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My Skjold Custom 5

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by tombowlus, May 17, 2005.


  1. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2003
    North central Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    Well, I have bantered about and wasted bandwidth on too many other threads, and I need to just consolidate my comments here in one thread. Let me start off with a bit of background on what I was looking for in an instrument. I had been somewhat interested in a "custom" bass for some time, but as many of you know, I am quite enamoured with my Thunderbird, so it wasn't until I began playing 5 string that I really got the hankering for a custom bass. As I have lots left to learn on 4-string, I had been resisting the lure of the low B for some time, but as the 5-string gained popularity, sooner or later I knew I had to join the crowd. But, I wanted to be sure that I would like it before I plunked down any serious cash. So, I jumped on a great deal on a leftover new DeArmond Pilot 5 Deluxe (and later swapped out the electronics for Bartolini pickups and an Aguilar OBP-1). As it turns out, this relatively cheap bass is a nice playing instrument, and soon, I found myself fairly comfortable on a fiver, and looking for a true, quality instrument. And let me tell you, I played a ton of them! What I could not seem to find was an instrument that felt good in my hands, played well, and sounded good to me. I'd get one aspect or the other, but not all three. Or, I'd find one that I thought fit the bill, but when I compared it to my modified DeArmond, I prefered the Pilot, so why spend more money? This went on for probably two years, with some more casual 5-string auditioning taking place before I bought my DeArmond.

    So, with all that background, I find myself in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area on business, and I decided to stop in and see this maker, Pete Skjold, whom I had read so much about here on TalkBass. If nothing else, I had to see if the headstock on his basses was really as huge as everyone seemed to think! ;) Well, Pete and Ron were both hard at work when I showed up, but both of them stopped and took a great deal of time to talk to me and show me around their shop. I liked both of them instantly, and they really seemed genuinely interested in our conversation, even though I told them up front that I was planning on playing a number of basses before deciding which one to buy. I also told them up front that I am a pretty dedicated fan of neck-through basses (to which Pete replied something like, "Well, just give one of ours a try and let me know what you think."), so I was initially quite skeptical about getting a bolt-on. But, I became much more optimistic when I began talking about my love of mahogany as a body wood. Pete immediately agreed and started telling me all the things he loved about mahogany, and showed me several basses with mahogany bodies. We talked woods for quite a while, and he showed me the great selection of body, top, fingerboard, and other woods which he has in stock. Talking to Ron was really great, too, and it is immediately apparent that this guy knows his woodworking. Super nice guy, too.

    But, the real magic began when I had the chance to play his basses. The first thing I noticed was that they just felt really good in my hands, and that it was comfortable for me to play anywhere on the fingerboard. His 5 string basses felt really natural to me, and I think a lot of 4-string guys would also be quite happy with them. The next thing I noticed was the quality of the construction and the georgeous finishes. I nearly had to break out a bib to control the drooling! :p I was able to play a variety of his finished instruments (every one he had in the shop!), and this was really enlightening, as I could tell the sonic differences between body woods, fingerboard woods, pickup types and preamp types. They all sounded really, really good, but what really blew me away were the instruments with the custom Skjold pickups and the Skjold-spec East preamp. If you like the sound of Bartolini or EMG pickups and preamps, then you will love them in Pete's basses. But, if you want the utmost in transparency and tonal flexibility, the Skjold electronics are the only way to go!

    So, after playing all of these basses (through four different Schroeder cabs!), I began talking more with Pete about what I was looking for in a bass, and what options I might consider, if I were to get a Skjold bass. I figured I would get back to him in a couple of months, if I did decide to go with one of his basses. Mahogany was a given for the body wood, and after playing a bunch of his basses, I decided that bubinga was my preferred fingerboard material. So, he's showing me some big chunks of mahogany, then we look at necks (I really liked his 5-7 piece necks), then he shows me a knockout slab of bubinga, and it hits me... These chunks of wood we are looing at will become my bass! It really did just hit me. I mean, here I am loving the way Pete's basses play, loving the way they sound, and then really seeing these pieces of wood coming together into an instrument, and it finally just clicked. I asked Pete if he could fit one more bass into his current batch, and he said that there was just enough time to sneak one more in. The clincher was when we were looking through top woods to match up with the mahogany and I saw this lonely old piece of rose myrtle over in the corner. It was all over at that point. I had to have this bass! :D

    So, Pete spends a bunch more of his time with me going over what I want (options, etc.), and we come up with some of the ideas like using the same wood as the fingerboard (bubinga) for the knobs, to provide some contrast (which I think turned out great). He told me that he is switching to a more narrow pickup cover, but I prefer to anchor my thumb on a wider pickup cover, so we stick with the old covers on mine, and so on...

    A few weeks later, I get to see my first photos of my bass in progress:

    [​IMG]

    and

    [​IMG]

    Even though they are small photos, of a bass very early in its development, I am understandably quite excited at this point!

    Next, I get a few more enticing "progress shots."

    [​IMG]

    and

    [​IMG]

    At this point, I am even more fired up, because I am totally stoked at how good the bass looks, especially that fingerboard. Unfortunately, some bad news was due to come my way... [see next post]
     
  2. Brian Barrett

    Brian Barrett

    Nov 25, 2001
    Murfreesboro, TN (Nashville)
    Dealer LowEndBassShop.com, Builder LowEndBasses.com
    Thanks for Sharing, Pete is a great individual!
     
  3. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2003
    North central Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    Pete calls me up and lets me know that there is a problem with the necks on this batch of basses. The issue is related to the compound radiusing that they were using, and for reasons that I don't fully understand, this batch of necks had a slight "stair stepping" of the frets, which required them to adjust the neck angle slightly to keep the frets from buzzing. As I understand it, the differences here were extremely minor, and probably not visible to the naked eye, but Pete and Ron knew they were there. They did work out a solution, but it required raising the action very slightly. Chances are, it would have been fine, but it was not perfect in their mind, so they redid all of the necks on the basses in that batch. Unfortunately, they did not have another matching piece of bubinga for my fingerboard, though they did have more from the same piece of wood. Here is a photo posted by my good bud, Juneau, showing the old neck next to the new fingerboard:

    [​IMG]

    I was so in love with that first fingerboard, that initially, I was kind of bummed with the new board, but it started to grow on me. Especially after Juneau posted some more shots of its progress:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    And while he was at it (and the neck was off), he got some more shots of the body:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    And I really started to dig the new fingerboard when I first saw pictures of it on the body (thanks again, Dave!):

    [​IMG]

    [more below...]
     
  4. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2003
    North central Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    The shots from Juneau continue:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    This shot shows the nice flame maple dots:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  5. Juneau

    Juneau

    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    It was a pleasure taking all the pics Tom. It actually gave me something fun to look forward too. Following the progress of your bass, as well as your anticipation is actually part of what made me go ahead with a Skjold Custom of my own.

    It was almost like my own being built and being able to follow it along every step of the way. Thanks for sharing the whole story too, I kinda came in at the tail end of things in the grand scheme there and didnt know your whole shopping experience, so thats great to read :)

    I look forward to being able to start my own thread soon on my own. Pete said he should be starting the neck pretty soon (7 piece like yours, but wenge/maple, no purpleheart). The top woods still arent dry, so the body construction will have to wait a while, but Im so stoked I cant even tell you. Especially the few little things that are truely custom on mine I think are going to make people flip out, which is the desired affect hehe.
     
  6. Funky Tune

    Funky Tune

    Apr 28, 2005
    Puerto Rico
    WOWWWWWWWWWW
    WWWWWWWWWWWWW
    WWWWWWWWWWWW
    WWWWWWWWWWWW
    WWWWWWWWWWWW
    WWWWWWWWWWWW
    WWWWWWWWWW :hyper: :hyper: :hyper: :hyper: :hyper: :hyper:
     
  7. thejohnkim

    thejohnkim

    Sep 30, 2003
    NYC
    that black bridge, shiny knobs and obese pickup(covers) are uber-PIMP
     
  8. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2003
    North central Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    Okay, so I finally get the bass in my hands last Wednesday, and the real payoff begins! [Note: some of this information is paraphrasing what I have posted in other threads.] I had a little bit of time to play it here at the office before heading home for lunch, and I was immediately very impressed. Visually, my first thoughts were that the photos do not do it justice. The subtle flaming in the rose myrtle top is very 3D and moves depending on the angle you look from. It also really varies with the lighting. The finish is very deep, and nicely done. I'm not sure if you can tell or not, but it has a red burst around the edges.

    After playing it for just a bit, I intially thought that I would have to tweak the setup slightly for Ohio's climate, but after it had a chance to "recover" from the shipping process, the action is now pretty darn close to what I would call perfect (and I didn't have to do a thing!).

    I asked Pete to make the neck as thin as possible, and boy did he deliver! I liked the fairly thin neck on my DeArmond Pilot 5 Deluxe, and this neck is even more thin, but still feels very sturdy, and really fits well in my hand. The neck is not as wide as the one on my Pilot, and this is taking a little getting used to, but it definitely enhances playability, and I am liking the slightly closer string spacing.

    As to how it sounds, the first thing I noticed was that it speaks very well unplugged. You could probably learn/write a song on this thing unplugged, you can hear yourself that well. Very balanced and rich sounding. The fresh strings (nickel plated steel, roundwound) help, I am sure, but that aside, it still sounds great and is very loud unplugged. Once I plugged it in, I was surprised at how much high end this instrument has. Again, new strings make a difference, but even accounting for that, it's still brighter than I expected. Being made from mahogany, I expected a full, yet tight, low-mid presence, and good overall tonal balance, and it certainly has both. But the high end clarity still caught me somewhat by surprise (pleasantly, so). During most of my initial playing, I left the passive tone bleed set about halfway, and this seemed perfect. [Note: the highs seemed to have tamed down just a tad from the first day that I played it, though they are still very clear and speak very well - but I now just crank back a little on the "vintage tone control."]

    The overall tonal character hit me as complex, airy, woody, and articulate. The low B was very, very tight and clear. Tonally, it is very well balanced, and I like the passive tone very well. I did notice, though, that the volume takes a pretty noticeable jump when you kick it into active mode, though, so I'll have to keep that in mind at gigs. I asked Pete about this, and he said that it's just a matter of the gain being up slightly on the preamp. This is adjustable, but he felt that it might be nice to have a slightly hotter signal for some amps, and of course you can back off a bit on the volume if this is too much.

    The pickup selector knob (neck only, both in series, both in parallel, and bridge only) yields a huge range of tones just by itself, and the "Made to Skjoldspecs by John East" preamp offers a crazy variety of tonal options. The cool thing is, that the way Pete has selected his pickup windings and the way that he has tweaked the East preamp specs, you almost can't find a bad tone from this instrument! The pickups are very transparent, and Pete was trying to capture the best of the Jazz Bass pickup sound, but took great care to avoid having the pickups add anything (frequency-wise). The preamp is also designed to be very transparent, and the active tone is quite similar to the passive tone (with volume compensated), though the tone does get somewhat more full and tight in active mode (perhaps from a slight impedance change, or from removing the draw of the instrument cable on the pickups?).

    It's early in the relationship (perhaps I should call it a "love affair!" :p), so more detailed thoughts will come later, but I will say that after playing a bunch of Pete's basses, I pretty much knew what to expect, and got what I wanted. The things that really stand out about this bass is the thin, comfortable neck (more on that later!), and the fact that it is somewhat brighter than I would have expected from a mahogany body. It is exceedingly clear, tight and articulate, and I have never heard harmonics like I am able to get from this bass. They sound more easily, seem more true to the note, and are much louder than on any other bass I have tried. But the clarity is what is really amazing me. Most of my gear is pretty capable of creating tight, clear, accurate bass tone, and the Skjold Custom 5 is taking that tone to unheard of (by my ears) heights.

    As a result of this clarity, I am finding that this bass just loves tube amps. The setup that I first played my Skjold through was my DB 359 into a Whappo, Jr. The Jr. is a great cab to use with tube amps, and this combo was tonal nirvana! At our gig last Saturday, I played it through a combined SS/Tube rig, with my Aguilar 680/728 powering the Whappo, Jr., and a Crest CA9 driving a Tri 210L on top of a Gordo. I also use a Pignose B-100V for a "rhythm guitar" rig (through an Akai UniBass).

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    Here are some more shots of the Skjold from that gig:

    [​IMG][​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The low end on this bass is so tight, that the slight blurriness that I usually hear in the lows when using a tube amp (especially at higher volumes) was practically non-existent. Even the low B was tight, quick, and dynamically explosive through the 680/728. This rig sounds great with any bass, but with the Skjold, the clarity and tightness is truly amazing.

    As stated, the love affair is very new, and I am sure that I will be on cloud 9 for some time. If I do encounter anything negative, I will be sure to report on it, though don't be surprised if you don't hear anything from me on this topic! :smug:

    I also need to mention that Pete has called me and e-mailed me several times after I received my bass to be sure that I am happy. Great customer service!

    Later, Tom.
     
  9. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2003
    North central Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    Thanks! :D

    I'm a real sucker for black hardware, and those nice big pickup covers make a great thumbrest! Very stout and secure feeling, too, and I do tend to dig in a bit with my thumb.
     
  10. Wilbyman

    Wilbyman

    Sep 10, 2003
    Parkersburg, WV
    Nice bass, but it kind of seems dumb to use it with your sub-standard amplification. LOL. I bet it sounds uber sweet through the WW/Berg rig and like the voice-of-God through the Accugroove rig.

    Is it 34" scale?
     
  11. Juneau

    Juneau

    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    35" scale, just FYI, all of Pete's basses are...well, cept mine sorta hehe.
     
  12. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Staff Member Supporting Member

    Very nice, Tom.:) Pete builds a top notch bass.
     
  13. Tom,
    Congrats on the new Skjold! Pete's service and care was the exact same with the 6-string I bought. And you're right, Ron is a great guy too!

    And for anyone considering a Skjold, FORGET about opting for EMG's and Barts! The Skjold electronics is the ONLY way to
    go!






    BTW, how did you get the margins on this thread to be so HUGE?? :eek: ;)
     
  14. Juneau

    Juneau

    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    The WOW post did it cause there are no spaces... :rolleyes:
     
  15. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2003
    North central Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    I don't know, it didn't start that way. Maybe it's Funkey Tone's font on his "Wow!" post? [Which I appreciate, BTW!]

    Anyone?
     
  16. Juneau

    Juneau

    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    I PM'd him to see if he wouldn't mind editing in some spaces or line breaks :)
     
  17. Tom,
    That's a really attractive bass, man! I love the blend of grains and colors between the top and the fingerboard. I've heard enough of Pete's basses to know that it'll blow the hair off your head!!
     
  18. Hey Tom,
    Glad to know you like your Skjold as much as I like mine. That top on yours is killer. It does have a certain 3d quality to it. I hope you're not still grieving over the first fingerboard.. I really like this one!!

    Hope you continue to enjoy the bass for a long.. long time.!!
     
  19. Akito

    Akito

    Dec 1, 2003
    Spokane
    That's a great looking bass. The second fingerboard is just as nice as the first IMO. I would love to hear that rig in person!