c.1900 German/Czech? Carved 1/2 Double Bass

This poor, beat-up old flatback double bass (1/2 size) has been hanging around the workshop for too long. It's finally passed muster after a week or so of being strung up and it's now ready to return to its longtime owner. It's had innumerable repairs (some terrible, some borderline, some just fine) in the past and the objective here was to shore it up and get it playing again. The body needed tons of seam and crack repairs which took place slowly over time (I only have so many clamps!) and now it seems ship-shape enough.

The neck, on the other hand, had the usual bad split right at the top of the joint with the usual bad repairs applied to it. At this point most shops would tear that neck right off and graft a new one on (a good idea) but economy was the driver here and so... I did what I could. It should be good for at least a decent number of years but I can't guarantee it for the very long haul. As soon as I pulled that part of the project apart I knew I had to get it all back together but I sure didn't want to: the neck pocket, heel area, and damaged neck portion itself was a rat's nest of ugly old repairs. It's only slightly worse than my own Epiphone's badgered joint (which has held steady for years now) but I'm still a little apprehensive due to the nature of all the old repairs.

Despite rickety foundations, the smooth relaxed tone of this carved 1/2 size is pretty impressive. It has about the same projection as most of the 3/4 size instruments I've had come through but not quite the same deep low E response.

The scroll and box were apparently broken for decades and they really showed it... the break was no longer clean at all and little bits of edge wood was missing. Still... after doweling it up... it should be good for a long time.

Rosewood board with Romburg bevel for the E... and a set of Corelli light strings (I like these!) for that mwah sound and gut-style tension. The neck has a pretty distinct scoop to it which means that the average action in the middle of the neck is somewhat high... but it's a good cut for bowing (which sounds nice on this guy). Honestly, with the reduced tension of the 1/2 scale this felt about average playing-wise on the left hand... I was getting little Elsa to jump around and dance while I was testing it out playing Tom Waits-y walking lines...!

Nice f-holes, I think. I cut the bridge legs and installed some adjuster mechanisms. I'm sure the top will drop in winter and those will come in handy.

Good ebony tail... but very plain.

Almost every seam and block on this thing was loose in some fashion or another...

The solid flamed-maple back is flat with a "cant" at the upper bout which is reminiscent of Czech and German basses (or so I gather). The body shape itself is a typical gamba cut.

See how much wood chipped out along that scroll/box break? Oh well... it's stable.

1 comment:

Dave said...

Very nice job! It gives me hope, as I have a very similar project in my own shop...old flatback bass...much abused, poorly repaired...your results gives me inspiration to finish mine!
Dave, Corinth VT