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Why Skjold

Hello, my name is Pete Skjold of Skjold Design Guitars LLC. I want to thank you for visiting my site. If you are here for the first time I would like to take this opportunity to introduce Skjold Design Guitars and explain my processes, philosophies and goals when producing these handmade instruments for discerning players. First I think you need to know that I am Skjold Design Guitars, meaning that this is not a factory with several employees doing various jobs in the shop. I am the person who handles every aspect of the work done here in my shop/studio. Artisan/Luthier Pete Skjold is synonymous with Skjold Design Guitars.

Part of the handmade process involves materials entering my shop in the rough form. All the wood must first be stabilized, dimensioned, and processed into useable pieces of lumber for specific purposes. This provides greater control over the quality of the wood which is paramount when making the finest handmade basses possible. This has been achieved over decades. Every aspect of the process is done by hand. There are no computer aided machines here in the shop. I choose to execute everything this way because that is how I relate to the instrument, as a player and builder. It's feel, it's vibration, it's exacting tolerances, everything has to pass through my filters (i.e. my hands) in becoming a truly fine instrument worthy of your expression. Does this take longer? Yes, but I feel it is worth it. Here is why I believe you will feel the same. First, everything is indexed with exact tolerances making my bass guitars very similar and consistent from one to another. Some other handmade basses can vary quite a lot from bass to bass making it hard to know the same person was responsible for building both instruments. With Skjold Design Guitars this is not the case. Much effort is put into critical points such as the neck profile, weight, fingerboard radius, playability and response. All are done to a very high Skjold standard to ensure the familiar aspects you will come to appreciate and love about your Skjold bass guitar. Although Unique and distinctive, many of my customers express how comfortable they are with the bass as soon as they take it out of the box. Many have received their bass just hours before a performance and were able to take the bass directly to the gig after just a short time with it. Customers report that after they receive a Skjold bass it quickly becomes their go to bass.

You can't talk about building basses of this level without talking about experience, not only building experience but also real world playing experience. I have been building complete instruments since 1997 and have been a professional bassist since 1990. This playing experience is so critical to what I do. It gives me the inside perspective of what my players are looking for in a bass guitar and what their goals are. In 2003, I went full time into building bass guitars exclusively. All of my designs stem from a bass I designed in 1992. From there I have continually refined my designs and goals as a builder. Nothing has been done without purpose or reason. I always favor elegant simplicity over needless complexity. This all becomes evident when you play a Skjold bass guitar for the first time.

So many customers share their experiences with me after they take possession of their bass. One common thread I take particular delight in is the reaction they get from band members, sound people, and recording engineers. Often times these people go out of their way to tell the customer how much they like the sound of the bass and how it is a unique experience compared to other instruments they have brought to the session. I am constantly told that the band leader, producer, soundman have requested that the customer only bring his Skjold to the performances.

My personal goals are to build you the most musical, playable and ergonomically comfortable bass available. I hope you will see something here that speaks to you and I welcome the opportunity to work with you to achieve your musical goals.

If and when you decide to order a Skjold bass, you will automatically get the personal attention your build requires. Part of the time and cost of the instrument is the personal attention that is factored in. Be assured that I am fully committed to your build through the entire process and beyond. My customers are fully aware of my dedication to their continued satisfaction. Once you receive your bass, I welcome and encourage your feedback and concerns. I will do my best to offer continued customer support for as long as your own your Skjold Bass. I thank you for considering Skjold Design Guitars for your next bass guitar.

Please enjoy the rest of the site. I hope this introduction into Skjold Design Guitars was informative and helpful. For further discovery, please read the full sections that go into more depth about what makes a Skjold bass unique among the many basses available today. If you need anything further please feel free to contact me.

Be well,

Pete Skjold

Chemistry, not Alchemy

Do you ever wonder why different basses sound the way they do? Have you ever heard other builders describe woods in phrases like “dark”, “burpy”, or “sparkly”? How can these various adjectives be possibly combined into a coherent targeted sound? One man’s “mud” is another man’s “thump” after all.

Skjold Design Guitars believes in a different approach. Sound has characteristics based on measurable attributes. When Skjold Design works with you on a custom piece, they discuss these characteristics in real, actual terms. Need a bump around 900 Hz? Or perhaps take the edge off around 2000 Hz? Skjold Design knows how to do this with the wood, and they will tell you why. Instead of treating the process like magic, decades of experience allows us to treat it like a science.

Have you ever experienced getting a custom bass delivered and it is way off the mark from what you expected, even from some of the most famous builders in the world? The Skjold approach eliminates this all too common occurrence. Skjold Design Guitars will find your sound for you, and nail it.

Complete Comfort

Skjold basses are designed for comfort. Everything that you see on their modern designs are the result of decades of design work and experience, hundreds of completed basses, and repeated iterations on core concepts. Doing this is not easy. Choices that appear obvious after the fact, often require intense focus and a dedication to perfection.

Sweeping lower cutaways that look perfectly in tune with the rest of the body are a prime example of this design ethic. Many basses have cutaways that look decent enough, but still somewhat limit access to the upper regiters, with players needing to jam their hands up against the wood to comfortably play at the top frets. Ironically, some manufacturers charge a significant fee for these extra frets, then don't give you great access to play on them! It was important to allow effortless access to every position while still achieving a fantastic design. The result is seen in the current designs, including the Whaleback and Skjoldslayer. What you will notice is a terrific looking lower cutaway with ample room to position your fretting hand any way you please. The bass adapts to you, you don't have to adapt to the bass.

Along the same lines, note the positioning of the Skjold bridge. It’s placement has a specific purpose, that being allowing a shorter reach, even on longer scale basses. The Skjold 35” scale basses can feel like some of the other guys 33”! When playing for hours a day, it is important for the ergonomics to be as amazingly comfortable as possible. Even an inch, or two, in longer reach can be the difference between an effortless feel, or a painful experience. Again, the bridge design placement may look obvious and simple, however this positioning is the result of focused hard work with a holistic design approach. The end result is a stunning looking bass where you don't need to reach an inch longer than necessary.

Skjold basses also strive to be easy to wear for long periods. What good is a top of the line bass if you can't stand to wear the thing over the course of a gig? This includes manageable weights, without sacrificing any tone. Most Skjold basses easily fall below the ten pound marker. When you’re performing, the last thing you need is back or shoulder pain to hinder your playing and ruin your focus.

If you want a bass with amazing ergonomics, a comfortable reach, and is lightweight, look no further than Skjold. 

Chamber Music

Want a huge sound in that comfortable package? Try a model from the Drakkar series and get it catacombed. This is not any ordinary bass that gets hollowed out with a top slapped on it, then labeled as “chambered”. This is a specific construction that brings out massive tone. A custom proprietary chamber design featuring multiple compartments and three sections in the body create a sound that you won’t find anywhere else.

Some of the best players in the world choose a Skjold Catacomb model for it’s tonal performance. We think you will be equally pleased with one you can call your own.

How Low Can you Go

If you are wondering what goes into a Skjold bass neck consider these key points that cover common questions. First, the neck. Over many years Skjold Design has refined and improved it's methods for truing the fingerboard and leveling frets. Because of the specially designed method, the neck is allowed to follow the natural curve of the arch that exists under tension of the strings. A base line is established, using the actual glue line between the fingerboard and the neck as the rule. Everything above this line is perfect and purposefully angled to exacting specifications. there is no need to plek these necks as the same principals have been followed right from the start: establish a base line and true everything to this line, so it will play properly when strung up. No high or  low spots on the fingerboard that will eventually need to be compensated for through fretwork to get it to play properly. Now, with a proprietary process, the fingerboard can be dressed ( by hand ) to within 1/1000th of an inch. Fret work is then leveled to zero, yes zero! This allows for very low action without buzzing or fretout. The necks are all seasoned for many months to years depending on what is being used. The one piece necks used are expertly seasoned for maximum stability and tone. Laminated necks go thru additional seasoning to ensure each lamination becomes one with the other.

The fingerboards are also special at Skjold design as they are all made from seasoned stock and custom dimensioned to a thicker than standard size. This means the fingerboard impacts the overall tone much greater than a thin one, also adding stability along the way. A custom dual action truss rod delivers all the power you need to set the action just the way you like.

One thing that stands out on a Skjold figuratively and literally is the use of EVO-Gold fretwire. This alloy is a relatively new material for frets. It is so dissimilar to the material used in bass strings that it does not wear with use. Yes, that is correct, frets that don't wear out. This is the standard fretwire Skjold Design uses on all of their basses even though it costs much more than regular fretwire. Skjold Design always strives to use the best product for each application when possible, and this one is an obvious choice. Each fret is dressed, recrowned then the ends are rounded and polished. This is a time consuming process if done right, but Skjold Design feels it is the only way to do it on a world class instrument.

This brings up the zero fret. While not a common feature, it is a very practical and a much more accurate starting point for your instrument's intonation and open note tone. By starting your intonation at precise zero, you will notice the improved intonation through the rest of your neck. Nuts can wear unevenly and sometimes change the point at which the string starts intonating, causing all of an instrument's following notes to be just a bit off. Using an EVO gold fret at position zero eliminates this degradation that normally occurs over time. An added benefit to the zero fret is that the open strings ring with the same tone as the first fret. The feel is also second to none as the first note plays just like the next, where using a traditional nut, if not cut to proper height, can make the note on the first fret feel different than the rest. A traditional nut also usually results in a sharp F, A#, D# and G# and requires more pressure on the string. The Skjold Design method of using a zero fret eliminates all of these issues and creates better consistency, stability, and feel. 

Neck shape is also a common question. Skjold Design carves necks very similarly to the way Leo Fender did it all those years ago, using a shaper to get the main profile for consistent feel from neck to neck resulting in a shallow C shape profile. It is then hand carved to get just the right amount of flatness on the back of the neck and all the blending is done by hand. There are no CNC machines used for building the basses at Skjold Design Guitars. Hand executed craftsmanship is just the way they do it. 

What is also as important as the shape of the neck when it comes to comfort? How the neck is finished is crucial for both the feel in the hand as well as how the neck is going to react with changes in humidity. Skjold Design uses a finish developed by Pete Skjold over 20 years ago. It is a proprietary blend of oils and urethanes which penetrate deep into the woods pores and fibers while leaving the surface smooth and silky for optimum movement without drag. Best of all, the neck improves with use and wear. To achieve this the necks go through a lengthy process of sanding and raising the grain to simulate years of playing. The resulting feel is that of the coveted vintage basses where the finish has been worn away and the wood has been sealed with years of playing resulting in a super fast, great feeling neck. This is yet another time consuming process, but is the only way Skjold Design can get these results for it's customers. 

In short, much time is spent on these necks to make sure they will feel, play and sound the way they are intended to. Delivering a perfectly fretted, in-tune neck that feels broken in and quick to play from day one is no simple feat. Skjold Design is committed to the constant improvement and refinement of the product and our quest for the pinnacle of bass building expression.

Ramp it Up

One of the most popular bass developments in the last ten years has been the emergence of the “ramp”. These are placed to allow players to have a lighter and faster touch from almost any position. There is, however, a difference between how these ramps have been implemented. If you notice, almost all bass makers build ramps by putting a small curved piece of wood between two flat pickups. This, in effect, creates three different feeling zones, two flat and one curved. There is no consistency, and no player centric design in this approach. It is a quick and dirty add on to a setup that had already existed for decades.

The Skjold ramp is different. When constructing the ramp, we asked, how should this function overall? What would be the best thing for the player and for the bass itself? The answer became clear. The ramp should surely be a single unit, acting as both the ramp device and the pickup housing itself. Not only that, the ramp should be trapezoidal, following not only the radius of the fingerboard but also the sloping height changes of the strings. What results is a perfect singular  playing system for ramp players, with pickups still able to be close to the strings. It is not a, literally, taped-on addition, nor is it a flat piece of wood attached to the top of two separate pickups. It is the only holistically and purposefully built ramp system of it’s kind. If you’re a ramp player, we think you will find it without equal.

Playable Art

If you’re a long time follower of Skjold Design, you’ll notice something. Our current basses look nothing like the basses we started with. There is a reason for this. We are on a constant quest to make your bass a piece of playable art. The current designs represent the culmination of invaluable experience, thoughtful execution on design, and player feedback over the past two decades. While we are proud of our past work, we are even more proud of the offerings we have today.

Every curve, angle and shape has a history and a reason for being. Not satisfied with being a me-too bass producer, we have striven to create a line that is wholly unique and inspired by Nordic roots and craftsmanship. The designs on offer represent our best ability to meld visual art along with impeccable playability and sound. We don’t think one should ever be sacrificed for the other.

No Shelves in Sight

A custom bass should actually be a custom bass. No off the shelf parts. What is the point of designing a unique piece if you put in off the shelf pickups that are not tuned to the instrument? Or a pre-amp that was made for any old bass? Or use necks that are sourced from a factory? Every aspect of Skjold basses has been thought through and this includes details right down to the custom electronics and unique bridges. The Skjold custom dual coil pickups are the result of years of fine tuning. Our ramp pickups have gone through dozens of fine tuned iterations in combination with our testing as well as player feedback.

Aged to Perfection

All of our wood is properly aged and seasoned over the course of several years. Unless you select a stunning buckeye top, there is nothing green used at Skjold Design Guitars. What this means is no shifting of the wood after you bought the bass, no cracking fingerboards and no moving laminates. Once your bass is delivered, you can have the confidence that it will stay true to its construction.