Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Taylor AB1 Back in one piece. See previous post for the full story.

Spray finish freshly applied

The repair is much more visible in daylight.

The hum has disappeared, the action is spot on, looking good and most importantly, playing and sounding fantastic!

Taylor AB 1 stripped down to it's basic components for repair.

I know, risky business making repairs and modifications to such a beautiful instrument!

Luckily I know what I'm doing.

Lately a hum has developed in the Fishman electronics so I decided to install an earth from the bridge to the tail pin jack plug.

I've seen some rather clumsy looking modifications done to other Taylor basses (online) and decided to design my own earth network.

When stripping the Fishman preamp I noticed that the input cable from the Piezo pickup was loose  in its connector so this was a great opportunity to put this right. I you are having issues with this preamp as some folks have reported, then this is the first thing to check. The connection to the preamp board is made with a screw clamp which may need to be tightened.


This image shows how discreet the earth/string contact is.
I hammered a trough into 3mm x .3mm copper ribbon to accommodate the radius of each string in its pocket. I then soldered the 4 short lengths of this prepared ribbon on to a spine of the same material at the same spacing as the strings. 
I drilled down vertically with a 3.2mm drill bit into each of the string anchor cavities to make access through to the underside of the sound board.
The newly fitted copper saddle comb can be seen straddling the brace with the brown earth wire soldered to it. Each of the 4 prongs protrudes through the sound board  into the bridge string anchor slots. The earth wire is soldered to the 1/4" jack socket earth tab. The black wire is connected to the under saddle piezo pick up to the onboard Fishman pre amp.



 This image reveals the experimental, phenolic treated, wood saddle material I installed last year. It is by far the best saddle material I have used to date.I found a piece of this material in the workshop of a retired Navy boat builder. He told me it was the step tread material from a WW11, RNZN frigate. This material was once wood which has been pressure impregnated with formaldehyde resin. It is so heavy that it will not float. I have a 12" x 1" plank of this stuff 3' long which will last me a very long time.


Next job I wanted to do was to repair 2 cracks that had developed over time in the rib of the guitar body near the venetian cutaway. This is a problem area for these basses which may have been why Taylor decided to discontinue production in 2003. These guitars were built in El Cajon in California where the humidity is relatively low. My bass was exported to NZ in 1998 and encountered a very different environment. The humidity in Northland NZ runs to 100% at times and the climate is best described as sub tropical. The high humidity as put a great deal of stress into this guitar. Now that the guitar has reached 20 years of age it should have stabilised.

My solution was to unbolt the neck and drill down through the neck reinforcing block behind the crack (which ran vertically down the join in the rib panel, under the neck).

I then fitted a hard wood dowel of the same diameter and glued it into the hole with epoxy glue. The glue forced itself into the crack under the pressure of the close fit. Once set this connection is intensely strong. 

A secondary crack appeared in the rib from the neck pocket, out across the venetian cut away, parallel to the wood grain, in line with the sound board lining. 
Showing the repaired cracks in the rib.

I then sanded the outer surface to flush and then refinished the coating.

Last job: revisit my de-fretted neck. 
Steve Klien's ivoroid inlaid signature is clear to see.



The Taylor bass has a compound radius finger board so the sanding of the ebony surface requires a sanding beam (in my case, fine sandpaper double sided taped to the edge of my long spirit level.

I filled the old fret slots with Walnut veneer which gives me a visual reference when playing. I'm not so good that I can move from my Jazz electric to this bass without this visual aid for accurate intonation.


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Wooden, collapsible guitar stand (copyright Harmen Hielkema 2003)

Custom, demolition kauri, guitar stand. Design copyright by Harmen Hielkema 2003.


Custom, demolition kauri, guitar stand. Design copyright by Harmen Hielkema 2003.

Custom, demolition kauri, guitar stand. Design copyright by Harmen Hielkema 2003.


Almost at the end of my custom guitar stand project which I have been constructing for an old guitarist friend of mine. There's only a final sand and varnish followed by padding after which I can hand it over.

This stand, just like the other 4 I've built features a monogram, in this case "BF". I enjoy using my old graphic design skills to create a monogram and then carving it into the timber surface. It's a quality gift for life made from recycled New Zealand native timber, in this case, Kauri.

If you'd like one or would like to make a gift of one leave me a message. I'd be pleased to customise my design to suit you.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Harmen Jazz Bass. Some improvements.

New and improved. Seymour Duncan Vintage pick ups, new pots and tone capacitor, fresh paint, new logo and head stock colour.
It's been a while.

Over time I've been watching and feeling my jazz bass mature. As a novice player, slowly accumulating knowledge experience and muscle memory, I'm began to realise that I could make some improvements to my home made instrument. Aside from cosmetics which I have addressed during the upgrade, I decided to improve the electronics. I did a great deal of reading on the subject and there is much to learn. The potentiometers that came with the basic parts kit for my bass build were of the cheapest quality. They are 250k mini pots marked with the letters CF. I eventually settled on Bourn branded pots. These are logarithmic, good quality, 25 mm diameter, carbon disc units which are of a medium price range at $6.80 each from RS Electronics. The other upgrade I decided on was the replacement of the tone capacitor. It seems that this capacitor is a very important item when it comes to sound quality from your electric bass guitar. It has something to do with the way in which the signal frequency from the pickups gets carried to earth as the tone pot is rotated. The capacitor that I chose is a Russian made, bipolar, .047uf, 100 volt, paper in oil which are manufactured for military use. These are supplied by The Tone Lounge an online guitar spares company at $12.99.

The last two weeks of spare time was spent repainting and upgrading my instrument. I favour the 1960's look Fender Jazz which featured a painted headstock. Mine is painted in Sea foam green, a classic '50's and 60's colour, popular on cars and decore from that era, when I was an impressionable child, it's still my favourite colour. the NZ colour equivalent is Vista Blue by Resene Paints. I chose a semigloss acrylic enamel which I rolled on and then sanded back with 1200 wet and dry abrasive paper. lastly I applied 2 coats of Dulux, rattle can, semigloss clear.
I've designed a new logo transfer as well which has gone on to the headstock. It has received the same coat of clear before I fitted the machine heads, restrung and then lastly, the final set up, string height and intonation. Fun project!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Jews Brothers Band

The Jews Brothers Band - a History Lesson

It was a rainy, dull, grey Sunday in the the middle of the winter in 1994 and we were sitting around Gerhard's Cafe in Auckland, New Zealand. Nigel Gavin, Linn Lorkin and Kelvin Roy myself were there. We were all moaning about the lack of gigs in Auckland in those days. All of us played with various groups around town.
Gerhard was into all sorts of odd music, which was one of the charms of his cafe, and had just put on the CD player what sounded like some very weird music to the others, but for me, it made me feel right at home. It was some old Jewish (or Yiddish) music from New York, where I come from, and I immediately recognized the tune. The others wanted to know more about it so I pulled out my accordion (which I just happened to have with me in my pocket) and played a sample of this old music on it as taught to me by my grandfather and Mom. Harry was a fiddle player in the old days and played with the Epstein Brothers and many other of what are now called Klezmer Musicians, around New York City in the early part of the 20th century.
Well, the others joined as best they could in and we had a jam ... a guy picked up a jar of coffee beans and started playing along (John Radford ...see below) and people's heads turned in the cafe and right then and there I said to them, "Let's call ourselves the Jews Brothers and do this every week here at the cafe". So we had one or two get to-gethers at home, and every Sunday did our Yiddish jamming at the cafe, thinking that it would not last very long. But people started coming back to the cafe every Sunday asking for more. and before you knew it, the place would be squashed with people all wanting to hear this "new music". Even the local rabbi showed up a couple weeks later since apparently no one had every played Jewish music anywhere in New Zealand (with the exception of goyisher versions of Hava NaGila which just about everybody in New Zealand knows). The rabbi didn't stay very long so I thought he didn't like it, but later, at one of the many Jewish weddings we ended up playing in Auckland, he confided in me that the reason he couldn't stay long was that since the cafe was not kosher, he couldn't really be seen there. So we were not only a hit with the local Grey Lynn music lovers (world music was just starting to catch on in those days) but we started to get jobs playing Jewish weddings and bar mitzvahs and even gentile weddings.
Now in those days, the band consisted of some very interesting players: there was Kelvin Roy, who played the very rare bass trumpet, (which sounds something like a trombone). Kelvin is a Yank and helped shape the odd sound of the band in those early days. His background was everything from marching brass bands to jazz and pop and so with the big brassy sound of his bass trumpet it really lent a powerful and classy style to the band.

Then there was John Radford with Croation roots that link back to the Babich family (New Zealand winemakers).
who not only played a jar full of coffee beans as a percussion instrument, but sang along with our 5 part harmonies with an amazingly gorgeous voice ranging from bouncy baritone to a strong falsetto (you can hear him at his best on the top vocal harmony of Bei Mir Bist du Shein ... our first "hit" from the Live at Gerhard's Cafe album and on some of the vocal bass-lines on that album). John could only perform with us for the first few months because he was getting busy with the installation of his fabulous Western Park TIP sculptures (off Ponsonby Rd, Auckland), which is now a landmark of the city. Having recently returned from a stint away in Europe, he is now based in Auckland again and mainly practices as a sculptor. Musically, he is a regular player in the vitamin S free improv movement at K Road's St Kevin's Arcade Wine Cellar. You can check out John's artwork at www.johnradford.co.nz.

Within a few weeks we recruited another extraordinary and eccentric musician ... Harmen Hielkema (dubbed by Linn, the "Dutch clutch" and sometimes the "Friesian 'nesian"), who played the most amazing instrument of all, known Down Under as the tea-chest bass, a variant of the wash-tub bass often heard with jug bands. I didn't want a normal bass in the band (though eventually when Harmen left the band we did go that route). But the sounds Harmen created on his tea-chest were just amazing and he often stole the show! People would just sit there dumbfounded at both the sound and the look of this monstrous looking instrument. Harmen was also a visual artist who did music as a hobby (for financial reasons) and eventually had to leave the band to become a teacher at AUT, teaching Spatial Design (at which point he was replaced by Peter Scott on the double bass ... see our artist page).

Harmen's bass and vocals feature on all the JBB albums except the Braeburn Sessions. As I write today, Harmen is now living with his wife Julie in the Hokianga region of Northland, New Zealand. 
Well ... as I said, world music was just starting to happen in New Zealand and we had our first big break when we got into the very first WOMAD Auckland Festival. They must have liked us because I believe we were just about the only local band to get asked back 2 years later to the second (and what was to be the last) Auckland WOMAD. It is now held in New Plymouth in Taranaki, on the central west coast of the north island of New Zealand, and we were also invited to play the first one there, in 2003.

Some time after that we recruited Neill Duncan into the band when Kelvin Roy decided to get married and moved to Aussie.
Neill brought a new idea into the band ... he not only could play the saxophones brilliantly, but was a whiz on percussion ... a rare combination. And I don't mean just what are called "toy" percussion instruments (or handheld) but a full percussion kit. We never wanted a full traps drum set in the band and that tends to dominate the direction in my view and then you start to sound like all the other bands, but the odd mix of percussion that Neill brougth to the band added a whole new dimension for us.

After several years Neill and national tours of New Zealand Neill followed in Kelvin's footsteps and also married and moved to Aussie (no, he didn't marry Kelvin .a.. I mean, he met a girl at a Bar Mitsvah in Sydney and that was that! Neill still does all our Aussie tours and has done one of our trips to Europe.
We have since done three tours to Europe including the grand-daddy of all WOMADS, at Reading, England in 2002 and The North Sea Jazz Festival, which is one of the most humongyest of all festivals in the world. On that trip we took with us another new-comer to the group, Carmel Courtney, as Neill could not make it that year. Talk about your odd musicians .... Carmel, or Carmelita as she was soon to become known, could play two saxophones simultaneously and completely stopped the show at Reading. She lives in Lyttleton in the South Island and often plays with us when we have South Island gigs. Currently in Auckland we have John Ellis playing saxophones and percussion with us. Like Neill Duncan, John is a whiz on several horns AND percussion, which is great for us as we do not use a drummer in the Jews Brothers Band.
Well that's about it in a nutshell. As you can see from our artist page, the band's core still consists of Nigel Gavin on plucked strings, Linn Lorkin on vocals and melodica (another odd instrument being a toy plastic keyboard which is played like a piano keyboard but you blow into it.) I'm on piano-accordion and Peter Scott is on the double bass. But we want to thank all of those mentioned above who have played with us in the past and helped to create our unique sound.
Hope you found our history intertaining.
Herschel Herscher
All content copyright © 2000-2005 The Jews Brothers Band

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Jews Brothers Band 20th Anniversary New Zealand National Tour. Riverside Theatre Whangarei.



 From left to right: Harmen Hielkema,one string bass and vocals, Linn Lorkin, melodica and vocals, Neill Duncan,one hand saxophone, drums and vocals, Nigel Gavin, guitar and vocals.


From left: Peter Scott, double bass, Harmen Hielkema,one string bass and vocals, Hershal, accordion, vocals, Linn Lorkin, melodica and vocals, Neill Duncan,one hand saxophone, drums and vocals, Nigel Gavin, guitar and vocals.




This band is the musical love of my life. Magic is real.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Hofner Archtop F-hole Acoustic 1961 repair.

I've gone some way toward repairing a 1961 Hofner Archtop F-hole acoustic guitar.


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This guitar belongs to a friend who's brother owned it from new in the early 1960s.
He died prematurely of leukaemia in 1962.

The guitar remains original and largely unplayed. As expected the neck was bowed forward and the heel of the neck joint had separated.

I released the truss rod nut which was seized. Once lubricated I refitted the nut and attempted to adjust the curve out of the neck. Adjusting to he truss rod does not have an effect on the neck curvature which leads me to believe that this was never intended by the manufacturer.

I have glued the neck heel joint and repaired this major fault which has improved the string hight issue.

Generall the guitar is in surprisingly good condition in every other respect. Saddle height adjustment has been corrected, a new set of strings fitted, intonation set up and the old Hofner is OK to play.