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Question about a neck shim

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by musicman5string, Jan 17, 2006.


  1. musicman5string

    musicman5string Banned

    Jan 17, 2006
    Hello to all-
    I'm new here at TB but it looks like a great place.

    I've a question: I have a 100 year old German DB, and the guy I bought it from installed a shim in the neck joint and a false nut, making the string length shorter. After playing it this way for a while, I'm tired of it. I want a normal neck without a false nut. I also want the shin removed because the heel is so wide it's not really as comfortable as it could be.

    The question is: is this a possibilty, and if so, what needs to be done? A new fingerboard obviously will fix the false nut problem. I know that will change the placement of the notes, but that's ok with me. (It currently makes sitting in on someone else's bass difficult). It would also make for a good excuse to practice 10 hours a day....LOL.
    The shim is more tricky...I think I'd need a new bridge to account for the lowering of the fingerboard to the top plate. I wonder how this is going to affect the sound?

    When I first acquired this bass, I took it to David Gage for an assessment. Because of financial reasons, I did not go ahead with the work at the time. I honestly do not remember what he said about the other issues......(this was 10 years ago).

    You can view some pictures of those areas here:

    http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/musicexpressionnj/album?.dir=/7612

    Any thoughts on the subject would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks.
     
  2. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Well, the Shim is to correct the neck stand. If you remove it, the Neck has to be moved out, an extension piece glued to the neck heel and then re-set and varnish touched up PLUS a new fingerboard and nut. The FB itself will not give you enough bridge height to bow and clear the c-bouts comfortable plus you will loose some volume.

    I have a Bass now (Loveri) with both a Neck Shim and a False nut. The String Length is now 41.5" and it is a D-neck at the heel. What is your SL and heel stop? The False nut was made on your Bass to probably make the Bass more playable. Do not let looks alone sway your decision. My English Gilkes also has a wedge shaped Ebony Shim as does my Martini to bring out the stand of the Neck without altering the heel. It depends on the actual Bass what and how playability can be improved. Old Basses have no standard measurements so modifications are often customized to each Bass and wallet!

    Loveri Shim: http://www.kensmithbasses.com/DoubleBasses/Loveri/images/loveri_neck.jpg
    Gilkes Shim: http://www.kensmithbasses.com/DoubleBasses/GilkesBass/147.jpg
    Martini Shim: http://www.kensmithbasses.com/DoubleBasses/MartiniBass/martini6.JPG

    I just made the False Nut for the Loveri and do not have it pictured yet. It is a 5/8" shim inlaid to the fingerboard and flush with the sides of the FB and flush against with the regular Nut so the Strings pass thru a 2-piece Nut 2 1/4" long.

    Be careful how you alter a Bass. You do not want the tone to suffer. You need the Bridge in the center to be about 6-7" tall and be able to Bow the outer strings without touching the bouts with the bow hairs. The String length for a 3/4-7/8 Bass averages 41-42". The Heel or back of the Neck can be cut or shaved down for your comfort. A d-stop neck is the most desirable these days.
     
  3. Tbeers

    Tbeers

    Mar 27, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    You could keep the shim, and lose the false nut.

    Go to a luthier and ask for advice. You aren't horribly far from Arnold Schnitzer or Jeff Bollbach.
     
  4. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.

    Tbeers, we do not yet know why the False nut is there. Many many necks have been made that are slightly too long and short of a new Neck Graft, the False Nut is the best way to correct this. We do not know his string length with or without the false nut or his neck stop either way. Lets wait for his response b4 making any suggestion of changes that may not be necessary.
     
  5. musicman5string

    musicman5string Banned

    Jan 17, 2006
    Hey Ken-
    Thanks for the feedback. I'm a big admirer of your basses by the way.

    The scale length from the nut to the bridge is 42 and 1/2 in.
    With the false nut it's 41 in.

    My bridge height right in the middle between the D and A strings is 6 and 1/4 in.

    The height from the end of the fingerboard to the top plate is 3 and 1/2 in.

    The heel with the shim in it is about 9 and 1/4 in. around. This seems way too wide for my preference.

    Any thoughts?
     
  6. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.

    The Heel around means nothing. Every Bass needs what it needs. Only Playability is Important. If the Neck is too deep, then it can be shaved in the back to feel better for you. Is the Bass a D or Eb neck? Also, 41" is much easier to play than a 42.5" SL. Is the False nut 1.5" long on the Fingerboard? Bridge heigh at 6 1/4" is a good height. Is the Neck Shim one thickness for its entire length or wedged where it is thinner by the Nut and thicker by the Heel? Your pics could show more detail if you have the time. That would make it easier to discuss.
     
  7. musicman5string

    musicman5string Banned

    Jan 17, 2006

    Ken-
    Once again thanks for taking the time to help out.
    The bass currently is a D neck.
    The false nut is in fact 1.5" long.
    The neck shim is thickest at the neck joint (1/2 an inch). It tapers off gradually until it's negligable at the nut.
    Sorry about the pics....I added a few more but they're the best I have.
    http://pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/musicexpressionnj/album?.dir=7612
     
  8. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.

    Ok, it sounds like all the corrective measures have been done. If the neck feels too deep to finger in the 5,6 and 7th positions, then take the Bass to Arnold. He will make it play better for you. Your Bass was probably a long Eb neck before and was hard to hit the upper notes and well as bow and have enough volume. The past restorer did do the right physical adjustments but may need tweaking from what you tell me.
     
  9. Tbeers

    Tbeers

    Mar 27, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    It also looks like you have a plenty thick fingerboard on there. Although it's most likely an issue of the neck, if the board was not planed properly, playability in the heel region might be compromised. At any rate, if you go to someone like Arnold or Jeff, you won't be led astray.
     
  10. musicman5string

    musicman5string Banned

    Jan 17, 2006
    Thanks guys for the responses.
    In the past, I have brought my bass to David Gage. He has always done well by me.
    However, I have heard Arnold's name for a number of years and honestly do not know anything about him, other than most have praised his work.
    I guess you guys would recommend him? I'd be willing to try him based on the fact that he is reputable as far as I've heard, and the David Gage has become extremly busy and is also very expensive.
    Doesn't he post here?:D

    Tbeers-
    yeah, the neck in the general area of the 4th and 5th positions is a pain on this bass. I enjoy playing in this area of the bass, but it is uncomfortable.
    Example:
    Most bassists I've seen play the bass line to "Footprints" by starting on C on the E string with 1st finger and staying in that position; it's impossible on this bass.
     
  11. musicman5string

    musicman5string Banned

    Jan 17, 2006
    Well, I've decided to take the bass to David Gage, since I saw him on sunday at the Dave Holland show at Birdland.
    I'll let you guys know what happens.


    *cue suspensful music*
     
  12. Matthew Tucker

    Matthew Tucker Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2002
    Sydney, Australia
    Owner: Bresque Basses, Sydney Basses and Cellos
    Why would installing a neck shim be a preferable solution to moving the neck block out to correct the overstand and filling at the button? Is it that much more difficult/expensive? The great thick neck shim just doesn't look the way to go.
     
  13. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Well, I have not seen the Bass myself so I can't confirm 100%. It is not always easy to move a Neck out. The Block may need re-cutting, the Neck may need a shim under it to re-pitch the angle and a button for length and then you have the original Button to deal with. On some Basses it's almost a sin to disturb the back button as it was made especially if it is decorative. Both my Martini and Gilkes have shims and beautiful detail work in the buttom area. I may move the necks out during a restoration at a later date but a Shim under the Fingerboard is way way easier to do.
     
  14. musicman5string

    musicman5string Banned

    Jan 17, 2006
    Well I dropped the bass off at Gage's today and gave them a month to work on it. We agreed the best thing to do was to take out the shim, pull the neck forward, and graft a piece onto the neck heel. I'm also getting a new fingerboard, a new endpin, new strings, a new Realist pickup, filling in some wood that chipped, repairing some cracks that opened up, getting the tuning machines polished, getting the bass polished, and getting new feet on my adjustable bridge.
    I'm also getting a rather hefty price tag.
    But, I got this bass 10 years ago for $3000, and had it appraised at 4x that much, so I can't really complain.
    Besides, who wants to spend money on rent anyways?:)
     
  15. bassbaterie

    bassbaterie

    Dec 14, 2003
    Houston Texas
    Director, Quantum Bass Center
    Can I ask a question about the neck heel? I have one bass with a D neck, one with a Eb neck, and the Eb one is much easier to play with good tone in the heel region. Why is the D more desirable? Is it possible to reduce the neck heel, even? That bass has a thin neck, very flat in the back, and it just plain feels unnatural. It has a very quiet, sleepy sound and a slow response. Would adding a shim under the fingerboard stiffen the neck to a degree that may help the tone?
     
  16. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.

    An Ebony Shim would stiffin it but that would require a new fingerboard as well. It is hard to keep the same FB once removed. A false nut is the only way I know of to shorten the neck from an Eb to a D short of a cut/splice or new neck graft. I too play Basses with both neck heel stops and only would change it to fix a specific problem. My Batchelder and Morelli are Eb necks. The Loveri I just got was sort of inbetween. The False Nut helped to fix it to a D. The Neck itself was about 1/2" too long than normal and the false nut corrected than and made it a D neck.
     
  17. bassbaterie

    bassbaterie

    Dec 14, 2003
    Houston Texas
    Director, Quantum Bass Center
    Thanks Ken, can I bug ya for a little more detail on this? Would the stiffer neck help the tone? A new FB on that bass would be fine with me, I like a soloist FB that goes up to a "high R" as my teacher says. Is shimming a heroic/extreme effort - maybe I just need to get used to the idea that it's not a great bass.

    And, of the two, I prefer the Eb neck (funny, when I got that bass it had SAW MARKS at the heel - someone had literally tried to saw the neck off!) as it's infinitely easier to play "nice" with nice vibrato on the E,F, and F# on the G string without being impeded by the neck heel. So, why is a D neck considered more correct? Just wondering - is it structural, or does it just make basses more consistent for intonation?
     
  18. musicman5string

    musicman5string Banned

    Jan 17, 2006
    I can offer you this: The guys at Gage are taking OUT my shim, and said the bass is going to sound BETTER. So, maybe the answer to your question about "strengthening " a neck with a shim helps tone is no. (?)
     
  19. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    This also depends on what you have already. My Martini had 3 shims under the FB when I got it. The Neck was planed below the saddle already. I made a pitched Ebony shim to come flush with the saddle and higher at the end of the neck/body joint. The only other way was a Neck Graft and the neck is original and fine. It just had some poor repairs prior to me getting it. I then carved the back of the neck thinner to compensate. That is all that can be done now and I love it just how it is.

    Also, I would never make a flase nut to change from Eb to D. As long as it is one of them, that's fine but if the string length is too long and the False nut helps correct that with bringing it to D like I did with the Loveri, then you end up with a more playable Bass.

    This is NOT Theory I am talking about. I have played these Basses b4 and after the work was done and can feel the improved difference. They say in woodworking to 'measure twice and cut once'. Before I alter a Bass or even change the Tuners, I think about it 20-50 times not including in my sleep. Once you start cutting you are commited to complete the job. Planning for playability and integrity of the Bass is always my main plan.
     
  20. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Musicman, I cannot judge your Bass blind but I can offer this thought. Look at the jobs I described that I did or had done or was done on my Gilkes, Martini and Loveri and then tell me if you see a better way. The Gilkes will get restored soon and a new FB and neck set is on the plan. The shim under the now thin FB is older than most of us and lasted the entire career of the previous owner. To preserve the original 1811 button in the rear a second time (as it was in the 19th century when the shoulders were cut and the original neck button grafted back on), the bottom underside of the Neck butt will be shimmed to re-pitch the neck and raise it slightly as it moves out. This will raise the Bridge height slightly, improve the neck stand and lengthen the string length slightly from 41" to maybe 41 1/4" - 41 1/2". This is its original 1811 neck/scroll still unaltered and we plan on giving it what it deserves in terms of care and the integrity of its original parts.

    As far as costs goes, with the Martini getting a Shim instead of a Graft saved about 2k and we kept its original Neck in tact.