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Long-term STORAGE: What is proper STRING TENSION?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by JacoNOT, Aug 27, 2012.

  1. JacoNOT


    Mar 7, 2012
    A friend has a beautiful old Fender P bass in long-term storage. The strings are old tapewounds (black nylon outer wrap) and he has the strings entirely loose - no tension at all.

    I read recently that a neck can back bow if left without string tension, and would like to know if that's true. In this case, the bass is stored in a cool, dry basement - so there are no big temperature or humidy changes.

    If the neck really should be stored under string tension, how much tension should there be? Should the strings be tuned to normal pitch? Or down a half-step? Down a whole-step, or to some other interval?

  2. Vinny D

    Vinny D

    Jan 9, 2007
    Warwick, RI
    I can only comment that I have kept my own basses stored in my basement un-used for the last 3-years, when I put them away they were all tuned (normal tuning).
    I just took one up yesterday because I have someone interested in buying it.
    The neck needed about a 1/8 turn adjustment on the truss rod and the bass was almost in perfect tune.

    So for 3-years I would consider that pretty good..
  3. Slowgypsy

    Slowgypsy 4 Fretless Strings

    Dec 12, 2006
    NY & MA
    You have 2 choices.

    1 - Loosen all the string tension... and... loosen the truss rod. This essentially puts the neck at rest with no tension affecting it in either direction.

    2 - Store the instrument up to tune and the truss rod properly adjusted... as if you were going to play the instrument. This is a balanced tension load on the neck just like it will be for most of its adult life.

    Warning: Do not loosen the string tension and do nothing to the truss rod tension. Long term storage is all about making sure everything is balanced.
  4. TheEmptyCell

    TheEmptyCell Bearded Dingwall Enthusiast Banned SUSPENDED

    It should be setup properly, and kept that way as long as the guy owns it. If he's just going to ignore (aka: abusive negligence) it and not play it, he should pass it on to someone who will at least take care of it properly.
  5. Jay2U

    Jay2U Not as bad as he lóòks

    Dec 7, 2010
    22 ft below sea level
    The bass is designed to handle the tension, so I'd leave them on under normal tension.

    More important are the storage conditions. The wood has to be protected against drying out, as well as against too humid conditions.
  6. boynamedsuse

    boynamedsuse Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2010
    This is pretty much what I planned to write. Excessive heat or cold, and high or low humidity (which contribute to the possibility of corrosion, rusting, mold, mildew, and warping) are the most important things to avoid with long term storage. Basses should be stored in an interior room--not next to an exterior wall of the house, or in the garage, basement, or attic.
  7. megafiddle


    May 25, 2011
    The biggest problem with storage is the lack of attention that the basses get (or guitars, etc). When you're playing them regularly, you notice slight changes in the neck and adjust the truss rod as needed. The relief on the stored basses needs to be checked at similar intervals if they are to be stored at full tension. And if checked often enough, the stored bass will do just as well as the bass that's played, and obviously, constant full tension doesn't hurt a played bass at all.

    I have 3 electric basses and one may sit unplayed for months. But if I need to pick it up and play it, I don't really want to bring the tension back up and readjust the truss rod first. So I keep them all tuned up and adjusted. They're all different in how they change, but you do have to watch them.
  8. JacoNOT


    Mar 7, 2012
    Thanks for all replies.

    All is well. I stopped by and we took the bass out, sighted down the neck and noticed nothing unusual. Tuned it up and it played just fine. Nothing indicates any problems. As I mentioned, his basement is pretty well climate controlled. He returned it to storage tuned normally.

    As for regular checking and tweaking...if only this were a perfect world...;)

    I was surprised at how well those old black tapewound strings played and sounded. Everything I've seen/heard online makes current-production tapewounds sound ridiculously dark and muddy. THESE not only felt GREAT (easy slides and just the right amount of tightness/flexability) they also sounded kinda organic with a "woodie" tone if that makes sense. The brand is London Sound and I Googled them but found nothing.

    QUESTION: Both knobs/pots (volume and tone) exhibit a lot of crackle when turning. Is the fix typically a matter of spraying an electrical contact cleaner into the pot? Does it involve disassembly, as in removing the pickguard?

    The owner doesn't want to do ANYTHING at all to the instrument for fear of disrupting its "original condition" status. So if disassembly is involved, I guess the future buyer will have to address those pots.
  9. Jay2U

    Jay2U Not as bad as he lóòks

    Dec 7, 2010
    22 ft below sea level
    Disassembly is involved, as the spray has to be applied to the inside of the pot. The crackle may be caused by wear, dirt or corrosion. In case spray doesn't work the pot(s) involved should be replaced. It's only a pot, no one will notice as long as the original knob is used.
  10. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism Supporting Member

    Before you spray De-oxit in that pot, turn it a bunch to see if the dirt works loose.

    De-oxit is fine for extreme situations but the spray will degrade the pot, so use it sparingly.
  11. JacoNOT


    Mar 7, 2012
    Thanks, guys.

    I think those pots are not dirty or worn because that bass was never gigged. I'll bet the pots are slightly corroded because the frets show a bit of "patina".

    If corrosion is the case, would something less potent than De-oxit cut it?

    FWIW, I think he'll do nothing about the pots, but would like to tell a prospective buyer what to expect, as much as possible...
  12. boynamedsuse

    boynamedsuse Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2010
    DeoxIT is used on some pretty high end equipment. I strongly suspect the risk from one time use is pretty much zero.

    To dissolve corrosion you only need to use it once (while exactly following the directions on the can). Then you should be good for another 10 years. Electric guitar pots are more like faders than switches. Based on some research I did a couple years ago, you will have better results with DeoxIT fader lube. I can attest personally that the results are remarkable.

  13. JacoNOT


    Mar 7, 2012
    Thanks, Suse. That's very helpful, particularly your drawing the distinction between faders and switches. I'll pass that along for sure. Even provided a link and everything...! THANKS

    QUESTION: Is the small critter in your hand a real animal? If so, wut izzit? A baby porcupine, maybe?
  14. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY Supporting Member

    Nonsense. A quality pot will not be harmed.
  15. boynamedsuse

    boynamedsuse Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2010
    You are welcome.

    The little animal is a real baby Hedgehog. It is not my hand though, just a picture I like a lot.
  16. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    1) Tune it.
    20 Put it in the case.
    3) Walk away.

    That worked for me storing a bass for 23 years.

    If the pots oxidize, hit them with Caig DeOxit when you bring it back out of storage.
  17. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY Supporting Member

    ^ this. You could Deoxit the pots before putting it away. Deoxit fader lube would be a good treatment.
  18. JacoNOT


    Mar 7, 2012
    Gee I love it when someone tells me I don't have to do ANYTHING :D

    We put it away tuned, and whoever buys it one day can DeOxit those pots.


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