Samuel Gilkes
fecit London, 1814 (with Papers)
Labeled within and Branded on the Ribs at the Block

Samuel Gilkes was first trained by Charles Harris (a relative) and later worked for William Forster III. The Forster family supplied string instruments to King George III (1760-1820) and most probably maintained the instruments for the Court and the Royal Orchestra/Band. S. Gilkes was employed by Forster from 1810 to 1819. He also opened his own shop in 1810 while still employed by Forster. His duties also included training Simon Andrew Forster, son of William III.  Samuel Gilkes was born in 1787 and died 1827 (40 years old). Samuel's son William (named after Forster??) was born on 1811, just 3 years before this Bass was completed and later became a well known maker in his own right carrying out the Gilkes tradition (possibly with the help of John Hart, apprentice and assistant to Samuel as the Basses by William look similar to an early Bass by Hart). Samuel was only about 26-27 years old when this Bass was 'completed'. I say completed because the exquisite workmanship shown on this Bass along with the magnificent 7-Layer Purfling on both the Top and Back could take the best of makers several years to complete as he was employed elsewhere during it's construction.

Samuel Gilkes is noted in the book 'The British Violin' (pg. 80) and I quote, "Gilkes, however, was one of the finest Cello makers of his age; indeed, he is in the first rank of English Cello makers of any age. His sophisticated copies of Stradivari with a fine oil varnish are particularly successful."


Forster School Orchestral Double Bass ~ Round Back ~ Strad Cello Model 
Upper Bout: 19 3/4" Belly Length to the tip: 43 3/4"
Center Bout: 15 1/4" String Length: 41"
Bottom Bout: 26" Varnish: Golden Brown Oil
Rib Depth: 8"   (Upper Bout tapers to 7 1/2" at the Neck )
Top: Fine to medium grained Spruce
Back / Ribs: Highly Flamed Maple
Neck / Scroll: Highly Flamed Maple
Features: 7-layer Purfling Top & Back with a Diamond shaped design under the Neck Button
Note: Sometime in the late 19th century, the upper Shoulders were cut down from it's original Cello shape to make playing easier in the upper registers. Some of the original 7-layer Purfling was replaced in the cut area but this is nearly impossible to match up. The two upper Ribs were varnished-over when the Shoulders were cut as well as the Neck/Scroll being re-set around the same time. The new upper Rib Varnish is well matched to the original Oil applied by Gilkes. Scratched in the Bass side Rib near the Neck Button there is a date reading "P.A./8.8.1884". I am told that in European writing this means "August 8th, 1884". That might be a marking from the owner at the time (P.A.?). My guess is that the Ribs were re-bent shortly before that time during the Shoulder-cut.

      This fine pedigree Bass has papers from both Biase-Fantoni, NY and Thwaites of London

*(9/1/06) This Bass has just completly Restored by Arnold Schnitzer (AES) including a new Chromatic 'C' Extension. Photos


Front and back without a single crack in the belly area !! Only the Edges and Corners of the Top show wear or distress

 
Samuel's hand shown off with his perfect cutting of the Strad style F holes

 
The Shoulders expertly modified by a great 19th century Luthier (c.1870-1880).

Corners inlaid with 7-Layer Purfling in a perfectly faded 'Mitre'

The beautiful Diamond 7-Layer Purfling design by Gilkes was preserved.  It clearly shows how high the original Shoulders could have been as the Purfling runs off the edge. The Neck Button looks to have been replaced as it is beautifully grafted into the Back on the inside.

The Gilkes gets a 'Facelift' : August 27, 2004
The old Plates (c.1870-1880 Restoration) were taken off and the wood under the Plates extensively cleaned. The plates were first cleaned and re-shaped to fit little better. Then they were buffed, polished  & lacquered. The Plates were then re-installed the new Gears to give 'olde Gilkey' a 'face lift'.  The original engraving on the Plates as well as all the original scratches are still visible under the lacquer which helps add to the patina.

The Gear Plates did not fit all that well before they were re-trimmed and there were also some holes plugged in the Pegbox as evidencie of some earlier machines. The Gilkes being an expensive Bass for its time and a Strad Cello copy as well was most likely made for a member of English society or some level of Royalty. This Bass evidently had great care and very little use for its first 50-60 years. There are practically no cracks at all on the Top and the Back Table is nearly virgin with the exception of the Shoulder Cut and the Button replacement. The amazing wood and condition can be seen by looking at the Restoration Photos. Only the Ribs show some normal distress of a Bass nearly 200 years old.

Beautiful beveled edges and deeply carved Scroll masterfully cut. Even the rear 'veins' and 'button' are deeply pronounced.

Although the Gilkes Scroll does not look typical English style, the book "The British Violin" from the 1998 Exhibition '400 years of Violin & Bow making in the British Isles' has a section about Samuel Gilkes (pgs.192-193) with a Cello ca.1820 which has the exact same Scroll as this Bass including the deep 'veining' in the rear to the Button. The book states; "This example is made on the Stradivari model (although some exist on the Forster 'Amati' pattern), with a particularly well-observed and crafted (if rather slender) scroll." This is evidence enough for us that Gilkes made 'slender' styled Scrolls unlike other British makers of his period when it came to the Cello and Double Bass as is witnessed here. Also, the 1805 Royal Forster Scroll made for King George III is a long and slender pattern as well.

        There also is an unusual inlay of Pearl and Silver in possibly the original 'non Ebony' hardwood Tailpiece.

 

Restoration

Ribs repaired with Spruce and linen, the olde fashioned way.
The entire top was half edged inside & 8 of 12 lining strips replaced.

All repairs were done respectfully to this old Classic with new center Studs.
Only a few cleats were used on the Top as there are no Belly cracks.

A new Bass Bar was also fitted but both Blocks were left as-is.
Some re-edging was also done carefully to preserve this classic.

Some more re-edging was needed here as well as Purfling replacement.
This tip was gone and had to be rebuilt and Purfled as well.

Some Rib grafts were also needed on the lower bout Rib by the Back.
More edging again shown here on the Top players side edge.

The original Gilkes label preserved above Arnold's restoration label.
An inside look of the Button graft from 1870-'80 after the Shoulder cut.

The Back shown here in near mint condition in beautifully flamed maple.

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