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My Toenniges Bass

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by PaulCannon, May 16, 2005.


  1. I'm new on here, so I thought I'd break the ice by posting about my bass. I bought it in August of 2003 for $15,000, but was later appraised at around $35,000. In fact, I found it in the Oregonian classifieds from owner Jerome McGill, a former member of the Oregon Symphony.

    The bass is missing its label, but McGill was able to demonstrate its authenticity. I double checked with Hammond Ashley, which is where he bought it from, and they do have a record of a Jerome McGill buying a Paul Toenniges bass in 1989 from their store (for $10,000 or so, if memory serves). I could also see, when I had the sound post adjusted, the supposed comissioner of the instrument's signature on the sound post itself (Arthur Ray of the Seattle Symphony).

    Last summer, when I was having work done at Robertson's shop in Albequerque, he offered to make a certificate of authenticity, being certain it was, in fact, a Paul Toenniges, likely made between 1936 and 1945.

    Here's a picture of it shortly after I bought it:

    [​IMG]
    It had been in a closet for several years before I bought it. Turns out, I found the classified ad only a few days after Mr. McGill had posted it. Apparently he had gone deaf in one ear, prompting him to retire.

    It was in a state of semi-disrepair. The sound post has slid down a good four inches, which took me several months to notice (boy, those some nasty wolfs!). McGill had put a false nut in the finger board, because the neck was way too long. Unfortunately, this false nut was made very poorly and created a fairly nasty buzz. In fact, the entire fingerboard was shaved quite thin and somewhat warped. The bridge was original and bent back about half a centimeter. The edges were crumbling a little, as well.

    Last summer, I had it sent to Albequerque. I had a new fingerboard put on, with an extended end to go to a high E. New bridge with adjusters. New strings (original flexocore medium orchestral series, with a heavy tension helicore E). We had the nut issue dealt with in a fairly unorthodox manner (see image). In addition to that, I had a C extension put on, and the edges were fixed. Here's the new and improved version:

    [​IMG]
    At this point, it's probably worth well over $40,000. I couldn't be happier with it.
     
  2. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Nice looking Bass. Nice idea with the false nut and Ext. It must be a long Bass without the false nut. Can you post dimentions along with the string length with and without the false nut.. Thx..
     
  3. Sure. But first, when measuring string length, do you measure from the nut to the bridge, or from the nut to the tailpiece?
     
  4. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    The 'business' part of the string. It would be cool to have two measurements -- with the extended nut and what it would be with a regular nut.
     
  5. Ok.

    With the extended nut: 41.6 inches
    Without: 43.5 inches

    Other measurements (from my insurance appraisal; I'm not sure what most of it means):

    L: 1153 mm
    MB: 398 mm
    UB: 526 mm
    LB: 690 mm
     
  6. Tbeers

    Tbeers

    Mar 27, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    Yeah, 43.5in would be a bit long for many people. That's a cool idea, the extended nut.

    From your pictures, it looks as though someone put the soundpost very close to the bridge. Was that on purpose, or does the angle of the photo just distort things?
     
  7. Isn't the post supposed to be about an inch below the left foot?
     
  8. Oh, by the way, I was told there is an issue of the ISB magazine from 1989 which features Toenniges' basses. I was wondering if there was a way for me to obtain a copy of that issue, or even a photocopy.
     
  9. Tbeers

    Tbeers

    Mar 27, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    The top right image in your collage just makes it seem a bit high.
     
  10. nicklloyd

    nicklloyd Supporting Member/Luthier

    Jan 27, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    Thanks for posting these pics, and welcome to talkbass!
     
  11. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    It's a wide-angle lens.
     
  12. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    Doesn't that long extended nut move all the notes down too far onto the body? I'd be worried about the player being able to reach the F# and G, and to transition into thumb position. This is always a problem when shortening the string length only from the neck side.
     
  13. Paul..welcome to TBDB. I'm a Paul Toenniges fan from way back. I had the pleasure of spending a little time with him in L.A.
    Be sure and get the ISB that features his work! It has a great picture of him hanging out his basses on his front porch to dry. I'd be glad to scan it for you, but just go to the ISB web site and order a copy...Vol XV No.2, Winter 1989.
    If you have a problem, let me know in a PM...we can work something out.
    You might do a search under Pauls name here on this Forum. We did do quite a bit of talking about Paul.
    I'll never understand why people insist on these false nuts! A 43" string length ain't no big deal!
    By the way, the article has a partial list of Paul's basses, some with pictures, as well as the original owners and updates of present owners. The list includes one of the 'Diamond' models owned by Victor Gaskin who was playing with the Billy Taylor trio on a shared bill concert when I was working with Stan Getz. This gave me the chance to play on it a bit. These 'Diamond' models of Paul's had diamond shaped sound holes in the 'C' bouts.
    Let us know if you're able to get that ISB!
     
  14. Ben Rose

    Ben Rose

    Jan 12, 2004
    Oakland
    Beautiful instrument, PaulCannon. The extension looks very well made. Was that done by Robertson's?

    IIRC, David Young (principal with the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra) plays one of Paul's basses.
     
  15. a. meyer

    a. meyer

    Dec 10, 2004
    portland, oregon
    Cool bass! It looks much better with all the old dirt cleaned off the varnish. Makes me want to have mine cleaned.
    Incidentally, I took over Jerome McGill's teaching job after he retired. Small world...wish he'd passed the bass along too!
     
  16. arnold: No. Actually, I wanted this nut so it could be a D-neck.

    Ben: Thank You. The C-extension, as well as all the other work, was done by Robertson's shop. I was extremely pleased with their work. (There is a slight buzz with the E-lever down, but it goes away if I put the Eb-lever down with it.)

    a. meyer: Ok, the cleaning was my own work. I learned this trick from Joan Balter in Aspen. It's essentially a spit shine. All you need is a rag and a bottle of water to suck on, and a spare hour or two. It takes a lot of effort, but works surprisingly well.
     
  17. I just got a PM from Paul Cannon....apparently they can't get him a copy of that ISB with the Toenniges article. He asked me if i'd send him a scan or photo-copy. I told him I had a better idea...i'm sending him my copy. Jerome McGill told Paul Cannon that one of the PT basses pictured in that article is his! Pretty cool, huh?
    Good stuff!
     
  18. Just to put a happy ending to this thread by Paul Cannon. I sent him my copy of the ISB that has the article on Paul Toenniges and his basses.
    As it turns out, there wasn't a picture of this particular bass in there, but still gives some much needed info on this great bass luthier.
     
  19. The magazine cites my bass as Toenniges' second bass. There are a few pictures of his first bass, the "ex-Palacek," of the same year and it looks almost exactly the same.

    The magazine also proves my bass IS what I already believed it to be. The issue states the bass was made for and owned by former Seattle Symphony bassist Arthur Ray. The name "Art Ray" is signed in pencil on the sound post. It also mentions that Toenniges did not always label his basses, which helps with the no-label issue.

    Thanks a ton, Paul!
     
  20. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    I have a Book on American makers and his name has a fair size write-up. It says he did not label his first Basses but started soon after. I am at home now but could answer questions and fill in a few things when I get to work tomorrow. I think it lists how many he made as well.