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Post new topic My New Melbert. (10/2 Reviewed)
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Author Topic:  My New Melbert. (10/2 Reviewed)
Karl Paulsen


From:
Chicago
Post Posted 12 Sep 2017 2:47 pm     Reply with quote

I was looking for a lap steel on a very tight budget. Things were looking a big grim when the skies parted and Bob Allen made an offer...
http://bb.steelguitarforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=321161
...of a huge discount on a slightly blemshed example of one of his Melbert 8 strings. After a brief consult with she-who-must-be-obeyed I took him up on it. It's nearly finished but has not had the guts installed yet.

So, I need to decide which pickup to have him install. He puts George L's in his 8 stringers and he directed me to this page to choose a pup.
http://www.georgelsstore.com/pickups.html

I've been playing PSG for a year and a half, but am a complete newbie to Lap steel. Any advice you all can offer would be appreciated.

Thanks!


Last edited by Karl Paulsen on 2 Oct 2017 9:03 am; edited 10 times in total
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George Macdonald


From:
Vancouver Island BC Canada
Post Posted 12 Sep 2017 3:10 pm     Melbert pickup Reply with quote

Karl, I Have a George L 10-1 in my first 8 string Melbert and a George L SS-10 in the second one. They are both very similar with the only difference being the material that the blade is made from. Some people like the George L E-66, but I find it a little too bright for my taste. I don't think you would be disappointed in either the 10-1 or the SS-10. [ I have found that the 12-1 is a good pickup for my 12 string pedal steel too.] Hope this helps.
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Karl Paulsen


From:
Chicago
Post Posted 13 Sep 2017 9:19 am     Reply with quote

Made the payment and selected my options. The body was already essentially done so Bob says it won't be long.

It's going to have the SS-10 pickup and Standard C6th tuning. I was originally thinking of having this as sort of a travel substitute for my E9 Encore PSG but added variety of a different tuning seemed like a better path to take.

The wood is Swamp Cypress. I've already gotten several pictures of the in-progress body, but here's the most recent of the front.


Back.


This is a blem model because of some "End splitting across the grain" that had to be filled, but so far it looks great to me, even in a picture of the affected end.



Really looking forward to recieving this!
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Bill Groner


From:
QUAKERTOWN, PA
Post Posted 13 Sep 2017 9:22 am     Reply with quote

Bob is a good guy and builds very nice stuff. Exclamation
_________________
currently own, 4 Gronertone lap steels.
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Todd Goad


From:
Gray, Georgia, USA
Post Posted 13 Sep 2017 12:44 pm     Reply with quote

Happy for you Karl, you won't be disappointed.
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Todd
Mullen G2 "THE SAVIOR" BJS Bars Peterson Stroboflip Tuner NV400 GoodrichL20
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Larry Lenhart


From:
Ponca City, Oklahoma
Post Posted 13 Sep 2017 2:20 pm     Reply with quote

Todd Goad wrote:
Happy for you Karl, you won't be disappointed.


I agree 100%, I have one of his S8 and it is a great guitar ! I also have a blem, but I couldnt find it !!

Great guy to do business with !

Congratulations on your decision.
_________________
Carter D10,, 1956 Rickenbacker D8 console, 2 Melbert S8, 1976 Ibanez L5, Gretsch 6122-1959, Telonics pedal, Taylor 214 CE, Squire Tele, Recording King Banjo, 3 Roland cubes 30s and 80, Carvin combo bass amp
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Karl Paulsen


From:
Chicago
Post Posted 17 Sep 2017 5:06 am     Reply with quote

Just got another picture from Bob

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Wayne D. Clark


From:
Montello Wisconsin, USA
Post Posted 18 Sep 2017 3:05 pm     Reply with quote

Beautiful, but then I wouldn't expect any thing else from Bob. I have a 6 and an 8 that came out of his shop, and am very satisfied.
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Karl Paulsen


From:
Chicago
Post Posted 20 Sep 2017 12:34 pm     Reply with quote

And the nut, jack and bridge are installed!
Bob says it will be in the mail on Friday.

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Karl Paulsen


From:
Chicago
Post Posted 21 Sep 2017 4:43 am     Reply with quote

And it's done!
Bob just sent me the pics. It'll ship out tomorrow.










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Karl Paulsen


From:
Chicago
Post Posted 26 Sep 2017 11:19 am     Reply with quote

Just Arrived!
Will be back later with a full review, pics, etc, but it looks awfully nice.

TKL bag is nice, but I don't want to risk this one more than I have too. I think I have a Parlor guitar case that could be converted...
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Todd Goad


From:
Gray, Georgia, USA
Post Posted 26 Sep 2017 4:44 pm     Reply with quote

Karl, I know you are excited to start picking on your new guitar. I really think you will enjoy it for years to come. You can check this link hear on the Forum for a case that might interest you for your new guitar. Enjoy! Can't wait for the review and to hear how much fun you are having!!

http://bb.steelguitarforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=321811&highlight=melbert+case
_________________
Todd
Mullen G2 "THE SAVIOR" BJS Bars Peterson Stroboflip Tuner NV400 GoodrichL20
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Karl Paulsen


From:
Chicago
Post Posted 27 Sep 2017 9:22 am     Reply with quote

Todd Goad wrote:
Karl, I know you are excited to start picking on your new guitar. I really think you will enjoy it for years to come. You can check this link hear on the Forum for a case that might interest you for your new guitar. Enjoy! Can't wait for the review and to hear how much fun you are having!!

http://bb.steelguitarforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=321811&highlight=melbert+case


Thanks!

Nice suggestion on the case. I'd want something smaller but that looks quite well done.
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Karl Paulsen


From:
Chicago
Post Posted 2 Oct 2017 6:29 am     Reply with quote

Finally got a chance to spend a bit of time with the Melbert last week.
Here's a brief review from a lap-steel beginner.

I. Observations:

-Tone
The tone is incredible. Clear, even, and with great sustain. Easily as good or better than the 3 vintage steels I recently posted about. My guess is that the George L SS-10 pickup is responsible for much of this.

-Body/Finish
The body is much thicker also. This is a big, lovely slab-o-wood. The area where the grain split is easy to find, but unless you knew it was a "blem" you could be forgiven for thinking it was just an irregularity in the wood. It's nicely filled, but you can feel it with your fingers. It also faces you when playing so no one will likely notice it.

There are some other irregularities where a knot or or some such means that the finish isnt' completely smooth, but I think that is an expected part of a hand rubbed finish. It doesn't detract from the look at all (I like natural wood) and a hand rubbed finish is probably the biggest factor in keeping the overall price of these instruments so affordable. The TKL case the guitar comes with is nicely padded and has comfortable backpack straps in addition to the handle.

-Build/Hardware
The build quality seems quite solid. As mentioend above, the woodgrain is really pretty. The bridge is a nice heavy solid block (much nicer than bent metal) and the nut seems thicker than the thinner metal varieties on the some similarly-priced guitars that I've seen and is much preferrable to the plastic nuts on others. I don't know how he put's such good hardware on such an affordable instrument.

I was skeptical about the "Saga" tuners but they operate smoothly, seem to hold tune quite well and the finish on them is smooth. I'm not totally sold on the mini tuner buttons as my long fingers like a larger button, but that's a prefference rather than a flaw.

Playability:
Spacing is very comfortable and once I broke out of my E9 PSG patterns a bit I was able to make some convincingly musical sounds quite easily. Doesn't seem to take any extra effort with the bar to keep from buzzing. I really like the way the substantial body sits on the lap. Doesn't have the cheap feeling that some others I've tried do.

II. Flaws:

I'm a firm believer that in any thorough review one has to look for flaws. Note that I don't consider the "blem" or finish details mentioned above to be flaws as they're expected. You have too look really close to find any flaws and none of what's below is bothersome to me but I really, really nitpicked and here's what I found.

1) The paint on the bridge block is a bit rough with a few bumps here and there. I don't know if it's just paint or some kind of baked and/or catalyzed finish. Seems sturdy though and it doesn't worry me at all.

2) The faux-MoP printed markers on the fingerboard are just a bit cheezy. Plain white like most other melberts would probably be better. Still, the colors are muted so it's not something that jumps out at you and it doesn't bother me at all.

3) The pinch cut in where the neck meets the"body" seems a bit out-of-place. It's a design feature that isn't repeated at the headstock (as other Melberts seem to be). Would probably look nicer with the neck just flowing into the body. Really not a big deal, but I mention it since we're nitpicking here.

III. Conclusions:

The upshot is that I'm completely over-the-moon for this little guitar. Even if I'd paid full price (around $450 shipped), I'd be hard-pressed to find an 8 string steel as nice as this for anywhere near the price. At the blem price I paid, it's absolutely unbeatable.

Many thanks to Bob and all those here who pushed me away from the other options and towards a Melbert. Bob was in touch all throughout the build and I can't imagine a better building and buying experience. I know that great instruments come from many places, but there is something really good feeling about playing a solid instrument crafted by a single luthier right here in the USA.


IV. Modifications???
As a coda to all this and not really part of the review...
I'm an inveterate tinkerer so I'm already looking at this and wondering what I might modify some day. There really ain't much!

1) At some point I might make a new pickguard. The stock black is just fine but a light wood or tortiseshell would look fabulous against the bold-grained cypress wood.
2) I don't feel any need to right now, but I'm intrigued by Bob's new bridge design with bronze rod. If the screw holes are in the same place and it doesn't mess with the scale I may swap it in someday just to see what happens.
3) I might put in a fretboard with playing card logos or some other differentiated marker pattern. I've come to really rely on the different color markers on my PSG for refference. On the other hand maybe I should just practice more and learn to put my bar in the right place!


Last edited by Karl Paulsen on 3 Oct 2017 6:09 am; edited 1 time in total
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George Macdonald


From:
Vancouver Island BC Canada
Post Posted 2 Oct 2017 9:12 am     Melbert lap steel Reply with quote

Hi Karl, I'm glad to hear that you are pleased with your new Melbert. I'm fortunate to own two of them. The newest one has the phosphor bronze bridge but the standard nut. It was built in July/August of 2016 about the time that Bob was just starting to offer that option. I enquired about the possibility of doing a retro fit to my 2014 Melbert, but Bob told me that it wasn't possible. I really don't notice much [if any] difference in the two. The older one is curly maple with a George L 10-1, and the newer one is cherry with the phosphor bronze bridge and the George L SS-10 pickup. I think the SS-10 has a slight edge over the 10-1. I only got a second one so I could experiment with other tunings on the first one, but I keep returning to my A13th tuning on both of them. [G on the bottom instead of F#]. Enjoy your guitar. I love both of mine and would recommend them to anyone looking for a quality built lap steel at an affordable price.
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Karl Paulsen


From:
Chicago
Post Posted 3 Oct 2017 6:02 am     Reply with quote

Thanks for the observations on the new bridge George. I probably won't do the mod but it's good to know. Really the only thing I'll probably eventually mod will be the pickguard.

The SS-10 pickup is really nice. I played the Melbert again last night and even through my Zoom and tiny Dean Markley Amp (the Milkman is in the repair shop) it sounded great.

I'm going to make a strong statement, and the comparison isn't anywhere near precise, but I think in it's own way it sounds about as good as my Zum Encore PSG. I played both last night and it was pretty impressive.

Loving this 8-stringed beauty.
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Robert Allen


From:
Tennessee, USA
Post Posted 3 Oct 2017 8:57 am     Reply with quote

Out of necessity to keep costs down, I standardized the pickguard and fretboard to the most often requested design so I would be stocking only one design instead of many. I've sold lap steels at extra cost with all sorts of fretboard designs. Dots, squares, cards, even one with green palm trees. Order from Georgeboards but be aware the glue is permanent so changing it involves risk of damaging the finish. The pickguards are made by Tony Dudzik at www.pickguardian.com. Tell him it's for a Melbert with a George L pickup and he can match it with any of his stock or custom colors. I don't know the cost for a single piece.
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Bill Groner


From:
QUAKERTOWN, PA
Post Posted 3 Oct 2017 1:14 pm     Reply with quote

Robert Allen wrote:
Out of necessity to keep costs down, I standardized the pickguard and fretboard to the most often requested design so I would be stocking only one design instead of many. I've sold lap steels at extra cost with all sorts of fretboard designs. Dots, squares, cards, even one with green palm trees. Order from Georgeboards but be aware the glue is permanent so changing it involves risk of damaging the finish. The pickguards are made by Tony Dudzik at www.pickguardian.com. Tell him it's for a Melbert with a George L pickup and he can match it with any of his stock or custom colors. I don't know the cost for a single piece.



I am pretty sure no one could match that deal. Wasn't a gig bag included in the price? I like to build my own stuff and I am pretty sure I could not buy the parts for what Bob sold that one for. Pretty sure if you wanted to sell it, it wouldn't take too long before you had a buyer. That wood was very, very nice...........along with the rest of the lap steel.
_________________
currently own, 4 Gronertone lap steels.
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Karl Paulsen


From:
Chicago
Post Posted 3 Oct 2017 4:29 pm     Reply with quote

Robert Allen wrote:
Out of necessity to keep costs down, I standardized the pickguard and fretboard to the most often requested design so I would be stocking only one design instead of many. I've sold lap steels at extra cost with all sorts of fretboard designs. Dots, squares, cards, even one with green palm trees. Order from Georgeboards but be aware the glue is permanent so changing it involves risk of damaging the finish. The pickguards are made by Tony Dudzik at www.pickguardian.com. Tell him it's for a Melbert with a George L pickup and he can match it with any of his stock or custom colors. I don't know the cost for a single piece.


Thanks Bob!
Good to know about the glue. I'll probably keep it in-place as I was just nitpicking and comparing to my current prefferences. If I decide I need more differentiation around the 7th and 9th frets there are freboard "inlay" stickers that I could use to mark them

As folks can see you've got to look pretty darn hard to find anything not to absolutely love about this steel.

I had my dad and brother stop by for a visit to day. They each took it for a spin (though neither plays steel) and they were highly impressed. I think I almost convinced my dad to get one but I don't think I quite got him. I'll keep at it...

Bill,
No doubt I could find a buyer quick, but I don't think this is going anywhere. I'm going to show it around my musician friends. I think there are alot of folks who would give steel a chance if they knew about the instruments Bob is making. An affordable USA made steel with "modern" updates and without the idiosyncracies of vintage steels could be really tempting for alot of players, especially those who would like to consider themselves multi-instrumetalists.
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Larry Lenhart


From:
Ponca City, Oklahoma
Post Posted 6 Oct 2017 5:00 pm     Reply with quote

I just ordered my second Melbert Smile Great instruments at a great price, great sound and a great guy to do business with...did I use the word great too many times ? Smile
_________________
Carter D10,, 1956 Rickenbacker D8 console, 2 Melbert S8, 1976 Ibanez L5, Gretsch 6122-1959, Telonics pedal, Taylor 214 CE, Squire Tele, Recording King Banjo, 3 Roland cubes 30s and 80, Carvin combo bass amp
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Karl Paulsen


From:
Chicago
Post Posted 7 Oct 2017 4:50 am     Reply with quote

Larry Lenhart wrote:
..did I use the word great too many times ? Smile

Don't think that's possible.

I took my Melbert to Chicago Music Exchange yesterday and put it against a bunch if vintage steels. A 1200 buck century was the only one that provided stiff competition.
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