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GLUES — crazy talk I tell ya' [continued]

Years ago there were only two choices of adhesives-hide or white glue [carpenter's glue]. Amateurs used white glue and this led to problems for pros that had to re-glue a joint closed with it. White glue does not easily dissolve. Warm water only softens it and while vinegar and other acids do have some dissolution powers, white glue is still very difficult to remove and the removal process often damages the wood. I hate it.

While carpenter's glue majorly sucks, it pales in comparison to its evil brethren - epoxy and CA glue. These glues are for all intents and purposes inert in lutherie use. This means that once they are in there they ain't comin' out. Well, "Those glues are very strong, what about a permanent repair?" you might ask. There are no permanent repairs unless by permanent you mean this - "Yes well WE did fix this ten years ago and the problem is back. The bass must have been hit or perhaps you are not humidifying properly. Don't worry WE will fix it again and by the way here's a whopping bill you can send your insurance company."

A bass expands and contracts with the weather. It vibrates when you play it. The glue joints are constantly tested. It is often seen with hide glue repairs that a crack will appear open in dry conditions yet will close back up when it's humidified. If a crack that was fixed with stupid glue or epoxy opened up this would never happen - it would stay open. Then you would have to remove it [the glue] in order to fix the problem. This can only be accomplished by scraping it out which permanently damages the body proper. Another scary thought is what happens to these glues over time? No one knows because they haven't stood the test of time. What if after fifty years their structure fails? Big problems. I've seen many Italian basses that had extensive worm damage where the tunnels were just soaked with thin viscosity cyanoacrylate glue. What happens when that "repair" fails? Goddam toast happens is what happens. What if you closed all the hairline cracks on a valued Italian bass with stupid glue? A future nightmare. Think it hasn't been done? [I should rephrase that] Think it hasn't been done daily? Well, that may be an exaggeration-but not by much. CA glue might be the most profitable substance known to man. You can glue up a bass in minutes, which would normally take weeks [or months in my case]. Then when it comes back broken months later you can claim it was in an accident and charge the insurance company for the same bad repair [Any of you players wonder why the premiums have gone sky high in recent years?].

It was often said to me: "Scroll grafts are what separate the men from the boys." Well I have seen some grafts in my days that were so beautiful that they gave me luthier wood. On violins, rarely basses. The invisible joints on these could only be accomplished with hide glue. Of course, the precision required to do this is extremely exacting. It gave me something to shoot for. Now if you were more concerned with money and didn't have the skill or the time to do this you might want to use epoxy for the graft. It fills huge gaps in real nice, and its permanent right? Yeah, until someone drops the bass and the neck breaks. Then you have to do another graft. Except this time the joint is covered in epoxy and you have to cut away original wood from the scroll in order to repair it. Very, very bad. I'll amend that first quote. It should read "Accurate scroll grafts done with hide glue separate proper luthiers from poor ones."

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