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  #41  
Old 09-10-2010, 12:55 AM
Steve Alcott Steve Alcott is offline
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I'm a big fan of practicality-do whatever needs doing to make the repairs solid-as Ken said, there's no doubt of age here. Your photographic documentation is something I wish more luthiers would take time to do; it's educational, and provides a record for future owners and caretakers.
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  #42  
Old 09-10-2010, 01:06 AM
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Here you can clearly see what I'm doing.

On the left hand side is the colour of the wood as the bass came to me. Yes it is oxidised but also has traces of old glue and no doubt tobacco smoke and other muck. You can clearly see the white new wood i have added, and then the areas I have scraped back to clean old wood in the foreground. I've left, for the moment, a strip alongside the bass bar. If I decide to leave the bar, I'll leave the dark strip as well. If I decide to replace the bar, I'll probably scrape it back too.



The bar looks original, is fairly hefty, and is well-attached. It is however glued exactly parallel with the centre joint, which is not modern practice. At the moment I'm inclined to leave it in place, perhaps reshape it a little, but I'll reserve my decision after the top is fully together and I've had a chat with the client.

Bassbar opinions anyone?
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  #43  
Old 09-10-2010, 02:51 AM
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Thomas Erickson Thomas Erickson is offline
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If the bassbar seems reasonable in size and shape, and has kept the top in shape - why do anything to it just because it isn't how we might make it today?
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  #44  
Old 09-10-2010, 04:51 AM
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Thumbs up Bassbar opinions anyone?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matthew Tucker View Post
Here you can clearly see what I'm doing.

On the left hand side is the colour of the wood as the bass came to me. Yes it is oxidised but also has traces of old glue and no doubt tobacco smoke and other muck. You can clearly see the white new wood i have added, and then the areas I have scraped back to clean old wood in the foreground. I've left, for the moment, a strip alongside the bass bar. If I decide to leave the bar, I'll leave the dark strip as well. If I decide to replace the bar, I'll probably scrape it back too.



The bar looks original, is fairly hefty, and is well-attached. It is however glued exactly parallel with the centre joint, which is not modern practice. At the moment I'm inclined to leave it in place, perhaps reshape it a little, but I'll reserve my decision after the top is fully together and I've had a chat with the client.

Bassbar opinions anyone?
Ok, my opinion.. First off, you have the best view over all of us. Is the grain of the Bar identical to the Top or just a Bar put in Parallel to the center line?

Either way, it is not how we put bars in today as you've said. Actually, I did do one Bar myself back in the mis '70s when I was fixing up basses for re-sale and that bass was integral as well. It took me a full 8 hour day to plane out the old bar and chalk fit in a new one and shape it. I even put some linen pockets at the ends and an 'L' shaped linen patch touching the side of the bar and top near a small crack. It came out great.

Take the bar out and put a new one in that fits this bass, size and width that you can be happy with tonally as well. many many of these French basses were made in factories as well. That is why so many of them look alike rather than from a particular maker. I guess no one alive can tell you how this bass sounds as it was obvious un-played and neglected for a lifetime.

These French Vuillaume style Tops are slightly long and wide, especially in the upper bout area where it's shaped like a cello. I am sure you can make and place a better bar in this bass than was done new.

Fit it well like you have done with the other work and do it without any spring in the bar as well. Then you will know what's in the bass rather than do it later. Once the top is off, replacing the bar is a lot less work. My Prescott was a bass with a perfectly arched and well graduated top. The bar was as old as it was a 4-string bass. It was left in but re-shaped. The old straight set bar shadow was still visible. Also, on my old 4/4 Gamba bass it had a secondary bar as well but was short, narrow and shallow. It looked like a Gut string bar possibly for 3-strings, maybe 4 but was for Gut. The Top shaping/arch was again perfect like with the Prescott bass. Both basses sounded fantastic and looked healthy after the restoration and strung with steel strings and C extension. A healthy top also helps.

Replace the bar with one you feel certain about.
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  #45  
Old 09-10-2010, 06:24 AM
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Thomas Erickson Thomas Erickson is offline
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Ken -

So you assume that if the bar is left as-is, the top will sink under the tension of modern strings? And that ultimately it is better to go ahead and fit a new, stronger bar?
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  #46  
Old 09-10-2010, 06:30 AM
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Cool ??

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas Erickson View Post
Ken -

So you assume that if the bar is left as-is, the top will sink under the tension of modern strings? And that ultimately it is better to go ahead and fit a new, stronger bar?
No, I don't assume that BUT, if the bar is angled more outwards in the lower bout it will spread the sound much better. The current Bar whether integral or not should be replaced while the bass is apart. This is the best and easiest time to do it. Why take the chance?
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  #47  
Old 09-10-2010, 06:51 AM
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Quote:
I guess no one alive can tell you how this bass sounds
Quote:
I don't know why you are doing that. Usually in a restoration of an old bass the oxidation is left in place to show its age. Cleaning the surface of the old wood is common but sanding or scraping doesn't make sense. In fact, if this were my Bass, I would be quite angry about it. Clean, don't scrape away wood. If re-graduation, I can understand. If not, leave it be.
Quote:
if the bar is angled more outwards in the lower bout it will spread the sound much better. The current Bar whether integral or not should be replaced while the bass is apart. This is the best and easiest time to do it. Why take the chance?
Seems to me like if we don't know what the bass sounds like, are attempting to maintain as much originality as possible in a functional instrument, and the original parts haven't compromised the health thus far, than that replacing them might be presumptuous and destructive. Just saying. I suppose it is *just* a bassbar though.
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  #48  
Old 09-10-2010, 06:53 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Thomas Erickson View Post
Seems to me like if we don't know what the bass sounds like, are attempting to maintain as much originality as possible in a functional instrument ...
The problem I have with that approach is the uncertainty of what it sounded like!! The owner and I want a bass that sounds killer, not just a beautiful piece of "original" furniture. So I have to make a few judgements along the way as to how to achieve that.

It's not an integral bar, it's glued in, and the evidence for that is ... glue!

It DID have original gut strings on it, I doubt if it has ever seen steels.

One of the reasons we don't fit bars parallel to the top grain is that doing so is asking for a stress crack along the edge of the bar if the top takes a knock.

I think the other reason is that Strad did it in his violins and everyone copied that!

its a really nice-looking bar but as Ken said I have no idea what the bass sounded like with it so i have no idea if it worked. i'm guessing it did, for gut strings at least.

I don't have to make a decision any time soon. i'm going to do some chladni resonance testing on the top this weekend before i cleat it. Not sure if that will tell me anything, but it might colour my hunches...

thanks for the feedback. it's not a science.

Last edited by Matthew Tucker; 09-10-2010 at 08:22 AM. Reason: more thought
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  #49  
Old 09-10-2010, 09:15 AM
Arnold Schnitzer Arnold Schnitzer is offline
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That bass needs a new bass bar, IMHO. Removing the old bar will also allow you to tweak the graduations beneath it. Having worked on many old French basses like yours, I can state with relative certainty that the top table is too thick for a good, strong tone. The absolutists out there will hate what I've just stated, but as you've said, the owner wants a killer bass, not a decent one.
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  #50  
Old 09-10-2010, 10:38 AM
Brian Glassman Brian Glassman is offline
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Just discovered this thread. Fascinating to see a restoration and process like this in this kind of detail! Matt, you & Arnold and the handful of other luthiers that have these rare skills and knowledge are true magicians. Thanks for sharing!

Nice to see you back, Wayne!

Bri
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  #51  
Old 09-10-2010, 10:32 PM
John Leach John Leach is offline
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Matt, you & Arnold and the handful of other luthiers that have these rare skills and knowledge are true magicians. Thanks for sharing!


+1 I check this thread every evening.



Thanks.

John

Last edited by John Leach; 09-12-2010 at 10:52 AM.
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  #52  
Old 09-10-2010, 10:39 PM
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Matthew Tucker Matthew Tucker is offline
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33.5Hz


45Hz


77Hz


98Hz


119Hz


The plate weighs in at 1908g.
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  #53  
Old 09-10-2010, 11:41 PM
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Matthew Tucker Matthew Tucker is offline
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By the way, i am but Arnold's humble antipodean apprentice ...

Last edited by Matthew Tucker; 09-11-2010 at 12:06 AM. Reason: 'umble
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  #54  
Old 09-10-2010, 11:52 PM
Ken McKay Ken McKay is offline
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Matthew, good work on the restoration.

According to my records that plate is quite heavy and took too much viagra.

If I had it here I would start by trying to thin down the tail area. As a guide I would try to close the ring mode there. Similar to your Siriente iirc.

And then I would take the bar down quite a bit until the sand bounces more toward it on the bar side (mode 2).
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  #55  
Old 09-11-2010, 12:00 AM
Ken McKay Ken McKay is offline
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By taking the bar down I mean at each end, a big scooping taper. You know.

Can't hurt much by doing this, you can always make a new bar.
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  #56  
Old 09-12-2010, 07:45 AM
Pino Cazzaniga Pino Cazzaniga is offline
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Matt,
to my eye that bar looks short and stiff.
I like more longer ones, thinner at the ends and with double countercurve.
Also, I can't see the width from the pics, but it seem to be on the huge side. The wider I made was maybe 23mm, but my average is 21mm.
But.... the bar may be short if ends are glued on a thick area of the plate.
And, if the middle is thick, the bar may be low in height at the F holes area, with less countercurve.
About the "parallel" issue, it looks wrong.
A thing to consider is how the grain runs on the plate.
I can't see it from here, but if the grain is not parallel to the centre line maybe one has to put the bar more parallel than usual to the centre line just to avoid being parallel to the grain, that is dangerous especially at the lower part.
Just ideas for the new bar if you will decide to make one (you are the best judge for it as the instrument is in your hands).
My congratulations for the work you are doing, and thanks for this thread, I'm checking it any time I visit the forum.
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  #57  
Old 09-12-2010, 08:48 AM
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Matthew Tucker Matthew Tucker is offline
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Yes it is a tree trunk, 800mm x 24mm and 44mm high in the centre. After walking around the thing all weekend I'm pretty much decided to replace it, but I might have a little fun with it on the way down. I did think that if only I'd had more foresight, I could have used the wood from the bass bar for those corner repairs ... the grain is almost wide enough at one end!
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  #58  
Old 09-12-2010, 09:09 AM
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Thomas Erickson Thomas Erickson is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pino Cazzaniga View Post
About the "parallel" issue, it looks wrong.
A thing to consider is how the grain runs on the plate.
I can't see it from here, but if the grain is not parallel to the centre line maybe one has to put the bar more parallel than usual to the centre line just to avoid being parallel to the grain, that is dangerous especially at the lower part.
Interesting.
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  #59  
Old 09-12-2010, 10:06 AM
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The grain is parallel with the centre joint, and the bass bar is parallel with that. Dangerous, as you state!
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  #60  
Old 09-12-2010, 04:07 PM
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Ken Smith Ken Smith is offline
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Cool graduations..

Quote:
Originally Posted by wayne holmes View Post
Thanks Brian-it's good to be back to my obsessive compulsive vicious cyclical track i have from the shop to the kitchen, to the computer---I just returned from playing one of those week-end concerts with 10hours of rehearsals, and the concert all packed into 2 days, I feel like I just completed an all day one-man hog-killing-----don't care if I ever again leave my double bass triagle. Thanks Ken for taking me back- I'll try to behave myself-

Matthew, If you do remove the bar and, as Arnold says, tweak the graduation- careful to not overdo it on the amount of wood that you remove. Now, how would I know that one can overdo it?

I would be interested in hearing how others protect the top from being damaged while doing the graduation or while removing a bar- As I think I mentioned before-I tape the entire finish side of the top with a layer of painters tape and then on top of that a layer of duct tape-then clamp the top at each end in a mould made with plaster for the particular top that I am working on.
It is easy to cause a crack when the wood is only a few MMs thick and some of it is old, dry and even a little brittle.
Wayne, maybe we should ask Matt to post the graduations here penciling them on the top so we can see what's what as well as the measurements of the Top in length and bout widths. What might work for one bass may not for another. The strength of the wood, condition, width, length all come into account here. When my Mougenot was opened I asked Jeff Bollbach if the Top needed any correcting as it did seem thick to me, especially from the outer F-hole edges. He replied it was fine and for a Bass this size, the thicknesses are good.

It is easy to take away wood. It is impossible to put the same wood back. Mane of the basses I have had in restoration over the years needed some breast patching to put wood back in from over re-graduating. Less of the basses I put thru shops to restore needed re-graduating or thinning as some call it.

If the bass is left thick (who is to really say if?), then no harm will be done to the bass. If thinned too much, the Top can cave in and crack, needing a huge restoration of re-shaping, crack repairs and breast patches. All because of someones over zealous so called corrections.

Maybe it's like a hair cut. Cut is as short as you like but leave the ears..

Funny thing about that (soory Matt for the de-rail) when I've gone for a hair cut at the mall. They ask if I wanna request anyone (for a small fee), and I say, "someone who's done it before".. lol
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