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Linen bass bar reinforcement

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by eh_train, Dec 28, 2011.

  1. eh_train

    eh_train Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 12, 2004
    Owner, Stand Up Guy Basses (Repair/Sell/Buy upright basses)
    Hi all,

    I'm finishing up the repairs on a Romanian carved bass. I was going to put a reinforcing linen "pocket" on the top and bottom of the bass bar (the bottom 1" of the bar had been coming loose and I reattached it).

    When I checked Traeger's book (pgs. 208 and 209), I noticed that he recommends the linen repair specifically for a ply bass. I can't tell if he means that it's *NOT* recommended for carved basses, or just that it's particularly good for ply instruments.

    So, do people have thoughts on this? Is a linen patch a good option for any bass, or just ply?


  2. Cody Sisk

    Cody Sisk

    Jan 26, 2009
    Lilburn, GA
    Ronald Sachs Violins
    In my shop, linen is used for french polishing and that's it. What does cloth do to sound? It muffles it. I don't use cleats that aren't made of wood. Besides when you have 300+lbs of pressure on the bass bar, you think a piece of linen is going to hold it if it wants to come loose?

    Edit: If the bass bar keeps coming loose, you might have too much spring in your bar..
  3. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    Thank you for citing the exact reference in Chuck's book.

    My experience with linen is that it is surprisingly strong material, generally about 3 times stronger than cotton or similar. The actual working strength of the pieces you have will be determined by the thickness and weave. Quite often linen saturated in hot hide glue is a LOT stronger than you'd think and there are times and situations when a wooden cleat is not always possible due to location or other things going on inside the instrument. The tips of a bassbar don't support the full 300 lbs of pressure; sometimes the small bit of reinforcement from a linen or other flexible membrane has very good applications. I've seen linen, varying types of natural and synthetic materials, and some very well executed application of kevlar cloth and hide glue that was applied by a VERY well known high profile shop in NYC, that did a fine job. One high profile builder I know swears by using small sections of old hairless goatskin drum heads for cleats ( I'm not making this up!).

    Chuck's use of them on ply basses has more to do with the fact that often it won't be a glue joint failure, rather it will be a case where the ply stays glued to the bassbar and then the plys themselves delaminate. More surface area associated with the larger cloth section basically means a less likely chance of the ply delamination. That is the real advantage to using linen- maximum surface area adhesion with minimal weight and the flexibility to form very tight around irregular three dimensional surfaces.

    When in doubt, I don't feel like you'll be doing any damage to the instrument by adding them and I'd comfortably bet you a new set of Olives that 99.99% of people don't have ears sensitive enough to be able to tell the difference between a giant bass with two tiny little 2"x2" patches and the same bass without, especially given that they are probably less than 1/20 the weight of the same size spruce cleat.

    Ask 7 more luthiers and you'll likely get 10 more completely different responses....

  4. Cody Sisk

    Cody Sisk

    Jan 26, 2009
    Lilburn, GA
    Ronald Sachs Violins
  5. Schoolhouse

    Schoolhouse Thomas Andres- Bass Makers

    Dec 7, 2006
    Northern Virginia
    Linen patches have been used in musical instruments for centuries. They can be very effective in many repairs or even new building. It's very important to keep the surface of the repair hot, soak the linen in the glue, place it on the work, and then stipple with a stiff hot brush to create a really good bond. They do not take the place of wooden cleats, but are lighter and more permanent (and they don't buzz). Tom
  6. robobass


    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    300 Lbs? Is that right?
  7. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    New Mexico. USA
    I'm in agreement here. Cody cautioned above that cloth will dampen sound. That is a logical belief which I used to share. But if you take a piece of linen and saturate it with hide glue, then let it cure, the result is extremely hard and stiff. I use narrow linen strips on my new bass' ribs, as crack-stoppers, and there is no penalty in sound as far as I can hear.
  8. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    I just looked inside the walnut bass, and there they were. Good grief! No sound penalty whatsoever.
  9. toddg63


    Dec 13, 2007
    Tilton, IL
    Ah, I see those on the Schnitzer/Mcintosh bass as well.

    Is linen a candidate for a nasty, jagged lower rib crack too close to the edge for cleats? The sister side of the Juzek in question has almost identical cracks, repaired with long narrow patches....

    Is there a specific type of linen I'm looking for?

  10. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    Put me down as a linen user - whether for bass bar pockets or cleat substitutes, the use of linen is a very effective, very traditional repair technique. Just make sure you get 100% linen, not a linen/rayon blend! ;)
  11. Cody Sisk

    Cody Sisk

    Jan 26, 2009
    Lilburn, GA
    Ronald Sachs Violins


    Ok ok ok ok.. Since so many of my respected colleagues disagreed with me, I gave it a shot on this rental with a punched out rib hole. Consider me born-again, reformed, saved, pro-linen, whatever :D. I especially like the idea of rib reinforcement strips. That sounds promising, especially in a rental application. The linen seems to shrink a bit when it dries. This kinda pulls the wood together. For the ribs, I like this concept..
  12. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    New Mexico. USA
    Be sure to overlap the linings a bit to prevent new cracks right there.
  13. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    There is one caveat with linen - if you use too big a piece the shrinkage can cause real problems. I've seen a couple of ribs that had been pulled into a corrugated shape with large ie 10" x 12" patches. I don't know exactly what the limit is, but I tend to put two or three smaller patches side by side rather than one big one.
  14. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    Didn't Tom Kelishek line the ribs of his "self portrait" bass with linen when he was building it?

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