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MaestronetLurker

Bass Neck Graft

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I have a low end carved bass in the shop with some pretty dramatic pegbox damage and a broken neck.  The instrument was purchased for $4,000 new in 2007.  The pegbox could be preserved if I did a graft, but I'm not sure it's really worth it on this level of instrument.  I'm tempted to get a precarved neck, possibly from the original factory if they'll do it.  I haven't done a bass neck graft, so I have no idea of the realistic quote.  Can anyone give a time estimate for a bass neck graft?

 

Most of my repair prices are based on an old survey from the 90's that I extrapolated to get average times based on the labor rates in the survey.  For tasks that I don't do often enough it helps to reference such statistics.  All my bass pricing is based on this, since I only started working on basses within the last few years.  For a neck reset (including removal) I have 18 hours (12 for cello and 8 for violin) or without neck removal 12 hours (8 for cello and 6 for violin).  Seems a little bit on the high side, but I'm not great at tracking my time precisely. 

 

Also, what is the general guideline for the relationship between the inside of the pegbox and the neck width?  It seems to me that there's a structural issue when the inside of the pegbox is wider than the neck, but I can't find any specs on what is 'proper'.  Thanks for all your input.

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Yes, pictures would be a big help, but I see your dilemma. Is it faster/easier/less work/cheaper etc. to just replace the neck with a pre-carved neck (which you will only find in the white) or go to heroic measures to re-construct and repair this one?  (don't forget that with a new neck, you'd have to put on a fingerboard, either new or from the old neck) plus finish-matching etc. 

 

If you really do have all the pieces of the pegbox and the broken neck, I'd lean towards heroic repair if the neck joint is still sound.  Depending on where the break is in the neck, I'd even look at pulling a pegbox/neck section from the old boneyard, and grafting that on, instead of heroically repairing a badly shattered pegbox - that job can really be a pain and you don't have much room for error there - that repair really has to be strong or it will just pull itself apart under tension... Post some pics!

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I can't say how I'd charge to graft a bass, I've only ever done one, and that was on a new bass.

 

On the pegbox and shoulder relationship, I always make the inside corners of a cello box very rounded, just squaring them off at the top of the wall, especially so on a wide pegbox.

 

Also, I don't hollow out the sides of the chin as some do. I leave them square as they meet the shoulder, and hollow them from there out. The chin still looks light and nicely formed, you have to look to see that it is straight at the shouder.

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I'll try to get some photos tomorrow, but I ran out of space on my phone and I need to figure out how to make space.  I deleted a bunch of photos, but it didn't change my available space.

 

The neck break is in the heel within the mortise, and was glued before and it doesn't seem like hide glue.  It broke in the same place, and also seems to be doweled.  In order to assess the crack I think I'll be removing the board and having to deal with that dowel.  

 

I don't think I have all the pieces of the pegbox, but I've got a bag of at least a half dozen splinters along with a couple more splinters that I'll have to fish out of the inside of the bass.  Some of the endgrain surfaces are badly mashed, so  they don't go together neatly.  It will be hard to show some of that in a photo.  Essentially, I can get the pegbox itself together within reason, but getting it back onto the neck there are some issues.  

 

Ultimately I'm thinking thinking that a broken neck and pegbox will be somewhat devaluing and a factory replacement or neck graft would not be devaluing.  When weighing that as part of the assessment it makes the graft or replacement more appealing.  

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It is a lot of work for a low end carved bass, but it's still worth about $4,000 when repaired correctly.  The factory does have an unfinished neck available, but I haven't gotten a price on it yet.  For now I'm considering the labor cost of the neck reset to be $1,000, but I'll still have to carve the heel, finish the scroll, install the tuners, and swap the board and nut.  Should come in under half the value of the bass.  It may make more sense to do a graft, but I may be underestimating the time it will take to graft a bass scroll. 

 

Here are the photos.  I can reconstruct that scroll and probably find a way to secure it to the neck in spite of the missing pieces, but I think the neck break will always be a liability.  I'll have to take off the board and extract the dowel, and the previous repair was not perfectly aligned so there will probably be some fibers that won't line up perfectly.  The teacher also thought that the luthier used an alternative glue to make sure it 'never broke again' so I'm not sure what sort of joint I'll be able to get.  Overall it just seems like a lot of repair on this neck and I can't guarantee the neck joint.  Just doesn't make sense to me.

 

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Here's what I found in case anyone is interested.

One shop has the following prices for neck grafts.

violin/viola $1750

cello $2100

bass $3850

The second shop has this

violin $1600

viola $1700

cello $2000

bass $3500

 

That's certainly higher than what I expected.  I'm not sure what they're including in those numbers, but I'm assuming that it's all work.  Perhaps including a new board, not sure whether they'd include a bridge in that number.  With adjustable bass bridges I think you'd be more likely to get away with using the same bridge after a reset.  Assuming the old neck was centered and had a good neck angle.  Either way it would only be a tiny portion of that number.  Both shops appear to use a roughly $60 shop rate.

 

The factory that made the instrument has an unvarnished replacement neck, so I think I'll be able to do this repair at about 1/2 the replacement cost of the instrument.  Still it makes more sense to me than digging out the 2 ebony pins in the neck, repairing that crack again, then piecing together that pegbox and patching the missing pieces.

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