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Bass Bar Problems

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Zondra, Sep 3, 2008.


  1. Zondra

    Zondra

    May 17, 2004
    I have a bass with a bass bar that is coming detached from the bass. It is a 1941 Kay that is otherwise in pretty good condition. It is not my primary bass (I own 6 basses total). I was wanting to sell it, but am temperarily taking it off the market so that I can work on it. Ever since I bought this bass, it has been my project bass for learning (I learned how to set sound posts on this bass, and have bought a bridge blank that I plan to carve down at some point). I am not a luthier, but I would love to be one some day. I guess I say all of this because I know that the first reply will be "Take it to a luthier" ....I'd like to work on this bass myself if at all possible.

    Anyway, I wanted to put my bass's problem out there for others to help me figure out what to do. I figure that I'll have to take the front off of the bass and re-attach the bass bar, and then re-attach the front. What else is there to do? Anyone with any experience on this sort of matter, please share whatever you have to offer.

    I am attaching a couple of photos that I took. I happen to be a proffessional photographer, but I found it tough to take photos of the inside of the bass (I also didn't have any fancy photo equipment to use). These photos were taken with a mirror and several flashlights. Hopefully anyone who knows their way around the inside of a bass can figure them out. One photo is of the end of the bass bar... you can see where it was glued down. The wood is lighter there, with some darker stains around it. The other photo is of just underneath the "E" soundhole. You can see the light coming through from underneath the bass bar.

    From what I can tell, the bar is still well attached above the soundhole. It looks like that where it starts to split off from the body is around the middle of the soundhole.

    Any advice?

    Thank you - Zondra
     

    Attached Files:

  2. Hello Z-

    String instruments are made with hide glue...water soluable. To take the top off, use a hot, wet, thin, knife-like piece of metal and gently pry the top off... it will take time! If you run into a tough spot, someone might have made a past repair using the wrong glue. Do your mending and then.....

    ....my old college teacher use to use hide glue pellet-like stuff that he'd boil with water to make a paste. Use that to glue the top back onto the bass. You'll need a ton of clamps! You'll then have to reset your soundpost. There are setters, but I made something out of a stiff hanger that I ground flat at one end. (Do you have any buddies that are dentists? A "mouth mirror" would be helpful to hit your mark on top. Make use your buddy doesn't tell his patients that the mirror was in an "F" hole.)

    Good luck!!!
     
  3. ctregan

    ctregan

    Jun 25, 2007
    Syracuse N.Y.
    I heated a thin blunt knife with a propane torch to help pry off the top of my bass. I also used some secondary putty knives to keep the top separate. Taking a top off is easy compared to gluing it back on! Maybe someone has an idea for fixing the bar without removing the top.
     
  4. basting syringe w/ a length of clear tubing attached.. to flow hide glue along the joint of the bass bar and the inside top.
    tilt and angle bass to be most effective to gravity feed glue. you need a deepthroated C clamp suitable to get through FF hole and clamp bass bar prior to glueing..let the glue flow the length of the joint (don't overdo the glue..it won't take much if placed properly)and "pump" it into the joint by opening and reclosing the clamp a few times..then clamp for keeps. it can be done without a clamp but you have to be real handy with a soundpost tool wedgeing old post under bassbar against top.
    ofcourse the normal disclaimers apply: not a pursist approach, but effective. have at it!
     
  5. If the top is loose around the lower bouts, you can most likely fab a clamping type thing to fit it in place. I'll post photos tomorrow... or I may be way off base. We shall see... :ninja:
     
  6. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    New Mexico. USA
    If you reglue that bassbar it will stay for a short time and then pop off again. Or it might pop loose as soon as you remove the clamps. When it pops you risk pulling off shreds of top veneer. The bassbar has seperated too far from the top plate, and you are going to want to fit a new one.
     
  7. Zondra

    Zondra

    May 17, 2004
    Thank you everyone for the advice. I plan to take the top all the way off. Thank you forester for the advice on how to do it without taking the top off, but I might as well pull the top off & do it right

    Arnold why won't the current bass bar work? What does it take to fit a new one? One other thing that I've noticed since my original post, is that the bar is slightly split right underneath the F-hole. Part of it (like only a centimeter) is still attached to the bass, while the wood is starting to split. I'm guessing that too much time with the bridge and lots of string pressure right there. I was thinking that since it's such a small part, I could glue it.... But now with your new advice, Arnold, I'm thinking you might be right, and that I will have to get a new bass bar.

    What does it take to fit a new bass bar? Is it something I can find on ebay? Should I contact Englehart (since they are using the same forms as the old Kays?)... or is it something I have to carve down and shape myself (like a bridge, where I just buy a blank?) I haven't even started looking into getting a whole new bass bar.
     
  8. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    Its something you have to carve for yourself.

    From your description it sounds as though the bass bar broke because of runout in the grain so you'll need to make a new one of better wood. You can use the old one for a pattern and maybe its time you got Chuck Traeger's book if you're going to dismantle DBs! :D

    Metropolitan Music is one source for mail-order European Spruce bass bar blanks. Its not easy to fit a bass bar but only you can evaluate your woodworking skills.

    Good luck!
     
  9. Hi Again Z :) ...... I'm glad I was able to haul that bass back from Gardiner for you on Monday but I'm sorry to hear of the bass bar troubles. That's a nice old blonde Kay and I hope you can bring it back to life.

    I'm definitely no luthier like the experts that have posted here but I suggest you really look over the thin Kay neck for any signs of warpage and look carefully at the neck joint and heel for any separations or emerging cracks. It looked to me like your Kay had been running Spiro Mittels on there for quite awhile. Those are fairly high-tension strings on an old Kay built for guts. That may have been part of the problem with the bass bar too. Anyhow .... What do I know ;) ? ..... Good Luck with the repairs and I hope to see you again soon.
     
  10. Gearhead43

    Gearhead43

    Nov 25, 2007
    NorCal
    That's an interesting point Bob. I did some reading on Kaybass.com a while back and according to info there, sometime after the emergence of steel strings, Kay made some changes in the tops of their basses to strengthen them enough for steel strings. This redesign didn't occur until the late 1950s supposedly. The specific year for this would be good to know. (anyone?)

    I have seen quite a few 40s and early 50s Kays strung with regular high tension steels and have often wondered (and cringed) how long they can stand up to a much higher tension than they were built for. I am curious to know how many old Kays have been damaged by this, and I suppose it explains alot of the ones I've seen with sunken tops.
     
  11. Zondra

    Zondra

    May 17, 2004
    My favorite Kay - from 1940 seems to hold up wonderfully to the steel strings. Never had a problem with it. I had never heard that they did the re-design in the late 50's. As for the blonde bass with the bass bar... I was told when I bought it that it was a 1941 Kay. But there is absolutely nothing anywhere on the bass that says Kay, or anything else (like a serial number). The inside is bare. Because of this, I researched the heck out of old Kays (a lot at Kaybass.com, and emails with Roger), and it seems that it probably actually is a Kay from around 1941. However, once I get the lid off the top and look inside, will I be able to tell if it is a Kay from before or after the structural change in the 1950's? What was done differently to strenghthen the bass for steel strings?

    I'm really excited to take this bass apart and do some work on it. I'll take a look at and see about getting Chuck Traeger's book. It sounds like this bass is turning into a bigger project, but I love it. I looked at Metropolitan Music's website, and it looks like a bass bar blank is only $30. So, for $30, plus the price a new book, some blood, sweat, tears, a few swear words - what am I really out? I'll only get more educated. This is just one more step in knowledge for becoming a bass luthier (if that ever even will happen for me).
     
  12. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    New Mexico. USA
    Because it is warped quite away from the top plate, and if you pull them back together you will introduce a whole lot of spring tension into the joint. Since the glue between laminations is 67 years old, it will likely let go and you will shred the inner top veneer when that happens. Or worse...
     
  13. Zondra

    Zondra

    May 17, 2004
    Thank you for the advice, Arnold. I will plan to get a new bass bar.
     
  14. Gearhead43

    Gearhead43

    Nov 25, 2007
    NorCal
    I don't know the specifics of what Kay did to strengthen the laminate for their tops (thicker veneers?) , I would love to know. Here is the (not much) info on that:

    http://www.kaybass.com/#BACKS
     
  15. MIKMAN

    MIKMAN

    Mar 4, 2008
    Larisa, Greece
    [I'm really excited to take this bass apart and do some work on it. I'll take a look at and see about getting Chuck Traeger's book. It sounds like this bass is turning into a bigger project, but I love it. I looked at Metropolitan Music's website, and it looks like a bass bar blank is only $30. So, for $30, plus the price a new book, some blood, sweat, tears, a few swear words - what am I really out? I'll only get more educated. This is just one more step in knowledge for becoming a bass luthier (if that ever even will happen for me).]
    At first buying Traeger's book is the best investment for your $85. It contais a treasure of information about DBs.
    Taking the top off the bass requires a lot of caution. The best way is to start from the C bouts and with a help of a pallet knife proceed towards the rest of the top.
    Refitting the top is more difficult. Some luthiers usually place a couple of thin pins in the neck and end pin block in order to locate the top in the exact place after the repair. In violin's lutherie is acommon practice and i have done it many times.
    Good luck and best regards
    Michael
     
  16. Matthew Tucker

    Matthew Tucker Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2002
    Sydney, Australia
    Owner: Bresque Basses, Sydney Basses and Cellos
    glue it upside down, with the top on a cradle. That way you can get the overlap correct all the way around.

    And have fun making your 50 spool clamps ... WHAT????
     
  17. ctregan

    ctregan

    Jun 25, 2007
    Syracuse N.Y.
    I found this book to be confusing and contradictory. It is more of a memoir for Chuck Treager to record his experiences repairing old basses in NY. rather than "the bass repair bible". Too much of the book is on his unique and glorious repairs of 200 year old basses and very little on more common basses we find today.
    I had his book on my bench when I rebuilt an old American Standard bass. Although I read his step by step instructions, none of it seemed to be the method I chose for the repairs. I got better information here on TB.
    Its a good read, and I am impressed with Chucks experiences, but it is not the most practical instructional repair book that could have been written.
     
  18. MIKMAN

    MIKMAN

    Mar 4, 2008
    Larisa, Greece
    Well Ctregan for the starved for information the combination of our Forum and Chuck's book is the optimum. I have solved many problems following his suggestions from rather simple matters like eliminating some spots in the FB or glueing a seam in the back up to some more complicated stuff. For some of us who have a decent knowledge in violin's lutherie this book is excellent. I wish i could have a bass luthier in Greece for help, guidance and reference but... alas this is a rare commodity, so we have to rely on books and our valuable forum.
    Michael
     
  19. The string tension issue on old Kays is pretty confusing to me. It seems like higher tension steels (like Spiro Mittels) are fine in some cases and not-so-fine in other cases. When I first got my '40 Kay, I asked some questions over at BlueGrass Bass Place: http://www.bluegrassbassplace.com/phpBB/viewtopic.php?t=119 ..... Two people there reported neck warpage (including Bob Gollihur). Jerry Fretwell at Fretwell Bass has seen a whole lot of old Kays and when I asked him some questions in an e-mail he said: "The old (Kay) basses did not have the disc under the soundpost. That came about with the introduction of steel strings because of the high tension. I usually try to stay away from putting steel or high tension strings on the older Kays but have seen it many times with no problem."

    Based on that info and other things I have read, I decided to go the conservative route to keep the undamaged, original condition Kay comfortable and try lower tension strings like guts, Velvet Garbos, Dominants, Spiro Weichs, and Innov SuperSilvers (in various combos). Not to mention .... the bass is a dandy boomer with guts and Garbos :D . I think I read somewhere that the first steel strings for double bass were Spirocores and that they were introduced in the early 1960's. If that's true then there are a whole lot of old Kays (and other "vintage" American plywood basses) that weren't "designed" for steel strings. That's not to say that all the early basses can't handle them ..... I just don't want to push my luck.

    Keeping in mind that I'm no luthier or expert .... It seems to me that high tension strings on a bass not designed for them can lead to a few issues: warped or twisted necks, heel problems (separation, joint pull-out, cracks), bridgefoot sinking, bass bar separation, and soundpost bulges (front and back). I've seen plenty of pics of busted and/or cracked Kay necks ..... and I don't think all of them were caused solely because of drunken clumsiness, drummers, or stairwell accidents ;) . I looked in the "String Sticky" on tensions and found that the Spiro Mittels add up to 274 pounds. A gut set typical of what was originally used on old Kays with 3 plains and a wound E add up to 210. That's a 30% increase in tension with Mittels. Spiro Starks are almost a 50% difference.

    I found this link ( http://liutaiomottola.com/formulae/downforce.htm ) relating to the downforce on a bass bridge. If I run that formula assuming a breakover angle of 23° (that's the angle in the illustration .... I have no clue what it really is for a typical double bass) ...... I come up with 84 pounds for the guts and 110 for the Mittels .... again about a 30% difference. Now if you figure that the bridge feet have a total area of about 3 square inches (2 x 7/8" x 1-3/4") .... then there is a pressure under the feet of about 37 psi for the Mittels and 28 psi for the guts. Those are respectable pressures .... for the Mittels .... a column of water 85 feet tall.

    I have no idea what this exercise was good for or if it is even correct :D . Either way, I did develop a lot of respect for string tension and double bass design / construction. I also realized that there is considerable pressure on the bass top (over the bass bar and sound post) and that the bass better be designed and built to handle that pressure for a long time under varying conditions. For the Mittels, I'm imagining, with the bass laying on its back in a bass-shaped cradle supporting the edges, a flat platform attached to the bridge and stacking 6 EA Wizzy 10 speakers (or one-and-a-half EA NM-410s) vertically on it :eek: .
     
  20. Gearhead43

    Gearhead43

    Nov 25, 2007
    NorCal
    I'm with you Bob, better to be safe than sorry. It would be good to know the exact year that Kay made the changes in design to allow for higher tension steel strings, not sure how obtainable that info is though.

    I think lower tension strings actually sound better on alot of plywood basses though, including mine.
     

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