NBD - Kermit Sauron (a.k.a. Reject)

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drbass
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NBD - Kermit Sauron (a.k.a. Reject)

Post by drbass » 31 Jul 2018, 21:02

So it has finally happened. What started as an amazingly smooth and trouble free build was ultimately a lesson in not to become complacent. Sure, the first routing error was turned into what some might call a useful feature (replaceable ramp) and the cracked body and top apparently have resulted in a modification of the sequence of drilling and routing at the MSGM but I really would have preferred NOT to have those incidents.

On the plus side I can now keep this instrument, and what a bass it is. Big thank you (again) to Blaine for helping me with the soldering, and of course David and Rob in the workshop for a shoulder to cry on and a helping hand. Here are a couple of pics, and then some specs:





These pics don't do the bass any justice. The walnut looks a lot nuttier than it appears, and there is some sparkle in the quilted maple top. The fretboard, too, has a lot more definition in real life (hence "Sauron" - the evil eye just keeps looking at you in stealth mode). OK, here's the specs:
It's a little heavy at somewhere between 3.9 and 4 kg.
Neck-through with 3 maple and 2 wenge strips; just under 20 mm at the first fret, about 23 at fret 12;
walnut body, a single layer of light veneer, wenge layer, and quilted maple top;
Osmo finish (three coats, the first two with light 0000 steel wool once they had cured, the last coat just as is);
35", 24 frets, spacing at bridge just about 18 mm, zero fret;
Hipshot ultralites short Y key, Hipshot Solo bridges (see discussion in Lutherie topic), Dunlop flush mount strap locks, standard dome knobs;
2 Delano SBCs (dual coil, EMG size) in the typical Ken Smith positions with a Nordstrand 3b-3 pre. Each pickup is run through a three way mini switch with series/parallel/single coil (north) options, and the two pickups can be switched (using a 4-way rotary) in neck/both series/both parallel/bridge so there's endless variations.

Sound. Well, I don't have a bass that sounds anything like this. In passive it's "wow", and I'd be quite happy to use this bass passive but of course you get that little bit extra once you go active that makes it worth it. Always clear, massive push in all series settings, then gradually less as you go parallel and single coil (those last two settings are noticeably but subtly different). Super-clear in the treble range, and plenty of growl down low. That's playing through the PJ Bighead - I have yet to plug it into my Genzler rig. Yes, sound bites, sound bites. I really should get my act together and record something but my playing is too atrocious I think. This baby will obviously feature at the Melbourne Guitar Show this coming weekend and will also travel to Sydney late August.

Looking ahead: the next example of this is already in the works - identical construction, only with an amboyna burl top and a less busy fretboard. What would I like to do differently? Well, first of all I really don't want to have the replaceable ramp so more care when routing. I would prefer slimmer soap bar pickups (the EMG size is just a little too imposing), and I really want to use different individual bridges - not impressed with the Hipshot Solos any more.

Anyway, drop in on the weekend if you're at the show (I'll have all the others there as well), and I'll give you an update when I've played this in a band setting.

Regards,
Michael
- 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: NBD - Kermit Sauron (a.k.a. Reject)

Post by bigswifty » 31 Jul 2018, 22:40

Wow, looks spectacular!
I'm a mean offloading machine!

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Re: NBD - Kermit Sauron (a.k.a. Reject)

Post by narcdor » 01 Aug 2018, 08:13

Geez Michael you should really stop it you’re making the rest of us look bad...

That looks amazing! And that walnut ooooooh yeah. Having the bigger pickups and the dark ramp does make it visually heavier in the middle but hey, if you wanted you could make a lighter ramp see what it looks like. I think I would prefer to see a lighter colour between the pickups myself. The solo bridge units IMO don’t keep up with the polish of the rest of the build, like having luggage racks on a Porsche.

The wooden truss rod cover is a nice touch too.
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Re: NBD - Kermit Sauron (a.k.a. Reject)

Post by drbass » 01 Aug 2018, 08:22

narcdor wrote:
01 Aug 2018, 08:13
Geez Michael you should really stop it you’re making the rest of us look bad...

That looks amazing! And that walnut ooooooh yeah. Having the bigger pickups and the dark ramp does make it visually heavier in the middle but hey, if you wanted you could make a lighter ramp see what it looks like. I think I would prefer to see a lighter colour between the pickups myself. The solo bridge units IMO don’t keep up with the polish of the rest of the build, like having luggage racks on a Porsche.

The wooden truss rod cover is a nice touch too.
Thanks, guys,

You know, the devil's in the detail so lots of work to do for those final percentage points.

Totally agree, Nick, I would have much preferred NOT to have to do the ramp thingy in the first place. It's a big blob but if you use a lighter timber you'd almost have to perfectly match it with the top, otherwise it's "close but no cigar". This way at least there's a tie-in with the fretboard timber.

And you're spot-on wrt the Hipshot bridges. I've been in contact with Sheldon Dingwall about getting a small number of their single bridges (which, in my opinion, are the best in the business, hands-down) but he politely declined based on hardly keeping up with production for their own basses. I have to check out other options (see separate thread), and so far the Babicz is high on the list. There's also the option of ETS (German-made and distributed by Tom König in Canberra) which are a little less bulky (that's one of the issues I have with the Babicz design). We'll see.

And luggage rack on an MX-5 would have been perfectly fine, thank you ;)
- 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: NBD - Kermit Sauron (a.k.a. Reject)

Post by Curto » 01 Aug 2018, 10:11

Great work Michael as always, and wonderfully rescued!
I even spent a few minutes looking into plane tickets to Melbourne for the show.

Regarding the solo bridges, Rick Toone has some very smart looking modular bridges but I'm not sure if he sells them as parts? http://www.ricktoone.com/bridge.html
Custom 32

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Re: NBD - Kermit Sauron (a.k.a. Reject)

Post by drbass » 01 Aug 2018, 10:27

Curto wrote:
01 Aug 2018, 10:11
Great work Michael as always, and wonderfully rescued!
I even spent a few minutes looking into plane tickets to Melbourne for the show.

Regarding the solo bridges, Rick Toone has some very smart looking modular bridges but I'm not sure if he sells them as parts? http://www.ricktoone.com/bridge.html
No need to come to Melbourne, I'll be in Sydney on 25 August (see informal mini-GTG thread). And thank you for the kind words.

The Rick Toone bridges do look interesting but when I looked I couldn't see any retailing info so probably not.

Regards,
Michael
- 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: NBD - Kermit Sauron (a.k.a. Reject)

Post by Classic5 » 02 Aug 2018, 11:46

Best looking bass so far Michael, and that says a lot given I really like your other builds too :cool:

Have a great time at the show this weekend :thumbup:
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Re: NBD - Kermit Sauron (a.k.a. Reject)

Post by drbass » 04 Aug 2018, 05:32

Classic5 wrote:
02 Aug 2018, 11:46
Best looking bass so far Michael, and that says a lot given I really like your other builds too :cool:

Have a great time at the show this weekend :thumbup:
Thanks, Ivan,

Much appreciated. Sounds like you won’t drop in ... .

Regards,
Michael
- 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: NBD - Kermit Sauron (a.k.a. Reject)

Post by Classic5 » 04 Aug 2018, 08:33

drbass wrote:
04 Aug 2018, 05:32
Classic5 wrote:
02 Aug 2018, 11:46
Best looking bass so far Michael, and that says a lot given I really like your other builds too :cool:

Have a great time at the show this weekend :thumbup:
Thanks, Ivan,

Much appreciated. Sounds like you won’t drop in ... .

Regards,
Michael
Yeah, unfortunately I can't make it this year :(

Are you going to be there on both days?
IB-Classic#001, Xotic XJ-1T 5,Yamaha BB1024X
Glockenklang Blue Soul, Glockenklang Double, TecAmp Puma 112 Combo
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Re: NBD - Kermit Sauron (a.k.a. Reject)

Post by SneakyJak » 08 Aug 2018, 18:30

Those Delano pickups I think are totally worth the money. They are by far my favourite.

The bass looks stunning.

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Re: NBD - Kermit Sauron (a.k.a. Reject)

Post by drbass » 08 Aug 2018, 21:55

SneakyJak wrote:
08 Aug 2018, 18:30
Those Delano pickups I think are totally worth the money. They are by far my favourite.

The bass looks stunning.
Thanks, Pete,

I’ve come to the conclusion that Delano pickups and the Nordstrand pre work together extremely well and will,use that combo exclusively unless there are very strong (customer) objections.

Might see you in Sydney, would be great if you could make it.

Regards,
Michael
- 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: NBD - Kermit Sauron (a.k.a. Reject)

Post by PilbaraBass » 09 Aug 2018, 11:26

great excuse to keep the bass... :thumbup:

There are things that you could do (such as some sort of interesting inlay where the crack is)...
but why would you? you've got another great bass.... WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER!
'98 Carvin AC40, '07 Squier JDAV, '91 P-bass, '96 Ibanez ATK300F, '15 Ibanez SR605
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Re: NBD - Kermit Sauron (a.k.a. Reject)

Post by drbass » 09 Aug 2018, 12:13

PilbaraBass wrote:
09 Aug 2018, 11:26
great excuse to keep the bass... :thumbup:

There are things that you could do (such as some sort of interesting inlay where the crack is)...
but why would you? you've got another great bass.... WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER!
Look, Kerry,

It's actually hardly noticeable so I won't bother doing anything to it at all. Having said that it's absolutely not a "commercial quality" level.
Was looking forward to playing it last night with the original band but rehearsal was cancelled so still no "context evaluation" (but sure sounds amazing through the PJB Bighead!!).

Regards,
Michael
- 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: NBD - Kermit Sauron (a.k.a. Reject)

Post by drbass » 16 Aug 2018, 16:16

Finally had a chance to play Sauron in a band context (rehearsal of the original band) through the small (just one cab) Genzler rig.

Bit like Aldi: Good. Different.

Physically it plays real nice, not too heavy, sits nice and balanced, slim-ish neck profile with a comfortable width, easy access to all 24 frets, even #24 in the B string.

Everything in series with pre flat I could get a good round bottom end with a little bit of inherent growl that turned into a bark when pushed - never harsh though.
Quite throaty when using thumb/slap-and-pop.
Just the neck pickup with the coils in series goes a small step towards a P.
I really liked just the bridge pickup with a little bit of mid-boost (20% from centre position at 1 kHz) and bass boost (similar percentage) and the treble rolled off just a little. That gives the nasal burp tone that (in my opinion) is perfect for some finger funk - never felt that I didn't have enough bottom end either.

Switching the pickups from series (they're dual coil) to either parallel or single resulted in more openness but not really a massive change in basic character. Definitely less signal though but if you're after a slap tone in the studio that's probably where you'd be going.

So, overall a completely different beast to what I've done so far. Glad I had the opportunity to try the Delano SBC pickups in the Ken Smith positions, for me those pickups with the Nordstrand 3b pre is a winning combination.
Is the neck-through construction responsible? I love a good can of worms. I find there's both attack AND sustain in massive amounts.

What's the future for the Kermit series? Well, I really enjoyed doing the neck-through build and will be in the workshop tonight and tomorrow to prepare wood for 4 builds - yes, 4. I have a feeling that 2 of those might go to a good home pretty much straight away (fretted and fretless), and the others might catch enough attention in the early stages that there is some room for individualisation. Let's see.

Regards,
Michael
- 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: NBD - Kermit Sauron (a.k.a. Reject)

Post by narcdor » 16 Aug 2018, 18:07

Some interesting findings, thanks for sharing! I still want a crack at playing that thing though, even just to hold it, caress it a little...
Strings: Fender, Framus, Warwick, Custom
Knobs: Mesa, MarkBass
Patch: TC Electronic, Aguilar, T-Rex

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