My new custom-made bass from start to finish

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Dimmik, Jan 3, 2015.

  1. Dimmik


    Apr 16, 2012
    Last January (2014), I left Detroit and drove across the state to Muskegon to talk to Dan S. about making me a bass. Dan is a damned fine luthier who makes damned fine members of the violin family. He is a damned fine fiddler himself. I specified a gamben-form bass with a 41-inch scale length. He showed me some pics of a gamben-form he wanted to use a model and I approved. I told him I wanted a bass with medieval themes. We talked over what was possible and then Dan said he would send me pics periodically so I could see how it was coming.

    Just today, January 3, 2015, I drove back to Muskegon (damned horrible, frighteningly treacherous road conditions most of the way) to get my bass. I didn't care how bad the roads were--nothing was going to stop me. Muskegon itself was worst of all because it poured down snow non-stop--probably lake effect which is notorious in Michigan--which made your car non-stop. I slid helplessly passed several turns and saw cars spun out all over the place. I was waiting for someone to cream me with my bass in tow or to slide off the road and crash into a ditch but fortunately I made it back to Detroit unscathed. God only knows how because I sure don't.

    So, from start to finish:

    This is Dan's shop in Muskegon. He lives and works in a small little half-apartment, half-studio (wood stove heated) that resembles something out of the 17th century. It's at the end of a long wooded road and has no signs. His clients are all strictly word of mouth.


    While I was at his shop, Dan showed me these long, thin strips of maple and asked if I would like to use that wood for the ribs. It beautiful wood with unusual grain so i said yes.

    The belly is made of European spruce.

    Purfling added.

    Carving out the inside.

    F-holes carved.

    Body assembled.

    Dan asked what I wanted for a scroll. I told him is standard scroll. But when I got back to Detroit, I suddenly got this idea of a knight's helmet. I emailed him and he said he could do it. He sent me this photo asking if he should add a grille to the visor. I said yes, "how else is he going to shout orders to his men??"

    Grille added.

    Neck attached to body, fingerboard attached to neck.

    Purfling added to back plate.

    Okay. In the next post, we'll see the finished product.
    Pako likes this.
  2. Wow is all I can say.
  3. Dimmik


    Apr 16, 2012
    I took the bass to my bass instructor's house so he could check it out (he introduced me to Danny). He held up the bass for me so I could get photos.



    During the late summer, Dan went to France with his band. He sent me some photos of his trip and one photo showed a cross carved on a wall. I sent a reply saying, "You realize you're going to have to put that on my bass, don't you?" He said he could. I said to carve it but he said he was afraid to because it would compromise the integrity of the wood and said he could inlay it but that would be rather expensive. He suggested a woman he knows who is an artist that oil paints on instruments which he could varnish over to make them permanent so I thought COOL! Let's do it! This is called an Occitan cross and was the official seal of Count Raymond V of Toulouse starting around 1165. It is named after Occitania--a region of southern Europe that occupies the entire southern half of France as well as all of Monaco. I found this particular design on the internet and sent it to Dan. When he showed it to another client, that person demanded the same design on the back of his violin.

    The lady who did the art thought the back needed more balance so she painted a fleur de Lys at the top and a more decorative fleur de lys at the bottom.

    The scroll.




    Dan suggested carving the tailpiece to resemble a castle tower with battlements. How could I say no??

    Dan carves his own bridges and I had a Yamahiko installed. Hey, you may as well go all out. The strings, btw, are Helicore hybrid lights.
  4. That is really nice work there. Congrats on the new bass.
  5. Dimmik


    Apr 16, 2012
    Check out Dan's antique varnish (I specified the color of a medieval monk's tunic) and the incredible wood grain.
    The camera flash illuminates all that gold coloring. It's truly awesome!
    F-hole and sound post.
    Ribs with ebony bumpers installed on the treble side. Look at that grain!

    Before I left Muskegon today, I had the genius creator pose with his masterpiece.

    How much did it cost me? Probably not as much as you might be thinking but it was still 5 digits. How does it sound? It's so loud you don't need an amp in most situations. And it needs breaking in! Although it is officially a 3/4 size, it's really a 7/8 and will only fit in a 7/8 gig bag. That Yamahiko is incredible. I barely have the volume on my amp up and it's booming! Kuh-ray-zee, man! Now I need to get Danny to make a bow for me. His bows are the best around. We're going to match the medieval motif. I won't say what they cost but they are 4 digits. If you want real prices, PM me.
    tomshepp, Polfuste and mbelue like this.
  6. eh_train

    eh_train Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 12, 2004
    Owner, Stand Up Guy Basses (Repair/Sell/Buy upright basses)
    Wow, that's great! And I'm guessing no one will ever confuse your bass with theirs.

    I do have one question, and I don't think it's in your post: What is "Dan S"'s full name?
  7. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    Nice! A knight in shining armor bass from a guy who who works in a 17th century shop.
  8. pasmithy


    Jul 7, 2011
    SE PA
    very, very nice...
  9. mbelue


    Dec 11, 2010
    Beautiful instrument.
  10. PMF1


    May 30, 2010
    Congrats, a really nice Instrument. The Scroll is real cool.
  11. Wow...
  12. Polfuste


    Sep 10, 2010
    South France
    What was the chance i see one day an occitan cross on talkbass ... I live in this occitania who resisted a long time against king of France. I've got the same cross on an acoustic guitar :) .amazing bass you've got here !

    Edit: This cross is the emblem of my area, which is now a little part of what was Occitania in the past, in south west France
    Here is the biggest i know, on the main plaza "Capitole" in Toulouse.

    end of the OT ;)
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2015
  13. Dimmik


    Apr 16, 2012
    It has an astronomical significance. It symbolizes the zodiac. The four arms are the four directions/seasons. The upper arm is the summer solstice--the longest day of the year, the highest point of the sun in the sky in the Northern Hemisphere. So this is the summer season--May, June and July. June is exalted (elevated in the middle position) because that is the month in which the solstice takes place. The zodiacal sign is Cancer--Like a crab scuttling from side to side, the sun reverses its northerly trek and begins to move southward. Moving clockwise, we encounter the autumnal equinox, the fall season of August, September and October. September is exalted because that is when the equinox occurs--when day and night are of equal length. The Sign is Libra--when day and night are balanced. Then we move into the winter season--November, December and January. December is exalted because that is when the winter solstice occurs, the shortest day of the year, the sun's lowest point in the sky. The sign is Capricorn--the goat-fish or old death and new life joined as one entity. Then we move into the spring season--February, March and April. March is exalted because that is the month that the vernal equinox occurs when day and night are of equal length. The sign is Aries--the symbol of sexual potency because spring is when the mating and sowing happens. Then on back to the summer season again--eternally. Birth (spring), life (summer), age (fall) , death (winter) and then rebirth--eternity. And so the zodiac is the eternal kingdom which the earthly one hoped to emulate. The sun is at the intersection of the cross. The sun was the king, the Judge, and the kingdom revolved around him. So the Occitan cross was the symbol of their earthly kingdom as a reflection of the Heavenly Kingdom.

    Notice also that the little circles or dots on the arms form a rhombus or diamond. That symbolizes eternity also as well as love, strength, great value, stability, preciousness, etc. It's the reason the diamond is the chosen gem of weddings.
    Polfuste likes this.
  14. Cool Bass. I dig the design, painting, and varnish. Congrats.
  15. Wow. That's badass.
  16. Mr.Lowe


    Aug 6, 2014
    she's a beaut
  17. LedReign


    Feb 17, 2014
    Seattle, WA
    beautiful bass! the tailpiece was a nice subtle addition and that grain in the c bout is just insane. you better post pictures of the bow when its made! congrats, and enjoy!
  18. RedMoses

    RedMoses Supporting Member

    Jul 4, 2012
  19. Carl Hillman

    Carl Hillman

    Jan 1, 2010
    Congratulations on being the proud owner of The Bass That Says Ni.

    Last edited: Jan 20, 2015
    marcox, pnchad and Jake deVilliers like this.
  20. Dimmik


    Apr 16, 2012
    I'll let you play it if you can tell me the speed of a fully laden swallow.
    marcox likes this.