Three weeks hath December (rather fewer, in fact) and three weeks hath January, and then it's Bloody February again; with a hey-ho, the wind and the rain.

I was very pleased to get all my book-binding equipment orders finished, crated and sent off before Christmas. All of them seem to have arrived at their destinations.


The assembled lying-press, ready to ship.


Testing the plough.

We had Edward home for a week after New Year's, which meant a possible opportunity to work on the bass, which has been an ongoing project for some years now. Its last appearance in this jourrnal was in June of 2011, when we made the six ribs (bouts). Since then the ribs have been gathering dust here and there in the shop, waiting for an opportunity to work with Ed (who lives in London) and glue them together to make a recognisable beginning to an new instrument.

A short account of January's progress:

We didn't have a lot of time together - there's a good deal to fit into a short visit - but we hauled out the construction form and the laminated ribs. We found that more had been done on the corner blocks than I remembered; even the neck block had been cut and shaped, and temporarily screwed to the form; there was no end block, but a decent enough piece of spruce had been saved for just this purpose. Ed worked on the final shaping of the corner blocks, checking that their curved surfaces were fair, and that the ribs fitted as closely as possible. He also made the end block, and we were then ready to begin gluing the ribs into place.

To be authentic and correct, we should have used hide-glue to attach the ribs to the blocks, but since we were both in new territory I decided to use a standard cabinet-makers' yellow glue (Titebond II). Since this type of glue has a tendency to creep under continuous pressure, it is considered unsuitable for stringed instruments; moreover it is not  reversible - i.e. once glued it cannot be taken apart, unlike the traditional hide-glue, which can be softened with steam or a hot knife, even a century or more after it was used. However, I since can't really see why the corner blocks will need disassembling, and this part of the bass's structure is not under constant stress, why we shouldn't use a glue which gives us a great deal more time to get things into place and clamped.

The first rib to be glued in place will be the centre, or C bout (since it is shaped like the letter C).  Here Edward is clamping up the first one:


Things are going well enough - no disasters, but it is fiddly, getting the clamps and clamping-blocks in the right positions.

Unfortunately Ed's flight left the next day, so that was the end of our joint bass effort for another longish period of time. However we've agreed that I shall continue to work on it alone, so that it can have a hope of being finished…..

To this end I carried on gluing up the remaining four ribs:



Note the fly on the form. With any luck it will crawl under the blue styrofoam strip under the clamping block. When the clamp is tightened, the styrofoam will crush the fly, at the same time creating an even pressure on the face of the rib, and evening out any slight discrepancies in the mating surfaces.


Somehow I seem to have used way too many clamps:

The last two ribs, after this experience, were much easier:


The ribs underneath the form have been planed flush to the form, and the corners finished. How easy it is when you've done it it at least once before! 

Next: fitting the linings and cleaning up.