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Help identifying my bass

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by *fenderbass*, Feb 21, 2006.


  1. *fenderbass*

    *fenderbass*

    Dec 30, 2005
    Wisconsin
    Hello all,

    I have attached images of my bass and I could use a bit of direction.

    I aquired this bass around Christmas time. The history that I know is that it once belonged to a local High School Orchestra, was then used by an older gentleman in a church band for a number of years before spending the last several years in his basement waiting to be rescued.

    It is a carved flat back bass. It has a weathered appearance but all cracks have been repaired and the setup is not bad. A local music store thought it was Czech or German from the 1930's. I want to know more.

    I admit that I don't know much about double bass history. The only distinguishing markings that I see are on the back below the neck joint.

    Can someone please give me some help or some direction with the history of my bass?

    I know it's tough with just the attached images but any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks very much.
     

    Attached Files:

  2. greene

    greene

    Dec 19, 2003
    New York City
    Ideal Music
    Looks to be German although hard to tell from just these two pics
     
  3. interesting neck joint, possibly a Wilfer.
     
  4. *fenderbass*

    *fenderbass*

    Dec 30, 2005
    Wisconsin
    That's the kind of info I'm looking for.

    What makes you think it's a Wilfer?

    What types of pictures would make it easier to identify?

    Are there telltale things that luthiers did to distinguish thier basses from others?

    Are there any resources (books, web sites, etc...) that might help me find out more about my bass?

    How do luthiers go about identifying a bass? What sorts of things do they look for?

    Thanks.
     

    Attached Files:

  5. The Lighting is kind of bad in the full frontal shot, but the color of the Varnish seems to be at least similar to the Wilfers, and the crest on the back is the one that all the wilfer basses I have seen have.
     
  6. greene

    greene

    Dec 19, 2003
    New York City
    Ideal Music
    close up shots of front, scroll
    Wilfer used that same design on its laminates but so did other makers so that alone isn't the end of it.
    Ken Smith usually knows ... Ken?
     
  7. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    That design has been used on many Bohemian Basses b4 wwI. After wwII, it appears on many German Basses. Wilfer used it on all the Juzek Basses in both countries from what I have learned. I have seen other names with a similar design. It's a German Shop Bass or Czech. They worked on either side of the German border. Those Basses look so alike between all the makers and/or brands. Kind of boring of them to look all the same.

    A man across town makes the Scrolls, another carves tops in a carving machine and backs as well. The lumber supplier splits and glues up the sets, another bends ribs and another cuts and places the lining inside during assembly. A lady across town inlays the purfling when not doing maid work or laundry. Another does the varnishing and a specialist cuts the bridge from a pre-cut blank and sets the sound post during the set-up. Then Bows a few notes and sticks a made in Germany label on it and they ship it to whom ever needs one. Then the importer or sub-contractor sticks another label in it with some name so they can sell it. Morelli, Juzek, Pfretschner, Roth, Hofner.. etc...

    Or, they all use the same pattern and kit and there are 20 shops in the same town making the exact same Bass by hand like Strad made violins but they just happen to all look the same..

    Or.. I don't know but the story was fun to write for you to read and have a laugh.

    Why do all the Italian Basses look so different from each other and the German Basses from each period have that 'cookie cutter' affect on your eyes?
     
  8. eh_train

    eh_train Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2004
    Toronto
     
  9. Yeah, you had me until the purfling part...:D
     
  10. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Actually, it's not far from the truth. Even in USA, Clothing and even Guitar Strings have been made by Housewives and the elderly at home. This information I got directly from the Business owners that brought the work and picked it up from their house weekly! Do a study on Cottage industry in Europe and report back when your research is complete!!
     
  11. greene

    greene

    Dec 19, 2003
    New York City
    Ideal Music
    Because you usually do know ...

    I had an interesting conversation with Eric Klaastad who works along with Bill Merchant up on 29th St and your name came up ... what a small world.
     
  12. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    My name came up? Well, next time you see Bill, give him my regards..
     
  13. *fenderbass*

    *fenderbass*

    Dec 30, 2005
    Wisconsin
    Thanks to everyone for your responses. I've attached a pic of the back if it helps anyone.

    Ken's response is especially helpful. I had no idea how the process of building these basses worked.

    Can anybody reccomend any books or online resources for history, setup and maintenance, things like that?

    Any other information on how old the bass might be?

    Also, I'd like to look for a label inside the bass with a name or date. Where inside the bass do luthiers usually label the bass?
     

    Attached Files:

  14. pnchad

    pnchad Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2005
    ..or most of it. The coroberating give away (besides the obvious physical characteristics) is the school reference.

    This gamba style is by far the most common. The were considered 'student' models and were sold in large quantities to school systems all over the U.S. from the early 1930s - 1960s, not the least of which was the NYC Board of Ed. I know a guy that still pulls these and cellos out of the bowels of NY where they trade them to him for repairs on other instruments. (I guess Metropolitan Music [Juzek] still sells a lot to students but back then the schools bought the instruments). Especially 'expensive' instruments like basses so that kids would pass them on to the next years' classes.

    They were not very expensive, in our terms, but they are mostly solid & well made. They are often better than much more expensive modern basses. Many a poor jazz player of the '40s, '50s '60s played them including Ron Carter. Admittedly some of the great recordings of the era are of these basses.

    And (here we go, KS will have to school us again - a regular lexicon, he is), some of the lines were better than others. Such as the 'Artist' series which came in both gamba & viol shapes (I had a beautiful amber/orange viol from 1950 for a while - quite nice). And, some very early imports were not sub-contracted out piecemeal but made in a single shop by one man or family. I have an extraordinary flat back near 100 y/o now - looks nothing like these.

    BTW, does your bass have the ebony shoulders at the neck/body joint running perpendicular to the neck? Dead giveaway just like the purfling figure below the button.:D
     
  15. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
  16. greene

    greene

    Dec 19, 2003
    New York City
    Ideal Music
    "I know a guy that still pulls these and cellos out of the bowels of NY where they trade them to him for repairs on other instruments."

    Eric Klaastad ?
     
  17. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    Chinese violin maker I used to work with and am still friends with used to tell me that purfling was woman's work in China.
     
  18. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    I heard there's a woman in Sam Shen's shop who carves out top and back plates with a huge gouge. Supposedly she's so fast they put their new duplicating machine in mothballs. Woman's work!!
     
  19. *fenderbass*

    *fenderbass*

    Dec 30, 2005
    Wisconsin
    My base does have ebony shoulders on the neck joint like in Ken's pictures.

    So let me see if I understand everything I'm being told....

    My bass was built in Germany (maybe Czechoslovakia or both). As Ken said, it was probably pieced together with different builders handling different parts of the build. Upon completion it was labeled by the exporter (Morelli, Juzek, Pfretschner, Roth, Hofner.. etc...) and shipped overseas.

    As pnchad added, it is most likely a student level bass, built sometime between 1930 and 1960.

    Here are some more questions for you:

    I read about people finding labels inside of their basses telling them about the maker, repairs, etc. I don't see any label when I look through the f-holes.

    Where are these labels usually placed? If there is no label, what can that mean?

    Is there anything else that I (or a luthier) can do to get more information? I would like to find out the year the bass was built and the "brand" if possible.

    Also, can anyone reccomend books or other resources on the history of basses and bass makers (I am especially interested in German bass makers)?

    This is just too interesting...

    Thanks again for everyone's help.
     
  20. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    The Henley book is the best all around book. There are some old German ones like Hamma but usually written in German. There is also an on-line data Base I just learned about. I don't have it yet but cheap enough to try. The Henly book alone last sold for $260. new about 5 years ago from old/new stock.

    http://members.aol.com/violinmakers/violinmakers.html

    No book or single source is complete. Even this data Base does not have MY Batchelder family member listed as he made only a few Basses.

    You may never find the Brand of your Bass and the maker is even tougher for that one. Having a book and matching up what you read to what you see is not as easy as it would seem. Henley has no pictures, ZERO. The books WITH Pictures are sometimes wrong about who made what. So, it's a lifetime of look, see, touch to ID something unless it's a common 'brand' and not a specific rare maker.