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Wire Tailpiece

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by bejoyous, Sep 29, 2008.

  1. bejoyous


    Oct 23, 2005
    London, Ontario
    I recently installed a Wittner tailpiece when I discovered the afterlength of my strings was too long. In the process I had to cut my own tailpiece wire with 1/8 aircraft cable and aluminum crimp sleeves. I had to cut the wire quite long as the bottom of my bass is fairly large. This left the tailpiece floating in the middle between the bridge (about 5" away) and the saddle (about 3" away).

    After I installed the Wittner tailpiece I noticed a distinct improvement of tone and playability of my bass. The old ebony TP weighed about 10 oz., the Wittner (with extra long cable) about 6 oz.

    Then I saw the thread on the Marvin wire TP. After reading that and noticing the improvement taking 4 oz off the TP made, I decided to try to make my own wire tailpiece.

    It was quite easy and only cost $8 for the materials (2 piece 1/16 aircraft cable - each 48" long, 4 round single sleeves and 11 double sleeves). The only tricky part of making it is finding a large bench vice to crush the single sleeves so the cable is totally secure. Oh yeah, and installing it was a major PIA.

    I made the part that holds the string ball a little lasso with a loop and double sleeve (uncrushed) then a crushed single sleeve on the very end. This way the loop can be cinched up to hold the ball.

    I put an array of double sleeved where the cables go over the saddle to keep the cables together and to eliminate the string tensions from pulling on each other. The G-string cable goes around the endpin and is attached to the C-string and the D-string is attached to the A-string.

    Wow, what a difference the wire tailpiece has made on the sound of my bass. The notes speak much quicker and are louder. The fundamental is stronger and the upper partials are more present (ie. it sounds brighter and deeper). The strings are easier to push down and the sustain on pizz notes are longer.

    The tailpiece rings on a G so I will have to put some kind of dampening agent on the vibrating wire. Maybe a lead fishing lure!

    I highly recommend using a wire tailpiece! Pictures to follow at some point.
  2. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    Aha! I've been planning to make my own Marvin, just to try out the idea. Way to go! :)
  3. Eric Swanson

    Eric Swanson

    Oct 8, 2007
    Boston, MA
    Congratulations on improving your bass! Hopefully, Kevin Marvin hasn't patented the design, yet, or is mellow about knock-offs...

    How many hours, total, did it take to engineer, source materials, cut and assemble your tailpiece?

    I mean, including any and all time spent sourcing stuff online or making trips to the local industrial supply/hardware/home improvement store(s), laying out parts, jigging up, buying tools, false starts (if any), cutting, deburring, crimping, and assembling?

    Setting it up on your bass is another matter...that has to happen whether the part is store-bought or home-made. I am just interested in your actual, honest fabrication time, for your one-off product, please.
  4. bejoyous


    Oct 23, 2005
    London, Ontario
    How many hours? Hmmm. It's hard to say because I thought about it mainly on the bus and it's hard to keep track of a train-of-thought without a pencil and paper in front of me. I had to go to Rona twice to scope out parts; my 5 years old daughter was with me so that automatically triples any time allotment!

    At first I was going to just crimp a loop at the end with a double sleeve but then I'd have to totally de-string the strings from the scroll and that's a drag to do so I had to figure out how to make the lasso with a double and a single sleeve. That way I could just cinch it around the string ball.

    Then off to the hardware store to get the single sleeves. They were out of stock, then try another store. Meanwhile, I had to live life (kid to school, dance and swimming, wife to accompany music students/ teach piano, me teach guitar, work 40+ hours/week, work on improving my extension, try to get gigs, and so on).

    But seriously, if I had all the parts in front of me, it would take about 5 minutes to fabricate one. The only tools needed are a big vice to crimp the single sleeves and a bit of glue to secure the single sleeves at the end of the wires long enough to get them into the vice.

    Installing it took the greatest amount of time. The wires flop around and its hard to keep track which is which. And then the soundpost fell down! Argh!:bawl:
  5. And everybody made fun of me when I said (of the Marvin piece) Hmmm, I think I could make one of those with some parts from the hardware store... :D

    Seriously though, it probably is a better deal for most folks to just buy one but it is always cool to see DIY stuff since I too would always rather waste perfectly good time building my own mousetrap for twice as much money than to admit the Chinese do a perfectly acceptable job of it. :rolleyes:

    I'm most interested in the effect on arco playing/sound since the consensus has always seemed to lean toward heavy/arco and light/pizz when it comes to tailpieces; so far the (light) wire tailpieces have gotten good reviews but it seems like the guys trying it play mostly pizz (or maybe just haven't commented otherwise...).
  6. Eric Swanson

    Eric Swanson

    Oct 8, 2007
    Boston, MA
    I get it. I have a four-year-old daughter who helps me out with most of my projects and errands...The joy has to be in the journey, in these cases...:)

    So, I am guessing, based on what you said, about four or five hours for sourcing parts, engineering, reflection, and fabrication (?). Does that sound about right, for your first one?
  7. bejoyous


    Oct 23, 2005
    London, Ontario
    Yeah, about five hours of thought went into it.
  8. juuzek


    May 7, 2007
    Could you post some pics?
  9. Pentabass


    Dec 11, 2007
    Maybe somebody can shed some light on the idea of patenting in this case?

    What if somebody had posted the idea of a wire tailpiece online or published it in some magazine before, is the wire tailpiece still patentable?

    Regardless what the legal position, I commend Mr. Marvin for selling these tailpiece, and purely for him making it available, I think he deserves us buying at least one out of two or three that we make ourselves.

    Based upon Mr. Marvin's product that he sells, I want to share another idea. Is this a first, or has it been published yet? Who knows and who cares. If you rush with this idea to the patent office, then you have to probe that you had this idea before me, today:

    Instead of steel wire, I am going to construct an inproved tailpiece out of Dyneema Fiber (Regist.TM) This fiber is easier to work with than steel, stretches hardly, very light, easy to tie to the string, and cut off if done. No more taking the strings off for threading through a hole!

    Not only that, I also propose a concept of 'mass-loading' your individual Fibers, coming from each string, for example by one or more wooden/metal/stone beads, placed at critical locations.

    Anyway, I think there is great room to experiment here. Who knows, the great debate in a few years is going to be: What weight do you put at what afterlength on the E string?? Where do you shift it, once your Obligatos are becoming stale? Computer simulations will be written for this kind of thing.

    And then, the big question: Where do you 'bridge' it to the other string extensions? High or low. Very different schools of thought.

    Remember, you read it here first.

    If you try and patent my ideas, you are a capitalist pig.
    And I wish you best of luck in the marketing section.

    Stefan in Winnipeg.

    Attached Files:

  10. shadygrove


    Feb 14, 2008
    Marysville, WA

    I like your thinking! I used dyneema fiber to replace my tailpiece hanger a few weeks ago. The Amsteel brand 7/64" was 0.73/ ft at West Marine. The individual fibers may not stretch much, but it took awhile for the knot to get to max tightness and the cord did get longer - maybe it takes awhile for the strands of the braid to pack tight under tension. Anyway, it's been about 3 weeks now and it is just now staying in tune overnight. I can imagine the cords from each string tied to a ring that has a cord to the endpin tied to the other side. Just don't plan to gig with the new tailpiece on for a few weeks. With 5 cords to adjust and settle in instead of just one it will be some time before it'll be stable.

    BTW, last I checked the Marvin wire tailpiece was on sale for $79 and change. When I think about how many hours it would take me to figure out and build one from either the steel or dyneema that looks like quite a bargain. I think after my dyneema fiber experience with the relatively simple TP hanger the Marvin is the way for me to go. My need to play my bass is much stronger than my need to create and I don't get enough time to practice as it is.

    I admire those that have the time, patience, and ability to take a shot at building the better mousetrap! good luck and let us know how it turns out. Maybe I'll be buying a TP from you in a few years.
  11. Eric Swanson

    Eric Swanson

    Oct 8, 2007
    Boston, MA
    All good points. My humbly offered thoughts:

    - With a sister who is a patent attorney, I am somewhat aware of the value of intellectual property. Legality aside, we each have to consider what our conscience will bear in terms of "knocking off" the fruits of someone else's work and ingenuity. Effectively using Kevin Marvin's online information, presumably, to copy his product and undercut him here, in his market. Its a personal choice, we all make. I eschew judgment of anyone else's decision.

    - My Marvin cost me roughly $79 and has been perfect. Came with great documentation and instructions, and I got it two days after I ordered it online, which took about one minute. I got an automated response acknowledging receipt of my order, when I placed it. I also got a friendly, personal email from Kevin Marvin verifying shipment. The whole buying experience was ideal.

    - My time is most precious to me as it is the one irreplaceable commodity in this life. I am fortunate to be making more than about $15/hour, which is what one is making to source and build their own tailpiece, if it truly only takes a person only five hours of pondering/sourcing/fabrication and only $5 worth of materials. If one factors in gas and/or material shipping costs, etc., and other hidden expenses, the hourly rate goes down quickly. I would guess that most folks would be making between $5 or $10/hour, actually, making the first one of these things. For me, intellectual property law and moral relativism aside, it made more sense to earn the $79 in an hour or two and then spend it on the pre-made item. For me, this is a net gain in time available for other pursuits, like playing my bass, or spending time with my family.

    - I have plenty of nifty things to build. As a professional cabinetmaker, I never run out of stuff to make. I do have limited time, though, so I am very selective how I spend it. As a product of running my own shop and making things professionally, I am keenly aware that I cannot be doing two things at once; everything I choose to do makes some other activity wait.

    - I felt great about rewarding Kevin Marvin for inventing this thing. The money I sent him is not about the few bucks in materials. It acknowledges and rewards his creativity and all the work it took to get the thing to market. There is so much garbage being made and sold, that for me, it seemed unfortunate to not reward a fellow bassist who invented something clever that provided me with great value.

    There's my two cents. Every person makes the call for themselves, based on their interests, conscience, and available time/money...:)

    Bejoyous, while your tailpiece is clearly a decent copy of the Marvin's intent, it still lacks the "damper" fabric in these pictures, among other features. Was the damper removed for clarity, has it not yet been made, or do you plan to not use a damper?
    robobass likes this.
  12. Eric Swanson

    Eric Swanson

    Oct 8, 2007
    Boston, MA
    Here's an email from Kevin Marvin I received this morning, regarding this thread that is essentially discussing knock-offs of his tailpiece. While he did not ask me to post it here, he did give me permission to do so. I hope that you enjoy his interesting thoughts, experience, and perspective as much as I did. Here is his note pasted below:


    Thanks for the heads up.

    Yes, there is a patent pending on the cable tailpiece. Nothing stops someone from attempting to make a cable tailpiece as long as they don't copy my patent claims and then sell the tailpieces.

    The canadian bassist that made the tailpiece is about where I was 8 years ago. There are certain components of the tailpiece design that I have claimed in my patent application. Few of these claims have been incorporated into the canadian tailpiece copy. There are multiple issues with what he built that I have improved upon. The patent can be viewed by searching Google for "Single vertex damped cable tailpiece for bowed string instruments".

    Financially, it is unlikely that I will break even on bass tailpieces. The cost of the patent application and the correct tools has run into many thousands of dolars. For example, a proper bench crimping tool costs $400. Through testing I found that such a tool is necessary.

    It is interesting what people complain of. To put the cost in perspective.

    1. A one hour appointment to a dental hygenist costs more than $100.

    2. An oil change costs $30 to as much as $90.

    3. Auto mechanics charge $45 to $75 per hour.

    4. A tank of gas costs $60 or more.

    5. Best Buy charges $149 to program a TV remote control.

    Thanks for your support. I do encourage others to improve upon the bass and to promote improvments that work.


    Kevin Marvin.

    ps. I would prefer not to post to this talkbass discussion myself. You are welcome to forward any of my above comments to the list if you choose."

    (end of note, in its entirety, without edits)
  13. 1st Bass

    1st Bass

    May 26, 2005
    Forest Grove, OR
    Pretty gracious and honest response, I'd say...
  14. Pentabass


    Dec 11, 2007
    What kind of knot did you use? This stuff is known for slipperyness, but very little stretch, so I suspect the knot is what slid.
  15. Pentabass


    Dec 11, 2007
    Thank you for forwarding the communication from Mr. Marvin. I really admire his contribution to innovation in sound, and the way he argues is very convincing. I think he deserves our support. Yes, and of course, he is the only manufacturer of the genuine Marvin Tailpieces!

    I would, however, ask what would be considered the difference between a knock-off, and an improvement of his tailpiece?

    It is unfortunate, that sometimes the patenting process discourages improvement upon an already very good idea, in my humble opinion.
  16. bejoyous


    Oct 23, 2005
    London, Ontario

    I think I'll go rail against Ken Smith for making electric basses when Fender already invented them!! Aack!

    Or complain that Matthew Tucker is making a guitar-shaped bass when there is already several in existence that he could go out and buy somewhere! How dare he!

    Anyway, I've woven some shoestring in the bottom two inches of the 4 cables to prevent sympathetic vibrations and it's working even better now. The kids I taught today said it looks really cool, dude and now they can see more of my bass.

    I highly recommend you get one: BUY A MARVIN TAILPIECE!!! order one today! http://store.marvinusa.com/

    But if you have the mechanical ability to sew on a button and have access to a bench vice, the next time you're at Home Depot, all the material you need is in one small area. Figure out your own design, that way it's, gasp ...your own design.
  17. Eric Swanson

    Eric Swanson

    Oct 8, 2007
    Boston, MA

    I am all for product/concept improvement and Hegelian leaps. BTW, I have a SOPWAMTOS bumper sticker up on my office wall (Society of People Who Actually Make Their Own Stuff). You can see some (non-musical) stuff I have made here, if interested in such things: www.swanson-woodwork.com

    All to say that I am all for a DYI approach. But, perhaps because I routinely make one-of-a-kind objects, I am also interested in all of what it means to do so, both economically and socially. I always ask, it worth it to make something, or should it be bought? Core competency, etc.

    I am not trying to "harsh your buzz," I am more interested in how easy, was it, really. What were the true costs for the DYI?

    Will the crimps hold or will your version stretch/and/or fail one day? If it fails, what could be the cost of a possible failure? Is having the multiple crimps and cables, shown on your version (down at the saddle) better or worse than the Marvin?

    So, anyway, I am not the patent police. I make prototypical stuff all week, and try to help fellow craftspeople do the same. I am just interested in all aspects of that process...:)

    P.S. What color shoelaces?
  18. bejoyous


    Oct 23, 2005
    London, Ontario
    The tailpiece is all done so it's back to practicing. More photos have been added to the above link showing the black shoelace damper.

    Hmmm the real cost? time and travel wise?

    Well, I have time on the bus or while I'm out with my daughter for Daddy/Daughter Day during my wife's 6 hours of piano lessons. So I could read the paper or a novel while she's in dance class or climbing around the tubes at McDonalds or I can think and work on some kind of project. I drive past a hardware store all the time and am often in there getting light bulbs, etc. anyway.

    As for a compromise on quality. The cable I used is the same aircraft cable used for tailpiece wire but just a bit thinner since each one is holding only 2 strings instead of 4. The sleeves I used are the same ones used to hold on an ebony tailpiece. Plus I was putting my whole weight on the vice so that the wire became one with the aluminum sleeve so I have no fear of it failing.

    Down at the saddle, the sleeves (which are not crimped, friction holds them there) hold the 4 wires together as it goes around the saddle. So there is a 1 cm band of metal there. Regular tailpiece hangers cover about 3 cm.

    Anyway, I like doing my own thing. That's why I designed my extension. I also make my own Music Minus One recordings using a PSR 640 and the orchestral score rather than buy a premade MIDI file.

    The second tailpiece I made took 5 minutes buying the parts on my way to work, about 10 minutes to assemble (done during coffee break at work) and 5 minutes to crush the sleeves (done during dinner break). So, I think I use my time wisely. No, I'm not going to sell it.
  19. shadygrove


    Feb 14, 2008
    Marysville, WA
    The knot I used is the carrick bend, which was the one I found most often recommended if you need a knot that won't slip but doesn't bind up so it can be untied if you need to adjust the afterlength. I also suspected the knot was slipping when I still wasn't staying in tune a few days after installation, but I marked the free ends and found out it wasn't. It's fine now and I'm very happy with the results, but if you need to replace your TP hanger (or TP) in the morning and go gig the same night IMHO you are better off with steel. I'd imagine the multiple strings of a dyneema tailpiece would only compound the "stretching" problem whatever its causes.

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