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Joebethell

Special D Curlee

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So a couple of months ago I started looking for a project bass and after a number of enquires,dead ends I came across Scott Beckwith in the good old USA and for those who don't know he is Mr Birdsong Guitars. I can't afford a Birdsong and I love shorter scales so while ogling all the lovely basses on show I came across a blog that explained that Scott had acquired the remains of the workshop and parts of the old brand SD Curlee so after a bit of back and forth I asked if he would let anything go! Turns out he would do a deal was made and it' turned up a few weeks ago.
NOW comes the but it was never completed/built so it's just s body and neck with a really crazed finish no parts and plenty of knocks and dings from years of storage but it's a special bit of wood.

As far as is documented it is a one off slab body/none round edge maple cap Curlee bass possible made for a famous player who was moving to Hamer.

Now my dilemma is to build it up as original as possible or do a full refurbishment or as a last option modify it to a one off custom beast.

Some help with this would be really appreciated I might photoshop some ideas up first when I get chance.

Anyway here is a photo of the bass.

Edited by Joebethell

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Well, first of all - good on you for just going ahead and asking Scott what odds & ends he had lying around
If you hadn't, anything could have happened to this body & neck... who knows

You don't see many SD Curlee's around for sale, so part of me just thinks, go ahead & do as complete an original "restoration" as you can...
I think I'd be tempted to do it as a custom build that looks "quite a bit like an SD Curlee" - or maybe an SD Curlee which was a custom build one-off - perhaps an unusual colour or finish? Or even an SD Curlee that's been re-finished? Will you be sourcing as close to the orig pickups as possible? Will you be able to do that, or would it be better to fit more modern pickups, or upgraded pickups and electrics?

It's a tricky question, and I think you might get several different (and opposing) answers - which might not help you in your dilemma ;)
Once completed, will you badge this bass as anything? Will you leave it un-badged / un-branded?
Is it an SD Curlee? - probably not, but it's sort of also "the last one" - or is it? Sorry, I've given you more questions than you already had lol

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I really don't know yet first job is to get a nut on the truss rod after that it's all still undecided.

scott did provide a detailed hand written letter of the parts/build he thinks it would have been made up with so if I do go with just getting as close to it would have been I would have a starting point.

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Wonderful guitars these. For what it's worth, I'd be inclined to build it as ...erm...nature intended..;0)
Whatever you decide to do, good luck.

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Nice one! I think I'd try to follow through with the original design/intentions as much as possible

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Yeah I'm leaning towards keeping it as original as I can. It's going to come down to sourcing parts the bridge is a tough one and the finish may have to come off as the neck joint is being held by the finish as well as the bolts so to get the trussrod sorted I'm going to struggle to squeeze a new nut on.

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[quote name='Andyjr1515' timestamp='1497543234' post='3319015']
That's looking like a very special bit of wood :). This one will be well worth the wait for - don't rush it ;)

Andy
[/quote]

Cheers Andy sure I will be pestering you shortly for advise 😜

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I have not weighed it yet but will when I get to starting the project.
The SD curlee has an extended bolt on neck and the early models have a large brass neck plate and control cover on the rear. This bass is slightly later so would have had aluminium covers instead and I believe even later on they used set necks just before they disappeared.

Edited by Joebethell

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Off the top of my head, I think original parts would've been DiMarzio Model P, Badass Mk 1 bridge and either Schaller M4S or Grover Titan tuners. If you go down the original or resto routes (which I probably would) then these parts shouldn't be too hard to find. Espcially on a forum full of bassists! :D

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Yeah pickups,tuners should be easy the old badass with the narrower spacing will be the tricky bit unless anyone has one in a stash

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If not, a good alternative would be a Schaller 3D - very common kit on basses from that era and features adjustable string spacing. Easy to get hold of & a technically great design too.

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So its been a while since i got hold of the SD and a little bit of progress has been made. Firstly i managed to squeeze the truss rod nut back on.

After hunting high and low for a suitable Badass with no success i decided to order a Hipshot 656 spaced bridge that fits the bass really well also while ordering i got matching tuners which all showed up this week.

I have not got round to fitting them yet but here are some better photos of the bass so you can see the condition of the finish. Its the one big dilemma I am facing as some of it will have to come off to fit parts like the bridge as it stops it sitting level the problem being its very very brittle and i think I'm going to end up having to stripping the whole bass.

Anyway Photos as promised and more progress to come soon.






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How deep is that finish? It looks like a good ten thousandths of an inch. (That's a quarter of a millimetre to the urchins and ankle biters.)

I think you need to consider a light skim across the front to reveal untreated wood. Otherwise if you leave traces of the old coating in the grain and pores it may well ruin the new surface treatment that you eventually choose. It looks like there should be enough material to do it with no appreciable loss of integrity. The back, if it is flat too, could be treated the same way. The rest of the body should be okay with meticulous attention to sanding. In the course of this process you should be able to take the bridge recess floor back with light routing just enough to leave it flat for good mechanical contact whilst keeping its position true relative to the fretboard.

I wouldn't dare remove the finish chemically however. Without specialist knowledge it poses a potential risk to the safety of the glued joints.

Edited by SpondonBassed

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Finish is pretty thick a few placed are chipped away and i would say around a mm/0.5mm ish I need to get some callipers really to give it a proper measurement

Edited by Joebethell

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A friend of mine removed the paint/lacquer on the neck of his Ibanez with a Stanley blade scraper. Because the paint/lacquer was so thick it practically fell off - easier than loads of smelly chemicals.

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Thanks I was wondering about chemical strip or just going st it with sandpaper and elbow grease. Scrapper might work but I'm concerned if I catch I might take a chunk out.

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Hi Joe :)

Someone said earlier you'd get loads of different views ;) So, for what it's worth...

Having seen how much trouble some builders go to to create exactly that kind of crazing, my inclination would be to leave it alone. It's what old finishes do.... And what mojo! Where there are complete chips and wood fully exposed, I would just subtly dirty the fresh exposed wood - literally wiping it and rubbing it with unwashed hands usually does the job nicely.

But whatever you choose to do with it, it's going to be one special instrument :)

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[quote name='Bridgehouse' timestamp='1502392428' post='3351208']
I'd love to be able to get a lacquer check finish like that on some of my relic jobs :)

I say keep it original if you can
[/quote]
I think that puts us in the majority view...so far ;)

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[quote name='Joebethell' timestamp='1502391834' post='3351201']
Thanks I was wondering about chemical strip or just going st it with sandpaper and elbow grease. Scrapper might work but I'm concerned if I catch I might take a chunk out.
[/quote]

How are you going to maintain a flat surface when sanding? It's a tricky one. I'd save the scraper for when the coating is mostly removed then use the scraper in conjunction with a straight edge. Identify bumps with the straight edge and use the scraper to flatten them.

If you're worried about using a scraper look for online clips. I'd feel safer with a scraper than with sandpaper.

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I'd have to agree with Bridgehouse and Andy. I mean, the only serious issue you have mentioned is that the bridge is not sitting level. Is that the only thing that would compromise the sound of the instrument? A light rout should sort that.

I get how you must feel about the responsibility of the task you have undertaken. To leave much of the original work intact would be desirable. I'd say you need only provide quality hardware and fit it well.

Edited by SpondonBassed

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Looking closely at your new bridge I wonder if you might have a problem with the attaching screws. It looks from your photos as if the screws will bite at the point where the neck root meets the body beneath the top.

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