Sign in to follow this  
Andrew_Easterling

The Incredible Shrinking Double Bass.

Recommended Posts

Hey Folks,

 

A little background,  I studied classical bass in college then spent a few years working in a violin shop doing setup work and minor repairs. All this to say, I'm not a total amateur at luthier work but I've never really done anything very advanced. Now, on to my incredible shrinking double bass.

The bass I've owned and played on for the past ten years is, quite literally, tearing itself apart at the seams. The back keeps separating from the ribs on the lower treble bout. I've reglued it a couple times but it keeps reopening. Currently the opening is from about four inches to the left of the end block(to the bass side of the instrument) all the way around to about four inches below the treble c bout (I haven't reglued it in over a year). It's massive.  I think the back is shrinking and warping and so it is separating from the ribs but it's also putting torque on the rest of the instrument. This has caused cracks in the ribs to also appear. There are rib cracks on the upper treble bout and on both c bouts where they meet the lower bouts. Theres also a center seem gap on the top and a bass bar crack. 

Now, it may just be that this instrument is doomed and there's nothing to do but start saving my pennies and get a new bass, but is there something I can do to save this on? I'm currently borrowing a friends bass and I'm up for a big project. Could sandbagging the back help to release the tension it's building up? Would that stop the warping? 

 

Let me know if theres any other information I can provide. 

 

Best,

Andrew Easterling

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. How old is it.

2. What kind of wood is it made of.

3. What is the average humidity where the bass lives.

4. Need pics of everything but the dog and cat.

5. Do you ever use it to snow board, or  as a boat or dog house.

Evan's bass repair

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Here's a link to a google album with my photos:

https://photos.app.goo.gl/sB56x6rol5VpXY0Y2

 

I was told the bass was made in 2005 but there's no label. The name on the back seems to say Hamburg Handcraft, though it's hard to read. 

I can't give you the exact humidity. I live in Boston, I have a radiator for heat and a window unit for AC. Winters are brutal here but I don't think it's a particularly dry place. I did study in Mississippi, and that's where I bought the bass so I'm sure the difference in humidities is stark. 

As for the wood, I've always mindlessly said it was maple back and sides with a spruce top but the figuring on the ribs is certainly unusual. Slab cut maybe? The back still looks like maple to me 

 

Nope! I've always meant to learn to snowboard but haven't yet gotten around to it.

 

Thanks for taking the time to respond. Let me know if there's anything else I can tell you about it. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My guess is that, based on your travels, that it is a combination of raw materials that were either not well seasoned or are particularly sensitive to humidity changes and the fact that you probably haven't controlled the humidity in your living spaces as well as the instrument required.

 

If it is insured, you are fine, if not, you might want to consider that in the future. You probably need better humidity control.

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That looks like low humidity problem. Freezing air in Boston that gets heated will be close to zero humidity and your bass shrunk like crazy especially f it spent first years of it's life in wetter environment. If teh bass was made out of wet wood it would fall apart within first few years unless it was stored in very wet place. The wood of that thickness will take month or so to equalize with surrounding air and the stresses will be slowly released by tearing wood apart or opening joints. Typical are the rib cracks- the blocks don't shrink lengthwise abut the ribs will much more (especially if they are further from quartered)

I would guess the bass could be of Romanian origin made at factory for export, often sold in white and finished by the retail shop. I've seen quiet a few like that ans even finished one few years ago. You could get decent one (arch back with corners and ebony board) in the white for under 2000EUR. Too bad they are assemled with white glue.

First of all, remove the strings. The tension of strings will make every damage magnitude worse.

My suggestion would be disassembly of the bass - top and back need to be removed from ribs and perhaps even ribs removed from blocks at least in the places where they shrunk and cracked (to close the cracks). Let the whole stash of wood acclimatize in humidity controlled room (at 40-45% RH - weigh the wood till it is stable). Some repairs could be done before this, some would be better done after the parts are stable. Assembly would be tricky as there is great chance that the back and top will no longer fit the ribs and the ribs will need to be shortened. That could be huge effort but this could be done by easier by cutting with saw through center of corner blocks and then gluing them back together (the kerf of saw removes some length, or remove more if needed) , same can be done at neck block (that will help with neck removal as well) and bottom block (perhaps it would be as easy just to replace the whole block). Of course you need to make sure the rib assembly fits both top and back - they likely shrunk in different rate.

Related to your problem. I read that some violin dealers loosened tops and backs from valuable violins for transfer from europe to USA - they feared the humidity during transport (by ship) and then lower humidity at destination would hurt them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would find it unusual to have an instrument self destruct after ten years. After one or two years, yes, but not that far out. What kind of conditions are you storing it in? At this point, you really need to take it to a really good bass luthier. In my opinion, the top really needs to come off, and get re-stabilized flat. With the top off, the ribs can be repaired. Getting the top flattened out and stable may take some time.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 minutes ago, FiddleDoug said:

Getting the top flattened out and stable may take some time.

It's the back that is badly deformed. Top needs bass crack repair and centerseam reglue... so both will likely need to be removed. If the centerseam was glued with white glue it will be PITA to glue it succesfully again.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.