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200 year old bass question.

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Pict, Jan 30, 2003.

  1. Pict


    Mar 9, 2002
    Hello all,
    I went to check out a couple of basses today at the house of a man who makes violins primarily,but who has also built some basses.I tried a couple of his basses but he also had for sale a 200 year old German 3/4 flat backed bass with gamba corners which had a few old repairs.It had unfortunately been refinished with what looked like to be a spirit type varnish but also I noted that on the E side F hole the belly was somewhat sunken in so that the outer lower edge of the F hole looked prominently higher the other side of the table,the other side didn't have this,could this be a problem?(or a problem waiting to happen?)

    The bass had 3 repair labels two from the 1800s and one from 1961 all from Danish violin builders(I'm based in Denmark).The sides had the usual cracks but the repairs consisted of 16th of an inch thin,inch wide strips,of either spruce or pine wood glued on to the sides all the way round in an alternating series of gaps and strips,it looked extreme I expected to see diamond shaped cleat repairs as used on acoustic guitars.Is this a standard way to repair basses?

    There was also a visible join from the heel end of the neck that stretched to about the A flat on the E string it looked as if the neck was made that way if it was a repair it was very old and very well matched,were(are?)some basses made in this fashion?Inside there were a few very conspicuous dried glue runs of a slightly whitishly opaque colour does this sound like it is the correct type of glue for bass repairs?

    I liked the sound and feel of the bass and although there were some cracks on the soundboard round the F holes and on the lower bout they were cleanly repaired and seemed to be very sound I checked with an inspection mirror through the F holes but it was difficult to get a really good view,what little I did see looked perfectly ok.If any one could answer any of these questions and give me an idea of what to expect from such an instrument I would be very grateful.
  2. Seppie


    Aug 14, 2002
    Austria, Vienna

    hmmm i´m no bass luthier master or similar...
    but my teachers bass (200-300 year old bass from vienna) is one big crack...i don´t know if you can count the cracks the bass has (or even see them cause of the dark varnish :D ) but it sounds and plays like hell...
    so you see cracks and else has nothing to do with sound and playability...
    but i think a good look from a good luthier (hehe saw a previous post where daniel bradleys work was mentioned in the us of a, so maybe you can make a short travel here to vienna for a good luthier like him :D ) can help you in this decission....

    gruesze sebastian

    btw 200 years thats alot time wow....respect
  3. Regarding the sunken table, this is not uncommon on many older basses. Centuries ago, strings were under less tension, due to string materials and the fact that the "A" was considerably lower in pitch back then. While the sunken table may be a problem, it could also be as far down as it's going to go. On the other hand, it could very well be a potential problem. I had an even older Italian bass years ago that had a similar problem and eventually required major restoration.

    My advice to you, if you really like the bass, is to have somebody else very reputable look the instrument over to give you an honest evaluation of the condition and approximate value. If the seller is on the up and up, it shouldn't be a problem for you to take the bass for a few days or a week or so to look it over more closely. You don't have to tell him you're going to have someone else look at it. If the guy doesn't want you to take the bass on trial first, then that could very well tell you that he's trying to put something over on you. Any honest dealer shouldn't have a problem with you taking a little time to look it over.

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