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Unusual construction of Front of bass in 3 parts

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by ubassman, Dec 28, 2012.

  1. ubassman


    Jul 23, 2012
    I have just recently bought a Italian solo bass with a string length of 102cm. What is unusual is that the front is beautifully made from 3 separate sections of wood. Nearly all basses I have ever seen have the front ( top ) of the bass in one sheet. Anyone know of a luthier that would have typically made this in three parts? Have a close look at the photos of the top and the change in grain on purfling. Any comments welcome !

    6.jpg 12.jpg
  2. tstone


    Nov 16, 2010
    San Francisco, CA
    Actually, most tops are made of two bookmatched pieces with a glue joint down the center. The most common reason for multi-piece tops is that the stock the luthier chose to use was not wide enough to span the full width of the lower bout. It's not unusual to see little "wings" a few inches wide at the extreme left and right edges of a top.
  3. shwashwa


    Aug 30, 2003
    ive seen some really nice and expensive older italian basses with a 6 piece top. if im not mistaken, there is one at kolstein's shop now (i could be mistaken)
  4. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Supporting Member Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    Most double bass tops are four-piece tops: the centre portion is two book-matched, full length pieces and there are usually two 'wings' to fill in the edges of the lower bouts.

    I imagine we'll be seeing even more psections as we run out of the big trees...
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  6. ubassman


    Jul 23, 2012
    I was wondering if there might be any deliberate technical or tonal reason why the luthier might have chosen a wider grain to form the outer sides of top beyond the -f- holes?
  7. eerbrev


    Dec 6, 2009
    Ottawa, ON, CAN
    the wider grain, as far as I know (IANAL - I am not a luthier), is slightly softer than the tighter grain, and would likely move a little more. This could be useful around the outside edges of a bass if you stick to the idea tat a bass top works much like a speaker cone, because it would mean that it could reach a greater vibrational amplitude.

    That being said, the truth resists simplicity. A bass top is not a speaker cone, and it is likely that the luthier used the wood he had to make your bass top. Maybe I am not giving the maker enough credit, but that's the way I see it.


  8. 1st Bass

    1st Bass

    May 26, 2005
    Forest Grove, OR
    Two piece tops are cut radially, so the billets are vaguely pie-shaped. The wider end of the pie (the part furthest from the center of the tree, is invariably used for the center of the bass, as that is where the thicker wood is needed.

    The wider end also is from the latest growth (outside limit of the tree), and has much tighter grain, as most trees grow fairly rapidly as saplings, and slow down more and more as they get older. (Really, I guess, they may be growing just as fast, but it is spread thinner and thinner, making finer and finer grain.) So the thin part of the billet is from early growth, and the thick part is from later growth.

    At any rate, the result for a bass-maker is that the center of the top will have very tight grain, and the wings will have much wider grain. It is possible to avoid this, obviously, but it requires more work, and is not a particularly "natural" way to utilize the wood. As it is, a top of that sort usually has perfectly vertical grain, which is considered desirable...
  9. ubassman


    Jul 23, 2012
    Was kind of wondering if omitting a join in the middle was that common?
  10. 1st Bass

    1st Bass

    May 26, 2005
    Forest Grove, OR
    As in...a one-piece top? It could be done, theoretically, with Sitka, since the trees get huge. I've never seen one, though.

    To some people, the symmetry of having a bookmatched top is important. I don't know if it really affects tone, but it has a nice visual appeal. There are some one-piece tops in smaller instruments, and as far as I know, with no ill effects. I made one such top, for a violin, but ended up not using it.
  11. ubassman


    Jul 23, 2012
    After much peering through the end pin hole I discovered that my bass doesn't have a bookmached piece in the centre but rather a single centre piece which then has two further pieces beyond the -f- holes. Not really ever seen this technique before and I have to say that the tone is IMHO just fantastic ( ....but I would say that wouldn't I !!) !!

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