Monday, October 31, 2011

King Mortone and the October snow...

Happy Halloween…Boo!

So the calendar says it’s October but the snow on the ground feels like January.  Incredibly we had 9” of wet heavy snow on Saturday.  So much snow that Lonnie used the snow blower to clear the driveway.  Did someone piss Mother Nature off, because she sure acts like she is not happy?  This year we have had record breaking rain, heat, earthquake and now a record breaking snow on October 29th.  Is there no end?

The King Mortone has a new bridge, strings and final tweaking has begun.  This is the fun part for me as I get to test drive and make suggestions for adjustments.  I can’t wait to hear and play Popeye; I’ll need to eat some spinach to build up my muscles for playing him.

Final adjustments

Looking sweet from this angle

Custom fit and detailed Bass Monkey bridge


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The King Mortone and excellence...

To quote the late Steve Jobs:

“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected”

Nothing is ever easy…the King Mortone is coming along nicely. Lonnie finally got the fingerboard flat and smooth to his satisfaction. The other challenge is finding the correct screws for the tuner plates. There were a few screws missing and not all matched so we have been on a search for the correct size, color and shape of oval head screws. You would think no problem, go to the hardware store and buy new screws. It’s not that easy to find vintage replacement # 3 X 3/8” screw from the mid 1950’s. Things have changed in 60 years. Lonnie has made trips to four different specialty stores looking for a match and countless hours online looking. We think we found a good match at a vintage guitar restoration dealer. We will soon find out when the post office delivers $8.00 worth of screws for $9.00 of shipping. That is the price you pay for excellence. The devil is in the details…it is all the small details that make the big difference when the bass is finished.

The second bump in the road which was an “ah-ha” moment is when Lonnie began to fit the bridge. He always starts by using the A string to hold the bridge in place with tension to get his measurements and alignment starting place. He called me to the workshop to look at the strings, Thomastik Dominant solo tuning. He said something is wrong with the strings…the silks are barely clearing the nut. It’s like the strings are too short for the string length, which is 43” on a King. Now I know these are the right strings and I know we have used this very same string on our 1935 King bass with a 43” strings length…so I KNOW they will work.

We are standing there looking at each other puzzled and then the dim light begins to glow. How long in the tail piece? Aren’t they all the same? Oh no…we begin to measure and found out among the collection of H.N. White basses that we have (3 Kings and 5 American Standards) the tail pieces vary from 12 ¼” up to 13 1/2”. AHHHH…that was it! This tailpiece was shorter then the other basses, therefore the strings were not getting into the peg box far enough. Once we understood the “math problem” we knew how to fix it. The original fixed tail wire was still in place on the tail piece. Lonnie removed the wire (which has a possibility to fracture as it ages) and replaced it with the Clef Hi-tech tail gut. This allows him to elongate the tail piece the strings will now fit on the tuner and into the peg box properly. He will be sure to tune the after length to the new length of the tail gut. With the bridge cut and detailed we should make good strides on this bass.

It is fascinating to discover these little differences within the same brand named manufacturer. This is why I loudly disagree when a person claims one manufactured bass is better or worse then another. You can not, should not, make general sweeping statements about one brand of manufactured plywood bass that possibly spans 40 plus years of manufacturing and dozens of small changes during those years. We often wonder why some vintage basses have the “IT” factor when it comes to tone, volume, playability and mojo. It is all these little things and attention to the details that make the difference.

With 40 vintage basses in our collection we can study all these small details across all four brands: Kay, King, American Standard and Epiphone. We can make comparisons from bass to bass and really study what makes the great basses tick. All of that hard work is the excellence we expect of ourselves and our bass collection. We don’t settle for “close enough” and we don’t apologize for our high standards and excellence we try to achieve. We want our restored basses to make wonderful, joyful music AND be a blast to play.

“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected”

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Lonnie uses a straight edge to view the profile or relief in the fingerboard

Scraping the fingerboard a little at a time.  The amount of wood shavings this fingerboard produced filled a plastic zip lock bag.  Lonnie's keeps the wood shavings for possible future use...I have no idea what for...but he saves all the scrapes.

With the nut glued in place Lonnie continues to work on dressing the fingerboard.  The board is a very hard, high quality piece of wood.  I believe it is original to the bass but is much harder then other King or American Standard fingerboard s we have encountered.  He worked three evenings this week scraping and smoothing out the board to get it as flat as possible.  The board had a fairly high hump in the center and it has taken a good bit of work to get it flat.   Or in Lonnie’s word’s…”that fingerboard is *$!#ing hard stuff”.  His fingers get tired scraping hour after hour.  The fingerboard needs to be fairly flat for this set up of medium high string height and Dominant steel strings.  If all goes well Lonnie hopes to get a new bridge cut later this week or next week.

All good things take time…

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Benefit gig...

Come out and join the fun.

I’ll be playing upright bass for my first real gig on Sunday, November 6th from 3:00 pm -3:45 pm with Billy Lee Cox and Scott Brannon doing a Reno and Smiley tribute (this will be good stuff, promise).

This is a fund raiser so yawls come and support a good cause at the Beck & Benedict Hardware store is Waynesboro, PA

-- Come out and support this great cause! --
*** SUNDAY *** NOVEMBER 6, 2011
for the family of - MIKE McDONALD -
at Beck & Benedict Hardware Music Theatre
( 1 pm till 6 pm ) Cost is $10.00 at the door
* Ernie Bradley & Grassy Ridge 1 to 1:45 pm
*Twin Hill Express 2 to 2:45 pm
*Billy Lee Cox and Scott Brannon 3 to 3:45 pm
* ( doing a Don Reno and Red Smiley Tribute ) *
* Back Creek Valley Boys 4 to 4:45 pm
* Circa' Blue 5 to 6:00 pm
For more information call Brian at 717-372-6531 or Dick at 717-762-4711

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Steady progress on the King Mortone...

It’s been a busy weekend with lots of good stuff. 

While I worked away cleaning house on a beautiful Saturday afternoon Lonnie worked away in the workshop.  He got the paper thin shims made in the morning and did the final dry fit for the neck in the afternoon.   He had difficulty getting the neck set on center so after much back and forth he trimmed the neck block.  This worked well and he was able to get the neck to fit nicely on center.  He glued the shims to the neck joint (while I was cleaning windows so I have no pictures).  Then later in the day he was able to glue up the neck and let it set overnight. 

On Sunday he worked on the nut and fingerboard.  The fingerboard is a good one, after some scraping Lonnie’s tool got hot and his fingers got tired.  He said the fingerboard is one hard *%$! #!* and that’s a good thing.  That means it is either ebony or really hard rosewood.  Either way the fingerboard has lots of life in it and can take many more dressings.  Now that the neck is set, the nut glued in place the fingerboard dressing started it won’t be too long until he moves onto the set up.  It feels like every project takes longer then it should…but then again it takes as long as it needs to suit Lonnie’s high standards.

Working to get the neck on center at the dry fit stage

The smallest details, a small shim at the bottom of the dove tail

The neck glued and drying for 24 hours

Popeye at rest...

Here is a little video I played around with today!