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Maintenance recommended for old gut strings that haven`t been played for ages?

Discussion in 'Strings [DB]' started by Reiska, Feb 19, 2014.

  1. Reiska


    Jan 27, 2014
    Helsinki, Finland
    Hello everybody and greetings from Helsinki, Finland. And sorry if this information is already somewhere here in TB, I did a search, but didn`t find.

    I`m getting a bass that has gut strings on ( unknown brand and origin ) from a friend of mine. The bass hasn`t been played for years and it has been stored in various not so perfect conditions, the strings on, but without bridge and tension on strings. Changes in temperature and humidity are somewhat extreme here, from extremely cold and dry winters to warm and rainy summers.

    Question is that is there something I have to do to the strings before tensioning and playing them? I read about wiping strings with a cloth dipped in oil, sanding them lightly and such rituals, should I try things like these at first, before trying if they still could be played? I have some spare steel strings if these guts wont make it, but it would be nice if they did. I don`t have any experience on gut strings, any help and information would be priceless!

    Thanks, Reiska
  2. DC Bass

    DC Bass Supporting Member

    Mar 28, 2010
    Washington DC
    Gently apply a small amount of almond oil to a cloth and wipe along the playing length of plain gut strings- ideally the string should just approach translucency. Don't go crazy with it, a little goes a long way- and make sure you wipe up the excess!

    Do not treat wound gut.

    Some folks suggest mineral oil, and I think there are some other ideas out there, but I've been happy with almond oil!

    I don't sand gut strings- but when hairs develop I burn them off by waving a cigarette lighter quickly by the little hair.

    FWIW- I have read stories of gut strings found on instruments recovered from ancient Egyptian tombs that still produced a pitch! :hyper:

    Good luck!

  3. Good advice. I've used cheap vegetable oil for years with no ill effects, applied with the fingers and left alone for a day. Others swear by Sno-Seal, which is a beeswax-based product marketed to preserve leather footwear in winter weather.

    The downside to the lighter trick is the revolting smell and the burnt-up stub that is left behind (at least on my strings). Fingernail clippers for babies are sharp, accurate and cost-effective.

    Welcome to Gut Life!
  4. superman


    Mar 5, 2007
    Nashville Tenn
    400 grit sandpaper will clean the rough spots up but make sure you sand at least a 1/4 of the string at a time,, don't just do the rough placese,,gut strings are sanded when they are made,,and sanding them again wont hurt a thing,,you might have to start with 320,,then 400,,and you can finnish with 800,,,Ive done it for years,, and I never use oil unless they are really bad dry,,and in that case they might be to far gone.
  5. Reiska


    Jan 27, 2014
    Helsinki, Finland
    Thanks for your kind advice! Yep, plain gut strings, no windings ( is that the correct word? ) on them.

    I`ll go with fine grit sandpapers and mineral massage oil, then let strings settle and dry as long as necessary ( dont want oil on bow hair ).

    I`ll propably try those guts on my Tseckhoslovakian bass, it has ugly polyurethane paint on maple fb and Pirastro Jazzers set at lowest possible height ( E 9mm`s - G 8mm`s ). This new one has ( actually fully carved Tsechoslovakian as well ) ebony fb in fine condition, if it allowed a bit more mercyful action with Jazzers. Cant afford luthier work at the moment, so I`ll go with the stuff I already have and see if it works. When the situation allows I`ll get a new ebony fb for the other and professional setups for both of them.

    Needless to say, can`t wait...
  6. Edvin


    Feb 25, 2010
    I thing massage oil is a non-drying oil. That is not the best. Check it!
    I've used olive oil. Not as thick as linseed or almond but works on gut strings.
  7. Reiska


    Jan 27, 2014
    Helsinki, Finland
    Hey thanks for advice! I'm picking the bass from my friends place at countryside and it turned out that the strings aren't the major issue here. My friend is a guitarist and totally an artist in crazy hippie professor way. You know, 15 guitars, 60 pedals, ethnic instruments, cables, all kinds of stuff in complete mess and in variating condition.

    The bass is completely different from what I originally was told and what I expected. It's a 82' Kiso Suzuki laminated roundback and in somewhat terrible condition: Broken and very roughly fixed pegbox almost completely off the neck, worn out polyurethane paint on maple fb, bridge and endpin missing, small hole on the side.

    The bass is labeled to be 3/4 size, but its more like big 1/2. That suits me very well, I was already dreaming of smaller bass with easier playability. I'm a drummer turned heavily into bass only 6 months ago and am not a big guy. Another thing is that I dont drive a car, I even don't have the license. The bass is very light compairing to my big tsechoslovakian, wich is no go on underground, trams, busses, trains etc.

    I managed to get the bass in some kind of playing condition with a bridge and Pirastro
    Jazzer strings I brought with me. The sound turned out to be very warm and big, tons of low frequencies and it was quite easy to play, even with strings extremely high and crappy fb. I quess that shorter string lenght makes it.

    I already called a luthier friend of mine and he is about to do some prepairing and sanding work next week for this japanese school bass. Even while I really could't afford it, thats how obsessed I am.

    The strings turned out to be wound gut E and A, in bad shape and plain gut D and G in ok condition. Those will see some new life with the help of your advice here. Thank you so much!!!
  8. donn


    Mar 28, 2011
    After reading a variety of threads about this matter, when I was shopping for gut strings, I'm putting nothing on them. That's not what everyone says, but there's such a variety of recommendations - every time it comes up there's something new, don't recall ever reading the sno-seal one before - and they're different enough that they can't all be doing the same thing. The sno-seal idea is intriguing though. I bet Obenauf shoe wax would be better.