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Bass repair help (very appreciated - i know very little about these)

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by wrongdoeroaklan, Oct 13, 2013.

  1. wrongdoeroaklan


    Oct 13, 2013
    Hi all - I have a few questions that hopefully someone can help me with. I came into an instrument with no brand/luther name (that I can see at least - might be looking in the wrong spots?) that looks to have been dropped + need repairs.


    Inside it I can only see a partially covered, deteriorated sticker that looks to maybe say made in ("..ADE IN.." haha very helpful)


    It has a break in the headstock that looks pretty clean


    as well as a crack at where the neck attaches to the body that wraps around


    as well as a chip off of the neck near the bottom of it + some other little small dings and chips/cracking.


    My main question is - is there any way to tell if this thing is a "nice one" that is worth paying to have appraised and/or repaired or if i should try to repair it myself with epoxy or something(?) What would you do? I saw a few Bay Area places that do appraisals and restorations (saw ifshinviolins and gael mckeons string bass studio were local) just am not sure if it is worth it. Are these typically expensive to appraise + repair. Anything I should look for when doing one? Thanks so much!
  2. wrongdoeroaklan


    Oct 13, 2013
    Just saw the newbie sticky note to post as many pix as possible > here are a few more if helps anyone answer - thanks!

  3. I guess that would depend on what your definition of "a nice one" is.

    From what I can see, it's probably a mid- to late-1900s European factory bass, and the apparent lack of cracks suggested the body is plywood and not carved solid wood.

    The way the pegbox broke off of the neck looks like the bass at some point underwent a scroll graft. This means the original neck was damaged, so the original pegbox and scroll were removed and spliced onto a new neck. The varnish on the neck heel is not an exact match to the varnish on the body, which would make sense if this is the case.

    A scroll graft is expensive and difficult work, so if that job was done someone thought enough of the bass to sink some serious money into it.

    The cracks in the neck heel don't look bad at all. A professional violin or bass shop would make short work of those.

    How much money do already have in this bass?
  4. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    Given the finish on the instrument and the coloration of the fingerboard (I'm not convinced it's ebony from the photos) it is an older ply/laminate instrument. If it was an old Kay or Epiphone or other ply with some history (It doesn't appear to be, but I really don't know those instruments well) it might be an idea to get it fixed.

    Most shops will give you an estimate of the cost involved in repairing an instrument free of charge, and most will give you an opinion on whether or not they feel it is "worth it" to do so. Keep in mind few shops like to see instruments and bows "thrown in the wood pile" but sometimes starting over again is just a more financially realistic option. Personally I feel like you are at the "start over" end of that spectrum, but there are a few makers and people who work in shops here who will have a much more definitive answer for you.
  5. wrongdoeroaklan


    Oct 13, 2013
    well haha it was free on craigslist :) the body does have lots of tiny vertical cracks in the wood... I assumed it was cracking varnish or something but maybe it is carved wood? I should take it to one of the shops nearby and see what they quote for fixing it up. When should I walk away from repairs and do it myself? It sounds like it might be worth like what? $500? thanks a bunch for the help!
  6. wrongdoeroaklan


    Oct 13, 2013
    (worth 500 once fixed i mean obviously)
  7. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    Unless you can see light through them, I'm guessing you are seeing finish cracks. With a sunburst finish like that, it is probably similar to a guitar lacquer, which can crack with age. The body of the instrument from the one full body shot you provided actually looks in pretty good shape. This is one of the reasons why we've decided ply.

    Set up well without any problems, the instrument will likely be "worth" more in the neighbourhood of $1000-2000 to you as a player. There are a lot of ply instruments out there in bad shape, and people tend to either live with the problems or move on, because often they're more expensive to fix than replace. To turn around and sell it if professionally repaired, you're looking at the lower end of that spectrum. Unless it says "Kay" on it, there isn't a whole lot of a market for older ply instruments since there are so many new options available.

    If you find yourself in an area with a huge rockabilly crowd or something of that nature, that would probably be your most favourable market.
  8. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    I would make an appointment with Gael and show him the bass. For a few dollars he'll be able to give you an idea of what it is, what it needs and how much it will be worth afterwards. Money well spent. ;)

    And KAPOW, that's just a broken pegbox, not a scroll graft gone wrong. Happens all the time... :)
    gaelmckeon likes this.
  9. wrongdoeroaklan


    Oct 13, 2013
    great - thanks everyone :)
  10. I bow to your experience, Jake.
  11. Honestly if I was the one reparing i would just pop the neck off and put a new one on
  12. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    How many of these have you done?

    What would be the cost in parts and labor?
  13. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    No bowing necessary, GRASSHOPPER!

    A scroll graft is done with long scarf joints up into the cheeks of the pegbox, making it stronger than when the scroll and pegbox are carved from the same piece of wood as the neck.

    In the pix you can clearly see the short grain at the neck/pegbox junction and where they've sheared off.

    That break will go back together well but will need some reinforcement to keep it together! ;)

    Here's a photo of a shortish graft on an 1874 Pierre Martel violin. The bigger the instrument, the longer the scarf joint needs to be.

    Attached Files:

  14. Hi.

    Welcome to TalkBass wrongdoeroaklan.
    And welcome to the Dark Side of TB.

    What is Your goal with DB?

    Do You just want a DB to noodle with, perhaps a bit of rockabilly and bluegrass with friends, an occasional acoustic jam where you can actually be heard?

    Or are You serious about learning to bow, to play in an orchestra, perhaps making a career out of it?

    IMO, as always...

    If it's the former (as it was/is for me ;)), I'd get the bass appraised first even though judging by the pics I'm pretty certain the luthier will try his/her best not to throw it into the proverbial fire.
    It does look a lot like something that's affectionately called a BSO (Bass Shaped Object) here.
    Then, if it's nothing very valuable, I'd get some books/knowledge about the repairs and do it myself. As I did.

    BUT... if Your goal is the latter, I'd probably flip it or tried to swap it for a bow.
    Or a quiver.
    Or some rosin.
    Or... You get the picture ;).


    Can't quite beat that price. EVER.

    The peg-box failure looks almost exactly as the failure on mine did, except mine had only the vertical gluing sufaces.
    That repair has held up almost 10 years now, with no evidence of giving up.
    Granted, I'd use hide glue now instead of the PVA :eek: I did use, but still.

    If You decide to do the job yourself, and don't expect miracles the first time around, you'll be still rewarded with a great experience, and probably an instrument that will give you and the folks around you lots of enjoyment.

    You'll also have something to experiment on, without the possibility of great monetary loss if something goes terribly wrong.

  15. 1st Bass

    1st Bass

    May 26, 2005
    Forest Grove, OR
    Here is a longer (stronger) graft, on a new viola:
    You can see the graft in the lower two photos. The graft was not done as a repair, but rather because I had carved the head of hard-rock maple, with no flame, and wanted the neck to be Big Leaf maple with a decent flame.

    I cut the mortise into the headstock first, then gradually tapered the neck blank until it fit perfectly-- chalk-fitting at the last, of course. (you can still see a little of the pink chalk in the joint, inside the pegbox...it is not visible after varnishing)

    BTW, though you can't easily see it in these photos, the graft mortise does NOT extend through the chin of the scroll-- ot stops soon enough that the back of the scroll is all the hard-rock maple. The color-shange you see in the back of the bottom of the pegbox is actually the graft-line, though it looks like a shadow.
  16. wrongdoeroaklan


    Oct 13, 2013
    Sam: I'm just trying to mess around with it and have fun... maybe use it on some recordings etc. If it ends up being a cheap fix (or it looks like it should be a self-fix) and isn't worth much I might end up giving it to my bassist buddy who would have a blast with it. Thanks again for the help all
  17. another very good resource to contact in the SF Bay Area is Steve Swan in Burlingame, he might be able to appraise it and figure out what it'd cost to fix.

  18. Hi.

    In that case, after making sure it isn't a valuable instrument, I'd fix it myself.

    With damages like that, it'll cost a pretty penny if a luthier fixes it.

  19. You may as well find out what it would cost to have a professional take care of it. Unless it needs a whole new neck, the repair should be reasonable. Seems like it just needs a neck reset and a bunch of glue on the scroll. The fingerboard is probably fine as it is.

    When amateurs and amateurs who think they're professionals try to reset necks, very bad things happen.
  20. Hi.

    I completely agree with You Mr Cannon.
    That's the very reason behind my: "after making sure it isn't a valuable instrument".

    IMO only, but little or no point in spending $500+ on a $500 (on a good day, after the repair) instrument, free or not.

    I do remember that thread :(.

    Even a DIYholic BSO and a CCB lover like me had my jaw drop.

    Not that much by the actual "repair" though.
    I would not have done it quite that badly, "standard" BSO style IMO, but charging $250 for that and devaluing a valuable vintage instrument in the process.

    $25 for that on a $300 BSO, and there would've been some raised eyebrows and deep sighs from the purists, but nothing lost.


    In all fairness to the OP of that thread You linked to though, he did know what he had, he did know that bringing it to a luthier was the right choice, too bad the first one he took it to recommended a dinghy-maker.

    We don't know all the details behind that disaster of course, but given the tone of the OP's posts on that thread, he wasn't too keen on spending a new BG kind of money to repair a DB.
    Even if it would have ment several thousand $ of value increase.
    So penny pinching probably had quite a bit to do in it.

    He most likely recouped his $349 investment if he sold it though, and someone had the possibility to give that piece of history a new life.

    Sad things do happen when ignorance and bad luck shake hands, but such is life.


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