Top Table Deformities

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Pete G, Mar 13, 2002.

  1. Pete G

    Pete G

    Dec 31, 2001
    Northern Virginia
    An older instrument has a number of deformities to the top table. I'm not sure, but I assume these deformities developed gradually over many years.

    In particular, the table has sunk around the feet of the bridge, and has somewhat bulged out in the lower bouts, especially on the treble side. One f-hole "wing" now curves out from the surface of the table, the other curves in.

    The instrument has an excellent sound, but I'm wondering about its future with all the movement that has happened in the table. I know that I need to have a qualified luthier inspect it for possible risk of table collapse, but assuming there's no imminent risk of collapse, has anyone had any luck at having a table reshaped to original form? If you didn't have to do so (because of imminent risk), would you bother?
  2. Joe Taylor

    Joe Taylor

    Dec 20, 2001
    Tracy CA
    Get it to someone who know what they are doing ASAP. The kind of problems you describe are a bad thing.

    Is this a plywood bass or a carved bass?

  3. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    All wood basses sink in some. If it's extreme there is a way that a luthier can bring it back up a little, but I'm told that you only get a percentage of the repair over time as it will sink back in a bit.
  4. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    G of Pete-

    I’m not sure if you own the bass or are contemplating such but it’s a good thing you are trying to understand this situation. This plate distortion may or may not be a sign of trouble to come. Just because a top plate has sunk does not mean it IS sinking. Many times I saw a player told that their sunken top was extremely dangerous and they needed to restore it ASAP. Later I would ask them---How long has it been like this? Oh, I bought it like this twenty five years ago. Of course that doesn’t mean that it is NOT a concern. It should be looked at by a competent luthier[whatever that means].
    I addressed this issue at length on my “Luthier’s Rant’ on my site. If you are interested go to Rant>bass bar. If you have further queries I would be happy to put in my two cents.
  5. Pete G

    Pete G

    Dec 31, 2001
    Northern Virginia
    Thanks, Jeff. Your rant makes a lot of sense, and is entertaining (as always).

    On this bass, I strongly suspect that most of the sinking happened during the Teddy Roosevelt administration.
  6. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    Most basses with sunken tops sound really deep. Often when you re-arch the top and install a new bass bar and reinforcements the bass loses some of that depth. Keep in mind that one of the reasons it sounded so deep was that the top table was weak, and therefore vibrated like hell in response to string input. After restoration some of that heavy bottom may be gone. But the good news is that the definition and tone complexity should improve. Buying a bass with a sunken top is chancy--will it sound better or worse after inevitable repairs? IMHO sometimes it's a good idea to have a talented luthier (like Jeff Bollbach who is of course too busy but always has time to regale one with gross medical stories) build a new top for the instrument. Save the old, worn out top and hang it on the wall. Of course if the bass has historical value this is not really an option.