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Upgrading an Englehardt C-1

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by mikeln, Dec 30, 2003.

  1. mikeln

    mikeln Supporting Member

    Dec 2, 2003
    San Diego, CA (Poway)
    I have a (relatively) old Englehardt C-1. I was considering replacing it with a Shen or New American Standard. But, finances indicate that an upgrade of the bass is more feasible. Also, I want to start down the dark path of bass luthiery... :eek:

    Now there is luthier approx 100 miles away...but time and money limit my access. (i.e. spare the the go to a luthier preaching please). I have cabinet making experience and decent tools.

    Background: The bass has always played pretty well and sounds great...bone stock, Helicore Pizz...Fishman BP-100 pickup. I play 95% pizz Jazz with some Arco endings. But has always been a little quiet. I have adjusted the soundpost and rebuild the current adjustable bridge in the past.

    Plan (in order):
    1) New bridge w/ Fishman full-circle (already ordered from "all hail" Bob G).
    2) Replace the wire hanger on the Tailpiece with some high-tech cord.
    3) Replace the Tailpiece with an MPM compensated Tailpiece (probably myrtle burl)

    I plan to perform these operations in order, and observe the sonic changes and playability of the bass.

    Any words of wisdom or comments on my plan of attack? All will be welcome.
  2. My advice would be to keep the old parts and put them back on if or when you're ready to sell the Englehardt -- you probably won't get your money back on the upgrade parts. Englehardt don't seem to have the Kay mojo working for them in the resale market (yet).

    I have an old beat-up Englehardt that's been sitting in the basement since I got my Christopher about a year and a half ago. I keep threatening to do the full refurb -- strip, refinish, new fingerboard, etc. -- just to see what it might amount to.
  3. mikeln

    mikeln Supporting Member

    Dec 2, 2003
    San Diego, CA (Poway)
    "See what it might amount too..." That's the correct sentiment here! I wouldn't bother upgrading this bass, but it has always played like butter (for an Englehardt)...like to see where I can take it!
  4. I was in the same position as you in early 2000 with my brand spankin' new ES9. My advice is read, read, read. Bob Gollihur's site, http://www.gollihur.com/kkbass/basslink.html
    has many how-to articles under the heading resources. If you can't find a specific article check-out the archives of the 2xBasslist.

    You can get THERE from THERE!

    Also read all of Jeff Bollbach's luthier rants at his site. www.jeffbollbach.com

    My only regret of doing my own set-up was not taking enough care to protect the top and f-holes. There's definetly some "erosion" showing!
    Also when the wooden wheels of my very expensive adjustable bridge split my only option was to get new adjusters from the very famous shop in New York where it came from. Since I had fitted it myself only the adjusters were being replaced not the whole bridge. Of course the new adjusters had more play in them and now the bridge was leaning. This took a couple of very frustrating hours to fix and there was barely enough wood left on the feet to fix it.

    Good luck!
  5. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    I would guess that a new bridge and a the flex tailgut will make a great difference in the volume if nothing else. That alone makes it worth the effort.

    I don't have much of a feel for the impact of the compensated tailpiece.

    I would consider replacing the endpin as well if you haven't already done so.
  6. mikeln

    mikeln Supporting Member

    Dec 2, 2003
    San Diego, CA (Poway)
    I actually like the endpin...though it makes that god-aweful "CLACK" if I don't get it tight! I also have a rubber ball mounted on the end of the pin...stays put anywhere.
  7. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    Keep in mind that every good set-up comes about from first putting the fingerboard in good order. If yours is still factory Engelhardt, you've got loads of lacquer on a poorly arched and cambered fingerboard. That's where I would start. Good luck with the job!
  8. mikeln

    mikeln Supporting Member

    Dec 2, 2003
    San Diego, CA (Poway)
    Not sure if this is still in factory form...I bought it 10 years ago from a guitar dealer friend. That being said, I've never really noticed any problems with the fingerboard...but I'll definitely take that under advisement, thanks Arnold! Arethere any good places (web, books?) to find info on shaping a fingerboard?
  9. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    Not really...but there have been some related posts here on TB. Perhaps you can search them out. You could also PM some of the TB luthiers for tips--everyone's got their own work methods and theories.
  10. mikeln

    mikeln Supporting Member

    Dec 2, 2003
    San Diego, CA (Poway)
    Well, I did the upgrades: Fishman Full Circle pickup and new bridge (from Bob G), Myrtle compensated tailpiece from MPM, high-tech tailpiece cord from MPM.

    The bridge took much longer than I had estimated. A belt sander and a band saw really help! Also, allow for some stretch as the cord and knot settle.

    As for the sound...wow! Much, much louder with good tone acoustically. The fishman works and sounds much better than my old fishman BP-100 pickup...the bass sounds like itself only amplified.

    Thanks all! Here's a picture...(I haven't trimmed off the cord yet)

  11. Way to go Mike...personally, I would shorten the space between the saddle and the bottom of your tail piece. It always seems to me that the closer you can get the TP to the saddle, the better the results are...at least for jazz pizz.
    I can't see what kind of closer you are using for the wire. I'm partial to the brass with the allen screws in for a real adjustable closure. Also, put some shrink tubing on the wire after length.
    Is that one of Dr. Mikes TPs?
    What are those pits or scratches on the top of the bass?...This'll sound crazed, but one of my favorite products is that Old English scratch cover! You can get it in the house cleaning department of King Soopers or Safeway, or any super market. Comes in three or four shades and is just furniture polish with a liitle stain added to it. This stuff will do wonders on scratches, pits and scraped up edges in lieu of messing with stains and touch-up stuff.
    After re-looking at your pictures, that TP wire you're using may be too thick to use the brass closure i'm thinking of.
    Anyway, good luck and i'm right down I-25, North of you in Denver. I'm in the phone book....
  12. tsolo


    Aug 24, 2002
    Ft. Worth
    (among others)

    My apologees for hijacking this thread but, man, now I'm really confused.
  13. mikeln

    mikeln Supporting Member

    Dec 2, 2003
    San Diego, CA (Poway)
    Bass Background: I bought this bass second hand to replace my previous Englehardt 10 years ago (mainly because this one had better playability)...anyway, it was beat up like this when I got it. I've just left the "character" marks. But thanks Paul...maybe that will be the next upgrade...make it look better! :)

    As to the other question(s): The TP wire is high tech cord http://www.mikepecanicmusic.com/catalog_tailcords.html sold by Mike Pecanic (and yes that is one of Mike's tailpieces http://www.mikepecanicmusic.com/images/finalwoods/myrtleburl.jpg - note that mine is non-stabalized myrtle not myrtle-burl).

    The cord is tied with a special knot...which induced about 3cm stretch into the TP distance as the knot and the cord "settled". Originally the end of the TP was even with the saddle. I was going to re-tie it but after trying the setup, I was satisfied with the improvements and decided to let it be (at least for a couple weeks..)
  14. olivier


    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    I may be wrong, but I do not know any convenient way to fine-tune the bridge-to-tailpiece part of the each string string, except perhaps with M Pecanik compensated tailpiece. However, this is not the model installed on Mikeln's bass, where some compensation re string pitch is provided, but not to a fine-tuning level since the four stops are fixed. So is "just vaguely tuned" fine enough ?

    On the other hand, Paul's recomendation is interesting. As a rule of thumb, what can you expect soundwise from moving the tailpiece up or down ?
  15. mikeln

    mikeln Supporting Member

    Dec 2, 2003
    San Diego, CA (Poway)
    old thread on this:

    This may help...or do a search for tailpiece in the DB Setup & Repair forum.

    Considering that the standard Englehardt tailpiece is straight non-compensated...I figure any little bit should help. Dr. Pecanic has a fix compensated tailpiece with much greater distance difference btwn the G and E.

    As for the adjustable tailpiece...I recall a thread about this:

    Actually my tailpiece is not that far from the saddle...the picture angle is such that it exagerates the distance.

    Anyway... I think the tailpiece material/hanger cord made more difference than the compensation. But, I cannot be sure.
  16. Alot of players believe that ALL that matters below the bridge is tail piece mass. There are a couple of ways to experiment with this..one of which is by putting different size clamps on the TP weighing it down. Of course you'd have to have a very light TP to start with if you were going to play with different weights.
    I can't believe Branstetter isn't in on this one...one of his pet beefs?
  17. olivier


    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    Thanks to remind me of these threads, but there's no clear answer in them... so the conclusion is anybody's guess ! Reading between the lines (or between threads!), my guess is that compensation is beneficial to some extent, but that small incremental benefits do not converge to a clearly defined "fine-tuned" state. Maybe somebody knows more ?

    Regarding tailpiece mass, I do agree with Paul that there is a consensus here. A lot of older violins have being equipped with plastic TP of the Wittner type, and became louder in the process. Similarly, it mutes down a fiddle to install four metal fine tuners on a tailpiece.

    I have one more point I'd like to get cleared: sound improvement from a lighter TP (eg ebony vs MPM's or Wittner) can be expected only for pizz ? or also arco ? From the comparison with violin, it should work in any case...
  18. I've been experimenting for that last few months with tuning tailpices as per the Dennis Braun method of tuning the tailpiece itself to 1/2 of the resonance frequency of the body (A0). This usually puts the tailpiece resonance somewhere in the range of 25-40Hz. Depending on the A0, a heavier TP might be better than a lighter one on one instrument, and the exact opposite on another. Please note that I am tuning the tailpice itself, not the after length of the string or the tailpiece wire. I have not as of yet decided if the improvement gained by tuning the TP is worth all the time that is required to perform the tuning, but I'm still in the early stages of experimentation.