THIS DOUBLE BASS HAS BEEN SOLD, THE PAGE HAS BEEN TURNED INTO MY ACCUMULATED INFORMATION ABOUT ALUMINUM DOUBLE BASSES. PLEASE CONTACT US FOR OTHER BASSES LIKE THIS
Aluminum Double Bass labeled G. A. Pfretzschner
Aluminum double basses are rare today, and
little is known about them. Not much information can be found on the
very earliest possible makers...and even the companies that we can confirm made
them do not know much, if anything about them. There are various different legends about
who, when and where they were made. Perhaps this listing will prove to be
as much educational as it is interesting.
First some facts:
In 1891 Alfred Springer of Cincinnati, Ohio, was awarded a
patent for an aluminum violin. There are no known double basses to have
been produced from the Springer workshop.
In 1894 the Aluminum Musical Instrument Company of Ann
offered everything from violins to zithers. By 1898
however, the company was no more. We are not aware of any double basses
being made by this workshop and given the short amount of time they were in
business, it seems unlikely, but as the range of instruments they produced was
so vast, it is still probable.
If you think you have one, we would love to see pictures of it. eMail us
During the 1930?s (the Aluminum Double Bass Patent was issued in 1932) the Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA) produced
aluminum upright basses (From 1929 To 1934). The entire body, neck and scroll were made out of seamlessly
welded aluminum and were often covered with a convincing (from 20 feet!) faux wood grain finish.
Information suggests that only 500 double basses were made. To
find one of these basses today with it's original finish in pristine condition
is rare as most are well worn or have been sandblasted.
The original patent can be viewed here.
If you have one, we would love to see pictures of it. eMail us
#254 seen here.
The USA was not alone though in the production of Aluminum
instruments. The G.A. Pfretzschner workshop of Markneukirchen, Germany was
also producing a number of aluminum cellos and double basses for import into the
USA. Although all surviving aluminum basses are rare, these are the more
common and what most people have seen. To date I know of both a flat back
model and a arched back model, although the arched backs are more common.
The Europeans used spruce bass bars, blocks and sound post platforms as well as
Maple necks. I have found little in my research about these basses creation.
Actual companies making the basses and the dates of manufacture are not
currently known to me...although as of the Fall of 2009 I am waiting to hear
back if the Rubner company had a hand in making them. This is plausible to
me as Rubner has metal working capabilities and the Pfretzschner workshop is
well known for buying instruments from various German sources for export to the
Now for the Legends!
An all too often told story is that the
Ford Motor Company or Colman produced a limited number of aluminum basses for the
Navy & U.S.O. as a wooden bass could not survive extended travels on the ships as they
are highly susceptible to humidity and moisture. This is on the level
of urban legend. The Ford Motor Company never made
a single double bass. I have had lots of conversations with various Ford
Archivists and I have letters from the Ford Motor Company
confirming that they never made a double bass or any musical
instruments. Most of the German made basses are falsely attributed to Ford.
The only linking evidence of Colman making Double Basses is the ALCOA plant that
made the double basses was located in Buffalo, NY where Aluminum Coleman
products are now made by ALCOA. Now onto the Theory that they were made
for the U.S.O. I'm opening many cans of worms on the date WWII started,
but it could be anywhere from 1937 to 1941 depending how you look at it.
Regardless, the patent issued to ALCOA for an aluminum double bass was 1932.
Now having a patent ourselves and understanding the process, I can take a leap
that ALCOA was making double basses prior to 1932. So ALCOA making basses
exclusively for the U.S.O. use in WWII seems unlikely. Also take note that
once the USA entered WWII precious metals and materials were in scant supply and
most manufacturers who had the abilities re-tooled factories to make Military
contracted goods. It is likely that ALCOA scraped the instrument
production in favor of high paying government contracts. So although a few
Aluminum Double Basses might have been on tour with the U.S.O. in WWII it is in
all likeliness WWII itself that stopped these basses being made!
So you have an Aluminum Double Bass and want to know
what you have?
American made Aluminum instruments are unique in the fact
that they were seamlessly welded whereas the Europeans used rivets & screws. This single
tell-tale identifier can be used to spot one from across the room. The
Europeans used spruce bass bars, blocks and sound post platforms as well as
Maple necks whereas the
American made instruments are entirely aluminum. It is our opinion that
the European made basses, due to their construction, have a much better tone.
The rivets allow luthiers the opportunity to disassemble the instruments for
maintenance and repairs when needed. The American made ALCOA basses are
far stronger though and can withstand the rigors of time (and abuse) much
This bass bears it's original label and is from the
We have been asked many times over the years what these
basses are worth. Our reply is often "whatever the market will bear". Please keep in
mind though, this is not a rare, untouched Prescott...this is an German made
aluminum bass...and the price should be in the neighborhood of an Kay in similar
Since publishing this page in February of 2006 I have
been dismayed to see others take from my research. I have seen my research reproduced both
electronically and in print. One author even had a bass on his website
labeled as a "Ford" until I kindly wrote to him to let him know of his false
attribution. It may seem petty to state these facts, but I put a lot of
time and energy into finding out more about these instruments and it is a shame
to see this hard work taken without acknowledgement.