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The English School of Double Basses

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by KSB - Ken Smith, Jul 10, 2005.


  1. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    I am starting this thread to bring to light the Great English Basses Known and Unknown. I would like to keep the content to Basses before 1900 but if something interesting pops up throw it in and see what shakes.

    I currently own 3 English Basses. I have also owned 3 Italian Basses in the past (one now) and I must say that my 3 English Basses match or surpass my 3 Italians.

    I have a Bass here that I just aquired and would like to ID. How many people here have seen English Basses Circa 1800 with 3-piece tops. The center piece is about 10" wide. The lower bout is 27.25" across. This is the first old English Bass I have seen with a 3-piece top. The ff holes are not centered evenly at all from the neck. One is 3/6" lower than the other. The Nicks are sharp 'Diamond' like cuts that are NOT off-set but rather even across facing each other. The Scroll is another Great work of art like the Gilkes but completly different. I will get a 'Page up on my 'Site asap and post the link for all to see. Oh, and the Varnish is a beautiful Golden Brown Oil typical of Dodd and other English makers of that period.

    We have had various discussions here about Cole, Kennedy, Gilkes, Lott, Fendt, Dodd, Betts and others. Some of which I introduced and some by others looking for help with IDs on Basses they were looking at. Please re-introduce those here with 'only' the most current info to avoid old hashings and get a few names on the board of these great English Basses.. AKA, 'The Poor Mans Italian' but, not so Poor anymore..lol
     
  2. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Here are some pics of the Dodd attrib. Bass;

    [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG]

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    Have fun and show some other English stuff when you can...
     
  3. AMJBASS

    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    Wow! That is a gorgeous bass! I am sure it sounds fantastic. Have you purchased it yet, or is it on trial? Looking forward to hearing more about it.

    I have always liked the English basses more than Italians. I know some people will say that a bass sounds Italian, or it sounds "French", but I really don't see how you can make that distinction. There are so many variations from bass to bass no matter what the country of origin. That said, I find that the build quality of English basses are superior to a lot of Italian instruments. Usually better wood, thicker plates, and IMO much more beautiful form. However there are some striking Italian instruments. I just like the classic English shapes....ie//Lott, Fendt, Kennedy, Tarr.
     
  4. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Thx Adrian, Glad you like it. The Bass is not on trial with me. It is mine and agreed to but I have payment terms with the seller. It was the weekend and I needed a few days to arrange payment so I will pay within the current Month. The Bass was Flown in from the UK in a Trunk and the Seller and Trunk is now back in the UK.

    This is one of those older Classic English Basses. They sound a bit different than similar grade Italian Basses. More spread of depth on the English and more Color on top with the Italian. I don't know for sure who made it but I will update my Page as I learn more.

    Feel free to pull pics and post them here if you have a point or refrence to make about a particular feature.
     
  5. Julie

    Julie

    Mar 6, 2005
    Ft. Worth, TX
    Congratulations Ken, you've got a great collection!
    Julie
     
  6. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Thanks Julie.. All I ever wanted was one great Bass. I will let you know when the search is over. For Orchestral Work, this new one it the best I have had yet.
     
  7. Nice! And it's a very manageable 3/4 size too. Where do you find these deals Ken?
     
  8. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    I have never seen a 3/4 with these overall dimentions. This is a 7/8 and is quite big with a managable string lenght but shoulders that demand respect. My Martini is borderline 3/4-7/8 and does not fit in a 3/4 cover. This Bass barely fits nicely in a 7/8 cover. I have Babelok covers for both sizes. The Gilkes fits in the 3/4 but tightly due to the deep ribs and high shoulders.

    Deals?.. This Bass cost more than my Gilkes and rightly so.

    I never discuss cost as I may easily sell any of them on a given day but the previous owner/dealer had turned down offers of 50K (U$D equivelant) as often as they came.

    I have a good Banker through my business and not a money tree in my back yard.
     
  9. Ken

    I just looked at the back length and mensur and figured 3/4. The shoulders are wide for sure. I would have figured 50K plus definetly. More like 80K.

    Jon
     
  10. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Thanks for your Understanding!!

    Many Basses from the Early English are difficult to Identify. Many of them are in or near their original state as well and not as desirable to play as the more playable Fendts and Panormos with accessible neck block/shoulder cuts. English Basses made before Dragonetti's popularity were mostly Cello shaped type shoulders. Bernhard Simon Fendt II was born in 1800. His Father as well as JF Lotts'(aka Jack) father John Lott, made their Basses with bigger shoulders as it was acceptable back then. Most of these 'sexier' shouldered English Basses are after 1820.

    Many of the older ones as well have been cut and reshaped. I have 3 English Basses with high shoulders and 2 of them have already been cut once but are still not as 'user friendly' as most would prefer.

    I will be showing this new aquisition to a few of my contacts in the field as well as 5 different shops in the UK that are well versed in old English Basses. Betts was the first Name it carried but that was mainly due to the Stamp on the Back which can't be read and does not look at all like the Stamp that Betts used. One London Dealer is Positive it is a Dodd Shop Bass. That would then possibly point to Fendt or Lott Seniors, both of them. Of course both of their sons were considerd slightly better makers as far as the Violins go but the 'Dads' were no slouches either. Dodd is reported to do all of the Varnishing himself. The Varnish is beautiful regardless of who mixed or applied it.
     
  11. Tbeers

    Tbeers

    Mar 27, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    Odd that your bass has no outside linings, Ken....
     
  12. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Many Dodd and Forster Basses have Square corners. There are Linings are on some of the Fendts but these are usually later models from 1820ish. The Fendts took over the Betts Shop after his death in 1823. None of my English Basses have linings. Earlier Fendt I Basses were out of the Dodd (period 1798-1809) or Betts shop (1809-1823). I would imagine it was up to the Shop Master how things should be made and not the shop builder.

    I do not find it odd at all that my newest Bass has no linings. I believe the makers involved in question did not use linings in their earlier period. The fact that this Bass was made without lining points more to the earlier period than the later of this school. Joseph Hill is one of the oldest known English makers to use linings but not on every Bass. The English were the greatest Copyists of mainy the Italian School of making. The combination of Linings and squared corners are one of the few English traits exclusive to them. Overlooked is also their beautiful Gold Varnish.

    Please guys, post pics of other English Basses too. I did not start this thread to discuss only my Basses. I am more than happy to do so but I don't wanna make it so one sided......I don't care if you pull a Bass from some other website for discussion purposes. Lets have some fun and interesting conversation as we Journey into the makers of the Great English Basses.
     
  13. dodgy_ian

    dodgy_ian

    Apr 9, 2001
    Newcastle, UK
    I just aquired a bass from my old church in York. Valuation and examination has placed it around 1840, probably from Leeds, not Dearlove (tho he mended early 1900s), but possibly someone under the influence of the Forsters. It looks similar to the one you posted Ken. When it returns from being worked upon next week I shall post some detailed photos as I'd love to have some more thoughts on it.

    dodge
     
  14. Tim Ludlam

    Tim Ludlam

    Dec 19, 1999
    Carmel, IN
    John Smith 1800s

    5/8 James Cole 1860s

    Ken - Here is a couple of the English Basses in Cincy. Obviously the Cole is quite small. I don't know anything about Smith, but this one is a handsome bass.
     
  15. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Yes Tim, I have seen those pics. Nice looking Basses but playing and hearing them it the actual real test. I have seen several pics of Cole Basses and a few look different than 'his' regular outline. I don't have any experience with John Smith. My sons name is Jon (Jonathan) but he's only 17....lol

    That looks like a nice Bass but very littel is written about hime in the books. Just another good English maker I guess out of the 1000s that have come and gone.
     
  16. Hey Kenny Boy....
    I didn't know it was typical of the English basses at that time to have painted purfling....can you tell us why?
    I don't know if I want a painted purfling bass in my bathroom or not.
     
  17. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    I played a beautiful Forster (attributed) 7/8 Cello model Bass last year at Biase's in NYC with the typical Square corners and rich brown Forster Varnish. The Bass is in near mint condition. Last month I looked closely at it again and noticed that the Purfling is scratched in lines and painted in.

    When my Mystery Bass was first looked over by Biase in NY, he saw a few spots on the back where there were painted Purfling lines. Paul said in a flash during the ID of the Bass, "English Ink" in response to the painted lines.

    The Shop I got my most recent Bass from in the UK said it was very common for Basses to have painted lines in place of real Purfling. I have seen Violins like this as well from the early English.

    I have also seen German and Italian Basses withour purfling and scratched or painted lines in it's place if anything at all.

    There is no set rule or period of Basses without purfling in England but b4 1800 is more common than after 1850.

    Now my Gilkes has Purfling "to die for". The only purfling job I have ever seen to match it was on a 1690s Strad Violin I saw last month in NYC. It was the regular 3-layer and inlaid to the 'tips' just like the Gilkes. The Gilkes is 7-layer thin strips glued together, 4 black and 3 white lines. It is Written that S.Gilkes Inlaid Purfling like Strad did. After seeing the Strad and Owning the Gilkes, I can see first hand why.

    The English made ALL Qualities of String instruments. Some have fooled the best experts into thinking they were the real Classic Italians and some were barely fit to play in a Pub during a Bar fight. Most better English is kept out of the Pubs......
     
  18. AMJBASS

    AMJBASS Supporting Member

    Jan 8, 2002
    Ontario, Canada
    I imagine they did it just to save time. Purfling does help protect the edges though does it not?

    I had an early 1800's German bass(3 string converted to 4) without purfling a few years ago. Painted lines on the top, nothing on the back. Great sounding bass, but lacking in volume...
     
  19. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    I had a conversation recently with Arnold about this. You can ask him yourself so I wont speak for him. When the top splits, it splits from the inside.. no?.. The back may shrink and the top can't give in so it gets split apart,..no?

    How would Purfling help prevent this from happening?

    Out of the 8 Older Basses on my Double Bass web page (not including the Shen), the Purfled tops ratio are 5 Purfled and 3 un-purfled. The Backs are 3 purfled and 5 un-purfled. I see no reason to believe Purfling has nearly as much to so with splits as Shrinkage, Weather and Humidity if at all.
     
  20. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    It would stop bigger damage if the lip of the front or back got snagged on something. The wood would want to snap off at the perferation. Kinda like the paper I was -- well, never mind.