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Super major repair questions

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Sonorous, Apr 13, 2006.


  1. Sonorous

    Sonorous

    Oct 1, 2003
    Denton, TX
    So the drummer in the band I'm in has an old upright sitting in the corner of his garage. I don't know how long it's been there, a long time obviously, judging by the condition (Sitting in a garage... in SE Texas!). I don't really know anything much about it, except that it used to be his grandfather's upright and that I might be interested in buying it as my first upright. However, its got quite a few issues.

    The most obvious problem is the two foot long crack on the front of the bass in the very middle of the wood. It starts a little past the end of the fingerboard and goes under the arch of the bridge and a little past it.

    The 2nd one is a half inch gap of space seperating about 4 inches of the back plank from the bottom of the sides (don't really know the proper term, since I'm not actually an upright player yet)

    A 3rd problem is that one of the soundposts is missing. I'm assuming this single missing soundpost is responsible for the large crack on the front. The soundpost thats missing is on the E & A side of the bass, and since its been kept under tension in a hot garage for who knows how long, I'm guessing the string pressure on the bridge caused this.

    The final problem is that the tuners are in pretty crappy condition. One of them is pretty much completely rusted out. I guess a new bridge or bridge adjustment couldn't hurt either.

    So, as you can see, this is quite a project. I've played the bass, and I actually like how it sounds. The volume and projection absolutely suck though. There aren't any rattle noises or anything like that. I'm not that worried about repairs for cosmetics sake. Like making the crack on the front look like it was never there, I just want to make it function like its supposed to.

    How much do you think all of these repairs will cost (a ton)? Which ones are important enough to get fixed before the rest? Are there any things I can do myself?

    I'm sure a lot of people are going to recommend that I forget about it and just buy a new entry level upright, but I kind of like the idea of playing a really old restored bass, especially since it used to be my drummer's grandfather's. He was reluctant to sell it at first because of that reason, but I convinced him it would be better to sell it to someone who would patch it up and play it instead of letting it sit in a garage and continue to fall apart.
     
  2. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    The Bass or Violin ONLY has 1 sound post under the G foot of the bridge. Under the E foot of the bridge is a Bass bar glued to the inside of the top for 80-90% of it's length or may even be part of the top and shaped like a Bar. To open a Bass up, fix any and all cracks and put it in top playing condition can run from 3-15k or more.

    If you show us LOTS of detailed clear pictures, we can tell you more about the cost and worth to repair the Bass as well as estimate age and origin of the Bass.
     
  3. Sonorous

    Sonorous

    Oct 1, 2003
    Denton, TX
    Ah, I didn't know that about the post thing. Thats really odd though, because on the E foot side of the bridge there is a definite circular impression left on the inside of the back. Its even the same diameter of the sound post under the G and lined up where it looks like a 2nd post would be.

    Is a 3k minimum kind of repair my only option? I'm only 18 and don't have that kind of money. I'm not interested in a full blown restoration. Just some patching up to return the volume and prevent things from getting worse. I mean, as long as it still has strings, it'll make noise.
     
  4. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    If the Bass is a good Bass, patching it up anything less than perfect will kill the value and maybe ruin the Bass. If it's a piece of junk, well.. no one will really care as dead is dead anyway.
     
  5. Tbeers

    Tbeers

    Mar 27, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    Ken has been known to exaggerate repair/restoration costs....

    It seems to me that most luthiers will charge you around $1000 to remove the top of your instrument, and everything they do afterwards is added to that. A good luthier who opens this bass will want to make everything perfect, which will be time-consuming and expensive. Whether or not you have the luthier fix every detail is honestly up to you. To make your bass structurally flawless will almost definitely cost more than it is worth. To make it structurally decent and fairly playable, it will probably still cost more than the value of the instrument. Consider that....

    A new bridge, fitted to the top of your instrument, is probably in the $250-400 range. New tuners will be a few hundred dollars as well... for quality ones, at least. I guarantee you the fingerboard and nut are in bad shape -- several hundred dollars more. The tailpiece and endpin are probably awful as well, but those are less important... that would be your call.

    I'll toss out some numbers as an educated guess. The lowest cost to fix your bass to the point of reasonable playability might be $2k. To fix everything it could be $5k (but who really knows). In perfect condition this instrument is probably worth less than either of those numbers. I can almost guarantee that fixing this instrument will be a complete waste of money that you will sorely regret later on.
     
  6. BGreaney

    BGreaney Guest

    Mar 7, 2005
    Well, before someone makes the mistake of trying to tell a luthier who's got 25 years of age and experience on him that he's wrong, why don't we

    ...........oops.

    Anyway, all these what ifs are rather pointless as we don't know the real condition of the instrument. For all we know, this thing could be a really nice hunk of wood that just hasn't gotten any attention for a long time. Why don't we try to get some pics up.
     
  7. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Tbeers, when did I ever over price a proper repair or restoration?

    I have had restored in the past year a beautiful Morelli, a Hungarian Bass and converted it to a 5er and just now a Prescott as well as a few other repairs inbetween. I have in restoration/repair a Gilkes, Dodd, English Gamba and a Fendt as well as a Loveri that is playably untill it goes under the knife sometime in the future.

    Show me one person anywhere in the world other than a dealer/restorer that has as much on his plate as I do in regards to restoration cost experience!

    Every job that has been completed to date ran over the original budget. Every job in progress or about to be started will not run under the estimated cost.

    I have also restored Basses in the past as well as maintain my personal Basses doing minor repairs. I have also run a business making instruments since 1978 which was years after I started fixing Basses. I if anyone, knows the cost of an hour of Labor in my neck of the woods.

    If I show someone an old Bass with a split up the center that is falling apart and he offeres to fix it for $1,000 as you suggest possible, I will walk back to my car WITH the Bass as quickly as possible!

    By the way, if you read my eariler post, 3k was my inside number to repair it as described. Knowing very little about Basses, I doubt he knows everything that needs fixing in his eyes. If one looked at my Fendt with his eyes and lack of experience, I wonder what estimate you guys would come up with. I will be happy if it doesn't go over 15k but that's just a wish. Based on our initial planning, 15-20k is the figure for the Fendt restoration.

    Imagine taking out all the blocks, lining, ribs, top and back plates and fixing everything as best as possible and then making a Bass again from these 200 year old pieces. Do you think the labor rate drops per hour if the Bass is 100 or 50 or 20 years old? "Time is money". If you want to buy broken Basses and fix them up to play again, be sure to spend "it" wisely. That is the time and the money....
     
  8. nicklloyd

    nicklloyd Supporting Member/Luthier

    Jan 27, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    Sonorous, if you could post some pics, we could post replies in a more concise, specific manner.
     
  9. Tbeers

    Tbeers

    Mar 27, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=200894

    I suspected I would probably be flamed and called young/naive/ignorant for crying foul. But I decided not to let that $15k figure go uncontested.

    $3k actually seems very reasonable, I'll say that.... Also please note I never said $1k would restore this guy's instrument, I said once the top comes off, the price automatically jumps over a grand. My estimated figure was $2k *minimum* to put the bass in playable condition.

    I will say again that based on the situation described, $15k is... how could it even be close to that much? Ken, if your Fendt is costing that much to restore, I'm guessing it involves regraduation, cutting down the shoulders, all new blocks and bass bar, new endpin, tailpiece, tailwire, bridge, fingerboard, nut. Complete setup, new tuners. Lots of work on the scroll? Shimming the neck? Repairing tons of cracks? Rebuilding parts of the ribs? Putting new edges on the top and back? Lots of revarnishing including antiquing? If you're having that much done to your bass, then fine I believe the $15k figure. But that is such an extreme case....
     
  10. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.

    There will be no re-varninshing or re-graduating as far as I can tell. The Top has to be pressed out and re-shaped. Once you open an old Bass, there is re-edging and other restoration work to be done just to get the top on again. With a new Bass this is minimal but an old Bass can do all sorts of things. The Back is in great shape but the ribs need work and such. The Neck will need a graft to get the mensure corrected. The Scroll need little work but some is required and that is mostly cosmetic. The Top has many cracks and splits that need to be glued but with pressing it out gradually in a plaster mold, this will be slow going. A new Bass bar, Fingerboard, Extension, Bridge, strings and maybe endpin are the fittings. The gears look good at this time. All the Blocks and linings will get cleaned out and re-glued. New Top or bottom blockes as well as lining or corner blocks will be replaced as needed only. 'Original' is the name of the game!

    The Fendt is not some German Shop Bass that needs to be corrected. What it does need is careful and delicate coaxing to get it back as close to it's original state as possible. Fendt was one of the best makers ever in the UK so I doubt the graduations are a problem. The Bass had a killer sound as it was falling apart. I think I will let Fendts work stand and just have Arnold fix what's there. The Varnish may get cleaned up a bit as it hasn't been played in almost 2 decades and I am sure some touch-up is in order. There will be NO removal of any of the Original Varnish just to make it pretty again. I expect the Bass to look it's age when completed. The Prescott will be posted in a few days and you will then see how 'old' is preserved as well as cleaned up.

    As for this guys Bass, if the top comes off and needs re-edging as it splinters and then you find tons of tiny cracks and splits from the Bass being dryed out from neglect, then add that up. Then you find out this Bass has an integral Bar or is blockless or the blocks are split or the crossbars are bad or the corner blocks are loose or this or that......... etc..

    So you see, unless examined the full cost to restore cannot be estimated closely but once it has it may or may not be worth it. If it doesn't need that much work then my lower estimate is close but not high at all. If it's a mess, then it depends on how well he wants the Bass fixed if at all.

    I guess some of you have seen my Mystery English Bass that is getting restored. Anyone here wanna make a guess as to it's cost? We tried the Mystery origin/maker 2 years ago so now lets try guessing the cost to fully restore.

    As with the Fendt or any other Bass, the cosmetics part of the restoration and be time consuming. As time is money, 10 hours fixing cracks is the same price as 10 hours of touching up.
     

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