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Building a Plywood Bass

Building a Plywood Bass

by Richard Ennis

Originally published in American Lutherie #3, 1985 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume One, 2000

see also,
In Praise of the Plywood Bass by Frederick C. Lyman, Jr.



Here is the basic design of one of the more unusual instruments I build in my workshop. This plywood three-quarter double bass of approximately 90 liters is built to a design that increases durability and ease of transport with reduced cost and maintenance. It has proved to be very popular with musicians and attracts the attention of nonmusicians as well.

The demand for an instrument such as this is widespread. Quality double basses are scarce and very expensive, and certainly beyond the reach of beginners, schools, part-time bands, and those musicians who might take it up as a second instrument. An instrument of this design can be easily purchased and cared for and makes an ideal community instrument.

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Violin Top Removal

Violin Top Removal

by George Manno

Originally published in American Lutherie #5, 1986 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume One, 2000



One of the most difficult repairs to perform on a violin is removing its top after it has been glued with a yellow or a polyvinyl white glue, such as Titebond. These glues do exactly what the name implies: Their main objective is to close the separation between the rib and the top or back permanently. Violins are built in such a way that they can be taken apart if necessary. On many occasions, we have seen instruments come into our shop that were repaired by amateurs using whatever glue was available at the local hardware store. Apparently, thoughts of future adjustments to the neck or bass bar are not considered. Efforts to remove the top without damaging it after such glues have been used were, for a time, a cause of great distress to us.

We have found a way to dissolve such a bond without harming the table, ribs, or back. Using a number of thin artist’s spatulas, a syringe, and some warm vinegar, along with a lot of patience, the removal of the top can be done successfully and the repair completed in a few days.

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This article is part of our premium web content offered to Guild members. To view this and other web articles, join the Guild of American Luthiers. Members also receive 4 annual issues of American Lutherie and get discounts on products. For details, visit the membership page.

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The Red (Spruce) Scare

The Red (Spruce) Scare

by Ted Davis

Originally published in American Lutherie #2, 1985 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume One, 2000



Did you ever feel that Murphy (you know, the one who wrote Murphy’s laws) lived close by and visited your work area every time you opened the door? He seems to be a permanent fixture in my shop. Anytime two things can go wrong, the worst one always does! But that rascal must have taken a vacation recently. Let me relate the events of the last few months and see if you don’t agree.

One Sunday while visiting a friend, I picked up the Sunday paper, a luxury I long ago gave up for financial reasons. An article on acid rain in the Great Smoky National Park struck my eye. As I read, I learned that a young PhD candidate was studying the effects of acid rain on the red spruce (Picea rubens) in the park. I reflected on how often I had coveted these magnificent spruces. A single log would give me a lifetime of tonewood. I had even visited park headquarters and inquired about obtaining a piece of a fallen tree. The answer was not “no,” but emphatically “no!” All trees must stay in the park and be left to decay naturally.

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Quick Cuts: The 13-string Chiavi-Miolin Guitar

Quick Cuts: The 13-string Chiavi-Miolin Guitar

by Johannes Labusch

Originally published in American Lutherie #83, 2005



The preconception of what a classical guitar has to look like may spring from our desire to find the definitive, the classic look and feel of what we cherish. The familiar visual signals give us a certain peace of mind, the reassuring feeling that something has found its final, perfect, and most satisfying shape.

I had known Swiss luthier Ermanno Chiavi’s guitars to be firmly rooted in that straightforward philosophy. But constant improvement has been as much a mark of his development as a steady and firm belief in tradition. I own a Chiavi guitar built in 1996, and it is proof of his solid no-nonsense style. At the same time, it illustrates his keen curiosity and sense of experiment: The body is made from beautiful bird’s-eye maple, and the inlays around the soundhole represent a row of maple leaves.

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In Praise of the Plywood Bass

In Praise of the Plywood Bass

by Frederick C. Lyman, Jr.

Originally published in American Lutherie #4, 1985 and Big Red Book of American Lutherie Volume One, 2000

see also,
Building a Plywood Bass by Richard Ennis



It has been said that in order to produce fine wines, one must have had generations of alcoholics in one’s family. Only then can one approach the problem with the necessary patience, devotion, and understanding that will result in superior, classic vintages. Mere cleverness or mere industry will not suffice; one has to be locked into the project by the merciless and irreversible forces of destiny.

Similarly, those who are involved in the production of bass sounds seem to require a kind of demonic motivation. They must be attuned, in a special way, to the pulsations of the subaudible register, the tone-feelings that seem to arise from the nether regions. From this unholy obsession with the depths of auditory sensibility comes a fundamental understanding which will forever elude the fiddlers and flautists.

What we mean is that bassists have a deep need to make those sounds, and they will find a way to do it. It’s not a question of what is practical or expedient or wise: Bassists are driven. They have a pathological fascination with deep sounds; they are not well without them.

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This article is part of our premium web content offered to Guild members. To view this and other web articles, join the Guild of American Luthiers. Members also receive 4 annual issues of American Lutherie and get discounts on products. For details, visit the membership page.

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