I was excited at the chance to sponsor the Elmhurst College Jazz Fest this year for their 50th anniversary, including donating my first bass as the "house" bass for any bassist to play on. It was very cool to see all the players who got to play on it and hear their feedback. From the student performances to the professional ones, it was a great weekend for art in America! Big thanks to my friend and mentor Doug Beach for his lifelong commitment to this program and jazz education in general.
If I had time to learn how to play another instrument, it would undoubtedly be the cello. Luckily playing bass has many of the same movements and concepts as cello playing; so I can get around well enough to repair and adjust cellos. I recently had the opportunity to replace the neck of a cello with a "precarved" neck. These are sold with the scroll and pegbox mostly carved and the neck is left oversized to fit most cellos. I love doing these big kind of projects because its very technical and challenges me to do the best work I can. Below are some pictures from start to finish. Enjoy!
Every two years the Violin Society of America hosts a Bass Maker/Restoration/repair workshop in Oberlin, Ohio. I was fortunate enough to attend again this year. It is a very unique and exciting opportunity to learn from and work along side with some of the best bass luthiers in the world! Needless to say I was tickled pink to spend that week working, learning, and socializing with folks I greatly admire. Please take a look at some of the pictures from the week. Can't wait until next time!
Chicago winters can be brutal, especially on our wooden brethren. Make sure to use a humidifier, lest you end up with a giant crack and warped back, like this poor fellow. Had to take out the braces, press the wood back to shape, glue the cracks and fit new braces. All in all it took about 40 hours of work and a month to complete.
Ground coats of varnishing
Took advantage of some beautiful weather the other day to start the ground coats on the ribs and back while the top got a nice suntan.
The parts are all fitting together, and I'm gluing them in place to make sure they stay there!
2015 was a big year, and 2016 is going to be bigger and better! I have moved into a larger home shop, and was able to get the tools needed to start making more basses. Currently I am doing repair and setup for students and professionals alike as well as taking on a big restoration project. In addition I am designing a new model bass and developing innovative production methods to craft affordable American made basses. Here's to a happy and productive year... Cheers!!
It's been quite busy lately, with a lot of big repair/restoration projects going on and finding time to work on the new bass. Currently I am working on my 16th cello/bass neck reset for 2015! A neck reset involves "re-setting" the neck to the body of an instrument to ensure a lasting fit and the correct angle and alignment to the body. It is a thoughtful and time consuming job but at this rate by the end of the year I should be able to do it in my sleep! Other big repair projects have included a new neck block on a bass, several new bass bars, numerous crack repairs, and repairing a warped flat back and making new braces.
With my own new bass right now I am detailing the scroll as I await shipment of the new ebony fingerboard, fitting the braces to the back, and continuing the arching work on the top plate. Soon I will be inlaying the purfling and getting ready to graduate the top! I've been experimenting with color matching and finishing in the mean time and the results are looking promising. My original goal was to have this bass finished in time for the June International Society of Bassists convention, but it is looking like it will not be done in time, due to additional time I've needed for other repairs. Nonetheless it should turn out to be a beautiful and (hopefully) great sounding bass! I'm excited for the coming months.
Will Whedbee is a recognized and prolific instrument maker in Chicago whom I have had the great fortune of working with and studying under. For the form of my pegbox and scroll I used one of his cello templates, and then enlarged it by a bit to make it "bass sized". I modified a few dimensions of the pegbox to accommodate the installation of machine tuners and a C-extension, while maintaining the elegant curves and eye catching shape of the scroll.
Some other instruments waiting to be varnished...