - any info or knowledge you can share about this Bass would be truly appreciated!!

    I mostly reside on the BG side because BG is and has been for a long time the main tool of my trade. However, long ago in the mid90’s at age 15 or so, I decided I wanted to go to college for Music/Recording Tech. I was told I’d have to get and study URB in addition to BG (and Bari Sax...). So, I started the search, and fell in love with this bass the second I saw her. We (Mom & I) had traveled all over NJ and into PA & NY, and looked at a lot of basses at a lot of stores, and the blonde, Birdseye finish grabbed me. (Thank god I didn’t get the one painted black & yellow in what looked like bed-liner! Ha!). Luckily it passed further inspection, and half of my bank account instantly disappeared. (The other half soon went to my first car - a 1984 Ford Escort stationwagon...ha!)
    I believe 1200$ went to each (although it was a while ago & I was still pretty young... may be off a little.)

    Right away, had the bridge replaced, the fingerboard refinished (planed?), the back of the neck sanded down to remove the finish & new strings.
    It played like a dream, and sounded like thunder to me. (Probably more like a nightmare to others while I learned to bow)

    So after school (I “unfortunately” only stayed 1 year - took 1 year off that lasted 15 until I went back to college a few years ago - the call of performing instead of studying got me), I didn’t trust having my baby in punk houses and apartments so kept it at parents place. Years passed; moved overseas, playing full time on BG i just didn’t have a need to transport it over to me.

    Anyway, moved back to US, and approx 5 years ago was blessed to purchase my first house, which finally gave me space to have it. Dad brought it out from Jerz when came to visit, and finally we were reunited.

    After over 10 years of not seeing her, she was just as pretty as I remembered. I’ve been gradually getting my chops back, and although BG keeps me busy, I’m beginning to search for opportunities to start performing with it.

    Still plays very well, and altho I know it’s on the cheaper side, I think it sounds good.

    I apologize for going on so long; I guess I wanted to share this bass’ long but limited history with me, and why after all these years I’d really like to know more accurate info about it.
    I’ve never considered selling it, altho $ has been needed at times, and Dad (bless him for not selling it like he did to other stuff he had stored for me!) def would’ve liked to have gotten that damn thing out of his way many times.

    SO, when I bought it I was told it was German, and made some time in the 30’s.
    I’ve done some research but haven’t found much specific info, and before gigging it I’d like to know more about it.
    If you can contribute anything, I’d be extremely grateful!!

    Manufacturer? Age? Make? Model? Materials?
    Any info would be great!!

    **(I’ve been curious many times, but finding TB a few years ago & seeing the wealth of knowledge freely shared, I knew I had to ask. I hate being another “what is this” thread, but hopefully you’ll at least enjoy the pics in trade for info!
    Hopefully if I start playing this out, you’ll be seeing more of me on this side!)

    Thank you!!

    ** - 1st pic I just think looks great w/ ex’s violin; all others I tried to show any & all parts that may be informative. 06DF3752-9BDD-4214-A9E2-8E03DA3E2146.jpeg 05C7296E-EFB8-4C11-B512-75ABE8B0D4EE.jpeg CFFB4F01-4581-4A1B-A930-AFE96E76344F.jpeg 3FBAF5EE-2F0E-444A-A9F8-EC5A519FAD0A.jpeg 81135B01-F3A7-4F89-9112-7433D4A8A4AB.jpeg 3CE75EBB-5902-4180-9FCC-DB9FCED02003.jpeg A5CBEA6C-07C7-465B-A0E6-3A575D476EA4.jpeg 03C953C9-984B-412D-BE1B-96E78D83719D.jpeg 72ADEB50-E8E1-491D-9B38-212F3C56E4A0.jpeg D5975FE5-C623-4CCC-B6C2-18554AF7390E.jpeg E3E42542-16EB-4A91-9638-E4C3FBEDDDB0.jpeg
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2018
  2. salcott

    salcott Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    NYC, Inwood.
    Looks like a nice German plywood bass in good condition. Play and enjoy!
    Sam Sherry, Selim and RobTheRiot like this.
  3. Like be a ‘50s Framus.
    RobTheRiot likes this.
  4. RobTheRiot


    Aug 31, 2016
    las Vegas, nv
    Thanks for response!

    I of course heard the term plywood a lot while reading about uprights, and figured price wise this probably was. However, because of the beautiful Birdseye figuring, I questioned that.

    A little reading later, and I see that my impression of “plywood” was a little misinformed and inaccurate; so this is a plywood bass, just the top piece of laminate is Birdseye. Correct?

    Thanks again!
    salcott likes this.
  5. RobTheRiot


    Aug 31, 2016
    las Vegas, nv
    Thanks for reply!

    Seeing your comment I googled 50’s Framus, and a few images in I saw a bass that looked strikingly similar.
    Thought my answer had been found by response #2! Ha!

    I’m obviously no expert, but to me the similarities were nearly complete: the body shape, the shape & construction of the scroll, and pic I found was even blonde wood (maple I assume), which I haven’t seen much. I def see why you answered what you did.

    The only major difference that was obvious to me is on the label - even tho the print & layout of both were also similar, the Framus label had the Framus name & logo clearly printed in lower right corner. Mine doesn’t, and instead has MKH printed at bottom.

    Is MKH the manufacturer of my bass, or a random piece of info irrelevant to my search? (Googling it was a dead end in the past).
    Also, were these basses like bass Guitars in Japan in the ‘60’s, where many were made in the same factory, just having different names put on?

    Thanks again!
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2018
  6. Yes. Large shops that supplied instruments to various retailers under house brand labels.
    RobTheRiot likes this.
  7. RobTheRiot


    Aug 31, 2016
    las Vegas, nv
    So doing some more looking today, I see that the labels in these really don’t mean much (a lot are pure fiction); except, possibly like the Framus above which had Framus logo on the label, possibly the BKH or BKN could possibly point to the company for whom it was produced?

    Is it possible at all to track down more info about this beyond “German shop” built? Any way to narrow down time frame or any other details thru build, markings or is it just a dead end?

    From what I’ve gleaned, even tho these were “mass produced” and plywood, the build quality on some is still considered pretty good? I’m always impressed with the intricate engraving on the brass plates for the tuning pegs.

    Again, I apologize for my long-winded-ness. I can’t seem to shut up on these threads! Ha!

    Thanks for all help so far, everyone else please chip in any facts you may know.

    I realized I forgot to post a pic of the endpin- not knowing what parts may be a clue, I’ll post it here.
  8. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Rob --

    There is one interesting and one important fact overlooked so far.

    The interesting fact is that the inside-face laminates of your c-bout and lower bout are mahogany. Mahogany is never, ever used in violin-family instruments. That supports @KUNGfuSHERIFF 's identification of Framus because Framus built guitars and had mahogany veneeers around. "Ach, you used mahogany, dumkopf! Ship it, Hans!"

    The important fact is, "Made In Germany." Your bass doesn't look old enough to be pre-WW2. Any label printed between May, 1949 and October, 1990 would have said, "Made in West Germany." (The early ones usually actually said, "Western Germany" which would have been another date clue.) So it's plausible to date your instrument to between 1945 and 1949, probably toward the latter date as the civilian economy came back to life in Germany. But just by sense of smell, I'm betting post-1990.

    That's an attractive-looking bass. Have at it, maestro!
    RobTheRiot likes this.
  9. RobTheRiot


    Aug 31, 2016
    las Vegas, nv
    Hi Sam - thanks for reply!

    Both points really seem to be quite telling, and I believe you really helped target a time frame.

    I felt like slapping myself across the forehead when I read your second point about Made in Germany label. Even tho I remember the idea of no more East & West Germany seemed strange to me at first, the nearly 30 years that’s interceded now has me accept Germany w/o a thought for the once divided nature of the country.

    I believe based on that, your 1945-1949 seems it may be a winner.
    The reason I don’t think it can be post 1990, is I purchased the bass in 1993 (maybe early 94). Even if it was one of the first items to leave reunited Germany, it would have been at tops barely 4 years old. Neither my bass instructor at the time, nor the luthier I brought it to for all the repairs said it was a new bass as opposed to an early to mid-century build.
    Also, would a 4 year old bass that was said to be a good purchase by my teacher (who I trusted & had decades of experience) have needed all the work it needed to clean up & modernize? Seems unlikely....

    Good eye on seeing the mahogany! That is def another interesting clue;

    Couple of questions come from that: did Framus build instruments then sell them to other retailers who put their own names on them? That could explain a Framus build w/o the Framus name, correct?
    Or was Framus hiring one of these German factories to build instruments for them, then sticking their own name on them? If that’s the case we can maybe assume that Framus asked whatever factory was doing their other builds to handle their upright builds too, thus the Mahogany?

    Thank you so much, seems like we’re really starting to reveal this bass’ history!!
  10. RobTheRiot


    Aug 31, 2016
    las Vegas, nv
    Last night I reminded myself why I had to ask about this bass here: using what clues I had before seeing @Sam Sherry ’s post, I spent over an hour on google trying to find an image of any bass with similar features - engraved brass on headstock & specific design of striping on upper bout.

    Finding a German factory build with the ornate engraved brass on tuning pegs was hard enough - most having completely plain or much more simple designs. Also, I could not find one with an identical pattern of striping on the upper bout, between the shoulders.

    Any idea how many factories were producing basses in Germany? Couldn’t have been THAT many, could it?

    We’ll see if narrowing search to late 40’s helps find something.

    Thanks again everyone!
  11. That purfling pattern is called the blume. I've only ever seen that precise design on midcentury Framus plys.
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  12. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    Love it and play the crap out of it. "Plywood" is not a bad thing and can even be preferable in some cases/ways. You have some history with this instrument and that carries some weight as well.

    My bass has some label/time frame/countries that don't exist and changed names frequently mysteries to it also. It's just part of the charm. We are only stewards of these instruments. They had lives and played music before us and they will after we are gone as well.
    RobTheRiot likes this.
  13. RobTheRiot


    Aug 31, 2016
    las Vegas, nv
    Thanks, That’s what I plan on doing!

    I’m thrilled to have it out of storage after all those years, and enjoying the challenge of relearning the instrument and getting my stamina back. It’s funny playing my bass Guitars after practicing upright a while, feels like a toy!
    Also excited to finally get it on stage where it belongs.

    It’s very true: we see instruments as tools and functional art, but when you stop and think about the history & life some of these instruments had before coming to us, it really is interesting. Great if you actually know it’s history, and fun to speculate about & try to research if you don’t.

    Thanks again for kind words!
  14. eh_train

    eh_train Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 12, 2004
    Owner, Stand Up Guy Basses (Repair/Sell/Buy upright basses)
    Hi RtR, The tuners and the fancy purfling are definitely features that make your bass stand out, especially for a ply bass. Having said this, I have had a few ply basses with similar nicely engraved plates, and just one bass with that exact purfling blume. It was also a German ply, but it was labelled Anton Schuster. So this would seem to fit with the "build em, then we'll figure out what to call it" notion.

    +1 on "just enjoy it"!