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"outlaw" vintage American Standard build

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by james condino, Oct 5, 2017.


  1. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    In the vintage restoration world, most of the time my ideal is to have the final out come be invisible; as though it never happened and everything is clean and appears original in workmanship, fit, finish, and setup. Some customers insist on keeping everything factory original specs, even with the known production flaws; the same guys that brag about driving vintage cars and keep the drum brakes ( not so great for stopping, but they do slow it down a bit....) or keeping a 40 hp stock motor in their volkswagon. Occasionally I get a fun customer who likes to spice up life a bit and a troubled old bass that is a good candidate for more; the outlaw restorations.

    Among vintage plywood bass dorks, American Standards are at the top for their huge voice and funky vibe. Few folks like to admit that they also have a couple of issues. The 43 3/8" factory string length is a b!&@#, especially if you play fast jazz in B flat and F in first position all night with horn players, or if you are not a large person. The necks are nice and thick, unlike a skinny old Kay, but the American Standard necks tend to have a funky small dovetail that fails often. Most have an additional vertical walnut spline in the dovetail and some of them actually have a stacked heel rather than one piece of wood. They also have an E flat heel.

    Fellow Talkbasser Max Johnson called me up a while back about a bass project for his touring rig. Remember this bass in the classifieds? Since it all started here on talkbass, I figured it would be appropriate to let folks see how the journey progresses with bringing it back to life.

    SOLD - American Standard, # 064 1936

    It was for sale for a year or so and almost every person I know around here looked into it, myself included. Max bought it. Touring constantly makes for some funny connections, in so getting the bass to my place it wound up in Nasheville and then on another tour bus to Black Mountain, and before I actually saw it I had the pleasure of hanging out with Tim O'brien, Peter Rowan, the Infamous String Dusters, Frank Sullivan & Dirty Kitchen, and Jim Lauderdale until late in the evening about five minutes down the road from my shop...and then the bass came out of the bus and got passed on to me.

    Max and I had a few conversations and in a few weeks he came to Asheville with the Jeff Austin band and the Travelin' McCourys downtown at the New Mountain. I brought as many basses as I could fit in the back of my truck (plus a red spruce and Brazilian rosewood octave mandolin for the mando nerds) and we spent a while going over the various options for restorations, modifications, scroll grafts, new necks, removable necks, et cetera. I had already pulled the neck apart and prep'd the pegbox for a scroll graft. After a lot of nerdiness, Max wound up using the heavily damaged and restored beat to #@!! shop '47 Kay for the entire show. At normal acoustic volumes it is a little subdued, but at stage volume it is always my first choice.

    If any of you have not seen Max live, he kills it!!! 'Fantastic to see a high energy bass player hold steady note for note with the big guns and not back down once. He owned the room! The two bands combined for a third set they call the Grateful Ball for a full set of Grateful Dead covers. As an initial potential skeptic having seen many amazing (and a few that were honestly incomprehensibly dissonant noise for three hours...) shows back in the day outside under the west coast stars with Jerry and the 'Dead, I've gotta say that it was the best set of Dead tunes I have ever seen. Two world class bluegrass bands with a fantastic sound system taking standards to a whole new level with fantastic vocal harmonies and impeccably tasteful looooong jammed out solos and then reprised back to the harmonies.

    Here are a couple of shots of us and Alan Bartram with the backstage bass quiver sampling.

    j.
    www.kaybassrepair.com
    facebook at Kay Bass Repair



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    Last edited: Oct 6, 2017
    bassfran, Joshua and krfoss like this.
  2. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    Max's original pegbox is shown next the Kay prep'd for a scroll graft in the thread from last month:


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    As nice as it came out and well prepared as I was for our first meeting, Max decided to go for a new removable neck with one of my "stubby" scrolls, a 41 1/2" scale, and a "D" heel. Now it starts to get interesting...
     
    Joshua likes this.
  3. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    Here is an image from a while back of the stubby. Stripped down to minimal, low mass, less to break while constant touring, and the whole neck fits in a Pbass gig bag at this length. My original reason for this was because I had a regular gig at a local pub with a raised stage and small ceilings that would not allow me to use my endpin at the right height with the full scroll. One day I brought a bass with a broken scroll and I could finally stand up properly the whole night! I also make a version of this where the entire scroll and pegbox separates from the neck.


    condino stubby scroll.jpg
     
  4. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    Gig free Saturday, so I made a little progress today:

    A very nice, clean European maple neck blank milled flat on the fingerboard side, profile cut out, and the carbon fiber slots cut. I use a bunch of different carbon configurations depending upon the need, what tooling is setup in the shop, and the particular neck blank. This one got a couple of parallel beams and the channel was cut with the Sawstop. The stubby makes it easy because there are no issues of cutting into a big scroll at the end, so I cut the channels early.

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    Joshua and Chris Fitzgerald like this.
  5. Adam Booker

    Adam Booker Supporting Member

    May 3, 2007
    Boone, NC
    Endorsing Artist: D'Addario Strings, Remic Microphones
    Awesome! I really need to come down.
     
  6. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    Progressing well.

    From this last week:


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    To this:
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  7. MaxJohnson

    MaxJohnson

    Jan 29, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    My bass is going to rule.
     
  8. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    "Make it lightweight and fun...."

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    Last edited: Nov 7, 2017
  9. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    African Blackwood and 1" oversize carbon fiber endpin.
    facebook @ Kay Bass Repair

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    RSBBass and Joshua like this.
  10. Levin S

    Levin S

    Apr 21, 2007
    Charlotte N.C.
    I was able to drop in at James’ shop yesterday while up in Asheville. I have to say that seeing this project in person was unreal.

    James is truly a master in his craft - the new neck neck is an absolute thing of beauty and the body to heel joint is impeccable.

    James has a real knack for making folks feel welcome and for sharing the wealth that is his knowledge of musical instruments. I’m excited to follow along as this build progresses and proud to say I was able to see it in the flesh - or wood, as it were hahaha!

    Thanks for letting me stop in James, it was a real treat!
     
    Ed Fuqua likes this.
  11. MaxJohnson

    MaxJohnson

    Jan 29, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    Yes folks, I know you've all been waiting to see what happened with this bass. Well, I'm here to tell you that James shipped me the neck, body, and accoutrements, and after a setup by the trusty Sprocket at David Gage, I got the bass back yesterday, and I'm here to tell you that it's KILLING! Definitely the best plywood bass I've played. That big sound and quick response you want in a plywood, but with a nice long sustain, a loud ringing E string, a good sound with the bow, and easy to play with the 41.5 inch string length. The neck feels absolutely great, and I can't wait to hear this bass open up! Looking forward to taking this bass on the road next week! Thanks James!!!


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    RRR, powerbass, Joshua and 8 others like this.
  12. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Augusta GA
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    @james condino - what's the thought with the openings in the back of the pegbox, excuse me headstock? Is it functional soundwise or aesthetic? Or just keeping travel weight down?

    And where did that bass you were building when I was down (about a decade ago) end up? do you still have it?
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2018
  13. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Nice! Never seen a Full Circle on the treble side, either. How does it sound?
     
  14. powerbass

    powerbass

    Nov 2, 2006
    western MA
    Really like the headstock and tuners, curious to know if the reduced mass of the headstock alters the feel/sound?
     
  15. Earl

    Earl Supporting Member

    I got to hear this bass last night when I went to see Max and his trio play a set at Barbes in Brooklyn. They played all songs by bass players. Max is quite an amazing player - it seems he is picking up the baton from the recently passed Buell Neidlinger, as he has a command of the free jazz, bluegrass and classical languages.

    He played without an amp and the bass sounded deep and warm, but still very punchy, and it cut through the drums with no problem. I played it briefly after the set and it felt great and played easily (even with spiros, which are not my favorite strings, but they suited the bass and his playing style perfectly.)
     

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