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To refurb or not to refurb - this is the question..

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by zradguy, May 15, 2011.

  1. zradguy


    May 2, 2011
    Boulder, CO
    Hi all, I have a 15-year old Englehardt student bass which I purchased in good condition in 1999 or so for $1000. I've played it on and off over the years (I'm primarily an electric player).

    It's set up for orchestral playing I'm guessing, since the action is SUPER high off the neck, and it's hard as heck to play fingerstyle (which would be my preference).

    What I'm wondering is whether it's worth investing money in fixing the action to make it play better, or whether I should sell it and try to find another one that plays better?

    I was told many years ago that for $800 a luthier would saw the neck off, bolt in a shim to lower the action, replace or at least reposition the sound post, give it a new bridge, and a good set of nylon-wound strings. Does this seem like a reasonable idea??

    I have no idea what I'm doing, so any advice would be fantastic. Thanks!!
  2. Stev187

    Stev187 Peavey MegaBass Club!

    Jan 11, 2011
    Toledo, OH
    You'll probably get more and better advice from people who are actually luthiers, but let me offer my opinion.

    Sounds like you'd be better off to take any $ you spent and apply it toward another bass. That's a lot of dough to sink into a $1,000 bass. If you could get most of your $1,000 back plus the $800 you were thinking of spending, you could get something like this:

    Christopher Laminated Double Bass DB204T - Upton Bass String Instrument Company

    The real value in a bass like the one above is that it's been set up properly by people who know what they're doing. Not sure what part of the country you're in, but you should look around a bit, too.


    P.S. Oh, and about those "nylon-wound" strings. Unless you want a very specific sound, you'll probably want to go with steel strings. Surf the archives here for information.
  3. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Saw off the neck to lower the string height? Sounds absurd! Whether you should invest in a setup depends upon how much work is need (affecting cost), how much you like that bass, and the condition it's in. Let's assume it needs only a bridge, the sound-post adjusted, and some minor tweaks. That could be a few hundred bucks. As a reference, keep in mind that you can buy what, IMO, would be a substantially better new instrument delivered with a good setup for, say, $1500-$1800. Put that together with what you might get for the Engel if you sold it (I have no idea of its condition) and take it from there. Hope this gives you some info that'll help you to make the choice that's right for you.
  4. punkozuna


    Mar 19, 2011
    Irrigon, Oregon
    If you're talking about setting up the bass for rockabilly slap style, bluegrass or jazz, you just need to get your bridge cut down (or get a new one and have a luthier cut it down for you). If you have any woodworking skilz at all, you can cut it down yourself. Shoot for 9mm clearance between the bottom of the strings and the end of the fingerboard for starters.
    The stock strings on an Engelhardt are the worst strings I've seen for slap and "finger style" playing. Very thick and high tension.
    Get a set of strings made for it - guts, Lamberts, Rotosound RS4000s, Silver slaps, psycho slaps etc. etc.
    After lowering the strings, it's possible you'll get buzzes and will need to have a luthier dress the board or adjust the nut. There's a good chance you won't need it, though.

    If you get a luthier to cut your bridge an buy one of the cheaper string alternatives, you can probably get by for about $300-$350.
  5. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Hmm... If the OP is interested in playing jazz, I wouldn't recommend any of the strings mentioned as a start. In addition, it takes a bit more than general woodworking skills to properly cut down and shape a bridge (being mindful of the arc in the fingerboard). I think the OP would be hard pressed to buy a good set of strings and have the bridge work and other minor setup done by a competent luthier for $300-$350.
  6. before you bail on the engelhardt ,give it a go with some lower buck improvement$. most of them suffer from common set-up issues and can be made playable without a lot of fuss.
  7. First, perspective -
    There is probably no good reason to remove the neck. Cutting down the bridge height and nut is not brain surgery and not that expensive. A good set of strings could cost $170 and you can install them for $0.

    It is hard to make a useful appraisal of the situation based on what someone said. Advise offered so far on TB has been good.

    Has the bass gotten harder to play over the years or was it always bad?

    Can you provide some measurements -

    At the nut, how many credit card worth of thickness clearance (fingerboard to string)?

    What is the string height at the big end of the fingerboard (board to under the string) for the G and E. It should be a little higher than the diameter of a #2 pencil.

    If you push a string to the fingerboard at both the nut and the big end, how much clearance is there at the body joint. There should be 1/16 to 1/8". Much more and the neck may be warping forward.

    If possible some pictures would help. Can you provide pix of the full neck from the side, front from nut to tailpc, and front and side of bridge.

    Then you will get informed and more useful advice. This could be an easy (cheap) fix if the neck is not warped.
  8. bigolbassguy


    Feb 13, 2010
    Billings, MT
  9. zradguy


    May 2, 2011
    Boulder, CO
    You guys, thank you all for commenting. It's all good advice to me. Apologies it took me this long to respond. I lost this thread and just figured out how to get it back.

    I think I will start by taking it in again and have someone take a look. I'm encouraged that it sounds like there at least some options besides junking it or selling it. As for questions on measurements, suffice it to say that the distance between the big part of the neck near the bridge, and the E string is probably close to two inches. It's in bad shape : ). I'm not up for cutting down the bridge myself, but it does sound like I can get a new one and a set of strings for a decent price.

    Thank you all for the very valuable advice!
  10. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    If it's 2 inches, then my first impression is that something's wrong. I'd want a luthier to be able to tell me the root cause of the issue. Otherwise, it'll be another 2 inches next year.

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