Sunday, January 17, 2010

Tom Martinson A/K/A TLM Basses

Sorry about the length of this.

I bought one of his basses on ebay. It's called "Blush". It's beautiful!

The body is Padouk with a strip of curly maple down the center and a Padouk pickup cover.
The neck is Hububali and the fretboard is Ebony and Bloodwood.
Four string, fretted, one pickup, volume & tone control.

Some of the edges of frets are rough. Fixable, but it's a new bass.

The action is MUCH too high. I'm talking close to 1/4 inch.

Laugh at this if you want, but his signature on the headstock isn't clear.
Hey, it's a handmade bass! Where's the 'cool factor' if I can't show that off?

I haven't weighed it, but it's REALLY light!

Construction on the body & neck are top notch.

I looked at the solder joints. Nicely done!
I used to wire electrical panels in machines. I know what a good solder joint looks like!

Nice tone, great sustain.

The neck has no warp or twist.

I like the bass. Where it's important, the work is quality.

Now a story:
I took it to a local luthier to get the cons taken care of. This man, I'll call him Joe (not his real name) , is a well known builder and restorer of fine instruments with an international clientele that's a who's who of the music business.

As Joe looked over the instrument I said, "The action is really high"
Joe: "Wow, that is. It shouldn't be a problem to adjust."

Me, turning bass over: "Should I be concerned about this?" I pointed to the screws holding on the neck. They are phillips screws and they're kind of bunged up like they were really torqued into the wood. Joe's eyes bugged out & his jaw dropped.

Joe: "That's not a lot of overlap to hold the neck on a bass! This is going to cause problems! I'm not sure what we'll be able to do with this." Sighting down the neck; "And this neck is all warped, too."

With an exasperated sigh; "I'm not sure what we can do with this, but we'll try."
He wrote up the paperwork and when I asked for a price quote, $150. Without new strings.

So I went home to have lunch. Thinking about this, Joe seemed to have given up on the bass.
Do I really want to drop $150 when they're sure their work won't make a difference on my hand made, one of a kind instrument?

I have experience in woodworking. Padouk and Hububali are VERY dense woods. I'm guessing Martinson used a drill press to get these screws into snug holes and that's why the neck mounting screws are bunged up. I don't think they're going anywhere.

Also, the grain of both woods are running the length of the bass, as they should.
I don't know squat about building basses, but I'm disagreeing with Joe.

So, I called Joe and told him if he didn't think the bass was worth it, I'll get it before they do any work on it. When I picked it up, he predicted I'd have trouble with the bass.

I took another look at the neck when I got home. I don't see any warp.
I'm taking it to another reputable luthier in a nearby city, tomorrow.

I'll keep you posted on what he says.


  1. Hi, I was wondering what the story is with your bass now? A couple of years later. Please let me know, I'm considering buying one today. Thanks!

  2. Hi I am looking at one you're bass hold up ??