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Misc. Crack Repair Question

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by emilio g, Mar 29, 2009.

  1. emilio g

    emilio g

    Jul 16, 2008
    Jersey City, NJ
    I noticed a tiny, hairline crack on the top of my bass at the bottom by the tailwire. Its right where the saddle meets the top.

    When I say tiny, its maybe 1/4 of an inch. Small enough that I couldn't get a picture where it was clearly visible.

    Wouldn't have found it normally, but a grad student told me I should look my bass over often to try and catch any problems early and avoid expensive repairs.

    This may seem like a silly question, but does the bass need to come apart to fix that? Do I just cross my fingers and hope it doesn't get worse? Is there some way to squirt glue in there to stop it from spreading?

    I should be able to get it to my luthier this week so he can check it out. But I'm also kind of curious because I don't know much about bass repair.
  2. They often crack there, and it might not be important if the crack isn't moving. Still, take a look, take a decent photo, and if it changes panic then. No harm in letting the luthier take a look, of course. As for how to stop it, I have no idea, not being a luthier myself. But I do know last time my bass had work done, that was one of the jobs.
  3. Hey, Emilio...
    My compliments on using the correct name for your bass' parts. You know...saddle. Not...that there black thingy down there towards the bottom of my stand up bases bottom.
    Don't wait on this one...IMO. Get to it your luthier. Now. The saddle might not be fitted just right and is applying pressure on the soft wood of the top. (maybe)
    Depending on a few things, I would take a shot and say this crack WILL move.
    If you attend to it now, your luthier might be able to just pop loose the bottom bout enough to get some cleats on the crack.
    If you wait, the crack might move up and the top may have to come off.
    Let us know.
  4. Jeremy Darrow

    Jeremy Darrow

    Apr 6, 2007
    Nashville, TN
    Endorsing Artist: Fishman Transducers, D'Addarrio Strings, Aguilar Amplifiers
    Hi Emilio,

    You probably have what is called a "saddle crack". I agree with Paul that it probably will move if left unattended. As I understand it, even a properly fit saddle can start cracks like this one since the top will move more seasonally than the saddle will. Because of the shape of the saddle and it's orientation to the grain on the top, the saddle can act as a wedge against the top, causing the crack.

    This is a pretty routine repair for most shops. I recently had a 1" saddle crack repaired and it was not a big deal at all. It's good that you've caught it early, it should be no trouble for your luthier.

  5. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    +1 on getting it looked at quickly and the explanations about saddle cracks. If you're having the work done, you may want to have your luthier install one of these. More detail here.
  6. Any ideas on why this kind of preserve saddle is not standard in all carved top basses? The idea behind this seems simple, obvious and logical. Today, why would any builder/repairperson still use a regular saddle on a carved top?
  7. vejesse


    Apr 8, 2006
    Madison, Wi
    Double Bass Workshop
    Here's an even more important question: You know all those old basses with the bass bar carved from the same piece of wood as the top - The 'self bar'? Why didn't the person carving the top leave a 1/8" fillet between the margins of the bass bar and the top instead of running a ragged knife cut 1/3 of the way into the underside of the top like you usually see? There's a good way to propogate a crack!
  8. jgbass

    jgbass Guest

    Dec 17, 2003
    I was just curious how luthiers repair these saddle cracks. I have one in my carved bass, and I think it was just a glue job. It looks sealed and has not gotten any worse.
  9. Martin Sheridan

    Martin Sheridan

    Jan 4, 2001
    Fort Madison, Iowa
    Bass Maker
    Does the crack look open?
    I think I would mark the end of the crack, the end towards the bridge with something that's not permanent, like a pencil and keep an eye on it. At one quarter inch it is probably on the bottom block. The top is glued onto this block and the crack might not be going anywhere. I certainly wouldn't try to keep you from showing it to your bass repair guy. That is the best thing to do for your own peace of mind and the health of your bass. These cracks usually occur because the ebony saddle is either a little too wide or when it was glued in place some glue got on the edges of the saddle or between the saddle on the top wood. Since ebony and spruce contract and expand at different rates that can cause a crack to develop. These cracks can become rather spectacular and can rapidly spread all the way up the the sound post and you do not want that to happen. But if you've never really looked at your bass until now, that little crack could have been there for a long time. If it were an inch or two long I'd be a lot more conerned about it; concerned enough to get the tension off the top immediately. Should that happen loosen your strings until they are sloppy lose and take the bridge off. And if the soundpost doesn't fall over on its own try to knock it down with something. Then get thee to thy luthier immediately.
    Does the crack look dirty? If there's dirt in it, it's probably been there for a long time. Do you see white where the crack is? That is bare wood and means it is new or relativly new.
    I mentioned taking it to a bass luthier because most violin guys don't know much about basses and guitar types know even less. You live in NJ? You should have a lot of choices in your area. I've probably just confused you, but you are doing the right thing by being observant and I don't think you have to panic. Yet.
    This is the kind of crack that can be repaired with the top on if it doesn't get too bad. But if the crack isn't past the end block it would only be pulled together, the crack glued and the top reglued to the end block and surrounding rib area
  10. Martin Sheridan

    Martin Sheridan

    Jan 4, 2001
    Fort Madison, Iowa
    Bass Maker
    I'd like to see the results in five years. I can't see this doing much good if glue gets between the front of the saddle and the top. I usually cut my saddles so that there is a little space between the saddle and the top at the sides of the saddle. A tight fit and glue in the wrong places is the culprit in my opinion. Looks neat though.
  11. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Your method is exactly the one that was used by the same folks who invented and now use the Preserve Saddle. I think they're quite wise to the issues.
  12. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Yeah, it's often simple, logical, and obvious AFTER someone comes up with the idea! :)
  13. Eric Rene Roy

    Eric Rene Roy

    Mar 19, 2002
    Mystic, CT
    President: Upton Bass String Instrument Co.
    I have seen various variations of saddles over the years...but none exactly the way I approached it. I first got the idea when I was talking with a cello maker friend of mine who was repairing a Montagnana cello that had its first saddle crack in a particularly cold/dry winter here in New England. It seemed like the saddle was such an oversight when every other component to violin family instruments has been scrutinized to such extremes.

    The idea is that as the top contracts, it will squeeze out the saddle. I usually use weak hide glue which will shatter easily or a drop of Titebond III which will stretch or shatter as well. I like the saddles as small as possible...but in a retro fit you have to work with what your given (although I have filled in old HUGE mortises with spruce and fit small preserves on some basses).

    Will this saddle prevent a saddle crack? No. I'm not delusional in that thought...I'm not a big fan of black and white answers...shades of gray make a picture visible. BUT...I feel this saddle will significantly reduce the likelihood of one happening...and if the owner is diligent about checking problem areas like the saddle in the winter months, I think they could easily see the saddle shifting or being pushed out. I think if every carved bass had one...there would be a lot less saddle cracks...and I can't see a single negative to having this kind of saddle vs. the traditional one (other than the added time to fit it).
  14. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    New Mexico. USA
    Eric, your saddle is a nice touch, but to give credit where due, I saw this ten years ago from Michael Krahmer's shop (Pollmann).
  15. Uh, oh. (but, me too.)
  16. Eric Rene Roy

    Eric Rene Roy

    Mar 19, 2002
    Mystic, CT
    President: Upton Bass String Instrument Co.
    No need for an "uh oh" Paul. Yes, as I said, I have seen variations on this over the years. Ironically just today a violin came in that in 1940 had an interesting saddle installed after having a serious saddle crack. From the front, it looks normal, but looking up from the button at the edge work, the edges feather out to a crisp point. I think it would have the same effect...although it would be harder (and more time consuming) to fit.

    When I did my first saddle like this, I passed around some photo's on some violin groups I belong to and it was well received. Some said they too had seen variations on it...I think Jeff B even said he saw an old French bass that had something similar. I have not seen a Pollmann saddle done this way though...I'll have to take a look at their site.

    There are few "true" innovative ideas left in violin making...and if you search hard enough you will find almost everything has been done or tried before. What baffles me though is that this is not done all the time.
  17. vejesse


    Apr 8, 2006
    Madison, Wi
    Double Bass Workshop
    I think the simple fact that the cut out for a 'traditional' saddle has a square corner contributes to a crack. Even if the edge of the saddle never touched the top and the wood never moved, basic design guidelines tell you that is a stress riser. A radius or fillet is always preferable for strength.
  18. In the old days, we used to call those a "Boot". They're all over the place. I won't go into the strange thinking involved in coming up with the idea.(Stress relief? ...who really knows?)
    I suspect somebody does.
  19. kurt ratering

    kurt ratering

    Dec 2, 2008
    waltham, mass.
    bass luthier, johnson string inst.
    i think those high saddles or "boots" are for equalizing string angle over the bridge not for saddle crack issues, but i may be wrong. anyone?

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