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Split Top: Is my bass dead?

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Chris Fitzgerald, Oct 29, 2000.


  1. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Hello.It's been a helluva day.....

    My old American Standard bass, which had always been ragged looking but which sounds (sounded? Damn, I hope not) great, may have died today :( . When I got it, it already had a patch under the top at the soundpost/treble foot, and tonight when I went to play it, the top developed a crack right at the backside of the treble foot (slightly longer than the foot itself, and along the same axis), and sank a bit and started buzzing.It doesn't look good...... I have emailed the Bass Cellar to make an appointment, but I have a million questions about what to do. I'm assuming I should loosen the strings (makes sense, so I've done that).

    I know that no one can possibly make a prognosis until the doctor sees it, but I also know that that's the worst place for a crack in the top, and I feel ill about the whole thing. For one thing, I don't have the slightest idea what the bass is worth, or whether it's worth fixing, or how much it's gonna cost, and I'm not sure how to go about that decision. What I do know is this: regardless of what it's worth on the market, it's worth a lot to me - since, considering what I use it for (pizz only, jazz only), it has the best acoustic sound of any bass I've seen in town, it records beautifully with almost any mike near the bridge, and I wouldn't trade the sound for anything I've ever seen here locally (any of the basses that LIVE here in town, anyway....) I also know that it's the only bass I have, and at the very least I'm due to play some long gigs in the near future on some as-yet-unidentified borrowed bass.

    So, I'm wondering: If the top has to come off, and the Doc (Andy Stetson) tells me that it can be patched again but it's gonna be expensive, where should I draw the line? More importantly, if that top is re-patched in that spot, how much is it likely to change the sound, which I wouldn't change a thing about for the world? I personally wouldn't care how ugly any possible patch would be if: a) it would be sturdy,...and; b)it wouldn't sound completely different.

    Does anybody out there have any experience with this kind of situation? Is my bass dead?

    I think I'm gonna go throw up now........




     
  2. Bob Gollihur

    Bob Gollihur GollihurMusic.com

    Mar 22, 2000
    New Joisey Shore
    Big Cheese Emeritus: Gollihur Music
    Taking the top off will be expensive, but with the instrument sounding as good as you say, repairs should be undertaken. I've seen some Kays that were once a close cousin to kindling come back from the dead. Wait for the Dr's verdict.

    That said, I feel your pain, as probably every other bassist in this forum does.
     
  3. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Bob,

    Thanks. That's good to hear. If it can be fixed, I want to fix it. If it can sound relatively close to what it did & hold together, the money will be well spent. That damn bass is like family. Who cares if it looks ugly? It already did anyway.....
     
  4. Oh, I hate it when that happens! I can say that because it happened to me before,and I remember the stomach-Churning
    feeling as I looked at it in disbelief. Anyway, I had it repaired by Tobias Festl, a nice guy and a great Luthier in Germany.What he did was Take the top off,(of Course) and inlaid another piece of wood on the underside where the crack was, and the result was beautiful! You couldn't even see the crack on top, and since the top was now reinforced by the wood inlay, it sounded even better!
    Well, at least just as good as it was before..That is the right way to do it. The cheap way is to pull the crack together with a wood splint, put some hide glue in there, and pray it holds.Maybe, while your'e at it, you could have him Redo that nut that was giving you problems.Anyway, don't
    despair, the problem is a fixable one.
     
  5. Bad luck dude, I hope you can get it fixed OK>
     
  6. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Thanks guys, it is nice to hear that this has been done before. I got an Email from the Doc, and his estimate (based on the same description I sent in the forum) is that to fix it would cost $1500 +, and that he thought I would be better off looking for a new bass, of which he has several for sale. I dunno, I guess I expected more in the neighborhood of $1000 or so, but I'm relatively new to the dark side....

    He said something about wood grafts being extremely difficult to do on plywood basses, and about how much more difficult it is to take off and put back plywood tops than carved ones; he also mentioned that the cost of the repair was approaching the value of the bass, which meant that he didn't really see the point in fixing it. That said, he said he would be happy to take a look at it, so I'm gonna go up Friday. I'll look at the other basses, but........maybe I'm naive, but since I've found the sound I'm looking for, it seems crazy to throw it away because of market value, and the only other basses I've seen that get that kind of "Gary Peacock meets Red Mitchell" pizz tone have been in the 14- $20,000 range. Am I crazy, or just sentimental? I just don't have great hopes for what kind of tone I'll be able to buy in the $2000 range.

    Does the repair quote sound reasonable? The email included a suggestion that I might try a cabinet maker for a cheaper price, but I just sort of took that as a sign that he doesn't really believe too seriously in the value of working on plywood basses.... I'm confused about what to do! I'm not sure that money (resale value) should always be the key issue in these matters, but I admit I don't know that much about that part of the business. Any suggestions, anyone?

    P.S. - reedo: "stomach-Churning" is about as good a descriptive for that sinking feeling as I have heard. Thanks for the story. :)
     
  7. Bob Gollihur

    Bob Gollihur GollihurMusic.com

    Mar 22, 2000
    New Joisey Shore
    Big Cheese Emeritus: Gollihur Music
    My first impulse is to tell you to get a second opinion-- IMHO it's not worth putting that many dollars into it, and even then the cost seems awfully high. Casting no negative vibes on the Doc, it may simple not be a desired project.

    However, I also have a ray of hope to share. I can order you a laminated top, complete with bass bar, f holes, complete and unfinished, made to fit an Englehardt -- for $225 plus shipping to me, then you. That course of action might be a solution if the current top is not repairable, as was told to you, and if the American Standards and Englehardts are roughly the same.

    And I'm not suggesting you get one from me-- just making the point that any bass luthier/shop should also know that they are available if the situation warrants it. Of course, the total repair bill would still not be cheap; perhaps the Dr. was figuring on replacing the top.

    Just more information to help you in your time of need.
     
  8. Two things going in opposite directions have to be reconciled, and only you can do it. On one hand, you're saying the sound of your bass is the equal of basses costing $14 to 20K. If that is really true, it's a no brainer; I'd spend $1500 to save a $14K bass in a heartbeat. I'd even spend the additional $800+ for the new fingerboard you said you needed. "Expensive" repair cost is a relative judgement. If you're wavering, it suggests to me you recognize the worth of the bass to be less, maybe much less. I can't tell you the value; that's your determination to make. But until you make it, you'll stay conflicted.

    I'm not minimizing your situation. It's lousy. But that doesn't change my recommendation.
     
  9. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Ed & Don,

    Thanks for the input. I was pretty conflicted about the issue just because of the amount of money, but it had nothing to do with the market value of the bass. Don: I wasn't trying to say that that bass is as good as a $14,000, bass - clearly it's not. I don't use a bow, and it's been set up for pizz playing (Spirocores, medium action, neck dressing that can handle really low action, and set for that E string growl...), so to my perception at least, it's gonna seem a lot more jazz tone friendly than a bass set up for orchestra or dual purpose playing. I guess what I meant was that, of the basses I've seen & played, only the ones in the 14K range have had as full and rich a jazz tone as that one. As for how many I've played, well....I've played all the basses owned by the jazzers here in town (Louisville has a small and rather "inbred" jazz scene ;) ), and while I like the feel of some of them better, I prefer the sound of mine. I've also played Rufus Reid's bass, and Lynn Seaton's (only briefly), and while I liked the tone (esp. Rufus'), those are expensive instruments. All, and I mean all, of the basses in the $2K price range that I have seen have sounded either way too thin or way too muddy. Admittedly, my experience is limited, though...

    I also in no way, shape, or form, wish to bust on Andy, his work, or his attitude. His work is great (the setup he did on my bass transformed it into a thing I dearly love), and most of the guys I know swear by him, his work, and his prices. I think he is just trying to be practical, and to give his honest opinion, which is a trait I wish more people in the world had. I guess I was just surprised since I mistakenly thought it would cost less. I'm learning!

    Yesterday, I found a guy in town who gave me an estimate of less than 1/3 of the previous one. I'm gonna drive up to Cincy on Friday, show the damage to Andy, and look at some of the basses he has for sale in that price range. I'll probably end up taking the Standard to the guy here, even though his reputation as a dedicated bass luthier isn't what Andy's is..... I have the consolation that if it doesn't work out, I'm out a couple hundred bucks, and in the same boat I was before, and if it does work out, I'll have a sturdy but ugly repair, and could then spend the extra thousand taking the patient to Cincy to get that fingerboard done. My hope is that in 5 or so years, I'll be able to find (& afford) a nice carved bass & keep the present one as a backup, kind of like Bob G's old Kay.

    Having said all that, I just wanted to mention that being able to discuss things like this with people who have a hell of a lot more experience than me and who know what they are talking about has been extremely helpful, and I want to thank everyone who has replied for sharing that experience. This forum is a really, really nice thing to have around.

    Thanks again,
    Chris

     
  10. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Just to finally put this thread to rest: I got a call today from the local guy who has been working on my Standard. He took off the top, put in a patch, glued the crack in the top, and put Humpty Dumpty back together again for only $349.99!!! (He also slices, dices, chops, and comes with a no-questions-asked lifetime full moneyback guarantee...)
    I have to say, while the sound is not quite what it was, the damn thing still booms, and will make a great backup bass to the new one I bought. Life is good.

    Does this make me a quadruple bass owner now, or only a double double bass owner? Not that it matters....it's all good either way. :cool:
     
  11. Bob Gollihur

    Bob Gollihur GollihurMusic.com

    Mar 22, 2000
    New Joisey Shore
    Big Cheese Emeritus: Gollihur Music
    Good for you, Chris -- and I like the quad-bass line. Consider it stolen.
     
  12. Anyone got a phrase for owning six basses, as I did for a few months this summer? (I'm not showing off; I bought 3 to restore and sell. Two down, one to go.)

    [Edited by Don Higdon on 12-01-2000 at 03:32 PM]
     
  13. Bob Gollihur

    Bob Gollihur GollihurMusic.com

    Mar 22, 2000
    New Joisey Shore
    Big Cheese Emeritus: Gollihur Music
    >Anyone got a phrase for owning six basses, as I did for a few months this summer?

    "Ex-husband"
     
  14. Pretty Good, But I think Don would be a Dekaduous (not Decadent!:D) Bassist,
    from the Greek word for twelve.
     
  15. If those basses are covered with dust from sitting around I guess you could call it a "Dirty Dozen" bass player if they are double basses :spit:
     
  16. nicklloyd

    nicklloyd Supporting Member/Luthier

    Jan 27, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    Hey WOOOOOOOOOOOOOMPH-
    What's with the digging up of 3 YEAR OLD threads? Are you really that bored? Welcome to Talkbass, and keep it relative.
     
  17. As long as this thread has been revived, I'll confess later getting up to 7 basses. At the moment, I have 2, with an outstanding order for a New Standard hybrid.
     
  18. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    I really, really hate you.