Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sweet Cheeks

Here's an example of a quick repair I'm doing on yet another, older middle European instrument. It seems the scroll busted off many moons ago and was never repaired correctly. For a long time basses were commonly repaired by various woodworkers, but not by violinmakers. It is still quite common for violin shops to turn away basses at the door. I assume it's the sheer size of the instruments that is foreboding....the bigger they come, the more time they consume and the greater the cost of supplies needed to fix the darn thing. But, back to what I was saying.... Often times basses were "repaired" by boat builders, cabinet makers, and generally any other Joe Dude with a workbench in his garage. I've seen basses screwed together with wood screws and necks bolted to blocks. I've pulled numerous staples and nails out of scrolls and necks. I've seen basses held together with Elmer's, hot plastic "glue gun" glue, and even duct tape. Whenever I get a call about "Grandpa's old bass" that's been sitting in the hallway closet for 20 years, I never know what to expect. As is the case with old "sweet cheeks" here. After years of being held together by wood screws and putty, it was time to fix her up the right way. I soaked all the old glue and putty out of the fracture and re-glued with a nice, clean glue seam. Then, to reinforce the break AND to pretty up the outer "cheeks" of the peg box, I removed a 3mm layer of the original wood and replaced it with a new maple veneer. When doing a job like this, it is important to match the chevron of the new wood with that of the old. In this case, the chevron refers to the "V shaped" pattern in the flame of the maple. That way the two woods will move and age similarly and also absorb and reflect light in the same way. With precise varnish touch up, this repair can literally disappear.

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