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Acoustic Stand-up Bass Restoring, any advice?

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by guitarist_wo, Jul 18, 2005.

  1. i just received the task to attempt to refinish and completely restore a very old acoustic stand-up bass. i'm not sure of the manufacturer or year of it yet, as i just got it and have not done a full inspection. i build and repair solidbody guitars and have not worked or completely built an acoustic before. although, i do repair and work on acoustic 6-strings. i was wondering how much different this project will be. this bass is about 6 feet tall, so size (and weight) is definately a difference. what i had in mind was to strip and refinish the wood and get it back to maybe a displayable or possibly playable condition. when i got it out of the attic it was in worse shape than what i had though. there is a huge chunk broken off from the bottom of the body all the way to where the neck connects. but the piece is still present, so i could possibly repair that. and i also noticed the neck is loose and it looks like it was been worked on before. other than that, it's not real bad. there are of course dings and scratches and the wood is very dry (from being in a garage attic for years and the weather getting to it). i'd probably guess it's close to 50 years old, but not certain. i would like any help of ID'ing this to a year and manufacturer if possible. advice on how to repair and restore it will definately help also. or some websites i could look into. i want to do everything i possibly can to get it back to looking marvelous, like it did the day it was bought.

    i have over 40 of them so that you can all have a good idea with what i'm working with. this project is very important to me and will be to my friend and her grandpa if it's all done right. so any help or advice on absolutely anything here will be greatly appreciated. well, i will get straight to the pics. here they are:

    Body: pre-repair
    Headstock: pre-repair
    Large crack on top
    Large crack on top (#2)
    Headstock: pre-repair (#2)
    Neck Joint: pre-repair
    Back: pre-repair
    Hole Near the bridge and i have the piece that goes there too
    Foot: pre-repair
    Whole Bass: pre-repair
    Neck Joint: pre-repair
    Body: pre-repair
    After the top came off
    Inside after the top came off
    Chunk of top plate that stayed
    Inside bass
    Whole bass after I took top off
    Cleats inside bass
    Inside bass (#2)
    Inside bass (#3)
    Top after it was taken off
    Top after it was taken off (#2)
    Top after it was taken off (#3)
    Underneath top
    Cleats holding old cracks together
    Underneath top (#2)
    Tuners on headstock
    Headstock (#2)
    Back of headstock
    Side of headstock: notice the chunk missing on the scroll
    Tuners (#2)
    Inside bass: pre-cleaning
    Inside of bass before edges were cleaned
    Inside bass: after cleaning
    Inside bass: after cleaning (#2)
    A clean edge
    Another clean edge

    I still have some questions too:
    What should i use to get the old finish off? sandpaper? stripper?
    The neck joint is very loose but i can't seem to find a way to get it off. It looks like it was repaired before because there are 2 holes on the neck at the joint. I think it is held in by screws, but i can't tell and a screwdriver does not help in finding the screws. Should I take the neck off or just support it more with glue? something else?
    The tuners are very tarnished and beat up. What chemical would be the best to get them closely back to their original shape without damaging them at all? I would like to keep all the parts original if they are salvageable, but if not, I will get some new parts. The foot or endpin is pretty beat up so I may get a new one. So, any help up to this point would be awesome. I think I'm going to start in on it again within the next couple of days. Thanks!
  2. I have decided to fix and repair all of the body damage before I do any sanding or refinishing. I figured that would be the way to go so that I do not put stress on the pieces when they are disassembled. I will take it apart, repair what needs it, put it back together and then refinish. Does that sound like a good plan?

    I was thinking of either using Gorilla Glue or some regular carpenters resin wood glue. But then, I was looking around on this forum and found something about "hide glue." I'm guessing this bass will be more on display then played, so acoustics of it after I'm done MAY not be very important. Although, I would still like to get some new strings for it and maybe put it in tune. I have been told that it is going to be displayed next to an old piano that has been restored, so I'm guessing it will not get played regularly.

    Also, once I took the top off, I found that the cleats they used to fix the cracks on the underside were rounded off on the edges. Would the be for the acoustics of it so the sound does not get trapped on the blocks? Sort of looks like a short pyramid. I was thinking of just using some wood shim material to fix all of the cracks underneath. Would that be sufficient? I'm also going to reinforce every joint and edge using glue to help stiffen up this old, dry bass.

    The neck is loose at the joint to the body and there are 2 screw holes on the back of the neck. I know there should not be holes there, so I'm guessing when it was repaired before, someone just drove 2 screws in there or bolts. When I was fishing around in those holes with a screwdriver and a flashlight, I could not find the screw heads. What would be the best way to take this neck off and then reinforce it? just glue? or screws and glue?

    A will probably have more questions later once I dig into doing the full repairs to it.
  3. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    I'll bring beer if someone makes popcorn.
  4. Oh, the DB luthiers in the forum are going to be BRUTAL. I'll be the first to beg for peace and calm....
  5. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Naw -- let 'er rip!!!!!
  6. well, sorry for the double post but i was posting my thread from another forum and that is probably why both of the posts sounded choppy. all, i'm asking is some help or advice on doing this project. i'm a huge "do-it-yourselfer" and that is what i'm going to try to do. i would not have posted anything here if my intention was to take it to a professional in the first place to have it repaired for an insane amount. that is why i was asking for some advice and some guidance.

    so does anyone know the manufacturer or year of this bass approx? i would like to know before i dig deeper into the project and i know what i'm working with and someone specifically brought this instrument to me to have me repair and fix it. i'm a fairly experienced woodworker and luthier with solidbody guitars and figured i would gain tons of experience doing this project working with acoustic instruments. so if you don't want to help, that's fine, but please do not liter the thread with dispiriting statements. all i'm asking is for help. thanks!
  7. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    And basically the cat is saying that if done properly (and not by a do it yerselfer) you're looking at an instrument that will be worth $6-12K. So if you pull your head out of your ass and listen, you can sink some money into getting this bass professionally repaired, SELL IT, thereby replacing the money you put into having it repaired AND having enough money to buy some Chinese BSO off of e-bay that you can throw off the back of your pickup and then gain "tons of experience" putting THAT back together (which can then be displayed next to the pie-annie).
  8. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    Sternly put, but good advice.
  9. well, it seems that no one here is courteous enough to even think about helping. and NO, they do not want to sell the bass because it has sentimental value to my friends grandfather. it was his bass when he was growing up and there is not a price tag on it. i'm not even a least bit worried about money and what I COULD get out of it. Family value holds a much higher price tag than any amount of money, IMO. And if all of you around here just care about money and what you COULD get out of the instrument, then i must be in the wrong place. So, if no one wants to give advice on helping with this project, then ok, I guess I will have to find other people to talk to who would be willing to help a guy out. thanks for all the of the eye-opening statements anyways! :scowl:
  10. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    This isn't about money at all, but rather, the destruction of a good instrument. The fact that the thing has sentimental value should make it even more imperative that you don't screw it up, I would think.

    Now -- if you REALLY care about doing the job right, try this on for size:

    Take the thing to a reputable luthier in the area and explain the situation to him. See if he'll oversee the project or give you lessons/mentoring on the endeavor.

    You see, what you are proposing hacking your way through is something that people spend their lives perfecting. Violin repair isn't something that you learn in a tool shed with a bottle of Elmer's and a couple of power tools.

    The gang here hit on you pretty hard, but the advice that you eventually got is solid. A philosphy of mine that might worth a moment's thought for you is that "Whenever you do something you have the opportunity to suck or shine. It's all up to you."

    Take a breath and consider it all before you wreck the fiddle.
  11. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Troll or not? hmmmm

    As comfortable as your head might be currently, I have to ask why someone is trusting an object with such sentimental meaning to a total hack who is bent on ruining it? Here is my Happy Treasured Thingie, you can take path A and restore it to it's rightful and true luster or path B and it turns to ****.

    So which is it - somebody's treasure or your learning curve? You say you have NO experience in repairing an instrument like this (it ain't a plank, nor a flat top geetar) and when SEVERAL people who DO have more experience with the instrument suggest that DO IT YOURSELF, given your level of inexperience, is a recipe for disaster, you get all Huffy. If this is a sentimental object full of meaning, THEN LEAVE IT ALONE and find someone who has the requisite experience NECESSARY to restore it.

    If you don't particularly give a **** about how it comes out, as long as you get a chance to **** it up, then why ask any of us what we think?
  12. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    You've given it 3 hours and you've decided that nobody here is gonna help? Man, you in a hurry...

    Any musician that played and loved that bass would like to see it preserved as a musical instrument, wouldn't they? I think they'd think it was cool to know the bass was being played, that it was being used to make music..

    What you are proposing to do -- and asking us to help you with -- is going to diminish the value of that bass. The value will diminish in terms of filthy lucre, yes, but also as a musical instrument. The value is permanently gone, too.

    There is no lacquer that gets sprayed on electric guitars and motel furniture that will make that bass sound better -- the opposite is very much the case.

    But people are free to do what they want with their property, right? If you're determined to save some money or determined to have the pride and pain of doing it and learning it yourself, then why not take some time to investigate what's up with the varnishes used in violin luthiery?
  13. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    Imagine you went to a forum of surgeons and posted:

    "My son needs a Kidney transplant. I dissected two frogs in highschool and am known as the best Crappie cleaner in three counties. I bought a decent kidney off ebay, so I would like to install it myself. Can you offer any advice?"

    What sort of replies might you expect?
  14. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    Hey, guitarist, I'll be happy to lend my expertise. You are welcome to PM me.
  15. Rough as it is...everybody's right on.
    As Mr. Smith says, and being in the geetar business yourself, you might recognize the name, this is an old German or Czechoslovakian carved flatback with better than average figure on the ribs. Done by a double bass luthier, of which we have many, but are probably too depressed and disgusted to get involved, this bass could be a real killer sound-wise and beautiful to boot.
    We also have a multitude of very talented youngsters/oldsters who would be thrilled to have such an instrument. It would not be a stretch of the imagination to think that this bass could provide another 100 years of great music after a sensible restoration.
    Unfortunately, it probably won't get the chance, thanks to you.
  16. oystein


    Sep 15, 2001
    Norway, Leikong
    hi mr. guitarist_wo,
    they are coming down hard on you, but you're asking for it.
  17. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    GUITARIST...WHOA!! Please take a deep breath and reevaluate before you start stripping and screwing :meh: You've inadvertently caught the attention of some of the premier experts in the field of double bass, including several world class players, a collector who's forgotten more than most of us will ever know about the instrument, and one of the best double bass luthiers on the planet. It can get rough around here, but please don't take the info in this thread lightly. We've seen basses with staples in the top, so we tend to get riled up when people want to start messing around with our girlfriends. No offense intended. Just look at this as a bunch of bassists all yelling "HIT THE BRAKES!"

    PS....the luthier is Arnold Schnitzer, who very kindly offered to share his knowledge with you in the post above. Please take him up on that offer, so I can get some sleep tonight.
  18. Jazzman


    Nov 26, 2002
    Raleigh, NC
    People think because they can work on a bass GUITAR, they can work on a double bass. Not the case. Listen to these guys are PM Arnold, who is a genius when it comes the repairing/building a double bass.
  19. Johnnythekid

    Johnnythekid Guest

    Dec 20, 2004
    Oklahoma City, OK
    Arnold makes some BEAUTIFUL basses, listen to everything he tells you...I'd pay just to learn the knowledge he has!
  20. Tbeers


    Mar 27, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    Why is everyone so convinced that this bass is some sort of monster instrument? Isn't it just a shop bass? I don't understand....