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to stain... or not to stain...

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by greenhorn, Feb 9, 2005.

  1. Hi there, I have spent the last two weeks researching previous threads troughout the site, as to not be directed the "newbie" section by the die hards here! :bawl: Anyhoo, I have a question for the luthier/DB players out there. Why has the bridge on DB's remained natural and unfinnished on so may DB's for so many years? Personally, I have always seen the bridge stand out like a "sore thumb" on top of so many beautiful finnishes found on DB's. I have woodworking/luthiery skills but not with the DB, so the temptation to apply a light finnish on my bridge has always been on mind. I think it is obvious that an oiled or stained bridge could look beautiful, so what dramatic downside, if any, prevent it from being done frequently? Does anyone have any facts or opinions on the +/- effects of a stained or oiled bridge?
  2. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    If you get a good quality rock maple bridge with a nice flake, I think they look pretty snazzy in the buff. That being said, I can't imagine a stain would hurt, although, it may be tough to get it to penetrate that maple.

    Oil intuitively seems more problematic, although in my state of novice-hood, I can't get my head around why.
  3. Input... very nice :D That being said Chasarms, I very well may put a light coat of stain on my bridge. Niether stain or oil would be a problem with rock maple though, almost all wood is porous enough for absorbtion, especially with multiple applications. But why is it that we as DB players, never see this? I feel there must be a reason, but then again, maybe it's just an age old tradition.
  4. Damon Rondeau

    Damon Rondeau Journeyman Clam Artist Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2002
    Winnipeg, baby
    Most bridge wood is quite exceptional wood. It's very high quality, beautifully aged, quarter sawn maple. As Chas points out, it's usually full of the flecks and medullary rays you get with quartered wood. The wood and the bridges are often produced by really old firms using stock and methods that go back generations.

    It's strictly personal taste, but as a woodworker and a bass player, I'd never stain one. I find the plain look of a well-dressed bridge to be beautiful just as it is, and it just gets better the longer that bridge has been on the bass. You can only get that beautiful dark honey blonde colour one way, and that's to wait for oxygen to do its work.

    But if I was to stain one I'd use a very weak solution of water-soluble aniline dye and shoot for that same aged maple colour. Dye, not stain. Stain is paint, basically, and paint covers over stuff.
  5. Good call with the dye Damon. I just cant imagine waiting all those years for the oxidization! Stain is simply not the solution for accenting medullary rays and other grain patterns. I figured oil is probably a bit heavy, and might seal the wood and prevent it from oxidizing at a good rate. Dye would be a great way to kickstart that look and maintain benificial properties of aging etc. Does ayone know of any high quality bridge manufacturers or suppliers? Something that I could look forward to playing on for a lifetime, or aging with so to speak?
  6. Just found some info you posted Damon. "Dick Tools" sound familliar? sounds like bridge porn to me.. :eyebrow:
  7. nicklloyd

    nicklloyd Supporting Member/Luthier

    Jan 27, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    Some luthiers like to put a coat of Danish oil- i.e. Watco- on their bridges. It seals the endgrain, aids in rosin-removal, and gives the bridge a nice look. I haven't seen a bridge finished with colored oil, but I guess it could be done...
  8. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    I put danish oil on my bridges.
  9. A few weeks in smokey bars have done the job nicely this far...if they prohibit smoking in public places here too, I guess I´ll have to start thinking about waxing or staining.

  10. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    I sometimes dunk my bridges in a vat of thinned linseed, then dry them in the sun, or in a warm spot. Gives them a nice aged look and protects a little bit. I've not heard any tonal difference between bare and oiled.
  11. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002

    mmmm..glazed bridges...Do you do jelly filled ?
  12. Brent Norton

    Brent Norton

    Sep 26, 2003
    Detroit, MI
    Glazed bridges down at Krispy Kreme...

    I use a drying oil dye for black bridges, and have not heard any differences in comparison to the bare counterpart. You could indeed add a little color to your oil, be it watco, boiled linseed, etc. If you decide against oil, Damon's got the right idea in shooting a thinned dye.
  13. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001

    I've had this picture of varnished/stained/painted bridges in my head since this thread started. I've been trying to push back the picture, but it's like trying to forget what the WTC burning and crumbling looked like from the roof of my building. A friend of mine (a pianist) refinished a ply bass and stained the back of the neck to match. There's another sight I can't forget.
  14. ctcruiser


    Jan 16, 2005
    West Haven, CT
  15. Jazzin'

    Jazzin' ...Bluesin' and Funkin'

    I'm considering doing it myself. But I'm scared of getting stain or dye on the strings, pickup or bass. How do I avoid this without taking the bridge or strings off? I was thinking of having it the same color as the back of the neck to match. Is a dye or stain recommended?

    EDIT:After rereading the previous posts, the water soluble aniline dye seems best. But what's the best procedure without taking off the strings? Should I put tape everywhere? Or if I'm carefull enough, I shouldn't get dye anywhere else, right?
  16. nicklloyd

    nicklloyd Supporting Member/Luthier

    Jan 27, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    I would purchase a canvas bag of lead buckshot (10lb bag... sold at gun supply stores) to aid in your project. In other words, lay the bag over the soundpost area of the top, tune the strings down, and remove the bridge. Staining the bridge with it still on the bass is a very dangerous idea. Do yourself a favor and take the bridge off the bass first.
  17. Jazzin'

    Jazzin' ...Bluesin' and Funkin'

    What about using a very small brush? Can dye be applied with a brush or must things be dipped into dye?
  18. nicklloyd

    nicklloyd Supporting Member/Luthier

    Jan 27, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio
  19. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    Originally Posted by nicklloyd
    Do yourself a favor and take the bridge off the bass first.

    When you stain the bridge in place, you'll get some on the bass and it doesn't come off. When you oil it on the bass, the oil seeps in between the top and the feet of the bass, gluing it on quite effectively. Then when the bridge is removed for some other work, quite a bit of top wood is torn up with it. Your luthier will not be amused, and neither will you!

    If you're completely unwilling to take the advice of experienced repairmen, don't ask the question in the first place. Just go ahead and gain your own experience! :)

    Have a happy, Jake
  20. Jazzin'

    Jazzin' ...Bluesin' and Funkin'

    Lemon oil eh?