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Self Lubricating Bridge Experiment,,

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by WOOOOMPH, Apr 20, 2004.

  1. I posted an experiment in the Wrong FORUM ARRRRRGG!!! Accidentally it ended up in BG Forum. Aren’t we newbies a pain?
    Here was the experiment;

    My Luthier friend rebuilds antique Orchestrians, player pianos, violins and does allot of the Dollywood antique instruments too, He showed me a trick on making any peace of wood "self lubricating" without the mess of graphite dust flying around, not that we deal with that here, we are only using a tidbit of the stuff. But That’s the problem, it's a tidbit. So I am taking the obnoxious chance on the integrity of my gut strings here and making my bridge and nut "Self Lubricating" stay posted for the Tears or CHEERS in a few weeks.

    Well the process is quite simple and for steel strings there is no risk, but gut string holders HOLD ON wait for my demise before you get yours.

    He simply mixes ammonia and graphite together making it a thick pasty slurries, then applies it to the wood that he wants to be permanently self lubricating, The ammonia draws the graphite deep into the wood over an eighth of an inch in some cases, now as the wood gets worn off a tidbit from tuning and detuning the wood of the bridge and nut has plenty of reservoir of graphite to stay slick, now I will take my mind off it till the bridge and nut get worn out. 2 Questions we will all ask here. Does the ammonia soften the wood of the bridge? Does the ammonia vapors get into the gut strings rendering them "Sheep Jerky" for my pet Rover? WE SHALL SEE.

    I like Pilgrimage and this will be a first for my upright bass.

    Warning if your nuts about appearance you may not like the color change of the parts you lube, it's sort of like working with INK!! :-( But I take performance and longevity of strings
    and body parts over appearance any day, Last but not least TONE is number one.
    Later Guys stay tuned, we shall see what happens. If this guy trusts 500 grand worth of Orchestrian to this method I should not sweat my used all wood bass. :)
    ------------------------------END—of old post----------------------

    For What it is worth Guys, it’s working out so far, I planned on a Luthier setup and Sound post adjustment in May so I had nothing to lose accept an expensive set of gut strings !! Witch by the way have not shown any ailments at all from the Lubricant.
    I detune my Bass after every use to cut down on the chances of the Silver windings on the Gut strings becoming loose due to the Gut Stretching, So far so good . The bridge doesn’t “Walk Away” from the proper position and I hear none of that Shreeky Scratchy CRUNCH from the strings rubbing across the bridge during tuning, :eek: it’s only been a few weeks , lets see how the next month goes.
    Sorry for the fowl up in BG. :bawl:

    There was WAY too much Blood running through my Caffeine streem when I posted that. :hyper:
  2. my guess would that it would make the wood harder and more brittle. ammonia WILL discolor wood. i have read of ammonia being use insted of stains in furniture making (fine woodworking dec. 2003 i recall, but i have been know to be mistaken in the past). the process was that you place your piece to be treated in a plastic tentlike enclosure with a can of industrial ammonia (not the 2% stuff you get at walgreens). the vapors of the ammonia react with the tannins in the wood and darken. the color outcome varried with spieces, from grays to golden browns. not too sure how ebony and maple will do. will be very interested in your little experiment.

  3. I've seen a book give instructions as to how to 'age' a bridge with amonia. This amounts to putting some amonia in the bottom of a jar (have to be a darn large on for a bass) and suspending the bridge in the jar ABOVE not touching the amonia (I remember the warnings about this but not the consequences). Cover it up and leave for a while and watch the bridge go brown. Wonder what our esteemed luthiers think about this?
  4. I beat the problem by having a luthier who knows how to make a bridge properly. My Olivs don't bind. Ever. My bridge is not stained.

    Seems to me that detuning after every use increases, rather than decreases, the likelihood of separation of the winding from the gut. In addition, I have no interest in spending half the night retuning until the gut gets fully stretched at pitch.
  5. Why bother? The only place I use ammonia is to add a small amount of household ammonia (industrial ammonia is dangerous stuff) to the water when I'm bending ribs. I understand that the ammonia helps soften the lignum which makes it easier to bend wood. As far as WOOOOMPH's graphite paste is concerned, I look at it as finding a solution to a problem that doesn't exist. I've yet to see a good quality bridge where the string passing over caused enough wear to require "self lubricating". Most luthiers I know simply use either pencil lead or super glue in the groove. (This is one of the very, very few places where using super glue is acceptable in bass luthery. It acts as a wood hardener and makes a slipery surface for the string to pass over.) I've got bridges on some of my basses that have been on atleast 20 years and show no sign of wear from the strings.
  6. mpm


    May 10, 2001
    Los Angeles
    I've used ammonia to "darken" oak before but it's a pain. And like Bob, when you are bending ribs, it is a positive additive, but, by and large, using it to 'fix' a bridge is a questionable practice. Ammonia has minimal effect on maple, but does a job on oak...
  7. Well this is intresting feedback from old pros and beleive me I respect that, I can agree I am going out on a limb for one lousy bite of an Apple here, but what the heck, I am having a total lutier setup done this summer with plans for an adjustable bridge. I do remember from experience years ago, that gut strings stretch and become "skinnier" but the silver winding wont shrink to acomidate, so loose spots do develop in time , it is a pain to tune , but I am almost always in a situation where I can tune when I want, I am not much for playing out, I do studio work and own the studio, so time is not a problem, heck I play all the instruments so I have no thumb twiddlers to worry about paying wile I tune. I do JAMS alot but all are informal. I hate popping 300 bucks on guts strings all too often, and do agree I am trading off a thinning diameter for wear and tare near the bridge. SO FAR SO GOOD GUYS.
    I don't here that infamous "Creeking" when I detune the strings, and I don't see the windings near the bridge getting stressed [YET] the bridge does not creep forward either. What the heck even if I fail, at least we all will learn something from this. The superglue idea is something that has sparked my attention, concidering the sources out here I am all ears!!! Love this forum. Later dudes.
    I am buying webspace to share my home brew music with you guys, where would be an appropiate place to post the address? It's a no frills , pop ups, no joining yada yada bla bla , website for hosting files like a ftp service where public can download files but can't upload. Don't want to post in the wrong place :-(
    Thanks for the feedback. Her it is welcome, on stage it's a mennace !!! ;)
  8. mje


    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    Speaking of ammonia... a bassist friend from from the West Coast was visiting a few weeks ago, and while playing with an old bow of mine he remarked that you could tell Pernambuco from Brazilwood by wiping an inconspicuous part of the bow with a cloth dampened in ammonia. He said ammonia will pick up some of the dye from pernambucco, but not from Brazilwood. He went on to note that Pernambucco was first imported into Europe not as a material for making bows, but as a source of dye!

    Comment from our esteemed lutheirs?
  9. I had never heard of this before, so I went down to the shop and pulled out a couple of broken bow sticks which I know to be pernambuco and brazilwood. I tried wiping the pernambuco all over with a cloth dampened with ammonia. The cloth took off all the accumulated dirt, but no dye. However, after I took a knife and scraped down to bare wood I did get some reddish orange dye from the pernambuco. I tried the same on the brazilwood stick and also got some dye on the cloth, but much less intense color. I'm not convinced that this "test" tells anything useful, since I had to scrape down to the wood to get any color and you would have to have a known sample from pernambuco to tell one from the other. Plus - since all pernambuco is brazilwood, but not all brazilwood is pernambuco, there are probably varying amounts of dye in all of the many varieties of brazilwood. The only test I know that works for sure will work only on the raw wood. If you apply a small amount of nitric acid to raw recently cut pernambuco (which is orange colored until is oxidizes) , it turns to a brilliant red/purple color. Many bow makers apply a dilute nitric acid to their bow sticks prior to oiling them to get the color we recognize as pernambuco.
  10. Bob Gollihur

    Bob Gollihur GollihurMusic.com

    Mar 22, 2000
    New Joisey Shore
    Big Cheese Emeritus: Gollihur Music
    I speed-read an extensive article on pernambuco in my dentist's waiting room last week, believe it was a recent Smithsonian Magazine.

    Fascinating article, also noting the original importation for its dye, and many efforts to reestablish the wood in Brazil.
  11. Feda

    Feda Screwed up pitch

    Jan 12, 2004
    Bergen, Norway
  12. olivier


    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    That site has been around for a while... when I hit "How to identify true Pernabuco wood" I was disappointed... the link should say "How to identify true Pernambuco Tree". So we still don't have anythink better than that ammonia "acid" test. ;)
  13. Well as promised guys I would udate the results of this experiment,

    2 months and so far I can't give an accurate reply as to why one "e" string broke, but one thing is for sure, it broke in a place I could mend it, so I did , and BowwWAMM!! it broke again at the nut now, I am suspecting the amonia solution now may be drying out the gut material, , so at this point I DO NOT RECOMMEND the amonia and graphite solution to keep a slick friction free point at the bridge and nut.

    Granted it was the "E" string and that string is a eurosonic .145 thick string , and the rest is Pirastro Eudoxa mediums and they are doing fine, but we shall see, if I get a year out of the Eudoxa's then I would say all is OK and the break is the Fault of the heavy gauge "E" that I used.

    One thing that puts a wrench in the experiment is the damn bridge wire snapped, and now KERBAM!! I have a soundpost setting and bruidge setting job ahead of me, :bawl:

    But the upswing is I got a chance to check out the string winding wear and tear at the bridge and nut, I must say the Eudoxa's are showing NO sign of wear at all, the silver winding is in stable and lump free appearance and doesn't show any signs of separating at all, this is a good thing.
    I am hoping the Eurosonic "E" was a "Dry" gut string witch I have experienced in the past 20 years ago, I bought a set of guts and all but one snapped within a month, they where too dry and back then they whern't that expensive.
    Stay tuned, in another month or two I shall post any changes.
    The one who dares pop 400 bucks into an experiment just for the $$#!t's of it !!!
    WOOOOMPH. :spit:
  14. Since you've had this problem before, I would be looking at the nut itself. Check for too abrupt angle, too tight groove, or a sharp edge where the string meets the fingerboard. Check for sharp places on the e peg too. The string stretches when tuned, so the breakage point may not be where it appears to be.
  15. Nut Buster :
    A couple of things.
    As Bob said, be sure the nut groove is wide enough not to be causing traction on the E string. Another thing about tuning machines that makes no sense to me is that the E winding shaft is closest to the nut and deepest in the box, i.e., the thickest string gets the sharpest angle from the nut to the winding shaft. One of my teachers runs the E up to the usual A shaft and puts the thinner A on the closer, lower shaft. One of Arnold's ideas on the New Standard basses is to reverse the E and G winders and the A and D winders so that the sharpest angle (the nearest shaft) is borne by the thinnest string, G.
    As for gut strings, a name NYC bassist who uses all kinds of gut strings told me a long time ago that sometimes the gut shrinks to a narrower diameter (excessive dryness?) inside the Eudoxa/Oliv winding. At that point the winding gets pulled apart at the nut. She put lemon juice on the gut to get it to thicken. I'll check with her today to see if she still does this.
    Sorry for your troubles. I'm looking at around $380 for a custom gut set right now.
  16. I bought my first bass nearly fifty years ago and after about two or three years and many broken gut and nylon E strings I figured out that it made no sense to put the thickest string on the lowest tuning peg. I reversed the strings as described by Don and still do it that way today. I haven't had a broken string at the nut since changing.

    I also have a five string bass with a low B which I have so far left with its strings going to the conventional pegs. There is even more reason to take the thicker B to the top peg, but the shaft is buried deep in the narrowest part of the peg box and I think there might not be room for enough turns of string in there.

    I have assumed that moving strings to different pegs does not affect tone, but since just about every other aspect of the bass does, I would be interested in hearing from the experts.