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worth repairing?

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by droo, Nov 9, 2004.

  1. droo


    Nov 1, 2004
    Oxfordshire, UK
    I bought a bass about 2 months ago via ebay (brave I know, but it was very inexpensive!). It turns out it had been lying around in some guy's garage for some years. It's a Hungarian factory-made bass from the 50s/60s with carved top and laminated back & sides.

    The sound was very woolly on the E and A strings, but I replaced all the strings as a gamble and that vastly improved the sound.
    I noticed that the bridge was warped (toward the fingerboard) and was getting more and more annoyed with the ridiculously high action so, with a view to getting a new bridge fitted, I decided to take it to a local luthier for an assessment.

    The guy (mainly a violin/cello-maker I gather) looked it over thoroughly and advised me that the following needed doing:
    1. replace bridge (as it is on the verge of collapse!)
    2. fingerboard does not have sufficiently concave profile, so that needs planing - but it's only a stained hardwood f'board.
    3. a crack between the bass-side foot of the bridge and the f-hole has been badly repaired and needs re-setting to prevent it spreading across the top
    4. ideally the angle of the neck needs to be altered, as otherwise the bridge will need to be cut down far too low to get a playable action - although as a compromise we could use a smaller bridge...

    I then was talking to another luthier who said that there's no way that a smaller bridge should be used as it would ruin the tone, and would cause problems with soundpost placement etc. He said it would be necessary to alter the neck angle to provide the correct elevation. Therefore, he suggested selling the instrument again and putting the money towards a new budget bass...

    As you can imagine, the cost for the repairs would be considerable - it would double the total amount I paid for it (to about 700-800 pounds).
    However, the first guy said that there have been no major structural repairs and that it is basically a solid instrument considering its class.

    Anyone have any advice or ideas? Are any of the repairs suitable for attempting myself? (obviously I'm not going to touch the neck angle!!)
  2. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    Does it sound good as it is?
  3. droo


    Nov 1, 2004
    Oxfordshire, UK
    Well it is a bit quiet on the low end - but the biggest problem for me is the action - it's almost an inch on the E string (and nearly 3/4" on the G).
    In fact it's a bit quiet full stop, but then I've been told that's often the way with laminated basses...
  4. Matt Ides

    Matt Ides

    May 12, 2004
    Minneapolis, MN
    I dropped some cash on set-up and that almost cost more than the bass (fingerboard plane, Adjustable bridge, new coat hanger, and a few other things).

    I liked the sound of the bass to begin with so dropping the money wasn't a big deal and the sound just got better.

    Currently sounds like it isn't playable for you. You might want to get it playable first before sinking tons of cash into it.
  5. Alexi David

    Alexi David

    May 15, 2003
    Was the second luthier you talked to a bass luthier? This is important, as I once had a cello luthier absolutely destroy my bridge. Get thee to a bass luthier only.
  6. Can't comment on the neck angle - can comment that I had a first class set up on the type bass you've described and it transformed it from dull to ok to delivering a full satisfying sound. I was advised that changing the fingerboard wasn't worth the expense BTW. There are luthier responses in threads on this site describing shims put under the fingerboard as a cheaper way of correcting or improving neck angle. this would involve a new fingerboard too. Don't ask me if its a good idea - ask Bob B, Arnold S, Jeff B. I've never heard anyone do this in the UK but that's not to say they don't do it.
  7. So you would then have a 50 year old east European hybrid in decent playable condition. Can you buy anything better for 700-800 pounds?
  8. Matthew Tucker

    Matthew Tucker Commercial User

    Aug 21, 2002
    Sydney, Australia
    Owner: Bresque Basses, Sydney Basses and Cellos
    Actually I'm wondering why it has such a high action in the first place. Surely someone played it once upon a time, and bridges don't grow even if left in the cellar. Maybe the string tension has pulled the neck forwards?

    If the bridge is as bad as you say it is, and the action an unplayable 1", and you don't have any idea how good it could sound or feel to play, I reckon there's not much to lose by trimming the bridge down yourself to get the right string height. If you can get it remotely playable that way, and it still sounds OK, then a shorter bridge will probably be OK for you.

    If you lay a straightedge along the fingerboard and offer it up to the bridge, make a pencil mark, and then another mark about a centimeter above that, the top mark will give you an idea how much you'd have to cut the slot down to. If it works and still sounds OK then take thee back to a bass luthier for a new bridge - and deny fiddling with it at all ;-) ... you bought it like that, right?
  9. droo


    Nov 1, 2004
    Oxfordshire, UK
    Re: second luthier. I think he is still mainly a violin/viola/cello guy but I am *sure* he has more bass experience than the local luthier... I am going to take the bass to the 2nd guy for a look at the weekend...

    Re: can I buy anything better for 700-800 pounds. I could certainly get something for that... but I don't know if it would be better. Do they make them any better these days than they used to?

    Re: high action:
    actually is it possible that the fingerboard has warped itself "straight" as well? The combination of high action and not enough curvature could point to that? Do non-ebony fingerboards warp more easily than ebonies?
  10. Whew....this is one of the strangest statements i've ever heard! :eek:
  11. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    I suspect your neck is loose or was built with the right angle for gut, but not for steel strings. Your fingerboard is not causing the problem by itself. Check the projection by extending a straightedge against the fingerboard to where the bridge sits. Now measure up from the center of the belly to the straightedge. What's your measurement? BTW, I'm on a mission to root out use of the word "ACTION" on this side of the forum. "ACTION" is a guitar word. Please, in the future, refer to your "string height". Offenders will be sent recordings of bad guitar played with low "action". Jeez, even the heavy classical guys are saying "action" these days. It's like a weird, insidious virus..."action, action, action!" All day long with the "action"! Enough!!!!!
  12. Arnold, you have to get out of the shop. Play some golf, help Barbara with the horses, something.
  13. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    For future reference; "string height" happens at the luthier's, "action" happens in the alley behind the club.
  14. and dont forget, if yall want action, take time away from the bass every once in a while, or learn a song for the lady friend... ;)
  15. droo


    Nov 1, 2004
    Oxfordshire, UK
    Sorry - I'd had a bad day. What I meant is: what is the relative
    quality of a cheap east-european hybrid bass from 50 years ago,
    compared to a cheap east-european hybrid bass made today...?
  16. droo


    Nov 1, 2004
    Oxfordshire, UK
    Just checking - measuring up from the centre of the belly at the end of the fingerboard? 92mm.

    Re: action - Sorry. I'm originally a guitar player. I guess that explains it.

    Well I'm relieved that action doesn't happen at the luthier's. It might destroy my faith in all that's good and pure.

    Actually "purfling" sounds like something that happens in the alley behind the club. :D
  17. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    Wrong measurement. Please re-read my post.
  18. droo


    Nov 1, 2004
    Oxfordshire, UK
    Sorry - 120mm.
  19. olivier


    Dec 17, 1999
    Paris, France
    Wrong again, re-read again :rolleyes:
  20. droo


    Nov 1, 2004
    Oxfordshire, UK
    Here's what I'm doing: putting a straightedge on the fingerboard (in the middle, between the A and D strings) and extending it off the board towards the bridge... Then where it meets the bridge I am measuring the height up from the centre of the belly to where this straightedge touches the bridge.
    If that's still not right then I've been playing the bass upside down all along.... and no amount of re-reading the post is going to help me!