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Wenzl B. Wilfer 4/4 5-string

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by lfh, Mar 27, 2016.


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  1. lfh

    lfh

    Dec 18, 2003
    Stockholm, Sweden
    Hi All,
    I've been happy with the "Spiro-on-Plywood" sound for years, but I'd like to add "Guts-on-Wood" to the palette. I'm currently looking at a 1959 Wenzl B. Wilfer 4/4 5-string (I use a high C-string) that I think will deliver the goods (I have it on loan for a week), but I do have some concerns and hence I turn to you for advice:

    String length
    The string length with the current setup is a whopping 112.4 cm = 44.25 in measured on the D-string. With a new bridge and nut this can likely be brought back to the nominal 110 cm = 43.3 in, but this is still a bit frightening. I can double stop octaves in half position, but I need to survive a night in D-flat at high tempos... Maybe I should give up right here?

    The bass is very stiff and feels choked with Spiro Orchester. Spiro Weich have a too low tension for my taste on a "normal" bass, but I've ordered a set as a "benchmark" thinking that at 110+ they might be just the ticket. (I have very little experience with gut, so for the evaluation it's probably best to start with something familiar.)

    Market value
    I need to factor in the risk that after say 6-12 months I conclude that the string length is too much to handle after all. Since the market isn't exactly craving for basses with string lengths above 43 in, and 5 stringers is quite a niche too, this bass can be hard to sell. Moreover there are some issues that need to be addressed/considered:

    Firstly it needs a full setup; new bridge, new fingerboard, new nut, new endpin. Secondly, this bass has been owned by amateur orchestra(s) and apparently it lived a hard life. I wouldn't call it a "beater" but it has cracks and lots of blemishes. In addition, the cracks have been repaired by a luthier with a less than stellar reputation (I shall not mention the name).

    In my next post, I'll upload some pics. My question is what a fair price for this instrument would be.
     
  2. lfh

    lfh

    Dec 18, 2003
    Stockholm, Sweden
    First some overview pics:

    wbw_1959_p01_tb.jpg wbw_1959_p02_tb.jpg wbw_1959_p04_tb.jpg wbw_1959_p05_tb.jpg

    Here's the repaired crack in the lid, extending to the bridge:

    wbw_1959_p09_tb.jpg wbw_1959_p10_tb.jpg wbw_1959_p11_tb.jpg

    It's hard to capture with the camera, but the arch is slightly collapsed at the bass side due to the damage/repair. The effect is somewhat visible at the f-hole in the third pic above.

    Here's a crack in the rim (there are couple of smaller ones too), also repaired a long time ago:

    wbw_1959_p13_tb.jpg

    The fingerboard wasn't glued on straight, so the bridge is offset to the side:

    wbw_1959_p16_tb.jpg

    The bridge has quite some arch towards the endpin side, which leads me to believe that maybe 1 cm can be knocked off from the string length with a different cut (while keeping the feet at the proper position)?

    wbw_1959_p17_tb.jpg
     
  3. Pass. I, personally, would not run screaming from that instrument. But I think you should, given that this will be your first carved bass and it has a saddle crack that runs up the bass bar.

    That is a major repair, and whoever dealt with it screwed it up.
     
    Remyd and salcott like this.
  4. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Chicago
    Five string basses are much more common and sought after in Europe that in the US, so I wouldn't let that stop you. But, the string length, even if shortened to 43", would still be a deal breaker if it is too long for you to play comfortably, and it will make it harder to sell in the future. That alone would be reason for a deep discount in the sales price, not to mention potential structural issues kungfu mentions, and the full setup you say it needs($$$).

    My guess is that in a US major market, a WB Wilfer bass with a 42" string length in good health could get $10-18K, depending on sound.

    I would pass on this and find a bass with better proportions and health.
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2016
  5. lfh

    lfh

    Dec 18, 2003
    Stockholm, Sweden
    Thanks for your replies! I gather then that this would only be worth pursuing as an "experiment", in which case the price must be set accordingly.

    The asking price was about USD 7200 in December but was recently lowered to USD 5800 and advertised as a "bargain". Of course pristine Wilfers can sell for 10000, but my gut feel is that a realistic price for this instrument would rather be in the 4000 ballpark(?). What's your take on the market value?

    The setup/repairs I listed could run another 2000 (and that's w/o addressing the poorly repaired cracks).
     
  6. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Chicago
    Find a Wilfer that you like with 42" or less string length in good health in your price range. They are out there!

    Market value is whatever this guy will finally take for this bass. Why drop your hard earned $$$ into an "experiment"? Because 43" SL is too long for you, it's not the bass for you! Getting the SL lower would require more extensive surgery, even if the bass was even a candidate for that, and a Wilfer probably won't fit the criteria as they aren't going to be of high enough value when all is done.
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2016
  7. lfh

    lfh

    Dec 18, 2003
    Stockholm, Sweden
    Yeah, you're right... I should let go, even though I love the sound. I'm fine with 42.5 in = 108 cm which probably is close to the 7/8 version.

    For posterity, here are the dimensions of the bass:

    Nominal string length: 110 cm (43.3")
    Neck: D
    Overall length: 193 cm (76")
    Body length: 116 cm (45.7")
    Upper bout: 52.5 cm (20.7")
    Middle bout: 37.5 cm (14.8)
    Lower bout: 68.3 cm (26.9")
    Rim (at the bottom): 21.5 cm (8.5")
    Bridge height: 17.3 cm (6.8")
     
  8. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Chicago
    You could take the bass to a reputable shop or two and ask them if the SL can be lowered to 42.5" and if so, how much for that and all the repairs it needs. Then figure out your buying price based on that. I bet it will be pretty low or even negative.
     
  9. There's a lovely new Wilfer for sale at String Emporium for $7500. Boom. Done.
     
  10. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Chicago
    Just saw that. He'd have to get it to Europe. There are plenty there already!
     
  11. lfh

    lfh

    Dec 18, 2003
    Stockholm, Sweden
    Thanks. It's missing one string, though ;) (I switched to 5 strings back in 1990, and I'm not going back to 4.)
     
  12. Details, details.

    Steve quoted me $300 to ship a bass in a trunk by air across the US, if that makes any difference to you.

    And a low B string is in the way more often than its not. I have a fiver, and rarely use the low notes.
     
  13. lfh

    lfh

    Dec 18, 2003
    Stockholm, Sweden
    We're now going OT but: I agree regarding the low B. May I suggest you try the EADGC-tuning? I absolutely love the high C, however not primarily for the extended range. IMHO it really opens up the bass; more sounds, more fingering options.
     
  14. Tried that. Hated it. Thank you for the suggestion, though.
     
  15. lfh

    lfh

    Dec 18, 2003
    Stockholm, Sweden
    Here are two more pics for the Wilfer fans while being at it:

    wbw_1959_p07_tb.jpg wbw_1959_p08_tb.jpg

    Note that it doesn't have the usual WBW label. Instead the Swedish shop (Gärtners verkstad för stråkinstrument, Arvika) put its own label in it, just like Juzek did on your side of the pond.
     
  16. Don Kasper

    Don Kasper Supporting Member

    I dream of commissioning a (or adapting an existing) 5 string:
    E,A,D,G,C, but with a low C-extension w/gates. (NO guts, BTW.)
    Maybe $omeday.
    Good Luck.
     
  17. lfh

    lfh

    Dec 18, 2003
    Stockholm, Sweden
    If I detune by half a step (now a hodgepodge of Spiro E, Obligato A, D, G, Flexocor C) I manage even the current 44.25" without problems at practice. In other words I do have the reach, so with lower tension strings I might be just fine at 43.3". The "experiment" would be to find out whether I cope with it over time, during real world conditions...
     
  18. lfh

    lfh

    Dec 18, 2003
    Stockholm, Sweden
    Yep. That's the perfect bass :) I know of a guy in Sweden (don't remember his name) with that setup.
     
    Don Kasper likes this.
  19. lfh

    lfh

    Dec 18, 2003
    Stockholm, Sweden
    I doubt the bass will sell (quickly) at USD 5800 in its current condition. As for the poor repairs, judging from a repair label they were likely done back in 1986. While ugly and perhaps not ideal for the sound, it's reasonable to assume they will hold up. It's not worth the money to have them redone on a bass like this. What can be done within reason though, is to give the bass a perfect setup. I think the fingerboard is beyond salvation, since too much material has been removed where the neck meets the body. To get the perfect relief according to my taste would leave the lower part too thin. Without checking in detail I think 43" is doable without messing up the geometries (I still want it to be a D-neck) by tweaking the nut and bridge. (Resetting the neck is again out of question.)

    If we assume that the bass will sell (quickly) at USD 5000 with a nice setup, and that the fixes needed for playability cost USD 2500, the "safe" buying price would be USD 2500 or 43% of the current price...
     
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    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

     
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