Thursday, December 13, 2012

Workshop updates and a Gibson...


Once again…where does the time go!?!

Though we have not been working on a bass restoration project we have been busy working on upgrades to the workshop. Lots of exciting things are coming. Having survived Hurricane Sandy with only minor damage we decided to make changes in the workshop while we were cleaning up. Lonnie has installed new UVC lamps to keep mold, mildew and smells out of the workshop. We have basses shipped from all over the USA, some have odors that are not pleasant. Some are musty smelling old wood, while others smell like smoke from a  1,000 bar room gigs. To improve our health (we both suffer from allergies) and the health of the basses the addition of air sterilizing light have been a great improvement.  All the basses are now getting daily light therapy, the workshop and house has never smelled better.


Both Lonnie and I are aging; our eyes are not what they used to be so Lonnie is in the process of installing all new lighting in the workshop. We were fortuitous to be the recipient of a dozen “free for the hauling” industrial overhead light fixtures. Lonnie has taken down all the previous track lighting which he called “French fry lights" and is installing the new florescence lights. They will be less expensive to use and the workshop is now extremely well light. Every bass will be viewable from any spot in the workshop. Lonnie has it so well lit you could perform surgery, no more working in his own shadow. As my Father used to say…”you can pick fly shit out of pepper” it is so well lit. Yeah…it is really; really bright…which is a good thing.

1941 Gibson B-135 upright bass

The other exciting news is I am motivated by a new bass acquisition to launch a Pre-war Gibson upright bass page for the website. We get questions from time to time about Pre-war Gibson basses because of their rivalry with Epiphone before WW2. Until now I had not given much thought to doing research on these basses because there are so few of them surviving. It is a small niche group of folks that are interested in the pre-war Gibson basses. That was until now; we are now the privileged owners of a rare 1941 Gibson B-135 upright bass, what a bass

The bass was purchased with a complete family history, full documentation and a Gruhn appraisal that confirms this bass is as pristine original as you will find. I am so pleased and inspired by this bass that I want to share the history and documentation. Look for a new page at our website that will feature this bass and the Gibson history. As in past I don’t feel qualified to post historical information unless I am confident in the accuracy. I am really confident about this beautiful Gibson bass that has been christening “Mother MayBelle”…she is a beauty!

Finally…we want to wish everyone a wonderful holiday season. This year has been good for us, we feel blessed in so many ways. We have enjoyed an increase of visitors to the workshop and acquired some really special basses for our collection. There is no place like our place and we are gratified to the folks that have shown their appreciation by traveling hundreds of thousands of miles to visit. In 2013 we will be hosting a visitor flying in from Australia to full fill a “bucket list” dream bass.

Merry Christmas yawl! 

May the best years be yet to come.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Ruben, a 1941 Epiphone B5, #623


Autumn is in the air, the days are getting shorter and the nights are cool and refreshing.   

Lonnie’s ready to get into the workshop for the next project bass.  This 1941 Epiphone B-5 #623, we have owned for a few years, it has finally been moved to the front of the line.  You know there is always a back-story with our basses and this one does not disappoint.  This Epiphone journeyed across the USA from California in a lost flight case from a Greyhound bus shipping nightmare.  The gentleman who owned it did not know much about the bass and found us in an internet search for Epiphone upright basses.  He was an Antique dealer not a bass player.  I think the bass came to him through a couple of “interceptions” by other antique dealers.  The name of his business was “Sanford & Son”; his name was Nate Wright (remember that name, more to come on that later).  Nate and I had conversation back and forth about the bass.  I was able to provide him with the Epiphone history, a positive ID, along with the year of manufacture and model.  The bass was not in playable condition, I loved the patina of the wood and the over all character of the bass.  After some back and forth negotiations he agreed to sell us the bass if I took care of all the packing and shipping arrangements, which of course I did.
 
The bass as it was received

Nicely flamed wood.
 
When the bass arrived…WOW…it threw off an immediate vintage vibe.  This bass was a workhorse, a real pack mule, like a pure bred Belgium draft horse.  I have never seen a bass with grooves so deeply worn in the fingerboard from playing.  Not destructive wear, but genuine hard playing wear.  The back of the neck has ripples in it from the soft grain of the wood being worn more deeply then the hard grain of the wood.  Patina and honest wear like this can only come from thousands of hours of playing gigs.  A real bass player’s bass…I love these kinds of basses, the history and stories they have with in them are meant to be savored and appreciated. 
 
The grain in the back of the neck has high and low spots from playing the bass so much
 
Hard to see in this pictures but the name is Charles Smith
 
The bass has some petrified masking tape that was applied to the outer edges.  It did help protect the edges from chipping, it is so dried out and brittle it turns to dust when you scrape it off.  The next hidden gem was a crude hand carved name in the bottom of the bass.  In two places is say “Charles Smith”.  In the old days players would put marks or their name in the bass for identification if it was lost or stolen.  We once had a bass that someone wrote their social security number at the neck joint…that’s a no-no in today’s world.  Upon arrival (before we saw the name Charles) the bass was christen “Ruben” for the classic Earl Scruggs bluegrass banjo tune, Ruben. He is all original right down to the non-adjustable wooden end pin with the black rubber crutch tip. The original finish is in tact with a beautiful deep, golden strawberry honey color.  The new shine is long gone but the finish is in great condition.  It should not take too much cosmetic work to make him a real looker.

The grooves in the fingerboard that remain AFTER all the scraping. 
More work needs done to flatten the fingerboard and then get the right amount of scoop.

The previous player must have hung on that G & D strings...a lot!
 
The first thing Lonnie did was vacuum out the HUGE dust bunnies and trash inside the bass.  He said there was the Mother of all dust bunnies inside the bass.  He began to remove the taped edges, trying to get it off and clean the surface…that will take some patience so he will work on it a little at a time.  The original rosewood fingerboard, it has a lot of scoop and deep grooves in it.  It will take some heavy scraping to level the board and make it smooth again.  I love all the little curled shavings that come during this process.  That old Brazilian rosewood is priceless by today’s standards.  As silly as it seems Lonnie saves the shaving, who knows why, but he appreciates the value of this priceless exotic wood.  Maybe he will make a pressed laminated rosewood fingerboard some day from all the collected scraps. 

Brush them into a plastic bag and save them?
 
I am thinking this bass will wear gut strings to keep the vintage mojo alive.  I am certain gut strings are the only string this bass has every worn.  I have some special strings in the reserved for a bass like this…Golden Spirals.  The Kaplan strings have not been made for many years, I happen to snag a new old stock G&D that were paired with a vintage Spiro A&E.  All the strings are brand new still sealed in the package.  A classified ad find a few years ago…the Internet is a beautiful thing in many ways!

I’ll post updates as this project progresses.  This is one cool old bass.  I can’t wait to make it swing once again.
 
 

Oh!  Just one more thing…Nate Wright, the nice guy that sold us the bass.  He is a retired professional football player.  He earned All-Pro honors at defensive back in 1974 and 1976. His career consisted mostly of time as a defensive back with the great Minnesota Vikings teams of the 1970s. He totaled 34 interceptions and three fumble recoveries in 156 professional games.  He was the defensive player who was covering Drew Pearson during the 1975 NFC Playoffs on the infamous Hail Mary pass in the 1975 NFC Divisional Playoff Game between the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings, played on December 28, 1975.  Some observers and Viking players believed that Pearson pushed off on Wright, causing him to fall down and thus allowing Pearson to catch the pass from Roger Staubach and score the winning touchdown.

Small world…isn’t it!?! 

 

Monday, September 17, 2012


The 1949 Kay S-9 bass is completed, waiting for her trip to Nashville and the IBMA’s.  If you see this pretty gal ask to give her a swing!

Waiting for her ride to Nashville

 
All finished and looking good.  See the new leather bumpers added to the G side bouts
 
Beautiful quilted maple back and sides
 
 
The real inlaid purfling and bound FF holes are the signature elements of a Kay Swingmaster
 
She has a new end pin, tail gut, Zyex strings and cosmetic TLC that makes her sound and look great.  This bass is in excellent condition with its beautiful flamed maple back.  The new Zyex strings made her a bit more dark and thumpie.  I being a gut string player the tension was stiffer but I got used to it quickly.  I do feel these strings need some time to settle in; they felt a bit stiff and zingy.  With a few hours play time they began to come around, it felt like the bass began to open up and sing.  Hopefully she gets some serious playing time at the IBMA’s and she will come home tired and her strings broken in.
 

With this project behind us we are looking towards the next project.  I asked Lonnie to choose what bass inspires him…a 1941 Epiphone B-2 with a crushed top.  He wants to see if he can rebuild the top and make the bass playable again.  If the top can not be saved we have a second 1941 Epiphone B-2 as a donor bass.  We would much rather save both basses but one playable bass is better then two broken basses.  The Epiphone B-2’s are very rare we want to try and save both basses. 
 

Stay tuned…there is always a story behind the story.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Progress on the 1949 Kay S-9


The Kay S-9 is coming along.  Tonight was a good night, lots of progress. All the hard work is completed.  Its tweaking from this point forward.
 
Getting started on the end pin.  Reaming the hole with a tapered end pin reamer.
End pin installed, Clef High Tec tail gut installed.  The edges are detailed and the first layers of color have been applied.
The new strings are installed with the Realist pick up re-installed.
Beautiful flamed maple...can you see the edge repairs?  Seamless!

A little seam repair at the neck for open plys.

The Bass Monkey speed neck treatment...smooth as a baby's butt.
 
If all goes well we plan to get a bit of jamming to fine tune the sound post and break in the new Zyex strings.  She will be ready for the IBMA's before you know it. 

Sweet!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Our 100th blog post!!!

Slowly but surely activity is beginning to pick up in the Bass Monkey workshop as the pace slows down in the Grease Monkey garage.


Lonnie leaving for work, a typical Friday morning commute...NOT!!!
Lonnie continues to fine tune the Mustang, the more he drives the car the smoother it runs. Like any antique sitting for a while it needs the kinks worked out and the lubrication to settle in. For now he is pleased with the progress and he is satisfied to drive the car daily to work when the weather is good. I like when we cruise the loop in town, all the young kids stare and the old guys give us thumbs up and laugh. Last night we cruised around laughing like two fools. The toy like foreign cars pulls up beside us and rev their engine. As if to say “Lets race Grandpa”…we just smile. We don’t need to prove anything. They would be waiting for the light to change green when they see smoke and our tail lights. Its great when age brings you wisdom and respect…you just don’t have to impress anyone.

Now on to the workshop…we have a 1949 Kay S-9 in the workshop for a mini make over before the IBMA’s at the end of September. The bass is in beautiful original condition, a gorgeous blonde. She is getting a new ULSA ebony end pin, a Hi-Tech Clef tail gut, new Zyex strings, the Bass Monkey speed neck treatment, minor seam and edge repairs. 
The bass sounds great with Innovation Honeys so we will see how it sounds with the new Zyex strings. This is not a string we are familiar with so it will be a nice to hear the difference. I’ll take the opportunity (with the owners permission of course) to test drive the bass and strings. I have been asked to break it in a bit before it travels to Nashville for its d├ębut...I’ll let you know how that works out!

Getting started on the 1949 Kay S-9 Swingmaster
The old parts, new parts and re-used parts
Detailing the edges by filling in the chips.  Finishing and color matching to come

The saddle is pulling out of the pocket.  Lonnie will clean up the saddle, re-glue with fresh hide glue and ream a new hole for the new ULSA ebony tapered end pin

The tapered end pin reamers.  The smaller one on the left to start to hole and the larger one on the right to finish the job

The saddle is cleaned and glued.  The next step is to start the end pin fitting

Come back soon.  This project will move quickly to meet the deadline.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Coming full circle...Part 2

And here we are…the dog days of summer.

While the Bass Monkey workshop has seen some light activity in the past week the Grease Monkey garage is still in full swing. Yesterday marked a milestone, for the first time in 17 years and three months I got to sit in the passenger seat for a ride in the Green Horsey.  It felt like a first date all over again…well almost…our real first date was on a cold, snowy February day. It’s also difficult to remember what it felt like 20 years ago on our wedding day to be stuffed in the front seat of the Mustang with my long, white wedding gown. I guess everything fit because it’s how we got from the reception to our home.
 
The new license plate was a birthday present for Lonnie. 

Needless to say Lonnie has continued to work on the Mustang and it is now “on the road again”. He has been driving it daily for a week back and forth to work. There were a few small kinks to work out with the fuel pump and speedometer sensor but all is working fine. It is funny to see him pull the car out of the garage in the morning and drive it to work. His smile has never been bigger going to work. I guess it’s the journey and not the destination that matters.

It’s funny what people observe and say about the car. One comment from a co-worker that really made us both laugh, they told Lonnie it really wasn’t his car. They know where we live and in 20 years they never saw that car parked in our drive way. We just laugh knowing we have pictures of our wedding day from 1992 plus Lonnie’s Mom kept the receipt from the purchase of the car on September 5th, 1974. So not only does he have his first car, he still has the hand written agreement from the seller with it marked “Paid balance”.

 It really is his car…we have documented proof.

The original bill of sale marked PAID


So as the summer continues this Mustang has gone from a 16 year old boy’s daily driver to high school, to racing on the drag strip, a show car and now back to being a daily driver once again…coming full circle is the perfect title for his story.

I am starting to line up some project basses (in my head) for when Lonnie gets back in the workshop. That 1941 Epiphone B-5 is calling my name; I need to answer the call.

Take care all...enjoy the summer and make some joyful music.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Coming Full Circle

The Bass Monkey workshop remains QUIET and now I know why.   

There has been a storm brewing for a while.  I could not put my finger on it; earlier this year we were busy with a kitchen remodel and spring festivals.  By the end of May Lonnie was still not in the workshop.  I did not understand or question why.  Maybe a mid life crisis, maybe he needed a break from basses, maybe there was something going on in that complex brain of his.  The first weekend in June it all came pouring out.  Just like a light switch flipping on he declared…after 17 years…it was time to make his first love a priority again.  NO!  Not another woman, his first love is his 1967 Mustang car.   

This car is his first car bought for him at age 16 by his Mom and Dad.  He began to drive it a few days after he turned 16.  The car was his daily driver in high school with the original dark green metallic paint and a black vinyl top.  By his late teens he took it off the street to drag race every weekend at the local US 30 drag strip.  Lonnie was interested in cars morning, noon and night.  When he was not working in the garage on his car, he was working overtime at his job to buy parts to make the car go faster.  
   
1974-1975 as a daily driver

After some success at the drag strip he cranked it up a notch with modification to the engine and frame, a new paint job of blue and silver, custom graphics and a new custom matching car trailer.  His car was the bomb!  It was smooth, fast and looked good going down the drag strip.  This car was a reflection of his craftsmanship, persistence and endless hours of labor.   And then the drag strip closed.  Just like that, no place to race.  With the paint barely dry from the second incarnation he tore it all down, AGAIN, right to the bare frame.  


1979-1980 drag strip ready with tow bar installed

This time (the third time) it was to full fill a dream from 6th grade when the teacher asked the class to write a short story about what they dreamed at night.  Lonnie’s Mom still has the hand written essay saved in a scrapbook.  In brief it tells the story that some day Lonnie wanted a fast car, with big tires, big hood scoop and a crazy bright green paint job with pink and blue pin stripes.  That is pretty exact for a 12 year old boy, but he made his dream come true.   

The begining of the dream car 

New wheels, tires and roll cage installed

The first coats of color; 1979 Fiat Kent green

At the time we met in late 1984 the car was a bare frame hanging from the garage rafters with new big tires and hours of blood, sweat and agony to go.  Meeting and dating Lonnie slowed the pace of the project but he kept at it for seven years…seven LONG years of thousand of hours spent lying on his back fussing over every small detail.  Fabricating NOS rear quarter panels for the new big tires, cutting the floor board to lower the suspension, welding in a roll cage plus all that custom body and paint work.  He did everything himself.  He has never paid a dime to have anything done to the car, it is 100% his dream car, his efforts and his 38 year love/hate relationship.  



All Ford car show the Saturday BEFORE we got married, May 9th 1992. 
Note the missing Mustang emblem in the grill.  The car was not really finished.

May 16th, 1992

Lonnie did not want to marry until his dream car was finished.  He put the final window trim on the rear glass the day of our wedding…that was cutting it a bit close.  His car along with many other cars from family and friends played an important part on our wedding day…which was actually a wedding/car show.  I come from a long line of car enthusiast in my family so this was perfectly fine by me. 

 Lonnie's Mustang, My Father's Ford, Butch's Dodge truck, Mark's Mach I, Glenn's Buick GSX, Ricky's Mustang




The now Pro-Street Mustang named “Green Horsey” was lightly used for car shows, trips around town and cruising for enjoyment.  Until that dark day in May, Memorial Day weekend 1995.  We took a break from a house project (36’x38’ brick driveway that we installed ourselves) and drove the Mustang to attend a picnic at my oldest brother’s house in Virginia, 70 miles from home.  It was a good day, evening was upon us and we were getting ready to drive home.  As we were leaving in the Mustang my brother comes running out into the quiet neighborhood street giving Lonnie the signal to light up the tires, do a smoky burn out.  Now my brother is a nerdy “Road and Track magazine” type of gear head having never worked on, or raced a car in his life.  He was begging to see some smoke and rubber.  Lonnie obliged by smoking the tires and leaving rubber on the road.  He stabbed second gear and then it happen…CLUNK…for the third time since having this car on the road he had broken the rear end.   

The 351 Cleveland engine is strong and hooks up big time to the tall, wide Mickey Thompson tires.  Lonnie knows how to shift the manual five speed Doug Nash transmission…maybe a little too well.  As we raced off in a cloud of smoke we knew something was wrong.  The panic began to set in.  We were 70 miles from home on a holiday weekend and this was before we owned a cell phone.  Lonnie with his stubborn persistence’s tried to limp the car towards home.  The clunk, clunk, clunk got louder.  Then the Mustang gave in, totally broke down, leaving us sitting along the side of the road with day light fading fast.  Neither Lonnie nor I have ever been broken down sitting on the side of the road 50 miles from home.  What do we do now?  We walked to an old fashion minimart and called a close friend from a pay phone.  Mark was generous to drive and meet us with his truck and car trailer in tow.  We are still thankful to this day for his help…but that dark day got even darker.   

The rear tires on the car are huge and the lock down straps in the trailer would not go around the rear tires.  Mark and Lonnie did the best they could to secure the car and we headed for home.  About half way home we heard a bumping sound coming from the car trailer.  We kept going (male pride and testosterone at work again).  We got closer to home and the bumping turned into a banging noise.  We pulled off the road to see what has happened and…here it is, the darkest of night before the dawn…the car was loose in the trailer and has suffered body damage on all four corners.  At that moment I don’t remember what they did but we got the car home, drug it into the garage and there it has been for 17 years and four weeks.  Lonnie was deeply distraught.  His dream car, his pride and joy, his thousands of hours of effort were mechanically broken and the body damage was done.

For years the car was covered sitting in the garage, occasionally Lonnie started the engine to keep the gas fresh and the internal parts moving.  For 17 years we put every other priority in front of that car.  We finished house projects, bicycled across the south while putting 12,000 miles on our tandem bicycle in 5 years, traveled to festivals, played bluegrass music and began to collect and restore upright basses.  Until now, when the light switched flipped on Sunday, 6/3/12 and Lonnie said “What the hell am I waiting for!”  The last four weeks he has dedicated himself to getting his childhood dream car back on the road.  I support his efforts 100%.  He has the body work finished.  The fenders and bumpers are re-painted.  The new rear end is installed and the car is sitting on all four wheels once again.  There is more work to be completed with a new drive shaft, air filters and other minor items.  Now when Lonnie goes out to the garage, you can find him leaning against the workbench just staring at the car.  A vision he has never grown tire of, after 38 years he still loves that car.

The rear end work begins

The body work and new touch up paint.  Lonnie still had the original paint from 25 years ago
For now the basses will wait while the Grease Monkey garage is in full swing instead of the Bass Monkey workshop.  When Lonnie has his dream car back on the road and that boyish grin on his face the Bass Monkey workshop will resume…full swing, totally content.



This is more information then you probably wanted to know about a boyhood dream.  I wanted to document these memories in our life while I can still remember the details and the emotion is fresh.  I admire Lonnie for his persistence, never ending patience and the passion to not lose focus on what makes us happy.  Very few of us still have our first car, mine was a 1969 Buick and not worth remembering. Getting Lonnie’s Mustang back on the road will complete a missing part of him.  A part that was there before I came into his life, before music and basses inspired a different passion for us to explore.

Life is too short…dream big.




Thursday, May 3, 2012

Lloyd Loar Mandolins

May 3rd…Really? 

We have been engulfed in a series of house renovation projects and spring festivals.  The workshop has been quiet…much too quiet.  We hope that changes soon, of course that is after we get the garden and flowers planted by Mothers Day. 

Since I really have nothing new to report from the Bass Monkey workshop (though there are plenty of projects piling up) I thought I would share a short video from a recent festival where we were in the presents of seven Lloyd Loar mandolins.  Our love of vintage instruments does not stop at basses.   

The more I know about the other instruments in bluegrass and jazz music the more I want to know.  I love learning about the iconic instruments of the early bluegrass origins.  The Martin guitar, Gibson banjo, Gibson mandolin and of course Kay basses are “THEE” instruments that are highly sought after by bluegrass musician for the classic sound of the early days.   

Lonnie has been watching the resurgence in arch top banjos…which of course, he is totally in love with his Stanleytone arch top banjo…as the arch top has that high treble ring for that classic bluegrass sound.  Extensive research has been completed on the classic Gibson banjo tone ring. Well known banjo maker Steve Huber has spent thousands of hours testing and document the tone rings of pre-war Gibson banjos.   

This past weekend we sat in a workshop for Lloyd Loar mandolins with Tony Williamson of Siler City, NC an authority on Loar's.  It was totally fascinating to have seven Loar’s spread around in a circle and to hear Tony play and explain the differences in each mandolin.  While it was hard to not be overwhelmed by the potential of $100,000’s of thousands of dollars that lay before us, I really listen closely to the differences in the tone of the mandolins.  The back stories that go with each instrument were thoughtfully told by Tony and were just as fascinating.  While my research has been focused on the upright bass I am beginning to broaden my horizons to better understand the big picture of bluegrass music and the important role each instrument makes with every other instrument. 

I hope you enjoy the seven minute video which is a very short portion of the hour long workshop.  Enjoy and we will get back to basses real soon.  We have acquired some interesting project basses in the past few months.  Some are quite rare and from the pre-war era of 1937-1941. 


Super cool stuff!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

An 1800's "German Joe" blockless wonder...

Here we are half way through February all ready, where does the time go.  No real snow this winter so we have been keeping busy.  

With the Stanleytone banjo project behind us we took on a small repair project.  An 1800’s fully carved German blockless wonder bass that belongs to a local man.  His wife had the bass completely restored for him in 1996 by a local luthier David Waltersdorf.  Mr. Waltersdorf was a well known violin maker and repair basses on occasion.  He passed away a few years ago and there really has not been anyone locally to pick up bass luthier trade, so we agreed to help out. 

Cleaning out the old hide glue with hot water and a palette knife

This bass has had major work with lots of cleats on the inside, a new neck block and new oil finish.  It is lightly used and the top had begun to pop off.  Lonnie is going to clean out the old hide glue and re-glue the top in place with fresh hide glue.  Hopefully this will bring the bass back to fine playing condition.  These old “German Joe” basses are known to be great basses and the popular choice before American made plywood basses became available in the late 1930’s. 

The lower bout is wavey, this bass has some intresting curves

Big carved scroll and hat peg tuners.  Classic German shop bass

This bass looks pretty good and I am anxious to hear it in top playing form.  Curiously the neck block shape is the bell shoulder that closely resembles the early American Standard basses.  We own a German blockless wonder bass but it does not have the bell shoulders…I love that look.  When Lonnie is finished with this small project I look forward to putting in some playing time before we return the bass to its owner.  It’s a rare opportunity for me to play a fully carved bass.  A real treat, hopefully the other basses won’t get jealous.  In the mean time we need to select the next bass for restoration…hummmmm.  Too many choices.  I would really like to get the 1941 Epiphone  B-5 named Rubin in playing condition…he is going to be an awesome bass with such a colorful past.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Basses, Banjos and Bluegrass...

Happy New Year all! 

Time is flying by, January is half over and we have yet to see any real snow but that is about to change. 

Lots has been going on between some home improvement projects, banjo project, shipping a bass and taking in an old German bass for repairs.  The New Year is off to a busy start…and that’s a good thing. 

We left off with Alan flying his American Standard bass back to Nashville. Next completed venture was the safe shipping and arrival of the divine Miss “M” Martha, the 1942 Kay S-9 which is now living in wine country in California. 

Miss Martha packed and ready for her journey to wine country

Our basses are making out pretty darn good…California, Hawaii, Tennessee all nice spots for vacation or retirement.  We need get about 12 weeks off to drive around the country and visit our bass family. 

The most recent completed project is the Stanleytone banjo.  Lonnie thoroughly enjoyed this project and was thrilled to have two Stanleytone banjos in the workshop for side by side comparison.  The finished banjo looked really great.  It cleaned up well, the new Five star head made it look fresh and clean while the new bridge and strings settled in nicely.  Lonnie took great care to let the head settle in over the course of several days.  It ended up at about a 92 on the drum scale which mirrors his head tension on his Stanleytone.

Lonnie likes to modify the Snuffy Bridge and ended up thinning it out to 1.91 grams.  On the gram scale it takes a small amount of the wood to be removed to make a difference.  He pushed the set up as far as he could go to get that sharp Ralph Stanley mountain sound.  The difference in tone between Stanleytone #9 and #25 are very slight.  Number 9 is a nickel plated with a no hole tone ring while #25 is gold plated, more fancy, a little heavier with embellishments and has a 40 hole tone ring. 

Both banjos were made by Frank Neat and both banjos are about a year a part in manufacture date.  Each banjo being the first of the first fifty Ralph had made for sale.  If you like that mountain sound you will like these banjos.  If you like a more low basses sounding banjo these will sound very twanging.  You either like the sound or you don’t.

Click on the photo for a complete picture slide show 


Here is a side by side listen.  Pick your favorite and post which one you like the most!

Banjo A:


Banjo B: