Thursday, December 9, 2010

Remembering Homer Mensch

Today I am remembering the late, great Homer Mensch who died five years ago today. I had the honor of studying with Mr. Mensch while I was a student at the Manhattan School. I could tell you all about the wonderful things he did professionally but instead I'd like to add a few personal quips...

One of my favorite things was his level of "casual" professionalism. Every week I would take a lesson from him in his own apartment and every week, without fail, he would be waiting for me with shined shoes and a freshly pressed shirt. He showed respect to everyone. Even the scrubby kid in the Dead Kennedy's tee shirt with half her hair burned off because her "friend at NYU" tried to bleach it the night before. He was the classiest man I've ever known.

He also had a "phone crush" on my mom. Now, he never once met my mother but would tell me week after week about "what a lovely woman she is" because she would chat with him occasionally when he called to schedule lessons. Obviously he had good taste. My mom rules.

He only drank decaf. He taught almost 50 lessons a week and only drank decaf. That's impressive.

He played on the original soundtrack to Jaws. Du-duh. Du-duh. Du-duh. You've all heard him and he invokes fear in you! Du-duh. Du-duh du-duh du-duh duduhdudhudhudhhdudhdudhhdhduhbgdhjduduhdh! JAWS!

He was a total badass tennis player. Seriously. Almost went pro.

He was a pretty good tuba player too.

He would casually refer to the one and only Mr. Leonard Bernstein as "Lenny" as if you all were the best of friends. I thought that was so cool.

I could go on about all the little things I remember about my time with Mr. Mensch but the underlying point is that he was one of the most influential people in my life. In ways he probably never realized he affected me so positively. He was an amazing man who offered his time and knowledge to so many young musicians. When I visited with him years after graduating he welcomed me into his home as he always did and showed interest in my personal endeavors in an almost grandfatherly sort of way. I feel lucky to have studied and spent time with such a man. A true legend.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Liner notes

I was recently given a recording of Oregon's latest album and was delighted and honored to be mentioned in the liner notes. To purchase or listen to clips from the album go here.

Gift idea for your favorite string player

Went shopping at one of my favorite spots Redux this weekend and found this. A bit cheesy and kitschy but beautifully made.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Bad idea #1,152

Putting bolts in necks of basses is a really bad idea. I've pulled many screws, bolts and even nails out of necks after Joe dude with a power drill decided that "I'm gonna fix that there broken neck once and fer all! This thing ain't goin' nowhere after I drill this here wood screw into it."
I will admit, it seems like a great idea. I mean, wood screws have been holding various wood items together for years. Fences, furniture, houses etc. And heck, the bass is made of wood, right? Yes, but let's discuss this for a moment. Wood, especially the wood that fine instruments are made from, is very sensitive. It reacts to temperature and pressure changes. It continues to expand and/or contract throughout it's life as a violin or a bass or a guitar or a house or a bookshelf. Think about this. We've all been in or lived in an older home at some point. Ya know how those pesky little nails snag your socks as you walk across the old hardwood floors? Well, the wood in the floors has shifted with age but the metal nails stay exactly the same. Now think about that concept in relation to a musical instrument. Especially on a wooden instrument that is very large and frequently moved around. By putting a rigid metal fastener in the neck it can actually start to force a break open again and then you have a much harder repair to try and fix. "How about using a wooden dowel in place of a bolt?", you ask.... Again, sounds like a great idea but it's not.
A wooden dowel can be just as bad or worse than putting a bolt through the neck. The wood of the dowel is going to shift in a different way than the wood of the neck. They end up fighting against each other most of the time resulting in a break being forced open again. In the case of a broken neck, if a neck graft is unfeasible, just stick with plain old hide glue. Getting a good clean glue joint is the most effective repair. More about neck grafts tomorrow....

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Taking shape

So my bass bar is taking shape. This is the fun part. Cutting just so that the table, or the top of the instrument, sings. Then the top gets glued back on and the bass bar goes back into hiding...

Monday, August 30, 2010


So we're on twitter now. Not sure how I feel about that or what I'm going to "tweet" about but we're trying it out. So if you do that twitter thing, follow us. Please. Thanks.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Bass Bar

Where basses go for a drink after a long day in rehearsal.

I'm only halfway through a very long day in the shop.
I apologize for the attempt at a corny joke.

Setting a new bass bar into my Prescott project. I'll post some pictures in the next few days. This here is a picture of a bass bar that I put in an old Czech bass many years ago. That bass ended up sounding great! I'd like to write more about bass bars but that's going to have to happen later. Gotta get back to my project before I lose my light.

More to come!

New logo!

Alright! This gem was worth the wait. Thanks so much to Aaron Draplin from DDC for the fantastic logo. Just put an order in for t-shirts and other promo stuff today. I should have a whole bunch of nifty stuff for sale in the shop by the beginning of September.

More blogging soon. I PROMISE!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Look at my beautiful eyes....

At the request of a customer, I added mahogany "eyes" to the fingerboard of his bass. These eyes serve as markers for certain intervals or specific notes. Although this fingerboard modification would have Koussevitzky rolling over in his grave, a lot of kids are doing it these days. One of these "cool kids" being none other than the great Edgar Meyer. Although he gets a lot of criticism from his fellow Classical musicians, he proudly displays his "dots" with the thought that why not make things a little easier if you can. Although I tend to side more with the rigid traditionalism of the Classical music world, I think they look kinda pretty....

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sweet Cheeks

Here's an example of a quick repair I'm doing on yet another, older middle European instrument. It seems the scroll busted off many moons ago and was never repaired correctly. For a long time basses were commonly repaired by various woodworkers, but not by violinmakers. It is still quite common for violin shops to turn away basses at the door. I assume it's the sheer size of the instruments that is foreboding....the bigger they come, the more time they consume and the greater the cost of supplies needed to fix the darn thing. But, back to what I was saying.... Often times basses were "repaired" by boat builders, cabinet makers, and generally any other Joe Dude with a workbench in his garage. I've seen basses screwed together with wood screws and necks bolted to blocks. I've pulled numerous staples and nails out of scrolls and necks. I've seen basses held together with Elmer's, hot plastic "glue gun" glue, and even duct tape. Whenever I get a call about "Grandpa's old bass" that's been sitting in the hallway closet for 20 years, I never know what to expect. As is the case with old "sweet cheeks" here. After years of being held together by wood screws and putty, it was time to fix her up the right way. I soaked all the old glue and putty out of the fracture and re-glued with a nice, clean glue seam. Then, to reinforce the break AND to pretty up the outer "cheeks" of the peg box, I removed a 3mm layer of the original wood and replaced it with a new maple veneer. When doing a job like this, it is important to match the chevron of the new wood with that of the old. In this case, the chevron refers to the "V shaped" pattern in the flame of the maple. That way the two woods will move and age similarly and also absorb and reflect light in the same way. With precise varnish touch up, this repair can literally disappear.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Summer resolutions

Okay, so I keep telling myself I'm gonna get better at blogging more regularly but this time, I mean it. It will be the summer of the blog and website for me. I promise. I often forget that most people really rely on the web for their information. Just because my brain goes numb after 30 minutes of being on the computer doesn't mean all people suffer from the same "internet brain freak out". I swear to you, all 6 of you blog followers, you'll be hearing more from me.
So. What to blog about....
-I have a great story about another crappy bass I had to work on. I'll save that for a day when I really feel like complaining...
-I could talk about helping my good friend and customer Tim Gilson find a new (old) bass. What a fun time that was. More about that when I have a bit more time....
-I can tell you a bit about the next big project that's just got put on the bench, but I'll do that in a few days when I can get some pictures up alongside....

I KNOW! I'll just plug the website.

It's still under construction but it's on it's way. Thanks to Richard for the little extra "kick in the pants" this morning to remind me that I need to spend time behind the computer too...not just behind the bench. More to come but for now I'll leave you with this awesome little clip for your amusement. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Getting back to what I was saying.....

Wow. It's been some time. I wish I had some great story about how I was traveling through Europe searching out fine instruments hidden in old churches but I wasn't....and most of those "lost Strads" have been discovered so I'll just be honest.
I was busy. Working. I'm not complaining. Work is good and I do love it and 2010 is a big bold new year and my head is FULL of some new ideas but sometimes it's not the right time to blog. The reason being, my trusty, rusty ol' Dell desktop hit a little bump in the road. Understandable. It is 6 years old and I am no computer whiz. She needed a little TLC and I set out to fix her up. Now, here's where the complaining will start...
So, even though I'm not a big fan of and other websites like it, sometimes you gotta give things a chance. Found a local PC repairperson to come and help me out. Without getting into too much detail, or naming names, I was very disappointed with the service (or lack of) that I received. Flat out, the computer barely functioned when returned to me. I was then further disappointed when aforementioned repairperson said that there was no guarantee. Now, as I said before, I am no computer whiz. This is exactly the reason I trust a trained professional to provide me the work and service I pay for. My experience with this computer "situation" made me think very much about the service I provide to my customers. It is so important to me that you all are happy and comfortable with the work I do for you. The relationship between person and instrument is close one and I feel happy knowing I have the trust of so many wonderful people. So here's a huge THANK YOU to all the folks who have repeatedly given their business over the years. I strive to provide the service for you that I expect of someone doing a job for me and I appreciate your business.
On a less complainy note.... huge thanks to my friend David Sullivan who brought my computer back to life. Not only is he the real computer whiz, he's also a guitar maniac! Check him out... Next time I'll call him first. Thanks to him there is lots more blogging for me to do.
And while I'm handing out compliments... thanks to Ron at Specialty Auto, for being a fantastic and really honest, down to earth mechanic. Thanks to him the bass-mobile is running better than ever. And last but not least, thanks to Tyler Bjerke for the above image. Check out more of his photos on display March 2010 at the Night Light Lounge, Tyler, you're welcome to come back and take pictures anytime.
What does any of this have to to with basses, you ask? Nothing and everything. There are so many people who help make MDP Bass Works operate the way it does and I just wanted to give credit where credit was due.
More to come.....