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About 4 times a year a double bass will come in for repair or restoration.

Yesterday a customer brought in a double bass for a new bridge/ nut and some minor repair.

He mentioned the bass also had a small crack which he hoped I could take a look at. The small crack turned out to be a significant centerseam split (and around the top and back there were several open seams)

Here's where the fun starts.. The customers turns to me and says "don't know how this could have happened, I took real care to condition the bass with olive oil a few times a year"

(And I'm not talking bout a subtle bit of oil on the fingerboard.. He smeared olive oil all over the top, back and sides. You can literally fry an egg on this thing :) )

To keep the cracks/splits from "drying out". He rubbed olive oil in all the cracks, including the centerseam split.

After explaining what this means for my chances of fixing the bass, I told the customer I sleep over it to see if I could come up with any ideas to clean off the olive oil and glue the cracks/ splits and open seams as best as I can.

Anybody with (out of the box) ideas or suggestions to clean out the olive oil?

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Sounds a job for Popeye !

I am no pro, but after reading this forum for sometime ; Naptha, some kind of highly absorbent material like a dentist may have. Patience. Good luck my friend.

I've not had this problem but here's what's on the top of my head:

Plain cat litter (Bentonite clay) ground into a fine dust and gentle heat should draw out most of the oil in the crack edges.  Seal the back of the crack with masking tape and pack it in for a day, vacuum it out and repeat.  Dilute Dawn dish detergent /water should work on the exterior.

This is a pretty odd one alright. In case you are wondering, I am the guy here who usually speaks up first, and sometimes is quite wrong... That being said, here is my two cents: If you can't look the guy in the eye, and guarantee that your repair will hold up, I would be sending this guy on his way. I can't see how this repair would work short of scraping a significant fraction of an inch off of every single crack face that has to be joined. Getting oil out of wood?

 I am not sure that it can be done by any process at all. It sounds like a total lost cause to me. 

Sounds like an adventure for the owner and for you too if you take it on.

Years ago I restored a beautiful old cherry table. The biggest problem was that it had been stored with a leaky chainsaw on top of it. The table probably had a linseed oil finish and the motor oil had made a stain that went pretty deep.

I did a bunch of research to find a way to clean things up without ruining 100 years of patina. I didn't know if what I came up with would work but I felt it was worth a shot as long as I felt sure I wouldn't make things worse.

I scrubbed it with napatha until no more oil would come up. Then I did something similar to Mark's suggestion of using cat litter. Instead of cat litter I used diatomaceous earth. I would gently rub it in and leave it on for several hours, clean it up and repeat the process. I sometimes left a lamp shining on the stain to encourage things.

This did take up a lot of the oil. I continued to alternate between napatha and diatomaceous earth for several days more and the stain was almost gone. At that point I repeatedly wiped the area down with warm distilled water thinking this would float up and out any remaining oil. The stain was virtually gone to the eye but I imagine there was still some motor oil in the wood.

I offer this information should something in it be helpful. I was cleaning oil off of a flat surface that was easily accessible and not going to be glued to anything. Getting oil out of a crack sounds much more challenging.

There is a product specifically for this problem.  Gun stocks are constantly exposed to oil, and as a result are almost impossible to glue when cracked.  "Whiting - Draws excess oil out of gunstocks."

"To use:  Begin by mixing a paste of Whiting and 1,1,1 Trichorethane.  The actual proportions are not critical; the consistency of pancake batter is ideal..... Allow the paste to remain on the stock until the 1,1,1 Trichlorethane has evaporated.  The 1,1,1 Trichorethane will dissolve the hardened oil and grease,... and allow the Whiting to wick the oil out of the pores and fiber of the wood."

The stuff I have used is sold by Brownells of Montezuma, Iowa.

George

One of the methods we used in fine antique furniture restoration to get oil out of wood was to make a paste of cornstarch and water and slather it on the wood.  As it dries it sucks the oil from the wood.  Used it on oily stains on marble as well.  Usually, but not always effective.

it sounds as if the olive oil was just done on the outside.  glue from the inside with small, flat pieces of wood covering the crack, or run a length of wood on the inside along the length of the crack and glue with hot hide glue.  clamp appropriately of course to close the crack first.

Everyone, thanks very much for the quick replies! Those were the kind of "out-of-the-box" ideas I was hoping for. 

(I never would have thought of using cat litter, diatomaceus earth, whiting, or cornstarch.) 

In the meantime I've informed the customer that I wasn't gonna take on the repair (gluing of the cracks/ open seams). It's pretty much a worst case scenario, with little or no chance of success.

Because I have no experience whether any of the previous mentioned options will contaminate, leave residue, or discolour the crack/ bare wood. (or will actually work in getting the olive oil out of the crack/ bare wood). I figured I'd rather experiment with it before actually using it in a repair. 

I greatly appreciated everyones ideas though, thanks once again.

Good conservative approach - I like that.

I'm glad you backed out all I could think of was a little vinegar some Garlic and serve over a bed of lettuce

Just want to say "thanks" to Jelle for posting this unique (to me) question.  IF I ever run across this, I know where to get the info I need: from this post :)  I'm a hopeless 'info sponge'  and this forum NEVER disappoints !!!

@Lonnie...add some croutons and you'll have a fine first course. :)

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