This instructable is based (bass-ed) on an old double bass that I bought some years ago. The previous owner had it looked over by a proffesional instrument builder, that more or less declared its death. It had been repaired so many times, that there was repairs on the repairs. the amount of hours it would take a proffesional to repair this instrument would greatly surpass the value of it. But I have time and I have the will to do this, so I bought it and began my journey.
Step 1: Some of the Damages.
The main reason that this bass couldn't be played any longer was because of the neck. Recent repairs indicated that the head piece had broken off, or at least had started to break off. To repair this would mean that an entirely new neck had to be made.
I found a workshop that deals with violins and cellos, and had them have a look at it. Together, we came to the conclusion that the procedure for the neck repair, should be the same one as people used in older days to extend the length on the neck for violins. Not sure, but I think the procedure is called "anschäftung" in German.
This basicly meant that I would keep most of the head piece, but would have to hollow it out a bit, to make room for a new neck. Fun!
Step 2: To Make an Omelet, You Need To...
This was the scariest part of the process. I didn't know how it was put together, so I had to try my ways arround. The fingerboard was glued on with hide or bone glue, so taking it of didn't take that much of an effort. All I needed was to apply heat to the fingerboard for a short while, and then the glue had softened enough, so that I could pry it open and detach it.
It wasn't untill then that I found out just how bad the bass was damaged. The headpiece litterally fell off when the fingerboard came off.
After taking the necessary measurements on the length of the neck and angles and all, i finally amputated what was left of the broken neck.
Step 3: Making and Inserting the Neck. Pt 1
I had a piece of scandinavian maple for the neck and the grain seemed a bit bore coarse than the on the old neck, so in order to strengthen it, I cut it in half and mirrored the pieces and glued them together. In that way, the pulle in the arm will be greatly redused, when affected by humidity.
Unfortunately, I forgot to document when I hollowed out the head piece :(
It was done with a deep hole cutter; a kind of horizontal drill with a router bit instead of a drill.
Step 4: Making and Inserting the Neck. Pt 2
Here you can see how I fitted in the neck into the head piece. After proper glueing (I used a standard white glue), I chiseled out the insides of the head piece to bring it back to its original shape.
Step 5: Bring Out the Lathe (and Other Stuff)
Since this project wasn't a restoring project, but rather a repairing project, I took the liberty to turn some new knobs for the machine head and the end pin. I also made a new tailpiece. I found a good slab of makoré for this. It is a lot harder than the maple that had been used for the older parts, so I hope that it will give a better sustain and not be too brittle.
Step 6: First Test
Here I am testing out how everything fits. It still has a bit to go, but I'm getting there.
Step 7: Cosmetic Repairs
The bass had some pretty serious damages on the sides. They had been worn down quite a bit through extensive use, I suppose. I had to replace some parts of the top with new wood and a new black and white - thingey (forgot the name on those things)
The archtop on the bass is made from two huge pieces of spruce, so I found a new piece of spruce that had just about the same kind of coarsness in the grain as the archtop. I had to wash of the lacquer so that I could get a better picture of all the damages. It almost looked even more beautiful withouth the lacquer. When the dark color came of, it exposed some marvelous medullary rays that otherwise hadn't been seen. When I lacquer it again, I will make sure to use a brighter color, so those rays will show.
Anyway, i lined up the grain in both pieces, so when the new piece has been patinated to look like the other, you will not be able to notice the repair.
Step 8: Mounting the Fingerboard.
Most of this was made long before I discovered the wonderful world of Instructables, so I unfortunately I have lost a lot of footage on my work. Though I hope that repairs won't be necessary in the future, i took the precausion of using bone glue, so if anything ever (knock on wood) should happen again, it would be relativeliy easy to repair it.
A while has gone since my last entry on this project. Here you can see the glued on finger board. I used HHG (Hot Hide Glue) for the mounting. I came to enjoy working with HHG quite a lot. It has different abilities than you average Joe wood glue, and it shrinks a little when it cures. That actually helps in making the seams a lot tighter.
Step 9: Mouniting the Neck. Super Scary!
Ok, so maybe a lot of people that know how to do this will facepalm seing this picture, but I didn't really have any idea of how to mount it the right way, so I had to improvise. I had my dad help me out on this step, and we even practiced it a couple of times before glueing.
What I did was this:
1. Obviously started with aplying the glue.
3. Inserted the neck in the dovetail shaped fitting on the body.
4. Used a cargo strap to apply the inwards pressure on the fitting.
5. Mounted the E-string and the G-string to aim in any last adjustments on the angle and also to increase pressure on the fitting.
Believe it or not, but it actually worked! The neck was as straight as I could have hoped for, and completely fixed in its posistion. Phew!
Step 10: Putting Back the Sound Post.
When I first bought the bass, I was a little surprised to find a stick rattling arround inside of it. I was about to throw it away, when a wise old violin builder told me that it was a sound post, and that it had a crucial role in transporting the sound waves out in the entire body of the bass, thus giving it a substantial increase in sustain. It also relieves some of the stress from the pressure from the bridge.
So this is how I mounted it back.
1. I took an old shoelace from a pair of boots, and a wire coat hanger, brutally deformed into a hook.
2.I tied the shoelace arround the post and used the wire coat hanger to grab the lace from inside the body.
3. I could see a small depression in the wood inside the body, where the post had been before, so after a bit of tinkering, i finally managed to put it in place. I then used the shoelace to tighten it against the inside of the deck.
4. Voilla! the sound post was back in its spot. I used the coat hanger to untie the knot.
Step 12: Making a Nut. Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney Would Be Proud.
The old nut had gone missing since long, so I had to fabricate a new one, but where do one find Ivory in these days?
I was lucky to find out that one of my friends were about to through out a really old piano. I payed him a visit with my trusty old handsaw, and gave that old piano a brutal finish. I sawed of all the keys. So all of a sudden, I had quite the collection of both ebony and ivory to work with... Recycling is sexy!
So I made the nut of the piano ebony, with a white stripe of Ivory through it, so I will always remember where it comes from.
I then used my handfiles to mark out where the strings should be. I had my little assistant with me as well, never know when you need good advise from a two year old.
In the last picture you can also see that I mounted the pegs. I need to replace the screws one day. It feels a little cheap to use regular wood screws instead of brass screws.
Step 13: Adding Shellack
I bought a small bucket of shellack flakes. Since i fell in love with the fantastic pattern on the top plate created by the medulary rays in the spruce, I wanted to use a finish that had the least amount of color.
Making shellack was surprisingly easy. I took som alcohol and some flakes ( I can't remember the excact sollution) I put both of the ingredients in a small mason jar. I then put it in a pot with hot water. Not boiling hot, just warm anough to speed up the dissolving process. When all the flakes were completely dissolved, I had my very own ready-to-use shellack.
I made a small ball out of cotton using an old cut up t-shirt. I then dapped the ball in shellack, -just a little bit, and then, with small cirkular movements, apllied the shellack to the bass.
The bass was already pretty roughed up, so I knew beforehand, that a perfect piano glossy surface would be impossible to achieve. I didn't have any ambition of making that either. I just wanted a silky-glossy finish, which I think I managed pretty good.
Step 14: Assembling This Thing! Weeeeii!
Sorry for the lack of footage here. In this single picture, you can see me making a make shift sollution for the tail gut. I used an old E-string from another bass, that I didn't use. This has worked out ok. I need to get my hands on a real tail gut one day, but this wil have to do right now.
The feeling you get, when you apply your strings and start tuning them is nothing less than overwhelming. It was a magical feeling to actually be able to play this instrument finally.
Step 15: End Result! Me and Blondie
So there we are! Providing smooth dinner music at a big summer event for young adults in stockholm.
I learned from one of the many kind comments, that an unvarnished bass is called blonde, so I named the bass "Blondie".
She sounds fantastic! It feels good to finally be able to play an instrument my own size.