Johannes Cuypers Mid-1700s - Repairs

The main damage from the accident was sustained by the top plate of the bass which was crushed in by impact leaving the plate with several cracks, one of which was a very long lateral crack running from approximately 3 inches below the bass side bridge foot up the bass bar approximately 12 inches, involving the bass side ff hole as well.  There were several other top cracks created and re-opened due to this impact. On the interior of the top plate, the bass side lateral crack showed that the impact had completely torn the bass bar loose from the top plate and torn open the lateral crack with it. Also on the interior, much prior top plate repair work had been knocked loose and much inferior work done at an earlier date (visible by the amount of oxidation on the repairs ) had long since failed, and was falling off, much of which had been loosened by the accident.

Other sustained body damages in the accident included the re-opening of numerous long rib cracks and failing old rib repairs involving corner blocks, neck and end blocks; a re-opening of a poorly executed prior neck repair exposing a screw driven into the neck; and a minor back crack and back center seam opening.

This job took a very long time. Well over a year. But the results were dramatic, and another fine bass was saved from the wreck pile. I am very grateful to the owner of this fine bass for choosing me to do this restoration and allowing me the time and patience necessary to complete such an involved and complicated restoration. 

There are many more photos of this repair (as well as numerous other similarly damaged and repaired basses) in my personal library. Well over ten thousand photos. Too many to list all here. Enjoy this brief selection of photos and the process of a complete restoration of this fine double bass.

Repairs To The Top Plate

Removal of all old work was necessary for the top plate. The pictures below show much of the process: removal and repair of the top plate with plaster cast pressing, multiple breast patches to both reinforce new and old cracks, but also to add physical structure to the plate in high tension areas where it was originally thin and weak; a new bass bar; installation of a sound post patch through breast patch to further reinforce the heavily damaged soundpost area; a full plate re-edging; and numerous other top plate cracks that were re-opened in the accident and were repaired and reinforced. 

Repairs For The Ribs

Complete stripping of old repairs. The photos below show much of the original work prior to removal and the resultant repair process. All long rib cracks, many of which had completely re-opened, needed to be cleaned out of the original failed glue and rejoined, inch by inch to achieve realignment of each side of the crack. After which all the long rib cracks on the upper and lower bouts required full rib ‘relining’ reinforcement with narrow, flexible strip patches; re-attaching ribs to the original corner and end blocks where necessary; reinforcing all corner block/rib joints with multiple layers of linen; and finally replacing old rib to plate linings where necessary.  N.B.: During the process  of this restoration no attempt was made to ‘re-straighten’ the heavily warped ribs as is done in many other instances. It is my contention, especially with this particular bass, that the ribs had achieved their current shape over the course of 250+ years, and should be left this way due to the nature of this unique asymmetrically shaped ‘free-form’ bass. It was therefore my task to find a way to reinforce the ribs in their present  ‘distorted’ shapes. The resulting methodology of repair achieved the goals of retaining the original distorted shapes of the ribs, reinforcing the numerous long rib cracks, and also maintaining each individual rib’s inherent flexibility (the original rib thickness was 1.2mm thick. Very thin for any double bass, but the flexibility of these thin ribs added to the bass’s inherent singing woody/reedy quality of sound).

Repairs For The Neck

A long, lateral crack in the neck had reopened exposing a previous repair: a screw driven into the neck to stabilize a long crack in the neck 5-6 inches below the pegbox. The repair: A new neck was grafted to the original peg box and scroll to replace the cracked neck, and as an additional benefit, included new, stable wood for a lower neck heel shape.


For a more detailed view, select a photo below.

Michael F. Magee, Luthier, LLC.

337 Crestview Rd.

Slippery Rock, PA 16057

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