I have a Tacoma bass guitar in my shop. I took it on as a project because of how it was presented to me. When I brought it home and opened the case it is more than the project that was presented. The owner told me that it was put under the bed without humidification for about 6 months. It was in playable condition when it was put under the bed. Now, it's not playable. And I am thinking not...
Anyway, I don't think the owner's story is accurate as to why it's in this condition. Or is it possible it's accurate?
My thoughts are that the top was weak and the string tension finally got to it? The bracing failed? Both? Poor wood? Sat in a car and got hotter than it should (welcome to Arizona!).
I'm looking for thoughts about how to approach this, or not.
As always thanks for your time in replying to this discussion.
Here's more pics of the Tacoma bass guitar.
And one more of the Tacoma bass guitar.
Maybe under the bed in a van parked in the sun for 6 months.
Not totally clear from your photos, but if the top is fractured under the bridge this becomes a much bigger job.
Hard to tell from the shots, but did any braces actually come loose? If not, that's a good thing! If everything's otherwise intact, the heat-and-tension combo probably just pulled the bridge up.
When the string tension is off, does the bridge bulge settle-back down to being somewhat normal? Hopefully it does.
The bridge needs to removed and both it and the top should be thoroughly prepped for a re-glue. Sounds like a fun project.... oh, maybe one that could've been avoided, but here you are ....so have a ball!
Definitely looks like it got hot. That top may well need to be flattened as well once the bridge is removed.
I wrestled with one of these quite a bit... once.
One thing I'd like to point out is that the placement of the sound hole on these makes it really difficult to apply clamps to the bridge with adequate pressure. Removing the pre-amp gives more access, but it needs to be well thought out before diving in with a dry-run or two just to be certain. Seems to be a matter of form over function when it comes to bridge repair on these.
Hi Greg, Mike and Scott.
Thank-you for your replies. Sorry I haven't returned until now but I got bogged down in the end of the year school stuff (I am an elementary general music teacher). I am trying to take better pictures and would like to have further dialogue as to how to approach flattening the top-after the school year ends. So I will post in about two weeks.
I would agree that it is likely more than sitting under the bed. Looks like it got cooked.
The Tacoma Thunderchief basses are quite a bit more sturdy than they appear (besides working on these and Taylor basses, I own four personally and gig regularly with one). Usually the top or backs separating from the sides is the damage you see, particularly in the area of the endpin due to dropping or constantly placing the bass down too hard. Cracked headstocks as well. All can be repaired readily and while it might not look so great, the playability is restored (my player is the testament to this). All the Tacoma basses I have come across were of quality wood and I have never had one with a warped top and lifted bridge like your pictures, which indicates more than storage as the culprit.
As Scott mentions, Tacoma and Taylor basses can be frustrating to work on due to the sound hole positions and the lack of traditional access. By the way, the example you have is one of the rarer high end Tacomas with gloss finish and binding - most are simpler spruce/hog natural finishes. Worth the effort to restore if possible - they are considered a cult classic acoustic bass by many professionals. Good luck!
Wow, it looks like an old Howe-Orme cylinder top guitar - but not in a good way!
You definitely need to flatten that top and rematch the bridge profile to fit the curve of the top. Heat and pressure will help (heat a sandbag in the microwave and place it on the soundboard, with extra weights on top).
Hello John and Mark. Thank-you for taking the time to reply to this post.
John - Great info on the wood used and where this particular bass stands in terms of quality. Would you mind letting me know if there is a radius on the lower bouts of these instruments (or are they flat)?
Mark - I am glad you talk about using heat and pressure to reshape the top. I have been rolling that around for awhile now as to whether or not that could be a direction to go. It seems to me that if the wood was able to reshape itself with heat and pressure then using heat/pressure would put it back the way or almost the way it was before. My question is that will it stay flat, as long as it's not subjected to this conditions that put it in it's current condition? I realize that heat and water are used to bend wood initially. But when bending it back to it's original shape, will the wood respond and retain it's shape the same way it was bent in the first place?
As for the sandbags, I am considering using shotbags (thinking that the buckshot would retain heat). How heavy are you suggesting for putting weight on the top (10 lbs, 15 lbs,)? I'm also thinking that getting some water on the braces while heating the top would be similar to bending, and help it go back to it's original (almost original state) - any thoughts/comments?
Since the bridge and the top warped together would it be a good idea to heat them together or should I remove the bridge and reshape them separately?
Looking forward to your comments and thanks again to both you and John for replying!
Lee, is that a plywood top? I am guessing from the photos that it is ply and has delaminated, with the top layer still attached to the bridge? Or is it solid wood with splinters and glue showing up on the underside of the bridge? Either way I think you are going to need to remove the bridge in order to flatten out the distorted soundboard. Then check carefully for loose braces - like Mike and others said. It is hard to imagine that the top got that distorted without the braces letting go. Can you get a feeler gauge between the top and the x-bracing? to flatten it your thought of a hot shot bag would probably be a good start. How much weight - I don't know. What you suggested seems a good start, then add more if you aren't winning. The next issue will be how much of a defect is there in the soundboard when the bridge is off. Might need to graft in some spruce to fill it. I doubt that you will be lucky enough to get the splinters to all fit back together.