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What do I need to get done?

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by tplyons, Feb 13, 2004.


  1. tplyons

    tplyons

    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    As you all know, I got an Engelhardt EM-1 from Bob Gollihur for Christmas, completely stock still, and I'm starting to realize what I want in a bass...

    This is what I want to get done to my bass by a luthier...

    New bridge, maybe adjustable --> lower action
    New set of Helicore Medium strings
    Sand/oil back of neck for unfinished, worn feel
    Condition fingerboard

    Is there anything else I should look at getting done? I play mostly pizz but don't want to rule out arco by any means. I want a bass that can go both ways without suffering at all. I'm also looking at getting a pickup in the near future.
     
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  3. tplyons

    tplyons

    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    Instead of a completely new bridge, why not put adjusters on the existing one? Saves some money and you will probably be just as happy with the result.
    Sounds like a plan, I didn't realize that was possible/easy/cheap.

    New set of strings is fine, why don't you like the strings that are on it now? Have you ever tried the Helicores?
    I use Helicores at school and like them very much on my Kay C-1. The ones that are on there are rather dull and scratchy while bowing. (I think they're LaBella's of some sort)

    Why do you want to sand down the neck, is it too thick, or are you looking for that played-in look that comes from years of practice?
    The neck seems about right, maybe a tad thick but that may just be the finish. I'm just looking for the played in look/feel from years of playing.

    By conditioning do you mean replaning? was it that bad when you got it, or do you just want it dressed a little?
    It seems really dry, bothers me a bit (I keep very good care of my electric bass fingerboards) maybe dressed a bit, the edges are a tad rough, but not too bad.

    also if you get the bridge redone, a luthier will probably do this anyway, but check the nut, too.
    Sounds good.

    The reason I am bringing this up is that there are differences between what you want and what you need, and you should look into some different solutions before you blow a big Wad on uneccesary upgrades.
    Thanks a lot! That's why I'm asking here before finding a luthier!
     
  4. Gufenov

    Gufenov

    Jun 8, 2003
    I wouldn't waste any money installing adjusters on a stock Engelhardt bridge, unless they've drastically improved the quality in recent months. You'll be happier, and get more sound, from a new, better bridge.

    Do you really need adjusters? Plywoods aren't affected by temperature and humidity to the extent that carved instruments are. Unless you need the ability to change string height (playing different styles?) you might be better off with a good quality, solid bridge, properly installed.
     
  5. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    The text below was copied for a recent summary I posted of my experience with Engelhardt. If our friendly mods find a simple link more appropriate, deleting this won't hurt my feelings at all:

    1. The bridges Engelhardt provide are of inferior quality. They come from the factory "fitted," but with a very high string height. Since it will require additional fitting work anyway, and you will likely want adjusters installed, you are better off springing the extra few bucks for a quality blank and having the luthier start from scratch. Otherwise, you'll just respend down the road for a new bridge anyway.

    2. The solid wire tailgut is suspect at best. Not only do they choke the sound, some propose that they can be dangerous as they are apt to break. A flex tailgut is probably the least expensive upgrade you can do to an Engelhardt/Kay. I RARELY see them that this work hasn't been done.

    3. The fingerboard will need work. How much and when depends on your playing preferences. I did not have mine planed for nearly a year, but once I lowered the strings a bit and started learning to work at and above the 5th position, the need was VERY apparent. In hindsight, I suggest getting it done right in the beginning. Part of this work should include properly fitting the nut.

    4. The endpins are about as cheap as I have ever seen. They do function, but it takes some doing to get the thing properly adjusted, and they are very prone to rattle. In your case, you'll likely play the bass with the pin nearly or fully collapsed, so it may be even more likely to rattle. IMO, a new, quality endpin is a $100 well spent.

    Many who play it really low simply cut the rest of the pin off so it is less likely to rattle. That may be another option for you.

    5. You may want to have a new post fitted, or you may not. This is a little tricky as new plywoods change a great deal over the first couple of years of ownership. Getting the post right for your sound will be tough since it will change so much at first.

    As far as string selection goes, well that is always a matter of debate. I don't know of a particular string that is known to match better than others with an Engelhardt. You'll just have to get some advice from your luthier based on the music you are interested in playing. There is also plenty on strings in the TBDB string forum.
     
  6. tplyons

    tplyons

    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    Yep, I remember reading this, some of the things I was afraid of...

    1. The bridges Engelhardt provide are of inferior quality. They come from the factory "fitted," but with a very high string height. Since it will require additional fitting work anyway, and you will likely want adjusters installed, you are better off springing the extra few bucks for a quality blank and having the luthier start from scratch. Otherwise, you'll just respend down the road for a new bridge anyway.
    Just what I thought, better off with a new bridge with adjusters right?

    2. The solid wire tailgut is suspect at best. Not only do they choke the sound, some propose that they can be dangerous as they are apt to break. A flex tailgut is probably the least expensive upgrade you can do to an Engelhardt/Kay. I RARELY see them that this work hasn't been done.
    Cheap fix, definately not out of the question.

    3. The fingerboard will need work. How much and when depends on your playing preferences. I did not have mine planed for nearly a year, but once I lowered the strings a bit and started learning to work at and above the 5th position, the need was VERY apparent. In hindsight, I suggest getting it done right in the beginning. Part of this work should include properly fitting the nut.
    Definately agree here, but I would probably pass on this for now as I am baroque ;)

    4. The endpins are about as cheap as I have ever seen. They do function, but it takes some doing to get the thing properly adjusted, and they are very prone to rattle. In your case, you'll likely play the bass with the pin nearly or fully collapsed, so it may be even more likely to rattle. IMO, a new, quality endpin is a $100 well spent.
    Last thing on my mind right now, it works for me, has a rubber tip and where the screw fits into a notch is the perfect height for me.

    Many who play it really low simply cut the rest of the pin off so it is less likely to rattle. That may be another option for you.
    Definately possible, what's it made out of?

    5. You may want to have a new post fitted, or you may not. This is a little tricky as new plywoods change a great deal over the first couple of years of ownership. Getting the post right for your sound will be tough since it will change so much at first.
    I assume you mean soundpost... how much is this? Would it be worth it to hold off a year or so while the plywood sets in?

    As far as string selection goes, well that is always a matter of debate. I don't know of a particular string that is known to match better than others with an Engelhardt. You'll just have to get some advice from your luthier based on the music you are interested in playing. There is also plenty on strings in the TBDB string forum.
    Definately all for Helicore Mediums, work great for me on my Kay C-1 at school, I'm definately a fan of these for both pizz and arco.

    'Nother question...would it be a good idea to buy a pickup first and have a luthier fit it, or get all the work done and then get the pickup when I can better afford it? Would I be able to install most of the K&K's myself?
     
  7. jimclark68

    jimclark68

    Dec 16, 2000
    Morganton, NC
    I have an EM-1, and below is a list of things that have been done to it to improve it.

    1) Put on quality strings. I think the E's are still coming with the LaBellas. I find my E to be tight, and it takes a fairly high-tension string to pull any real volume out of it. The best string I found was Spirocore Mediums, which let you have lower action without sound sacrifice. I'm currently using Superflexibles so that I can bow a little bit.

    2) Swapped out the tailgut with the cable kit from Lemur music. An easy do-it-yourself task and money well-spent. It may have been a placebo effect, but I felt that it opened up the sound just a bit, and it certainly is worth it for the peace of mind.

    3) Had a better endpin stalled by a luthier. Believe me, you don't realize how sorry the E endpin is. I bought one of less-expensive models from Lemur when I got the tailgut, and it is light-years better than the stock rod.

    3) Sanded the polyglop off of the back of the neck. I was able to do this myself with guidance from the good folks at TalkBass. The neck is much more playable.

    4) Adjustable bridge. I started fooling around with the bridge height with the original cheapo bridge that came on my E. I bought the adjustable bridge from (All HAIL) Bob G. and installed it myself. I like the adjusters because I am constantly fiddling around with my string height. But the idea is to get a good quality bridge that is fit to your needs by a pro. I do NOT recommend trying to fit the bridge yourself. I still ended up having mine worked on by a luthier so that I could use a bow with the flat-ish fingerboard profile of the E.

    5) Buffed the finish out. No sound/playability improvement, but now it looks only awful instead of dreadful. Just say no to reflective basses.

    6) Had a luthier dress the fingerboard and carve a new soundpost. Definitely the best $$$ I've spent on the bass yet. Significant improvements in sound and playability. I put it off for a long time, convincing myself that I didn't need all this stuff done, I wasn't a good enough player to justify it, it doesn't make a difference when you're only playing folk/blkuegrass, etc. Wrong.

    Good luck!
     
  8. tplyons

    tplyons

    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    1) Put on quality strings. I think the E's are still coming with the LaBellas. I find my E to be tight, and it takes a fairly high-tension string to pull any real volume out of it. The best string I found was Spirocore Mediums, which let you have lower action without sound sacrifice. I'm currently using Superflexibles so that I can bow a little bit.
    Same train of thought, I really like the Helicores for both pizz and arco though.

    2) Swapped out the tailgut with the cable kit from Lemur music. An easy do-it-yourself task and money well-spent. It may have been a placebo effect, but I felt that it opened up the sound just a bit, and it certainly is worth it for the peace of mind.
    Was it easy to do? Does it work with the old tailpiece?

    3) Had a better endpin stalled by a luthier. Believe me, you don't realize how sorry the E endpin is. I bought one of less-expensive models from Lemur when I got the tailgut, and it is light-years better than the stock rod.
    What defines a bad endpin? So far this is the least of my worries.

    3) Sanded the polyglop off of the back of the neck. I was able to do this myself with guidance from the good folks at TalkBass. The neck is much more playable.
    Looking at doing that too. Care to elaborate on your method?

    4) Adjustable bridge. I started fooling around with the bridge height with the original cheapo bridge that came on my E. I bought the adjustable bridge from (All HAIL) Bob G. and installed it myself. I like the adjusters because I am constantly fiddling around with my string height. But the idea is to get a good quality bridge that is fit to your needs by a pro. I do NOT recommend trying to fit the bridge yourself. I still ended up having mine worked on by a luthier so that I could use a bow with the flat-ish fingerboard profile of the E.
    Definately one of the things I wanted done, how much did it cost ya?

    5) Buffed the finish out. No sound/playability improvement, but now it looks only awful instead of dreadful. Just say no to reflective basses.
    Once again, how did you go about this?

    6) Had a luthier dress the fingerboard and carve a new soundpost. Definitely the best $$$ I've spent on the bass yet. Significant improvements in sound and playability. I put it off for a long time, convincing myself that I didn't need all this stuff done, I wasn't a good enough player to justify it, it doesn't make a difference when you're only playing folk/blkuegrass, etc. Wrong.
    I guess great minds think alike. Out of your six recommendations, I pondered five of them for the same reasons, especially the neck and the bridge. Would you call your bass super-sweet now?
     
  9. jimclark68

    jimclark68

    Dec 16, 2000
    Morganton, NC
    Swapping the tailgut was a cinch. I adjusted the cable so that the string afterlength was the same as with the coat-hanger wire. After reading discussions about the issue of afterlength, I opted to just keep it the same. It required no mods at all to the stock tailpiece and took very little time to complete.

    I would define a bad endpin as one that comes on an E! To be more specific, the intermittent rattle is a real drag. I cut the excess off and still had problems. Also, the finish of the materials is hardware-store quality. I know that seems irrelevant to a degree, but the one I replaced it with is much more adjustable, the screw is nicer, and it is completely quiet 100% pf the time. Plus, it came with a large rubber stop in the bottom that threads onto a pointed pin. This all adds up to a more stable feel when you've got it on the floor. I think I paid around $35 from Lemur for it. I do agree with you that of all the things you want to do to your bass, the endpin is arguably the least important relative to the others.

    To sand the neck, i just went to the hardware store and got a variety of sandpaper, including very coarse to cut through the weapons-grade finish up to very fine for the finish work. Then I rubbed some boiled linseed oil into the sanded neck. You will read a variety of opoinions about what to rub into the wood, including some who say use nothing. I have been happy with the linseed oil. Another cheap and easy task that doesn't take a lot of time.

    I think the bridge was around $66 from Bob G. But after spending hours fitting it, I would have gladly paid a luthier to do it. I spent $25 having it curved by a luthier after the fact; a few more bux, and he could have done the whole thing.

    I just grabbed a green Scotchbrite pad, soaked it in water to minimize the dust, and started rubbing. When I was done, I wiped it off with a damp towel, then polished it with a dry terry-cloth towel. The relatively thick polyester glop is supposed to really choke the sound. I'm not sure if I helped this, because I don't think I really took a lot off, but it sure looks better.

    After all this, I still have a student-quality plywood bass. But, I think it is playing as nice as I can get it, and I am happy with it. It is without a doubt a much better-looking and, more importantly, better-sounding bass that is much more playable.
     
  10. tplyons

    tplyons

    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    Swapping the tailgut was a cinch. I adjusted the cable so that the string afterlength was the same as with the coat-hanger wire. After reading discussions about the issue of afterlength, I opted to just keep it the same. It required no mods at all to the stock tailpiece and took very little time to complete.
    Alright, next dumb question. What kind of tailgut did you use? Aircraft cable? Crimplock? Nylon? I heard good things about the aircraft cable but it seems to me it would closely resemble the coathanger on there now.

    To sand the neck, i just went to the hardware store and got a variety of sandpaper, including very coarse to cut through the weapons-grade finish up to very fine for the finish work. Then I rubbed some boiled linseed oil into the sanded neck. You will read a variety of opoinions about what to rub into the wood, including some who say use nothing. I have been happy with the linseed oil. Another cheap and easy task that doesn't take a lot of time.
    Hmm, that's debatable. I was quoted $50 to sand down the wood a bit to a nice shape, might let the luthier handle that task.

    I think the bridge was around $66 from Bob G. But after spending hours fitting it, I would have gladly paid a luthier to do it. I spent $25 having it curved by a luthier after the fact; a few more bux, and he could have done the whole thing.
    Sounds like I'll let a luthier do this one, did you get one with adjusters? Rosewood? Ebony?

    I'm debating about the finish, shame I can't send the thing forward in time to naturally acquire all the nicks, scratches and dullness from years of play.

    Honestly, a nice playing student plywood bass would be more than enough for me for a long time. Then in time, I'll buy the 1950 something Kay C-1 that I play at school -- I love that bass to death, even with it's broken neck -- and perhaps an old Juzek, but that's when I get famous and rich :D

    Thanks for all the help!
     
  11. jimclark68

    jimclark68

    Dec 16, 2000
    Morganton, NC
    I got the stainless cable kit with the brass screw-lock thing. It's not even close to the coat hanger; it's very supple, even more so than non-stainless cable of a similar size that you get at a hardware store.

    I should clarify that I only sanded off the finish of the neck; I didn't do any reshaping. I would think that as thin as the E neck is, you wouldn't want to take off too much in order to gain a specific shape.

    Bob's bridge came with aluminum adjusters. You will also find discussions about the relative merits of different adjuster materials.
     
  12. tplyons

    tplyons

    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    Thanks for all your help, I'm looking into that stuff now!
     
  13. Well, what does your teacher think?

    …er, you do have a teacher… don't you…

    - Wil
     
  14. tplyons

    tplyons

    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    I'm working on that technicality right now. I play a different bass at school so he hasn't seen the bass yet. I'm trying to arrange a new teacher soon.