Visit to Bresque Basses (UB Content)

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mkat
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Visit to Bresque Basses (UB Content)

Post by mkat » 10 Feb 2009, 23:10

I had the pleasure of visiting double bass builder Matthew Tucker's workshop last weekend. Matthew makes and repairs double basses and is based in Sydney's Inner West, NSW. Before I get into the detail, I'd like to give a big thank you to Matthew for the visit, the workshop tour for this forum and for sharing his bass building knowledge and ideas. It opened my mind to the wonderful world of double bass making, which I hadn't seen up close and personal till then. This visit was a result of another thread here on Ozbass, and may have never have happened otherwise.

After the initial introductions, Matthew introduced me to the first bass he made, a large classical instrument modeled on an old master bass. This instrument is made from silky oak, has a western red cedar top, and Tasmanian blackwood neck. Matthew gave me a 2 minute crash course on playing an upright for electric bass players. I have to say that it will take me quite a while to adjust to the longer scale (42"!!). He put a new set of strings on this bass and it sounds great when played with fingers and a bow (awesome bow sound!). The bare neck feels great and the action comfortable, especially for someone who likes low action on an electric :) A double bass doesn't use a truss rod to induce relief in the neck; rather, this is planed into the surface of the fingerboard to suite the needs of the player.

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His cornerless bass is a close copy of a rare Italian instrument and is probably the only cornerless bass in Australia. The ribs are each made from one piece of wood nearly 1.5m long and 3mm thick. Back and sides are figured Tasmanian oak and the top is western red cedar. The neck is Sassafras. The finish is antiqued to match the look of the original instrument which belongs to Italian Maestro Stefano Sciascia</a>

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The bass below is a restoration for someone special. As you can see, it will be quite easy to highlight or identify the bass player in a band using this bass. Although it is not a fully carved bass, this bass has a dark and punchy tone, great for jazz.

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Matthew's building style and tooling is organic in the sense that the majority of tools and fixtures are hand tools (some of which he made) and custom hand made jigs. The work on the scroll at the headstock is simply amazing (check this out on his web site: Carving the scroll and Castelvecchio). His workshop is very organised, puts me to shame :lol: . I found it inspirational looking at and discussing methods of double bass building in comparison with solid electric bass building.

Tools and fixtures.

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Matthew's custom bending iron. This is a classic, an example of Matthew's original thinking in backyard engineering and re-use of scrap parts, great work.

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Matthew puts a great deal of thought into every aspect of his bass projects. One interesting design feature of Matthew's basses is the bolt on neck. The neck has a single screw held in place by a threaded insert in the neck mortise at the top of the body and a brass cap to top it off. Removing the neck makes it much easier to transport the bass, as a hard case for an upright bass is nearly 2m tall! Also, a removable neck can simplify neck or body repairs, since the instrument can be worked on from any position or angle without the restrictions of an attached body or neck.

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Matthew uses a variety of timbers to make his basses and tries to use Australian woods whenever they are available and suitable. The traditional spruce and maple are expensive, as they don't grow in Australia, and the quantities needed to make a double bass mean imported wood alone could cost in excess of $3000. Western Red Cedar, although not an Australian wood, is sometimes available in Australia and is suitable for soundboards. Ebony is still the wood of choice for fingerboards. A spruce billet and a Sassafras neck blank shown below.

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Matthew shows how he carves a body top with a giant gouge. The one shown in the pic below is the current work in progress, a carved replacement top for a German laminated bass body.

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The under side of the same top.

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This top will be glued to the bass body below.

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Matthew uses a couple of different types of piezo pickups on his double basses. The KK Bassmax fits in a bridge wing, with the jack mounted in the afterlength between the A and D strings, quick to install and remove. The Realist transducer, designed by David Gage and Ned Steinburger, fits semi-permanently under the foot of the bridge and produces a woodier tone. Both the KK Bassmax and the Realist pickup have high output and can be used direct into a high-impedance input, although a preamp is useful to optimize tone.

Matthew is known as "Bresque" on Ozbass, "Contrebasse" and concidentally "Matthew Tucker" :) on other forums. Here are a few links documenting some of Matthew's work:

http://bresque.studio205.net.au/
http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=369921
http://www.mcguitars.com.au/forum/viewtopic.php?t=63
Michael
http://mklutherie.com

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Phil
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Re: Visit to Bresque Basses (UB Content)

Post by Phil » 11 Feb 2009, 06:06

Wow, great tour Micheal :) Matthew, yor workshop is so nice and neat!! Now I'm embarrassed to have invited you in my shitty, dirty, messy garage workshop :red face That tour is certainly making me feel like picking up some huge pieces of timber and trying my hand at it.

Thanks very much to the both of you for this excellent tour :yep

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Rude_Mechanical
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Re: Visit to Bresque Basses (UB Content)

Post by Rude_Mechanical » 11 Feb 2009, 07:06

Yeah Phil, I know what you mean about the garage. I've got some possible minor setup/repair & wiring work coming in, and even though I've warned the guy I'm working out from under my house I'm still afeared for my credibility :(

c-
"Turn everything to 11, dump instruments in front of the amp and manipulate pedals for 5 minutes" - me.

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Matthew Tucker
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Re: Visit to Bresque Basses (UB Content)

Post by Matthew Tucker » 11 Feb 2009, 11:24

Don't worry. I built the first bass in a crummy open-air carport

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Matthew Tucker (bresque)
Bresque Double Basses, Sydney Inner West
http://bresque.studio205.net.au

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