Sandberg Factory Tour

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Sandberg Factory Tour

Post by drbass » 05 Dec 2017, 10:21

Let's finish this off with a single document covering my visit to the Sandberg factory in Braunschweig.

I've met Holger Stonjek a couple of times in Melbourne (once at the Bass Centre where he half-offered to buy back my Classic S2 - was never going to happen - and then at the Sandberg workshop with Ida Nielsen which resulted in sigs of both Holger and Ida on said Classic S2). I simply emailed Holger a few weeks before my trip and asked if I could drop in, and he was quite happy for me to do so. Not sure if it's generally possible to do a tour.

Since he didn't charge I thought I'd take a bottle of Waterwheel Malbec - he appreciated the thought :) .

As already hinted the Sandberg experience was quite different to the Warwick experience. While both companies who been around for a similar period of time (mid-80s) but have taken quite different paths. Let's have a look.

Sandberg is on the first floor of this building in a very small industrial pocket on the outskirts of Braunschweig:

As you walk in you're greeted by this "larger than life" poster:

as well as some older little ones - here's a young Holger shaping a neck:

The actual floor area is much smaller than the Warwick factory (although both have a similar output of basses a year - 1,400 - 1,500) which means it's a lot more cluttered. Here's the actual woodworking area:

Some body timber:

and some more:

Body material is typically either alder or European ash - here's Holger himself drawing the outlines on a slab of ash:

A very rough first cut before further preps for gluing:

This is the neck CNC router:

and the body CNC router is to the left of that.
Necks coming off that machine had a great initial shape but were pretty rough (grooves in the back) so there is absolutely a need to hand-sand:

Fret slots are now also cut by the CNC router (used to be a saw that cut all slots at once - there's a video on the Sandberg site showing the saw and the resulting smoke!!). The slots, by the way, were a lot deeper than the fret tang which surprised me - I always try to have a very small to non-existent space under the tang).

Some old-fashioned gluing of headstock veneer using Titebond, by the way (Warwick use a machine and Collano glue, not available to he public):

All fretting is done by hand (good to see the zero frets!!) and all necks are then plekked:

Don't have a lot of pics of the body progression but ultimately they end up here:


As you can see there's a range of things available, with the biggest contrast right there: beautiful quilted maple top with black contrast veneer versus what looks like a hard core-aged body. YMMV.

Was asked not to take any pictures in the "ageing facility". This is obviously a major Sandberg drawcard, and someone spends around 15 hours to complete a Stage 4-ageing process. Solvents and abrasive implements of all shapes and sizes are involved ;) .

Final assembly takes place here:

All Stage 4 aged ("Hardcore Aged Masterpiece) instruments get the vibration treatment (we didn't talk about the "thermo treatment", I didn't know about it):

This a Tecamp "Pleasure Board". Completed basses are claimed onto this and exposed to 100 hours of a loop of bass riffs (probably played by Holger himself) including finger-style and slap. They certainly vibrate but not anywhere near as much as I thought they would.

Pete asked how the final positions for the pickups was determined. Well, here's the mule:

Pickups are mounted on those little carriers which in turn are held in place by magnets. Holger told me that Ida spent hours and hours to fine-tune the position for her signature bass until she was happy. All this was done while playing with a drummer since, and I think he's right, Holger said that by themselves the basses sound pretty good but the proof in the pudding is whether or not it works with a bass drum. Makes sense to me, and that might explain why a VM with the Stingray humbucker sounds more like a J (since the position of the humbucker is more bridge J than Stingray).

That's all I have. Holger was a little pre-occupied with a photoshoot later in the day to finalise the new catalogue, bit of a shame but hey, it was still pretty good. Very different to the videos you see online (which are always "nice" - applies to the Warwick ones as well - but don't necessarily reflect "real") so I was glad I made the trip.

And to anyone who is complaining about our traffic: on the way from Braunschweig to Duesseldorf (my departure airport) I was stuck in a traffic jam on the autobahn. I did not move - at all - for 2 hours, and the jam ended up being 14 kms long (three lanes!). There.

OK, happy to answer any questions if you have any, and if I can.

- Merlin “Kermit” 6 multi, Merlin Gaia 6 fretless, Merlin Rockmachine 5, Merlin NT5, Manta 5, Manta 5 YOLO, ("Red Baron" 5), Q 5, (Sandberg Classic S2-5), (Thumb-4)
- Genzler Magellan 800, 2 Genzler BA12-3

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Re: Sandberg Factory Tour

Post by Petebass » 05 Dec 2017, 10:48

Love the mule pic, thanks for that.

Imo, they're wasting their time with the vibration thingy, but hey, if they believe it does something .......
* 2 Stingray 5's (one heavily modded), Ibanez SR805, Ashbory, + more...
* Carvin B1500, Epifani PS1000, Ashdown Superfly amps.
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Re: Sandberg Factory Tour

Post by blizzard » 05 Dec 2017, 12:03

Cool. I love seeing all the different methods companies to produce a very similar product. Is the theory behind the vibration treatment similar to Yamaha's that it ages the wood for a better sound?

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Re: Sandberg Factory Tour

Post by RedVee » 05 Dec 2017, 12:08

Thanks Michael. Another cool visit and report.
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Re: Sandberg Factory Tour

Post by drbass » 05 Dec 2017, 12:38

Thanks, guys.

Yes, the vibration treatment: "opening up" the tonal characters through "crystallisation of resins or sap", "creep of the wood or glue joints", and/or "weakening of the structure" (see here: ... ile/22/pdf). This particular study in a peer-reviewed open access journal found no significant changes (based on player evaluations and physical measurements) of vibration-treated vs untreated instruments. Mind you, these are acoustic guitars where I personally would expect a much bigger effect. Anyway, really don't want to go there. If it rocks your boat, no worries.

On a related note: in the pic of the vibration treatment have a look at the shelf in the background. Looks like Sandberg is all out of tort pick guards ;) .

- Merlin “Kermit” 6 multi, Merlin Gaia 6 fretless, Merlin Rockmachine 5, Merlin NT5, Manta 5, Manta 5 YOLO, ("Red Baron" 5), Q 5, (Sandberg Classic S2-5), (Thumb-4)
- Genzler Magellan 800, 2 Genzler BA12-3

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Re: Sandberg Factory Tour

Post by Juan Lauda » 05 Dec 2017, 22:39

Thanks for putting this up, Michael. What a great report... I'm keen to see how you impart your experience into your Polaris basses.
Best regards, Tim

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Re: Sandberg Factory Tour

Post by Classic5 » 06 Dec 2017, 09:04

Another really informative writeup Michael. Thanks for taking the time to share with the Ozbass community :thumbup:

The article documenting the study was very interesting. The premium for a Yamaha BB series bass which has undergone such a treatment is quite significant.
IB-Classic#001, Xotic XJ-1T 5,Yamaha BB1024X
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Re: Sandberg Factory Tour

Post by Heath » 17 Dec 2017, 22:47

Very awesome!
And I do own such a sandberg that has undergone such witchcraft :peep:
Cole Clarke LL5, Yamaha 425x, Warwick Corvette5, Fender CS 57P, Musicman Sabre, Sandberg Ida
Amps: Markbass, Epifani, Tc, Bergantino

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