This restoration of an old Italian bass posed many
problems. The biggest problem was in dealing with the ribs-very
thin, as many Italians are-and well hammered. Usually, when ribs
are as cracked as these were, they are doubled. This process involves
gluing cross-grained wood to the entire inside surface of the ribs.
While this is an effective repair, it also deadens the tone of the
bass. I felt this bass deserved a better solution and I alternated
thin strips of spruce with linen. This resulted in a very light
and responsive rib assembly. The down side to this is that it took
far, far longer to do than if I had doubled the ribs. This was because
each strip required 5 clamps and either adjacent side another 4
or 5 to keep all the cracks joined in the gluing process. Only one
strip could be accomplished in one day.
Some luthiers frown on linen repairs. One reason is that it is often used as
a quick fix and is frequently relied upon by amateurs. In these
situations linen often buzzes. However, there is ample precedent
for expert use of this material. Strad used it, as did most of the
truly fine makers. When properly used it is much lighter and more
flexible than wood, while still providing strong repair. I use the
finest grade artist linen and take great care in its application.