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Do laminated basses need to be humidified?

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by bassbuddy, Dec 16, 2004.

  1. My house is horribly dry in the winter, but I'd always heard that fully laminated basses like my Engle dont need any special treatment or humidification, and that you only had to worry about carved or hybrid instruments. Thoughts?
  2. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    For cracks in the top and such, you can still get seams seperating.
  3. My ply bass sounds way better when I keep 2 dampit's in it, also a ply bass in one of the Broadway pits here in NYC does a lot better with the dampit in it. I don't know the "right" answer, but my experiece keeps me doing it.
  4. Brent Norton

    Brent Norton

    Sep 26, 2003
    Detroit, MI
    The bottom line is that ply or no, you're dealing with wood, and your ply bass will shrink and expand with humidity changes just as all basses do. No, it probably won't crack, but as Ed pointed out, you may experience other problems if you don't tend to the humidity.

    Even keeping the bass in a dedicated room in the winter with some kind of humidification will help.
  5. And when you think about it, how much does a dampit cost? Just check it when you practice.
  6. John Sprague

    John Sprague Sam Shen's US Distributor

    Mar 10, 2003
    Rochester, NY
    Sales Manager, CSC Products Inc.
    We sell alot of ply's to the local schools, and you can bet they don't humidify their buildings. Most come back to the shop with other issues relating to kid-damage, very rarely will one crack or pop due to dryness. I think you can be less concerned, just don't go crazy. If your house gets down into the low twenties or teens, humidify for your bass and your own health. Avoid rapid temp changes by keeping it in the bag after a cold drive and such, let it ease into a new room before taking the bag off.
  7. This has been posted here before, but I guess it's time to do it again, it being heating season and all.

    One dampit won't do much, consider how much wood there is in the body of a bass. And if your bass is out of its bag in a dry room, the dry air will suck moisture from your bass. No amount of dampits will humidify the whole room. Humidify the whole house/ apartment if you can. If you can't, at least get a room humidifier for the room where your bass spends most of its time.
    When you take the bass out of that room, put a couple dampits in it, they will help keep it from drying out inside its bag. Remember to wring the dampits out well so they don't drip inside the body.

    My solid wood bass and I live in Canada where subzero temps and low humidity are the norm during winter. I keep the house at around 35% humidity- less than the ideal mimimun 40%, but it makes for a less abrupt change when I take the bass out to a drier environment. I always put two dampits in the top of the ff holes, preheat the vehicle, and as much as possible let the bass acclimate to ambient temperature inside the (well-padded) bag. I haven't had a crack or open seam in years (touch wood).

    Edit: And get a hygrometer for your bass room, so you know what the humidity level really is in that room. Radio Shack has an inexpensive digital thermometer/ hygrometer that seems to work pretty well.
  8. Fred W

    Fred W

    Feb 21, 2002
    Bronx, NY
    When I first got my vintage Kay M1, I kept it too close to the baseboard heat in the living room. After about a year the sound disappeared so I took it to C. Traeger, turns out the glue on the bass bar dried out and it was mostlly peeled off. I, too thought plywoods were immune, but my error payed off in the long run with all the great mods and set-up Mr Traeger performed. Not that I recommend negligence. It has never cracked, I dont think that ever happens, but the seams separate occasionally. On another note I recently acquired a Christopher 304 Hybrid. I learned hybrids are particulary suseptible to top cracks so I got a Venta humidifier-air cleaner. The rh has stayed above 40 so far this season even though I pushed the limit square feet-wise with the size model I got.(living room open to foyer kitchen etc.) It's good for the piano, too. A worthwhile appliance I think.
  9. Oh, great - my wife thinks mine looks great in the corner right next to the radiator! :rolleyes:

    Unfortunately, there's also really nowhere else to put the damn thing!
  10. nicklloyd

    nicklloyd Supporting Member/Luthier

    Jan 27, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    Plywood basses still have solid-wood necks. By all means, don't let your place get below %30. Lowe's/Home Depot sell warm air humidifiers that work on a humidistat. Just set the thing to %35 or %40, fill it up every few days, and that's that.

    As a side note, if your gas furnace doesn't have an in-line humdifier, intsall one. You, your bass, and other carbon-based life forms in your home wil really appreciate it. It doesn't require any special tools, just the basic DIY tools.

    (I used to work for a plumbing/heating company... :rolleyes: )
  11. I'm curious to know what mods you're talking about, since Charles Traeger is so highly respected. He seems to be regarded as the Father of All Luthiers by some.
    I'm still eagerly awaiting the release of his book. Bob B., are you still with us? Any word?
  12. nicklloyd

    nicklloyd Supporting Member/Luthier

    Jan 27, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    ...by some...
  13. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
  14. I do not consider Mr. Traeger to be the "Father of All Luthiers". However, I do hold great respect for him (along with David Horine and a few others) as founders of what we now refer to as bass luthiery. Some of our younger luthiers, who were babies at the time Traeger retired from his NYC bass shop, condemn some of their repair practices such as using a bolt on the inside to attach a detacted neck as being poor work. By todays enlightened standards, that is true. However, when you consider that there were no schools or books to learn the trade like there are today, and that the knowledge they had when they started came largely from violin shops that largely hated the idea of even bringing a double bass in their shop (as pratice that still continues in some higher end violin shops), the work from these shops set the gold standard for the times. Traeger (and the other early bass specialists), like all pioneers made mistakes, but they also did far better work than was available anywhere else at the time and developed methods that continue to be used by todays best luthiers. Some of todays best bass luthiers, including David Gage, were once students of Charles Traeger. Traeger was one of the founding members of the Catgut Acoustical Society and over the years has written many excellent articles that pertained the acoustics and maintenance of the bass.

    I received an email today from Bill Merchant, another former student of Traeger, stating that the book was now in the final stage and the release date is now a matter of the publisher's schedule. I, for one, am looking forward to reading it.
  15. nicklloyd

    nicklloyd Supporting Member/Luthier

    Jan 27, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    there you are...
  16. My understanding is that Mr. Traeger was one of the first luthiers to specialize in double bass, and develop repair techniques unique to the bass. I only know what I have read (mostly online), I have no first hand knowledge of, or experience with, him. So, I guess my "Father of All Luthiers" wa a bit over the top.

    Me too.
    Thanks for the update.
  17. Fred W

    Fred W

    Feb 21, 2002
    Bronx, NY
    Eric-What happened is; when I found my bass it was in friend's grandma's attic closet, in pretty rough condition. I was playing EUB then, I hadn't had an acoustic for over 20 years. So I called some pro bassists for advice. I had the initial gross repairs done by Harry Acedo at Ithaca Guitar Works. I started playing it right away in the Cornell symphony. Steve Gilmore had recommended Chuck Traeger, so when the sound died on me I called. Like I said, it was the bass bar coming off. Chuck said he could improve the bass with a better bridge, different tailpiece and cable, and his own design adjustable wood endpin. After I left it with him he called me to suggest another improvement. Since he had to take the top off anyway, he wanted to add a spruce patch under the table, which simulates the geometry of a carved top. He said it improved every plywood he'd done. When I picked it up it sounded bigger and better than ever. There's been more done over the years which improved the sound and especially playability. It's quite the bass now, everyone who plays it is impressed.
    As far as Chuck's place in lutherie I'd like to point out he started as a bassist-tuba player who got tired of paying "hospital bills" for his instrument. Lots of trial and error and asking questions, and an open mind, got him his esteemed place today. For example, the last time he had my bass he said he wanted to put a new sound post in. I pointed out it was his soundpost. "I learned something new since then" he replied. I love him, and I'd listen to his anecdotes all day if I could.
  18. This sounds interesting. Where is the patch? What shape and thickness?

    Along the same lines: Has anyone ever made a graduated laminated top? Is it feasible to build up the laminations in a mold, adding an additional thickness in the middle of the top, feathering the edges, then adding the outer skin? Or perhaps make the inner and outer skins thick enough that they can be thinned near the edges after lamination, once again yielding a graduated laminated top. More goofy musings from a non-luthier...
    Edit: What about the orientation of the veneer's grains? Are they usually at 90 degrees? Does it make any difference if they are only a few degrees from each other? Would this result in a laminated top that more approximated the stiffness characteristics of a carved top- stiffer with the grain, more flexible across?
  19. my American standard is currently living in my basement with a temp of 67-70 degrees and humidity of 27-30% sounds like i should invest in climate control, yes ?
    any info on the gas furnace humidifier? this sounds like an awesome solution? i have a gas powered hot water baseboard furnace, will this work?
  20. I think the gas furnace humidifier Nnick's talking about is the kind that mounts to the hot air plenum of a forced air furnace. Part of the fan's output goes through the humidifier before being circulated through the house. This is what I have. Mine is a General humidifier, it works well. You can google your way to their website easily. They have a variety of different sized units for different sized furnaces.

    Obviously, if you have radiant heat of some sort, this won't work. Smoke, I think a room humidifier would be a wise investment, especially after having lovingly restored your old bass.