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

Gilkes Face Lift

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by KSB - Ken Smith, Aug 30, 2004.


  1. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    I have been told by a few including the Contrabass Shop in the UK that my Gilkes needed English Style gears. Tell me if you think it looks English enough now or, needs to !!

    Well, Here's what I did:

    The old Plates were taken off and the wood of Scroll under the Plates extensively cleaned. I put these new Krutz Gears on the Bass but it looked kind of 'naked' without the Plates. First we cleaned and re-shaped the Plates to fit a little better. After that we buffed, polished & sprayed 3 coats of Brass Lacquer on them. Then, I re-installed the old Plates & new Gears to give the 'well aged' Gilkes a 'Face Lift'. The original Engraving on the Plates as well as all the original scratches are still visible under the Lacquer which helps adds to the Patina.

    http://www.kensmithbasses.com/DoubleBasses/GilkesBass/GilkesBass.htm

    I don't know how to post photos from my website. Please feel free Mods or anyone else to post the photos or before and after if you like. The new gears are half way down the weblink page.
     
  2. Wow!!!!!!!! From those photo's, I believe Gilkes is the one finest luthier of the bass I have ever seen. The details are so perfect and sharp, and no cracks, that is a testament to his attention to details also. He really knew wood movement and how to choose.

    As to the gears, I think you did the right thing if their quality is equal to the bass itself. The plates do look good but a little shiny and slick... but it will look just right in some years down the road. Good job!!
     
  3. The Gilkes bass looks fantastic. I hope you posted this to get some honest feedback, and not just for pat on the back reassurance. I think the plates look great but the rest of the tuning machines just look wrong for that period of instrument. I am sure they work well. They look like K.C. strings machines, and they make a good product, very good quality. If, however we are talking restoration rather than just getting it into working order, then you should try and get the type/ style of machine that were put on the instrument at the time of construction. If the originals are not there, then look to similair instruments by the same maker, or find out where he sourced his machines from( as you probably know they didn't all make there own machines). There are good quality replacement/ copies done of many old style machines. You can even get one off copies made ,for a price, but you are a dealer so I'm sure you know this.
    Thats if you want it to look right to players who are used to seeing and playing this quality of instrument?
     
  4. AMJBASS

    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    I think it looks really good. I love the look of the wheels, but I really don't think the thumbscrew suits the bass. It does look good, but it seems a bit too modern. I think that bass would look great with the Baker copies that Gallery Strings sells. I actually just bought a set for my 7/8 German. Wonderful machines.
     
  5. azflyman

    azflyman

    Apr 24, 2004
    Astoria, OR
    Ken,

    I have to agree with some of the comments. Gears without holes, tone down the plates, lose the fancy engraving on the machine heads. All that brightwork reminds me of a shiny new Chinese bass. It detracts from the stately appearance which it deserves, it is a fine, fine bass. Just my 2 cents.

    az
     
  6. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Yes, I agree that they look a bit modern and Fancy. Baker style gears would look more in keeping with the tradition of English Basses.

    I had them on the Bass for about a month without the plates with all plate screw holes doweled and varnished over. The problem was that after over 100 years 'gunk' had built up under the plates on to the wood of the Scroll. The Varnish looked 'black' in spots. I cleaned off all the oxidation possible and got it to about 80%. Some areas though would just not clean up. That's why I restored and put the plates back on.

    I have used these gears on my Shen Bass. They are not cheap! Baker style gears cost about the same or so but I don't know how well they actually work and tune ! These KC Krutz gears work like a dream. That's why I have them on 3 Basses now and have two more sets to put on my Martini and Mystery Bass as well.

    I just thought I could get past tradition and go with performance or maybe a close second in appearance.

    If you were buying this Bass now as-is, would you take these gears off and put Baker style gears on or leave the Gears as they are?
     
  7. azflyman

    azflyman

    Apr 24, 2004
    Astoria, OR
    If I had the money to buy the bass yes, I would replace the gears. I know the gears are not cheap but with what that bass will sell for the gears are minimal. The asthetics must be perfect to make the maximum return. You will have another bass to put the gears on anyway in the future. I would turn the volume down on the sideplates and select a quality vintage type gear. The mystery bass of unknown origin would be a good match for the gears. It will be a player more than a correct very vintage Gilkes.

    az
     
  8. AMJBASS

    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    If I had the cash, the Gilkes would definitely be a bass that I would seriously look at. And yes, I would change the gears. When installed properly, the Gallery Strings machines are excellent. They are smooth, and look great. My second consideration would be the Irving Sloan machines from Gage. I am really being picky though. Those machines do look good Ken.
     
  9. godoze

    godoze

    Oct 21, 2002
    Ken, Any idea why William is listed in Elgar and not Samuel ?
     
  10. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    I've seen the Sloan machines. They don't look any less fancy than the Krutz, just different. The Bass looks kind of 'Royal' to me as it is now. I saw a Royal looking Stainer Bass (1648) with a Carved head and Engraved plates and machines in "The Baroque Double Bass Violone" book, page 58.

    I don't know what was typical for Gilkes and others around that period of English making. There are very few Basses in comparison before 1820 from England. Baker's period seems to be from 1820 and after. I wonder if the old gears/plates I had could be from the Tyrol or Germany and "be the original"?. They do look ancient to me. Some type of Iron with laminated Brass cappings on the handles. The Brass is extremly hard as well and barely tarnished.

    What's the 'oldest' period we have seen of Gears like my "before" shots?? ...... For easy refrence....
    http://www.kensmithbasses.com/DoubleBasses/GilkesBass/GilkesBass.htm
     
  11. Ken

    The original machines look Germanic to me. Since we know that the bass used to be a 3-stringer, isn't it probable that those machines were put on when the bass was converted? Check out Gallery Strings. They have a bunch of machines in the English style to choose from. The pre-1820 English basses I've seen all seem to have some version of Baker type machines.

    Jon
     
  12. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    How do we actually know for sure that this was a 3-string in the Beginning? I have seen and old Violone by Edward Lewis, London 1695 which looks like a modern Vienese Double Bass with Cello type pegs. The gear holes on the exit side of my Bass have beed filled with a half moon plug as if the original gears or tuners were larger and/or drilled straight through without any taper to the size of the holes. Could this oversized Cello have been made with Pegs instead of Gears?

    All the pre 1820 Basses with Baker style gears are not original. They were modified later and mainly from 3 to 4 string.

    The Gilkes it turning out to be another 'Mystery' Bass.
     
  13. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Sorry Don, I missed your Question.

    Samuel Gilkes worked for William Forster III up until 1819. Forster went Bankrupt from a failed Grocery buisness while Gilkes and Forsters' son Simon Andrew ran the shop.

    Gilkes opened his own shop probably in his home in 1810 most likely to make extra income making Violins, Cellos, 2 Basses that we know of and possibly repairs.

    Most of what Gilkes made in his younger years is mostly labeled Charles Harris and William Forster III (aka Young Forster). Works Labeled by Samuel Gilkes are rare to come by these days.

    William, Samuels' son made mainly Basses and was born 1811 (the year of my Bass) and died in 1875. Samuel died in 1827 (at 40 years old) when William was only 16 years old. His training was limited and never reached the quality of the Fathers work. His Basses were some of the best made at that time as his father was well know for his work with Forster making the larger instruments and must have passed that down to him.

    Basses probably didn't demand as much talent as the finest most sensitive Violins did.
     
  14. For some reason I thought that the tailpiece had evidence of being filled and re-drilled for 4 strings. Also, English basses (orginally conceived of as double basses rather than viols) only ever had 3-strings until the later 1800's when some 4-strings appeared to tackle the romantic literature (according to Brun at least). However, gilkes could have conceived of the bass as a scaled up cello in which case it could have been an odd ball built as a one-off I suppose. Tuning machines were invented sometime in the 1700's so it doesn't seem likely that plain pegs were used, but maybe wooden shaft machines?

    Jon
     
  15. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Yes, both the Tailpiece and inside of the Scroll have two plugs from where the other 2 of 3 Strings would have gone.

    I posted this info. when I first got the Bass. Even the best restorers reverse thier findings when new data is discovered !

    After removing the Tuner plates I noticed something very strange.

    The Two pluged holes 1) doesn't go all the way thru the other cheek of the Scroll and is plugged only on the outside of the Bass side and inside the treble cheek, and 2) there are no screw holes or any evidence that there was ever a tuner in those Two plugged holes.

    The Four holes of the existing tuners look 100% identical with the same 'half moon' plug/repair to support the angel of the tuners.

    It is possible that the original neck was not able to be saved and an exact replica made including copying the Gilkes Scroll and Varnish in the mid to late 19th century in England or maybe Germany.

    Unless this was a Violone with Cello pegs and repaired to look as if it was a 3 to 4-String Bass conversion. The English Violones DID have Cello pegs back then and were 4-Strings!

    English Orchestras for a period had both 3 and 4-string Basses in the section across the back in three groups.

    3 3-stringers...... 3 4-stringers.. and 3 3-stringers again with the 4s in the middle........ The Tuning for the 3-String was A-D-G but some occasionally tuned down to low G from the A for some notes. Many believed you could not play a low E clearly with the Gut Strings then in use. The Germans and Viennese were tuning E-A-D-G and soon England slowly switched as the Strings were available and the Music demanded it as well instead of playing 8va as before. This all became standard throught Europe by around 1880.