All through 1996, I worked on the initial design of the AEB-2 and AUB-2. The more I got into it, the more complex
the project became. Almost every part of the instrument had to be custom made, either by special ordering from
suppliers or by making it myself. Many of the custom parts, such as the strings and the pickguards, had minimum
orders and long lead times. I subcontracted some parts of the instrument out to other local luthiers who had more
experience in particular
areas than I did. Rick Turner developed a custom active pickup system that we used in
the first prototypes, and he was very helpful with many other details. Pat Wilkins painted the first six
The first two prototypes finally came together in the beginning of December 1996, and they sounded and played
better than I had expected. Rick and I were both surprised by the very wide frequency range and the clear
high-end harmonics. Prototype #001 is a fretted AEB-2 in the classic red/black sunburst scheme, and #002 is
a fretless AUB-2 with a black body, all-natural neck and gold hardware. I still own both of them. A few days
after they were finished, I took both of them out to St. Louis and showed them to Tony and Paul and the rest
of the folks at St. Louis Music. They really liked how they had come out, and we agreed to move ahead with
We showed prototypes #001 and #002 in the Ampeg booth at the January '97 NAMM show. The initial response from
dealers was very good, and we booked up orders for an initial batch of instruments. In the spring of '97, I
shipped four more prototypes, #006-#009, to SLM for a photo session. Soon after, SLM released the Ampeg
Classic Basses brochure, which featured Steve Azola's ABB-1 Baby Basses and my AEB-2 and AUB-2 Scroll Basses.
Meanwhile, I was trying to work out the tooling and manufacturing details, and I foolishly thought that I would
have a steady production of Scroll Basses going by mid-'97. Well, I ran into all kinds of problems and delays,
mostly to do with paint. By the end of '97, I had only completed 9 instruments. So, we had to cancel the orders
from the dealers and back off from our plan to distribute my instruments through SLM. It was clearly my fault;
SLM was ready to sell them, but I couldn't deliver.
I knew very little about painting instruments when I started this project, so I took the first few prototypes
to Pat Wilkins, who's probably the best guitar painter in the L. A. area. Pat did a nice job on them, but he
works in polyester, and I just wasn't happy with the look. They were too smooth and glossy and modern looking.
The AEB-2 needed a thinner finish that would bring out the character of the wood and the vintage feel. I took
the next group of prototypes to luthier Michael DeTemple, who's an expert in vintage restorations, and had
him paint them in nitro lacquer, similar to the original Ampegs. He struggled with them for a long time and
had lots of problems. A few of the instruments that Michael painted are handsome and were sold, but most of
them were eventually stripped and repainted. The lacquer finish was far too tricky and time consuming to
use in production.
In 1998, I dug in and learned how to paint the instruments myself. It took a lot of trial and error, but I
had to figure out a good, repeatable process that could be done in a reasonable amount of time. I finally
worked out a technique using polyurethane that I really like. It brings out the color and texture of the
wood grain and fits the nature of the instrument, and it's much more durable than the lacquer. This really
is a difficult instrument to paint, and I truly appreciate the problems that Pat and Michael had.
During '98, I also made big improvements in the tone by working with acoustic chambers in the body, and
experimenting with different woods. I also developed a better pickup system that's more powerful and has a
wider range of tone control adjustments. I owe special thanks to Long Ly (the owner of L. A. Bass Exchange)
and Lee Sklar for taking the time to try out various prototypes and helping me understand the differences
in sound between them. Those two guys have an amazing ability to feel the tiniest little differences between
By the end of 1998, I had completed 25 AEB-2's and AUB-2's, and I consider them all to be the prototypes. All of
them have now been sold, except for a few that I've kept for myself. Some of them have come back as trade-ins
against newer production instruments, and then been upgraded and resold. I've converted most of them over to
the latest pickup system, and in some cases, fitted new bodies and repainted them.
I built Scroll Basses steadily through 1999, starting with instrument #026. By the spring of 2000, I had
completed 37 total. Of those, I've kept six, SLM owns five, and the other 26 are in the hands of bassists
around the world.
I've stopped production of the Scroll Basses for a while during the summer of 2000, while I've concentrated
on development of the new SSB. Sometime in the fall of 2000, I'll be coming out with an updated version
of the AEB-2/AUB-2 which will have a series of improvements and new features. Obviously, information about them
will be posted on this site when they're available.
The Scroll Basses are unusual instruments that only appeal to certain players, and I've never expected to get
them into mass production. They're my "flagship" line, and I hope to continue building them at a rate of
10 to 15 per year for a long time. I've talked with SLM about resuming our distribution plan, but we've
mutually agreed that it doesn't make sense for either of us at this low production rate. So, for now, the
AEB-2 and AUB-2 will continue to be available directly from me, and through LA Bass Exchange.