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TB1000A #706 partial history

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29 Mar 2010
Posts: 2
PostPosted: 04/09/2010 at 6:46 AM    Post subject: TB1000A #706 partial history link

I was the previous owner of the white Artist (yellowed by smoke over the years to more of a cream color) number 706. I found it at a Guitar Center in San Francisco in 1988 simply by making a phone call to this establishment and inquiring about Travis Beans. Much to my surprise and delight, the salesman who answered the phone told they in fact had a white 'carved top' Travis Bean on their wall for a mere $250. To good to be true, I went right down and placed a $100 deposit on it as that was the extent of my savings and I was about to leave for the East Coast for a Grateful Dead tour. When I returned, I happily payed the balance and was finally the proud owner of a genuine Travis Bean, which replaced the Kramer aluminum/wood neck guitar I bought in Colorado while returning from the previous Dead tour. Needless to say, there was no comparison--the frets on the Kramer were not even dressed. I kept that Travis Bean for about 12 years before deciding the neck profile (narrow nut width/fat 'D'-type neck profile, like a Les Paul) was not a comfortable fit for my hand and it didn't make any sense for me to keep a guitar not suited to my playing tastes when the TB500 I also owned (bought in Oakland around the same time from a private owner during a visit to his house (he'd advertised it in the paper--for $275, I think) had a neck profile much more to my liking (wide nut width/shallow 'C'-type neck profile, like a Stratocaster). However, when I first bought 706, it had a bone nut with a chip around the B-string groove. I brought it to a luthier top repair--who convinced me to stick with bone even though I knew, and informed him, that the original nut was brass. Anyway, he did a crappy job of making a fluted bone note with abhorrent 1st fret action. So, I decided: if you want something done right, do it yourself, and proceeded to build a new brass nut (I couldn't copy the TB500 nut as it was a different shape than the TB1000 nuts I'd seen and I didn't have another TB1000 on hand to copy the nut shape). I found out the hard way how difficult working brass is--it is much, much harder than bone and makes graphite seem like butter. Anyway, after a couple of weeks I had the basic shape and scribed the locations for the strings (equal spacing between the string edges, not the string centers--this just seemed like logical, common sense; many years later, I learned that this is how Jerry Garcia specified his string spacing to Doug Irwin). I also made a personal visit to Healdsberg and bought my Grobet nut files directly from one of the main guys there (they also sold me their last catalogue binder, which I was told is unique due to mistake made by the printers). So, the nut grooves were cut with professional, dedicated tools--not any of the improvised solutions you hear of people using (welding tip cleaners, generic jeweler's files, etc.). And I spend considerable time setting the action at the 1st fret (using feeler gauges for the rough depth, and feel and ear to adjust the depth precisely to a perfect value allowing ease of fingering at the 1st fret while avoiding any fret buzz at the lower frets). Therefore, the nut you see pictured in the photo gallery of TB1000A #706 was made by my hands; and if you compare it with other nuts, I assume made by Travis Bean--although he may have employed other luthiers for various duties including nut manufacture (it is a tedious process--some people think a nut is simple to make; however, it is one of the most crucial and precise components of a guitar: it is one of two areas on the guitar wear sound is transferred from the strings to the body and then resonate into the air as sound waves; the other is of course the bridge, which is usually a pre-made commercial device--sure, you can also buy pre-slotted nuts in a variety of materials; but final set-up of 1st fret action still requires manual work). There is one other modification I made to this guitar and it is so seemless and 'right', that I doubt many people actually notice that the volume and tone knobs--once pretty cheap black ones (I doubt they were original, because my TB500 had high quality audiophile-grade knobs)--are know high quality cream colored knobs which perfectly match the body hue. Whoever posted 706 provided no information; but it was originally listed on eBay for $10,000 with no photos--this was around 1999 and I was pretty eBay naive at the time; still I knew a Travis Bean was an ultra high quality, very costly and sought after instrument (I remember seeing a Travis Bean website around that time, indicating TB was back in business--I guess that all fell through because I've never seen one of the c.2000 Travis Beans anywhere; however, the listed retail price for an Artist model was $8,500; so I extrapolated that a vintage Artist model in near mint condition was worth a bit more than the modern equivalent; we all know re-makes are never as good as the originals). Anyway, it of course didn't receive any bids; but I did get an e-mail a couple of weeks later from a fellow in Australia offering $2,500. I figured that was the best I could do (little did I know Standards would routinely sell on eBay for twice that 10 years hence (I know people list Koa and Black Beans on eBay in questionable condition regularly for around $6000; although I don't know if they actually get that much). So, I fashioned a nice wooden carton, placed the Bean in its original case and shipped it off to Australia after some guy who'd never even seen the guitar and had only talked to me on the phone, wired $2250 into my bank account with the promise of another $250 after receipt of the guitar--all sight unseen and sound unheard to someone unmet halfway across the globe. He said he was currently using a Febder Jaguar at the time and I replied, "this is no Fender Jaguar--it's in a whole nother class." Being rather enamoured of 'the best production guitar ever made', I naturally sold the Jaguar short; I now know that an original Fender Jaguar is quite a high quality player's guitar in its own right. I'll miss the Travis Bean, though--I don't regret selling it; the neck profile was just not right for my hands. The sad fact is that my brother held the TB500 for a while (a San Francisco guitar shop ravaged the Delrin finish and even cut into the aluminum when the dressed the high frets during a refret; a small SF guitar shop was a poor choice to bring a guitar as rare and wonderful as a TB500--nevertheless, it was done and I never felt the same way about that guitar again. The neck also creaked. When I removed the pickguard I found that neck on the TB500 had hollowed aluminum on the interior and was more of a set-neck design than a neck through-body design like the TB1000 and that a single wood screw secured the neck to the body (evidently the TB500 was truly the 'budget' model; but a bit of extra care, as I'm sure for instance went into the TB500 Garcia played from '76-'78). I've also always lamented the fact that I couldn't afford the 3 pickup TB500 I saw advertised in an Oakland newspaper for $895; not that I'd've ever had sold it; but a TB500 with triple singlecoils could fetch $12,500 on eBay. Anyway, letting my brother hold that TB500 was a mistake; he eventually sold it or traded it for some pittance, but not before destroying the finish after decieding it was a good idea to play it while wear a plaster cast on his wrist and forearm. So, that's my tale--a little history on TB1000A No.706.

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