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Luthiers, help me see the light...I'm pissed!

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Andrew_S., Feb 3, 2003.


  1. Andrew_S.

    Andrew_S.

    Jul 24, 2001
    Flagstaff, AZ
    hey all,
    I just don't understand luthiers some time. I have a relatively cheap bass but I've put enoughwork into it that it plays and sounds decent. My problem arises when I ask luthiers to work on it and I either get lambasted for not owning a 100 year old carved bass or some say, "hmmm I don't want to do it".
    I don't get it? Why would a luthier turn down business? I need to get my fingerboard dressed due to the Supernyls I have on it leaving some notches in it.
    Really, is there a reason why a luthier would opt not to work on my bass (His solution was for me to stick leather under the strings at the nut). Flagstaff doesn't have too many luthiers so I can't just say "okay, I'll take it to someone who wants my business". Is a fingerbvoard dressing THAT big of a deal.

    BTW, I really don't mean any disrespect what so ever to the fine Luthiers that frequent these pages. It's just that I try to follow the advice of those on this page (I wish I had seen this page before I bought my cheapie plywood) and I take my rig to a luthier instead of trying to fix it myself and when I do, I get chastised and ridiculed and flat out refused (actually, only by this guy because he's the only luthier I could find in town).

    Thanks for letting me rant everyone! Your thoughts are appreciated! :)
     
  2. lermgalieu

    lermgalieu Supporting Member

    Apr 27, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    I can't relate because my luthier is one of the nicest guys I have ever met and has never derided my cheapish bass. I am not trying to rub it in, just saying there might be something funny in the water up there...
     
  3. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    Many non-bass specialists don't want to be bothered working on a bass. Too big and crude for them. Yes, fingerboard dressing IS a big deal, if you want it done right. It's hard work, often maddening, and filthy to boot. But it pays those bills...
     
  4. Andrew_S.

    Andrew_S.

    Jul 24, 2001
    Flagstaff, AZ
    Thanks guys! Arnold, I see what you're saying. I think most of the luthiers up here are violin specialists. Most of the time when I ask them, I say that I heard about the work I need on THIS board so I'm suprised none of them ever come here (or maybe they do but don't post).
    Maybe I could explain my problem and get some REAL luthiers to guide me (maybe it's me but leather on the nut seem sstrange to me).


    I put on some Supernyls about 6 or 7 months ago. I noticed a buzz when I (I play slap bass pretty much exclusively) play the F# on the E string as well as the B and the A string. I looked underneath the string and noticed there are notches (like that on the side of a quarter) that are obviously being caused by the Nickel wrapped strings. they're not that deep and I was thinking I could just buff them out with some fine grain sand paper. I posted this at Rockabillybass.com and it was suggested that I take it to a luthier for a fingerboard dressing (I called the luthier... hence the topic of this post). I guess I'm just at my wits end. It gets to the point where I get nervous taking my rig in for fear of eminent lamenting.
    I mean, no one has this problem when they bring a cheap car into a mechanic. The mechanic doesn't say, I'm sorry but I don't want to work on your car do they?
    "My" luthier says that I may have put on the "wrong" strings????? Is this even possible? How could strings be wrong ( and more importantly, what are the "right" ones?)
     
  5. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    I've had a similar experience up here Andrew. I'm lucky enough to have a strong background in things wood and mechanical, so it got me started on the path of being self-sufficient. Doesn't work for everyone.

    I actually just wanted to post to let you know why your thread title caught my eye: in Canada (probably the UK too, still) "I'm pissed" means "I'm loaded", "in the bag", "three sheets to the wind", etc., etc.. Drunk, in plain English.

    Always takes us a minute to switch to American.

    A little levity for your desperate situation. Hang in there....
     
  6. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Do you have one of those Palatino and/or Cremora plywood basses? If so, the guy may be balking at the fingerboard itself...one of my students had one of these, and it looked like the board was made of balsawood, so easy did it gouge. Or, the luthier in question might just be a DWE. It's a shame you don't live out this way, you could take it to TRUCKLLOAD in Cincy and get him work on it. He did a nice job on my fingerboard, and even worked on my American Standard....and if he didn't turn his nose up at that, he probably wouldn't turn his nose up at anything (see related thread for pics if you haven't already).

    Anyway, I'm going to move this thread to the Lex Luthier forum, where you'll either get some sympathy, or a whole lot of $#!+. Or possibly both. Good luck!
     
  7. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    ... you'd think that any "luthier" worth his salt, even if he's never even seen a DB, would try and help you out. Network you to another guy, or to come here, or to MIMF, or somewhere to ask "how do I do this"? If you are a luthier (i.e., have made or repaired stringed instruments with results acceptable to real players), but just not experienced with bass, it is within your abilities to change out a fingerboard on a DB.

    Reasons why a "luthier" might not do that much for you:
    • can't be bothered
    • doesn't really LIKE stringed instruments
    • he's a pr*ck
    • doesn't want to learn anything new
    • doesn't wanna admit he doesn't know how
    • doesn't care to work on cheap basses because they cause him too much "grief"
    My suggestion to you, if you honestly cannot find a viol luthier who will work with you, is to start looking at guitar luthiers. They're everywhere, they reproduce like fungi or something. Find some eager guy who's a decent human being who's willing to give it a good safe go. If he's a guy who opens up old instruments with any regularity, this is not likely to faze him much, and he might even look at it as a pleasing challenge. This guy is not likely to be a guy who needs to squeeze the most out of every hour of the day -- that guy will be too expensive and you can't afford to pay HIM to learn. But there's probably a guy who fits the bill if you dig hard enough.

    Course, both of you are taking the risk that the job is screwed up. In my experience, smart folks who actually like this sort of work don't mind taking that risk. And, if you DO have a Cremona, what the hell have you got to lose, mate?

    What would not be cool if you went this way, though, would be to berate the poor guy if he DOES butcher it. Also, don't expect the dressing part to be very much fun. If the two of you are a good pair and patient, it'll work out.

    Think about it. Don't take any crap from luthiers, work around the guys who put up roadblocks.

    OK, here's a little post-thought: although I do believe it, my little rhetorical bit about not receiving faeces from intrument makers was more just trying to end on a strong note. I stand behind all my comments, but there are two assumptions: 1) we're talking Cremona, Palatino, or something of similar ignoble heritage; and, 2) the location is kinda remote and sparsely populated.
     
  8. Kevinlee

    Kevinlee

    May 15, 2001
    Phx, AZ..USA
    Andrew, I know a couple guys down here in Phx who do good repair work. If your ever heading down this way email me and I will put you in touch with them.

    Kevin
     
  9. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    I have DONE that job myself, and it's not so bad, let's not make a mystery out of it. They use Martha Stewart hot glue on those pieces of crap and the old board will pop off if you look at it funny. Neck twisted? Clamp the new board down on it and hope for the best.

    Remember, we're probably dealing with the lowest of low and nobody's expectations should be raised too high. If they are, they need education. I don't know whether Flagstaff counts as "out in boonies", but that's a factor too. The guy's on his own! If all he gets is: "you shouldn't have bought that bass, now you're stuck with it", well, he's getting attitude. Not help.

    Let's not forget that at some level it's a box with a stick on it.
     
  10. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    ... yeah, I got a little excited when I wrote that. Most folks I know in most walks of life are not pr*cks, and I do work on that assumption. There's more good will than bad out there. It's just that I have met a luthier who basically fits the description, and that's how it got on my list.

    And I know what you and Arnold are saying. There are lots of valid reasons why it wouldn't make business sense for someone to take a job like that -- that's the guy's choice, and he's not likely to be pr*ck or a dumb guy. Just a busy guy with no time to waste. In that case, you have to find a different guy.

    It just tees me off to think of a potential DB player out there in the stix trying to solve his problem. Somebody should say: "now do you see why it's a bad idea to buy those things?". Then they should have a look and give him some decent advice about what to DO about it. Don't send him away feeling as sh*tty as his bass.

    And I'd love to hear your bridge-fallin'-down-on-the-gig story, Ed. I live for stories like that: musicians surviving through adversity. Maybe I'll tell my fistfight-on-the-bandstand story.
     
  11. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    That's hilarious, Ed! I especially like thinking of you wondering what's with all this "going flat" business all of a sudden? The setup before the slapstick...

    But see what kind of resourcefullness terror induces?

    My little story is off-topic, but I said I'd share so: I'm actually not playing this one, I'm out to see a bunch of friends playing. A bar near Winnipeg's rail repair shops, what we used to call a "beer parlour". Yes, you can loose your life in a place like this (Winnipeg is the murder capital of Canada.) The band is a big, weird, hippie R&B slash classic rock review, except this is going back nearly 20 years and there's no such thing yet as classic rock. Anyhow, it's a 2-drummer band, a la the Grateful Dead. Drummer 1 has bad blood with lead singer guitar player, over a woman (what else?) Lead singer has habit of glaring at guys during tunes. Shoots glare at drummer 1, drummer comes RIGHT OVER TOP OF HIS KIT in no time at all. Cold cocks lead singer and then they're into it. Meanwhile, drummer 2 is trying to keep the tune going! Well, the tune derailed and broke down, they stopped playing. Beer parlour folk liked the fight better than the tune anyway. It's legendary.
     
  12. lermgalieu

    lermgalieu Supporting Member

    Apr 27, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    I assume you mean "without driving the bridge..."? Good story! Gotta love panicked moments when everyone is staring at you.
     
  13. lermgalieu

    lermgalieu Supporting Member

    Apr 27, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    Damon - great! I've never been in a fight with band members while playing (other than the typical muttering and glaring) but I have been lucky enough to have the bar empty out for a fight three times while playing. The best one was in Buffalo (where I used to live), where we looked up and the bar had gone from packed to empty. A guy was getting pounded on in the middle of the street with the crowd circled around. Its was below 0 degrees farenheit.
     
  14. Andrew_S.

    Andrew_S.

    Jul 24, 2001
    Flagstaff, AZ
    Thank you al for your replies! :)

    After sleeping on it, I see the point that a Luthier wouldn't want the "trouble" of working on a bass that's crappy (BTW, It's along the same quality as the afforementioned BSO's I think it's brownstone or somethin' of the sort).
    I guess what it comes down to is that I am persuing a higher quality bass as we speak. Unfortunately, coming into the world of upright basses, I had no idea what I was getting into as far as quality (and subsequently no idea about this message board) and I got what I got. I gig with it all the time and it actually provides me with suplimentary income. I just get burned when I need some repairs and I'm basically told to "do it myself". That's fine. As it is a POS bass, I'm not too worried about royally f****ing it up or anything (in fact I'll probably burn it when I replace it). But it does supply me with income and, as is the case with crappy cars getting people to work, I need to maintain some relative upkeep on it.
    Damon,
    thanks for the advice! I'll look into it.

    Ed,
    thanks for your honesty. I really have no shame when it comes to owning this bass. It's kinda like a bad habit.
     
  15. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Good for you Andrew, I like your attitude. The reason why those basses are around is because people keep buying them. Every one of them wants to play DB, and I'd hate to see that aspiration go unrealized over something like this.

    Hope you don't mind the plain talk. I've got a bass of ignoble heritage, too, and am working on my replacement strategy...

    For what it's worth: I ran into a luthier acquaintance the other day at the bookstore (we were both reaching for a copy of "The Strad" at the same time.) He was telling me about how he runs a regular ad in our local senior's paper ("Seniors Today" or some such thing.) He asks if people have any old guitars, fiddles, banjos, whatever -- give him a call. My town and surrounding close hinterland is about 750,000 people. He says this method regularly produces 3 or 4 great instruments per year, and a bunch more not so great. Some of these old folks are so happy to have thing played or restored that in some cases they have given him the instrument!

    Then you got your Kays, Engelhardts, American Standards, Christophers, etc. You can afford one, especially if you're gigging.

    I think you're gonna be fine, though.
     
  16. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    It's a busy day here at the PC, but I just re-read this thread and big mouthy me has two more things to throw in there:
    • Sound post emergencies -- my sound post has got a piece of string still tied to it, and my gig bag's got one of those offset kitchen salad tong deals. Figure I can get it done that way in an emergency. Hope I go down as gloriously as Ed did.
    • Crazy bar stories -- posted this note in another thread, but I just read an old story about the Basie band (actually, it was the Moten Band at the time). Gig where the band doubled as bouncers. Bounced a bunch, too. Gives new meaning to "14 guys swinging."
     
  17. Andrew_S.

    Andrew_S.

    Jul 24, 2001
    Flagstaff, AZ
    Thanks Kevin, I'm down in Scottsdale quite a bit, due to my girlfriend being an artist. I'll drop you a line next time I get down in the valley.


    ED,
    words of wisdom! :) On a side note, is it possible to get too used to a crappy bass? I mean, when I do get a decent instrument, I curious if it will feel kinda weird. :eek:
     
  18. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Here's another thing. Back in the all EB days, when I finally got a very good instrument after years of not-so-good, it shocked me a bit at how responsive the new instrument was. At the beginning that was troublesome because it showed me how bad I sounded! That responsiveness is exactly what I love about it now.
     
  19. Bijoux

    Bijoux

    Aug 13, 2001
    Denver-CO-USA
    Hey Andrew, here is a thought: being that you have a cheap plywood bass, why don't you try to dress the fiongerboard yourself. I do all the work on my basses and I started on an old Engleheart, I am sure that there is enough information on line to help you. It does take a lot of patience, even more when you first start, because you have do do things very slowly not to mess up things beyond repair, but it's not rocket science but it can take many, many hours. in fact sometimes I'd rather take my bass to a luthier so then I can spend that time practicing or doing something else, but check this out; I had my fingerboards dressed by 3 different guys on different basses I owned, and whenever I dress the fingerboards myself I end up a lot happier, because I know the exact strings that I want to use on that bass, the kind of sound I want to achieve, the amount of growl I wanna hear, so I just take my time and and reset the bass as many times as needed until I hear what I want and get the feel I want, unless you are there as the luthier perform the work and doens't mind your input you can't achieve that. Plywood basses are great to learn about the inrtrument's physics, maybe you should take this opportunity so when you get a nicer bass you can decide what works best for you.