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Changing the tailwire

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Bill Fatty, Feb 15, 2016.

  1. Bill Fatty

    Bill Fatty

    Feb 8, 2016
    Al Ain, UAE

    I have a sort of middle-aged 3/4 size Czech bass that I haven't used much. I've played electric bass for about 40 years now but never really got into the upright. Recently I found some interesting posts online and I've also looked up advice on how to set up the upright, from Upton Bass, (excellent) as well as Gollihur (also excellent) and I've done all sorts of little things like adjusting the bridge position and stuff, and it has improved the bass.

    I recently took the bull by the horns, so to speak, and took on a bit more daunting task: replacing the bit of coathanger which was serving as a tailwire with a length of braided steel wire. It was nerve wracking as all the strings and bridge were off and I was frightened that at any point the soundpost would fall over. Luckily it didn't and I got the tailwire changed and restrung everything without any disasters.

    I also spread out the tailwire a bit = the spacing is wider than it originally was. I read somewhere that this is a good thing to do, and thought Why Not!

    The bass now sounds a lot fuller and plays nicely too.


    It was really hard estimating the tailwire length to get the afterlength properly. It was ok before, being almost exactly 1/6th of the total playable string length (about 41 1/2"). Now it's about three-quarters of an inch less (because the tailwire is a bit too long)

    My question: Does the wrong afterlength negate the improvement I've gained by replacing the tailwire? I guess I could have it off and shorten the tailwire but it was pretty hard going and I don't fancy doing it again any time soon!

    Here's some before and after pics.

    20160203_204447. 20160203_204450. 20160203_204506. 20160214_212945. 20160214_213016.
  2. An overly long tailgut won't exactly negate the extra resonance gained by replacing the monofilament, which I'm sure you can hear quite easily, but it will screw with your overtones.

    Having used a clamp with fasteners, it wouldn't take you more than ten minutes to make things right. Drape a bath towel over the belly below the tailpiece to prevent scratches and lay your bass down on the G side so the soundpost has nowhere to fall to before slacking the strings and adjusting the tailgut length.

    That cable is fun to cut, isn't it?
  3. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    Nice job being self reliant and tackling those things on your own! Double basses are big and awkward and always crashing into things, so learning a bit of maintenance is part of your skill set.
    The next time, get a set of bicycle cable cutters from your local bike shop to cut the cable cleanly and I'd spend $5 at Lemur music and get one of the low profile adjustable cable ferrules rather than the clamp with the rough screws sticking out. Leave the ends of the cable about 3/4 of a inch over and seal them with heatshrink for a nice clean and orderly presentation.

    neilG likes this.
  4. neilG


    Jun 15, 2003
    Ventura, CA
    Yes, bicycle cable cutters. I was a pro bike mechanic for years. The best cutter is the Felco C7, for your complete tool geekness. Otherwise, for half the price, the Pedro's (25 bucks on Amazon) is a very good knockoff.
  5. Bill Fatty

    Bill Fatty

    Feb 8, 2016
    Al Ain, UAE
    Thanks for that!

    Part of the reason (OK the whole reason) I did it myself is that I live in Abu Dhabi where we don't have luthiers on every corner - even IF I could find one I wouldn't trust them to TUNE the thing let alone tackle any fancy work. I bought a cello here and asked the shop to change the strings and they totally buggered it up. I said "thanks very much, never mind" and did it again myself.

    Since I don't think I'm going to be able to find cable cutters either I'm just going to clean up the ends as much as possible and let the heatshrink tubing cover up the egregious parts.

    However the heatshrink tubing can be got and I'm gonna do it. I want to shorten it, because although the tone is nice now, it's a rtad choked (especially the E); it looks a bit odd and I'd like it to be perfect! I think I'm stuck with this clamp but somebody said you can pass the wires straight through, or at least cross them over, so I'm gonna do that. And bung on the heatshrink tubing.

    Again thanks for the comments - nice to feel I'm not floundering alone on this!
  6. A bunch of years ago, I replaced the tailgut on my bass and tried to tune the afterlengths as recommended by my luthier friend. I didn't have a decent tool to cut the aircraft cable so I wrapped it in masking tape at the cut line and cut through the tape and cable with a small hacksaw. It wasn't perfect, but for me it worked out a lot better than without.
  7. robobass


    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    I use a hot melt glue gun to coat the ends. I find it a bit more convenient and durable. Also, coat the wire first where you plan to cut.
    neilG likes this.
  8. Bill Fatty

    Bill Fatty

    Feb 8, 2016
    Al Ain, UAE
    Some nice replies! Now I'm inspired to have another go at it. I don't think I'll find a better clamp but I'm gonna cut down the bolts with my leetle hacksaw friend, face them into the belly of the bass, do the cable ends with heatshrink cable and I think that'll be pretty nice.

    After that!

    I've taken the bridge down a bit and I'm giving it a chance to settle in before I see if it's ok - I find the strings a bit high and I'd like them at about 7 - 8 - 9 -10 mm from the fingerboard at the end - now they're running about 10 - 11 - 13 - 15 and it's a bit of a job on fast passages. So luthiers and players - any hints?

    Also the neck isn't quite straight - when I centre the bridge between the f-holes the E is hanging just about on the edge of the fingerboard and the G is well into it. So to make the strings centre on the neck it's shifted almost an inch or so to the G side. Thus the feet of the bridge may not be properly aligned with the bass bar and the sound post.

    Also the soundpost is pretty tight - there's a noticeable dimple on the top just under the G foot of the bridge. It's been that way since I got it and the top hasn't split or anything - should I worry about it?
  9. neilG


    Jun 15, 2003
    Ventura, CA
    I usually solder the wire before cutting, but hot glue sounds much easier.
  10. Bill Fatty

    Bill Fatty

    Feb 8, 2016
    Al Ain, UAE
    Hot glue might be fine but solder sounds a lot neater too. Maybe I'll try that.
  11. Yes. You should worry about that top dimple. It could lead to a crack in just about the worst place for a DB to have a crack.
    Jake deVilliers likes this.
  12. What top dimple? And why would a plywood bass crack?
  13. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    The top dimple's mentioned by the OP in post #8.

    In my experience, plywood basses generally crack when the post is exerting too much pressure on the plates, either from being too long or by being accelerated into them! :thumbsup:
  14. Michael Karn

    Michael Karn

    Apr 16, 2014
    My plywood has a soundpost crack
  15. Thanks Jake. I was wondering why I didn't see anything alarming in the OP's photos.
  16. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    That was my first reaction, too!
  17. I carry out my own operations like this with my bass flat on its back on my bed. To keep the sound post exactly in the same place I have a couple of heavy books resting near the bridge on the sound post side before the string tension is lowered/taken off . Before letting tension right down run your hand across the string knobs under the end of the tail piece to ensure there is nothing sharp that might risk scratching the belly (Thomastik Spirocores are bad for this) and if neccessary wrap a piece of cloth around here .

    Nobody here has mentioned using a swage which is the neat and very strong system of crimping metal used by yachties for their s/s rigging cable. I use a piece of string to determine the length of cable and take this plus the tail piece to a nearby ships chandler and have the cable and swage done by them very inexpensively. Google swage to see what I mean.

    Cheers and best wishes, DP
  18. Bill Fatty

    Bill Fatty

    Feb 8, 2016
    Al Ain, UAE
    Actually I didn't post a pic of that because the actual point was the tailwire changeover. Now that's under control I'm just addressing some of the other things I'd like to sort out.

    Actually I've had the bass since about 1982 and only now giving it any real attention. I guess the sound post as always been tight and it hasn't cracked the top yet...

    I'll post some pics of the bulge later.

    Thanks for the tips!
  19. Bill Fatty

    Bill Fatty

    Feb 8, 2016
    Al Ain, UAE
    Thanks for the tips! I did it with the bass on it's back on a carpet, with some towels to support the sides so it didn't move. When I was doing any severe operations (like tapping the endpin back in!) I kept a hand in the f-hole to check the soundpost wasn't moving. It never did. It's pretty tight as I've mentioned.

    I'd like to try swaging the wire but I'm gonna go with the same clamp for now, until I'm sure I got the length right. I'm also considering a change of strings so that may affect things too.
  20. I think crimping is not that popular since you cannot readjust it and need to cut the cable, making it useless, if you want to try a different tailwire like carbon.

    But of course it is possible, specially if you can try it with the clamp under tension, mark both ends where they should meet and crimp the cable in that relative position of the ends.
    neilG and robobass like this.

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