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Age and maker of my bass

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Glen1, Jan 10, 2018.

  1. Glen1


    Jan 10, 2018
    Hi, folks. I'm new here...
    I have been playing electric bass since I turned 50 (14 years) but recently acquired an upright bass. There are no identifying marks on it that I can find, but I'm wondering if anyone can give me any idea how to determine its age or perhaps its maker. I attached a picture of the headstock, but I can easily attach other pics, I just don't know what is necessary for the purpose. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

    Attached Files:

  2. jmpiwonka


    Jun 11, 2002
    looks like it's a bass that's gonna need some serious work.

    post pics from far enough away so that we can see the shape of the bass front and rear, close up pics of the neck joint at the body, and the rear of the scroll.
    a good pic of the f-holes too and a good pic of the side...
  3. Glen1


    Jan 10, 2018
    Here ya go...
    And yes, it is in need of a lot of tlc. I got it for almost nothing. My main purpose is to determine whether I am really interested in playing an upright. If I find that I am, then I will be in the market for something in a bit (lot?) better shape.

    Attached Files:

    Cheez likes this.
  4. RSBBass


    Jun 11, 2011
    The problem is if this bass needs a lot of work it is unlikely to give you a good experience playing upright unless you commit to the repairs. Depending on what the bass is and the nature, and cost, of the repairs, you may not be able to get back the cost when you sell.
  5. Lee Moses

    Lee Moses

    Apr 2, 2013
    Quite right. In its present condition, I would have no interest in playing that particular instrument.
    RSBBass likes this.
  6. That's a real weirdo. Looks homespun. Where did you find it?
  7. Steve Boisen

    Steve Boisen Your first second choice™ Supporting Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Tampa Bay, FL
    It reminds me of the basses that Wayne Holmes in Tennessee builds. Very unconventional and rough-hewn construction, almost "folk art" in appearance.

    - Steve
    salcott likes this.
  8. Glen1


    Jan 10, 2018
    I found it locally, in Manitoba, Canada
  9. wathaet


    May 27, 2007
    Not in any way worth the money to restore even if you get it for free.
    New neck, neck reset, new bridge and fingerboard, new strings, major cracks.
    It will still be a bad bass after that work.
    Josh Kneisel likes this.
  10. Steve Swan

    Steve Swan

    Oct 12, 2004
    Burlingame, California
    Retailer: Shen, Sun, older European
    This bass is dead. There are some potentially recyclable parts, such as tuners, tailiece and endpin. The beech neck came from a factory in Germany, Bohemia, or an eastern european country in that part of the work. The plywood sides are probably delaminating on the inside as well as the outer layer. There comes a time to bury them at sea and move on to something else that might give a player some kind of utility.

    Good luck!
  11. Glen1


    Jan 10, 2018
    Thanks for the forthright responses, folks, but if you recall, my question was regarding Age, and origin, not condition. I am aware of the condition...
  12. Steve Boisen

    Steve Boisen Your first second choice™ Supporting Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Tampa Bay, FL
    I think it's a homemade bass. Someone bought a neck as Steve Swan suggested and they constructed a plywood body to go with it. It does not look like something built by an established luthier or factory. The age can only be estimated by looking at the signs of aging, and based on your photos I'll guess that it's it least 40-50 years old.

    - Steve
  13. LouisF

    LouisF Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    I know Wayne (long story) and while basically self taught, his work is much better than this. His basses aren't bad, just, well, unique; and his restorations (especially of the Swanson basses) while idiosyncratic, were certainly solid and well thought out. To me, this looks more like a Hungarian-type "gypsy" bass, used for folk music... and very likely home (not Holmes! :)) made. Is there any kind of Hungarian/Czech/etc community like that in Manitoba?

  14. Lee Moses

    Lee Moses

    Apr 2, 2013
    Although some of Wayne Holmes's basses (not all) have unusual shapes, all the ones I've put my hands are good players and have rich and complex tones. They are of solid construction with quality tonewoods, as I know firsthand that he is a stickler in his builds and repairs. I don't see his basses as being a good point of comparison with the O.P.'s bass.
  15. LouisF

    LouisF Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    I agree with Lee, and hope I didn't give any other impression above.
  16. guest2


    Dec 19, 2017
    Glen, OK, I'll give it another try. My 2 cents:
    • I think the instrument is assembled using various old parts, and newly made parts, by someone with a rather unconventional take on double basses.
    • The tuners & scroll (aka headstock) could be of the first part of the previous century, European. The hat-peg tuners have some value, if they are OK & not mutilated. The scroll appears fixed to the neck with dowels, but neck & scroll are not necessarily originally one unit.
    • From the poor fit, the light coloured fingerboard is probably not original, possibly home-made.
    • The gamba-shaped ribs are ply, partially delaminated (humidity?). Could be from anywhere, probably younger than 60 years, and likely factory made.
    • Top and back look home-made, and seem to be solid wood. The crack through the lower E-side eye would not normally occur in ply, and that sharp (pointless?) recurve seems difficult to press into a ply construction. It could also be an older top, of a smaller instrument or part of the same size, stuck onto a larger rim. The paint masks it all. But in at least one place you can see the edge of the back is solid (where the seam popped, middle E-side).
    • The arching in the top seems odd (much curvature near the edges, straight in the middle: an old top on a bigger rim? Or just unconventional?). But it does have quite some depth, which would be good (if tuned properly). No significant sag seen. Arching-wise, the back matches the top, and I cannot see any structure in either due to the paint. Both top & back could be quite young. A look inside might tell more.
    • The f-holes seem a bit big, and placed low-down. Not clear where the bridge should be placed.
    • Generally a rather large overhang (top & back stick out over the ribs), but the ribs do not fit well onto the back everywhere. Top & back have violin corners, sticking out and eager to poke your thighs, or break off. The heel-body joint (mortise?) looks odd, and provides little overstand compared to modern standards.
    • The saddle seems low, or is missing, so that the tailpiece might rattle onto the top. The tailgut should sit in the recess of the endpin, about 1" upwards.
    To me it has little or no commercial value (commercially a total loss?), with lots of things to fix and a mediocre chance that it will ever sound & play well. But it might, after enough TLC.

    If you want to try the double bass, to see if you like it, there are probably more effective options (rent, school, friends, ..), but the road less travelled can have its perks too. It may not need a lot of work to get it sounding rattle-free, but other than your free time, suggest not to invest significantly in this instrument.
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2018
    marcox likes this.
  17. Glen1


    Jan 10, 2018
    Thanks for the excellent and detailed response. That is very useful. I particularly appreciate your comment about the road less travelled. This will be a "diy" project. I will spend very little, but I will learn a lot. I have easily had $100 worth of entertainment from the bass, already. The reality is that my chops are the limiting factor here, rather than the quality of the instrument.
    My thanks, as well, to the others who responded.
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    Primary TB Assistant

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