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Ask the luthiers: replacing furpling with purfling

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by arto alho, Sep 13, 2002.

  1. I have one unlabeled bass which I like very much, not the top price range but guite nice to play and well set up. The bass has got a carved top and bottom and plywood bouts ( seen it from inside ).
    What really bugs me is the "furpling", the painted stripes along the edges which are to pretend real purflings. I absolutely hate the the looks of them and have been thinking to replace them with a real job.
    I would even try to do it myself, by buying the material needed, and then cutting along the black lines with a purfling knife. After that i would insert the purfling and re-finish the edges.
    This sure would change the looks of the bass, but is there any sense doing that.
    I´ve never heard anybody trying this... so please tell me am I completely nuts???


    PS. As if there wasn´t anything IMPORTANT to worry myself about....
  2. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    You could also paint a racing stripe up the back -- this would take your attention away from the furplnig :)

    My concern, as a non-luthier, would be that you would go through at least one layer of ply, leaving a very narrow strip of wood around the edges. This sounds like the recipe for a real ugly bass to me.
  3. Cutting the purfling channel, fitting the purfling, trimming and refinishing are definately not something that a non-luthier should consider attemping themselves. Getting a nice looking job requires great skill. If the channel is cut too deeply, the structure of the instrument is compromised. If the channel is not cut deeply enough, the purfling will likely not hold. Unless you are very skilled, chances are that you will end up with an instrument that looks far worse than it is with those painted lines.

    If anyone doubt the degree of difficulty involved, I suggest that you try the following exercise. Find a piece of almost any kind of hardwood. With a very sharp pencil draw two sets of parallel lines 3/32" apart. One of the parallel sets should be along the grain and the other across the grain. Now, take a very sharp small knife such as an Xacto #11 blade and start cutting into the wood carefully following your pencil lines (no fair using a straight edge). The object of this exercise is to create a channel in the wood about 1/16" deep while keeping the sides parallel from top to bottom. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that you have to take a small chisel and remove the wood between the two parallel lines and keep the bottom as flat as possible. If you were able to complete this little exercise, you would have a small idea of what it is like to do the purfling channel on an instrument where there are no straight lines! If that isn't enough to discourage you, consider that the purfling itself has to be bent with heat before it can be glued (hot hide glue!) in. AND it has to be carefully trimmed with a very sharp chisel before it is ready to refinish.

    You might be able to find a luthier who would be willing to take on this job, but don't be too surprised if the cost is quite expensive. Purfling is something that should be done while the instrument is being made, not after it is finished.
  4. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    New Mexico. USA
    Bob B. said it all. You ARE completely nuts!!!!
  5. Thanks SCHNITZEL, I know now that I am completely, unrepairably nuts...
    RAY, the top and bottom are solid wood and carved, so You might have misunderstood me. Or how should I understand Your advise? I mean, I wasn´t gonna make new purflings to the sides....by the way should I type "side" or "bout" in English? Both are used, I guess...

  6. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I misunderstood -- or was lazy reading. I re-read your post and the mistake was mine, not yours.
  7. What exactly does the purfling do? Is it more than decorative? Forgive my ignorance.
  8. Apart from being decorative, structurally, it can prevent a crack in the top of the instrument from spreading all the way to the edge. If you do get a crack in the top and the purfling saves it from reaching the edge, you still need to get the crack fixed promptly.

    On second thought, I suppose the purfling could also prevent cracks on the edge from spreading to the main part of the table. That's likely even more useful!
  9. aa -

    B Branstetter's advice would have frightened me off this idea, even if it did not you. But if the fake purfling really offends you, why not consider re-finishing the plates, and scrape it off in the process so you are left with a plain top and bottom, with no purfling (or furpling) at all. Still an ambitious project, but much less likely to irreparably ruin an otherwise nice bass.

    just a thought
  10. GIMMICK, who said I was not scared??
    I definitely do not want to try it anymore, although
    I have done some minor luthiery as a hobby. It would be too hard and would require dismounting the whole bass. As B.BRAINSETTER said it, the purfling should be made before mounting the tables, not after the bass is "ready". So I just re-thought the trouble of positioning the bass the way that the accuracy of this kind of job needs, and trying to work in such positions myself....the only conclusion is that I was completely nuts thinking about making it afterwards.

    Refinishing the bass is not a good idea either, it is in a very good condition and I don´t want to ruin it.
    So I just go on living with the furpling and PLAY the ***damn bass, that´s what it´s meant for, right?


    If I ever have to pop the top, I´ll try it....
  11. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    Some luthiers purfle their instrument after assembly. I am one of them. You needn't pop the top to purfle. However, cutting through existing varnish and subsequent touchup after purfling would indeed be a nightmare.
  12. Yeah, BOWLBACH, it would be a nightmare indeed. At least I would have to use the Supporting Member to hold the bass...

    Is there any special reason for You to purfle after assembly, not before when the tables are easy to handle?

  13. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    I may not know Art, O-but I know what I like.

    Sure, there's a reason. With the smaller viols it is fairly easy to remove and replace plates [tops and backs] and keep the overhang even [the edge of the plate thatsticks out past the rib]. With the bass, because of it's size, this is not so easy-there is a lot of potential for drift. I like a very even look to my edges so I make the plate slightly oversized and then true it to the ribs after it is glued on. I can then purfle and make sure that the inlay is exactly over the center of the rib. It is actually quite easy to manipulate the corpus for the purfling process.
  14. I just wanted to clarify that my actual words were "Purfling is something that should be done while the instrument is being made, not after it is finished."
  15. Right BOB, Shoulda re-read your post before quoting You...sorry.
    JEFF, this is very interesting....thanks for explaining. So in the process of making a new bass, the purfling has to be made after assembling the plates, in case you want to get the inlay positioned right on the top of the rib.
    Anyway, after the top or back has to be removed for the first time for repairs and some drifting happens when regluing it, ( as it has happened in all of my basses ), it will not be on the place where it was meant to be anymore...:(


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