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Info Sharing Among Bass Builders

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by LedBelli Bass, Apr 1, 2009.


  1. LedBelli Bass

    LedBelli Bass Fine, Handmade Custom Bass Guitars

    Dec 25, 2008
    Pasco, WA
    For some years I've had a passing relationship with a number of high-end acoustic guitar builders. Kevin Ryan, James Olson, David Iannone, Duane Noble, and Michael Millard, to name a few. I've owned and/or played a number of their acoustic guitars during my fingerstyle days.

    Since I've taken up building basses I've called on them a number of times seeking all manner of advice and instruction about how to approach various processes in building, from laying up a neck to finishing.

    I've always been amazed at the freedom with which they shared their secrets, not just with me, but with each other. One day I asked one of them about this relationship dynamic of unselfishly sharing so much hard earned information with each other. I was told that it was no big deal, they all share with each other, and its traditional among luthiers to be transparent and sharing about their methods. Essentially, their attitude is:there are no secrets.

    Since being on TB in the LC forum I have seen much evidence of this same spirit of sharing and cooperation between builders of all levels of accomplishment. I myself have made many efforts to share my own methods and processes (jigs, nitro-finishing, build threads, etc) in keeping with this spirit of sharing for the common good. I even emailed one of my oil finish recipes handed down from old Quaker woodworkers to Jordan, complete with details!

    It seemed that luthiery was one of the last places where one could find this (for the most part) uninhibited sharing of information.

    Until today.

    This morning I had the opportunity to ask a long held question to an established, profitable builder of high-end basses who had his start much like all of us. I asked if he would share with us here in the LC his basic approach (deep detail not needed, just the basic idea) on how he achieves a certain result in his work. Given my experience outlined above in working with acoustic luthiers, I never thought twice about asking.

    For the first time I can recall in luthiery, my request for information was sternly denied. I was completely surprised! Essentially, I was told: Sorry, its proprietary (which its not, other famous builders do it too).

    (Since I firmly believe that what goes around comes around, I'm not giving out more details as to give up the ID of this guy, so please don't ask.)

    So, up for discussion is this entire topic. I always believed that the spirit of luthiery transcended the greed and me first attitude of so much of the rest of the world. This morning, for the first time, my cherry on this subject was popped!

    James Olson himself has freely shared finishing methods with me, always giving me more than I asked for in the spirit of a commom pursuit!

    Is it not so with bass builders???

    What does the community think? Are there secrets (even when they're really not)?

    For some reason my signature of choice today seems fitting!:)
     
  2. If this is truly fact and not an Aprils fools prank, I am sorry this is the fack!

    I have greatly appreciated the advice you have helped me and othes with. I am sorry to see it go dow like this!

    Dino
     
  3. Rodent

    Rodent A Killer Pickup Line™ Commercial User

    Dec 20, 2004
    Upper Left Corner (Seattle)
    Player-Builder-Founder: Honey Badger Pickups & Regenerate Guitar Works
    I've been transparent in all of my building activities, both in posting here (and a couple other places) and also in person. I don't see any value in keeping technique/workflow type of secrets, as this kind of behavior only finds a way of returning itself at a time of critical need.

    it's also interesting to note that I've learned more about the nuances of techniques during the process of sharing a technique with somebody than I have by studying books and forums. I attribute this to the other person asking questions and me needing to think about the why's ... and how this reopens my thoughts on how to improve upon things. amazing what can be spawned from a question asked by someone who has never been exposed to a technique before

    I've met a few people who hoarded their methods and refused to share their ways of doing things. instead of getting angry, hurt, or disillusioned over it I simply found that I lost interest in their endeavors and instead found enlightenment with those who were equally open and accessible



    all the best,

    R
     
  4. LedBelli Bass

    LedBelli Bass Fine, Handmade Custom Bass Guitars

    Dec 25, 2008
    Pasco, WA
    ^while I MAY be guilty of OTHER April Fool's posts today, on this one I am not joking. It's true . . . Bummer, but true.

    I'm not losing any sleep over it. My livelihood doesn't depend on it and sooner or later Ill sort out the answer to my question on my own. I simply am interested in learning the positions/opinions of the community on the whole subject. Do we keep our secrets or not?
     
  5. LedBelli Bass

    LedBelli Bass Fine, Handmade Custom Bass Guitars

    Dec 25, 2008
    Pasco, WA
    Good to hear from you again my Rodent friend!
     
  6. +1

    I have learned from you and other that share the pation. Some are new on theri path!

    Thankyou!
     
  7. IMO not. Sharing is learning and we can all benefit from it. I think that good craftsmen, not only luthiers, will always be more than pleased to tell you about there work, isn't it?
     
  8. jordan_frerichs

    jordan_frerichs

    Jan 20, 2008
    Nebraska
    thanx again. i have yet to test it on scrap though. I have kept it secret like you wanted, btw how much tamato sauce did you say to put in it? (my horrible attempt at an april fools joke)



    But yea, i know what you mean. If it wasn't for the generosity of others, my basses would me more usefull as paperwieghts. I don't really keep any of my methods or knowledge secret, except those requested of me. from others;). We should make a thread of secrets!
     
  9. LedBelli Bass

    LedBelli Bass Fine, Handmade Custom Bass Guitars

    Dec 25, 2008
    Pasco, WA
    ^ damn Jordan, you outed me! (It wasn't tomato sauce, it was Soy sauce)
     
  10. LedBelli Bass

    LedBelli Bass Fine, Handmade Custom Bass Guitars

    Dec 25, 2008
    Pasco, WA
    Again, just for clarification, this thread is not an AF joke.
     
  11. Tdog

    Tdog

    May 18, 2004
    Ya know, I think it may have more to do with personality than anything. I've been acquainted with some big time artists when I learning my chops in the art world. Andy Warhol, Bob Rauschenberg, Michael A. Smith and Ansel Adams were all great teachers and mentors. They had no secrets. If you asked, none had any reservations answereing a question. Furthermore all of them were supportive of my work and freely offered suggestions to improve.

    I believe that the "unfriendliness" that you experienced was more of an insecurity on the "big time" builder's part.
     
  12. XylemBassGuitar

    XylemBassGuitar Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 14, 2008
    Durango, CO
    Owner and Operator, Xylem Handmade Basses and Guitars
    I would agree. Some guys are just that way...not all luthiers have the same mindset.

    I've always thought that keeping secrets about almost any craft is detrimental to the art itself. If someone isn't willing to share a "secret" with another, they are potentially stunting the progress of their own art form.

    By the same token, it can be difficult to freely give up your hard-earned, unique methods that give you a definite edge over your competition in what is usually a very thin-profit-margin business. But, one of the nice things about this craft is that, even if a newbie has all of the secrets and a lot of skill, you'll generally still see a fairly significant difference between their work and that of a professional who has been building and repairing for 10+ years.

    By the way, nice signature-of-the-day LedBelli...
     
  13. jordan_frerichs

    jordan_frerichs

    Jan 20, 2008
    Nebraska
    i think that there is nothing to worry about, revealing your knowledge, because, just because someone knows what you do and uses your methods, doesn't mean they can put the same work, the same craftsmanship into it. The personalities of others have helped shape my works as well. Here is an example, the local luthier is a very sarcastic guy, but that is great for bouncing ideas off of, because i will take constructive critism of my work, rather than "good job" any day, because i can use the critisism.
     
  14. My own experience is that European builders are more coy about sharing tips than North Americans. Just an observation.
     
  15. Dave Kerr

    Dave Kerr

    Mar 8, 2009
    Maybe he just had a bad day, fending off nay-sayers who are calling him the Builder From Hell.
     
  16. Rodent

    Rodent A Killer Pickup Line™ Commercial User

    Dec 20, 2004
    Upper Left Corner (Seattle)
    Player-Builder-Founder: Honey Badger Pickups & Regenerate Guitar Works
    thx - been spending a load of time getting a website ready to "officially roll-out" at the end of the month, not to mention building a few stock basses for image reference and initial inventory plus working details to get RGW formally re-opened. unfortunately this has a direct and proportional impact on my 'surfing' activities

    I do need to head over the hills late this Spring and visit a client in Bingen. I'll drop you a PM to see if you're available for lunch or coffee, if so I'll work details on scheduling a side trip on my way there or back

    all the best,

    R
     
  17. LedBelli Bass

    LedBelli Bass Fine, Handmade Custom Bass Guitars

    Dec 25, 2008
    Pasco, WA
    Works for me!

    Update on the above stuff:

    As for tdog's statement: "I believe that the "unfriendliness" that you experienced was more of an insecurity on the "big time" builder's part." BINGO!

    As for Jordan's comments -- I could not agree more; having knowledge and being able to put it to work are two different things. Jimmy Page could tab me the solo to Stairway to Heaven-- that doesn't mean I could play it! But it would still be nice to know . . .

    As for Eric's comments -- I suspect that is true given the nature of Europeans generally. However, in this case, sadly, it is a North American. (oops!! hold it a sec; I don't want to offend my Euro friends, so let me revise my remarks to, "the more serious nature of Europeans generally") I have a lot of Euro friends; hello to you!

    As for the Builder from Hell comment: Good one!!

    Now for a hypothetical: suppose I showed up here one day on LC and said that I am going to start putting mortise and tenon joinery in my neck joints, but I'm not sharing what I'm doing with you because my mortise and tenon joinery is proprietary????

    Think that one through and respond as you might be tempted to . . . . . tomorrow I'll point out why that statement (that my M&T joinery is proprietary) is so rediculous right out of the gate. (Remember what "proprietary" means.)
     
  18. jordan_frerichs

    jordan_frerichs

    Jan 20, 2008
    Nebraska
    Honestly, i would not care, because i don't see the reason for that type of joint for the builds i do, i can see its use in acoustic instruments, but that is a subject that i won't touch, so could not gain much from that.
     
  19. Yeah proprietary - if pharmaceutical companies can patent genes (some of them found in 90% of all living species) then anything can be claimed to be proprietary.

    Novak had a patent for awhile on fanned frets, in spite of the fact they had been used for well over 100 years before he was born.
     
  20. Hi.

    In instrument building/repair I'm too young and inexperienced to have any secrets to keep, so I distribute any knowledge and experiences I may posess freely.

    I can see however how someone, even me, would refuse to explain some radical method that gives an edge over the other builders. Like has been already said.

    On the bike building / hot rodding I've even taken it further. I'd rather teach the inexperienced bro how to do it, rather than to milk him dry. That pays WAY more in the long run.

    What kind of info You're talking about BTW?

    Regards
    Sam
     

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