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can I do this?

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by toman, Aug 18, 2003.

  1. I'd like some opinions; I need some work done on my bass, and I'm considering doing it myself as I hope to soon find a way to learn instrument repair and making and I think this would be an interesting project for me.

    What needs to be done is to pop the top to relieve some tension around the lower bout that's causing it to constantly pop open about two inches on either side of the saddle. (it's a newer instrument, and it's assumed that the wood has just contracted causing this tension.) Also I have a wing crack that should probably be cleated while the top is off. Considering I have decent woodworking skills and a good amout of string instrument knowledge, do you guys think I can pull this off myself? The part that seems toughest to me is re-setting the soundpost, and not the actual woodwork...

    I do have a luthier who would probably lend me the tools to do it, and could put things back together in case I screwed up. The bass isn't a precious vintage instrument, so I'm not really worried about that either. Thoughts?

  2. They usually charge extra for that...:D
  3. Removing the top is not something you want to do until you have tried fixing the problem with less drastic methods. If you have a newer bass, it's a pretty safe bet that it was not originally put together with hide glue. Try cleaning out the loose area with warm water and a tooth brush. Let it dry and then reglue. Hide glue will not stick to wood that has been coated with white or yellow glue.

    BTW - If you think that re-setting the soundpost is the toughest part of this job, think again. Without a doubt, re-setting the soundpost is the easiest part of the job.

    The toughest part is probably going to be removing the top. Removing the top without creating more damage (i.e. new cracks) in the process is not a job to be taken lightly. It's delicate work even for an experienced luthier. Then there is the little matter of replacing the top. Get it just a little bit off, and you've changed the neck angle and probably will need a new bridge. And... don't be too surprised it the soundpost doesn't fit properly after everything is back together - too long or too short. I'm not going to say you can't do it, but I would take a little more time thinking about it before you start. It ain't as easy as you think!
  4. Bob,

    Thanks for the input. As for the basic problem; my regular luthier, who is well regarded, as well as the guy I got the bass from have both tried to reglue the area several times, and every time it stays for about a week or two and then pops up again. Everybody who's seen the bass agrees that the top should be relieved somewhere along the line because the problem only seems to be getting worse. (the openings are very slowly getting longer, I assume as the wood contracts slowly). I think I'll think about this for a while, as it's not really going anywhere soon, and talk to some people in my area who could possibly supervise me and offer pointers. It's definately not something I'm going to rush into.
  5. Even if the top table needs to be "relieved" there is no need to remove the top. Just release the top at the end block and the lower bouts. I would still try cleaning out the old glue before doing anything else. If the old glue on the wood in the joint is not removed before hand, you can reglueing it 50 times and it's still not going to hold.
  6. nicklloyd

    nicklloyd Supporting Member/Luthier

    Jan 27, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    "Relieving tension" on a bass is more involved than taking a top off, cleaning the glue joint, and putting the top back on.

    As far as cleaning and regluing w/the top on... open the bottom bout seams up to the corner blocks. This will give you much more room to clean the gluing surface over the bottom block. Also, you can get a better bird's eye view of this area. It is possible that the bottom block isn't making much contact w/the top. The constant string tension on the tailpiece, which pulls the endpin, which pulls the block, coupled with a bad physical joint over this area, could be the culprit. However, we aren't standing next to you. (Just an idea...seen it before...) It might not be the top's fault, but the bottom block's.

    The wing crack, however, is something you can do yourself, w/out removing the top. I'm not saying it's easy, but it can be done with the top on. This a bottom-bout wing crack? What side? How far in from the outline? How long is the crack? While the top is "loose", but still on, it is possible to get a long clamp across the top, while using smaller, deep throat clamps (and plastic) to "line up" the crack so it glues together flush. You might need to open the top up more, possibly to the upper corner block, to get this crack to behave. However, this whole process doesn't really allow for cleats to be fitted behind the crack. It just gets the crack closed. (Hide glue only.) It's affordable, quick, and an entirely ethical repair.

    Does this help you?:rolleyes:
    What does your luthier think?
  7. hmmm. Opening just the bottom bout sounds like a good idea, at least a good place to start. Like I said, I'm in no rush here, and I'll definately be talking to some more local people before I jump into anything.

    The wing crack is on the treble side, bottom bout, running straight up to the purfling in the center of the round part of the 'f'. I know that it can be cleated with the top on, however, when the bass was made they put linen over that area. It cracked anyway, and it seems to me like it would be a real trick to get the linen and glue off. My luthier also didn't think it was worth messing with until the top needed to come off for some other reason, as the crack has stayed shut just fine for quite a while after being just glued. There is also what appears to be another crack that has barely started about 1/2 inch to the outside of the other one, but it has yet to open up or anything.

    I appreciate all the input from you guys... as far as my luthier goes, he just kind of rolls his eyes at me. But what can I say, I'm a tinkerer at heart. ;)

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