Handcrafted basses

Restoration projects

Crucianelli bass "Elli Sound" (2017)

Italian 60's: Vespa, Fiat 600, Gelato and Crucianelli guitars
THere is not much about Crucianelli on the internet. They produced guitars and basses in collaboration with Vox, and some of their guitars seem to be manufactured by the Eko factory. Details like the bridge and tailpiece, and also the original tuners give reason to believe that's the case with this bass. They are identical to Eko's hardware from that period, that's around 1967-1968.
So this is a 50 year old piece of Italian nostalgia. The body is one piece of solid...plywood. That was common on the lower budget guitars in those days, and plywood was still regarded a space age wonder material back then. And to be honest, there's plywood and plywood. In this case a pretty heavy body of layered hardwood, not bad sounding at all.
With the short scale and all, the whole package has the typical 60's sound to it. However, with roundwound strings it's also suitable for other things than a 60's tribute band.

When I bought it, the bass had only the first 5 frets, the rest was sanded away for some reason. Because of that sanding, there was a huge dent in the fretboard. Horrific. The nut was also bad. There where 3 original tuners on the bass, and 1 totally different Egmond tuner. That didn't look good.
The bridge pickup was not working, and the bridge had a sort of metal cover clamped to it, with sticky, worn out foam material.

So, the job was:
  • Carefully removing the neck binding to get access to the remains of the sanded down frets
  • remove what was left of the frets
  • Sand the neck flush
  • put new frets on
  • replace a few of the dot markers, I made a special paste for that, since the size did not match currently available dot markers
  • glue neck bindings back on
  • made a new bone nut
  • repair pickup, the wire was broken inside the case. A bit of luck: it was the outer winding, i could take a turn off, and solder it again.
  • The bass had very low output volume. Turned out that volume pot was 47KOhmm. Should be 250K or up. Replaced it with 500KOhm pot.
  • glued some pieces of wood in the cavity for better support of the pickguard screws
  • left the bridge cover with the damping foam off
  • replaced the tuners with 80's Ibanez tuners, wich excactly fitted the holes. Not authentic, true, but I couldn't get the same ones, and the "clover-leaf" more or less matches the original ones.
  • put new strapholders on
  • adjustments: neck relief, bridge height and fine tuning.

I did nothing to the finish of the bass. A few spots on the rear end of the body seem to be camouflated a bit with black paint, nothing too obvious. But the rest is all vintage. REAL relic, worn out by use and time only.
Note: the crack under the E tuner on the back of the headstock is in the laquer only, the wood is intact.

Contrabass Domra (2018)

Ukranian giant bass
This instrument is built in 1956 or 1958 (the label is a bit faded there) in L'Viv in Ukraine. Apart from the label there are more signs: A Russian contrabass domra has 3 strings and has another type of headstock. The Ukranian domra is also bigger, has a larger scale and is tuned differently from the Russian one. The Ukranian is tuned E-A-D-G like a regular bass guitar or contrabass, the Russian is tuned A-D-G. The scale of this domra is 100cm (40 inch).
The body has a diameter of about 76 cm, and has a rounded back. The enormous "turtle back" makes this instrument somewhat awkward to play. Originally, the domra has an endpin in a 45 degree angle. Looking at the front, that would be at between 4 and 5 o'clock, so to speak. I bought the instrument without endpin, but there is some repairwork visible at the original spot of the endpin, so somebody already dismounted it appearently.
The Russian bass domra is more or less played like a guitar, resting with the endpin on the ground.
In this picture, this man is playing a bass domra, and it's clearly showing back problems in the making.. And mine is even bigger, it being a CONTRAbass domra! I tried to play it like that, now i know how a male turtle must feel trying to make love to his girlfriend ;-)
No wonder somebody removed the original endpin. So I decided to place an contrass endpin at the obvious place. Not original, but playable.
The front of the domra was covered in brown paint when i bought it. Horrible sight, it had to come off. Another issue was the neck. It was curved forward and the action was enormous. Lowering the bridge would result in all sorts of fret noises on the highest frets. I could get the frets off and build a contraption to straighten the fretboard with the router, but I would lose the non-standard dot markers in the process. Also a refret job: with what frets? These frets are solid brass and over 4mm wide, bigger than anything available. I could use jumbo frets instead, but still, this scenario was a plan B to me.
I took the highest 5 frets off and lowered the bridge. 14 frets left, that's still plenty for an instrument like this.
The last challenge was to get strings for this beast. There where 3 copper-wound strings on it, resembling piano strings. A ended up buying 2 sets of strings: one for contrabass balalaika (EAD) and one for Russian ontrabass domra (ADG). The G string of the domra set was just about long enough to fit, got lucky there.
What was the job:
  • Scraping off the paint
  • made a new rosette from mahogany veneer
  • made the soundhole bigger for more projection (that was really small)
  • Applying a new transparent finish
  • made a new pickguard
  • made a thumbrest, again: not original but more playing comfort
  • Made a new bridge
  • placed new endpin
  • flatten the frets as far as possible. The action of the strings is acceptable now
I made a pickup from a piezo disc and placed it under the bridge. The bridge is not fixed so the piezo is removable. With a DI box, i can plug it into a mixer, it sounds fine! Deep smooth contrabass-like sound, but with more high overtones, due to frets and roundwound strings.

Playing the bass monster.
Hey, I look slimmer next to this instrument,
nice side-effect...