Wednesday, September 1, 2010
Putting bolts in necks of basses is a really bad idea. I've pulled many screws, bolts and even nails out of necks after Joe dude with a power drill decided that "I'm gonna fix that there broken neck once and fer all! This thing ain't goin' nowhere after I drill this here wood screw into it."
I will admit, it seems like a great idea. I mean, wood screws have been holding various wood items together for years. Fences, furniture, houses etc. And heck, the bass is made of wood, right? Yes, but let's discuss this for a moment. Wood, especially the wood that fine instruments are made from, is very sensitive. It reacts to temperature and pressure changes. It continues to expand and/or contract throughout it's life as a violin or a bass or a guitar or a house or a bookshelf. Think about this. We've all been in or lived in an older home at some point. Ya know how those pesky little nails snag your socks as you walk across the old hardwood floors? Well, the wood in the floors has shifted with age but the metal nails stay exactly the same. Now think about that concept in relation to a musical instrument. Especially on a wooden instrument that is very large and frequently moved around. By putting a rigid metal fastener in the neck it can actually start to force a break open again and then you have a much harder repair to try and fix. "How about using a wooden dowel in place of a bolt?", you ask.... Again, sounds like a great idea but it's not.
A wooden dowel can be just as bad or worse than putting a bolt through the neck. The wood of the dowel is going to shift in a different way than the wood of the neck. They end up fighting against each other most of the time resulting in a break being forced open again. In the case of a broken neck, if a neck graft is unfeasible, just stick with plain old hide glue. Getting a good clean glue joint is the most effective repair. More about neck grafts tomorrow....