The End of the Bass Season


Work on the bass is drawing to a close, for a little while at least. There’s a longish waiting list of other work, including a large (for me) order for bookbinding equipment (which includes a standing press and a laying press), as well as various furniture commissions and repairs. Oh—and also a new lectern for All Saints by the Sea, which is promised for Easter. 

It’s only been possible to continue working on the bass for an extra month because of my broken ankle; I did try to use the table saw balanced on one crutch and one leg, but it’s quite impossible to concentrate on workshop safety when worrying about the possibility of a surprise visit from JH, who would NOT have been happy to see me risking limb (if not life) when I’d already been foolish enough to walk the dog up to choir practice on a dark and freezing night (against her advice) and falling badly on black ice. Working on the bass, however, required neither lifting nor carrying, nor any use of dangerous power tools, and I was able to wedge myself in a corner or sit on a stool and work with hand-tools, which is how the inside of the back was carved. 

Today though, I reluctantly put the Gofriller aside and made a dozen pairs of beech backing boards which are to be packed off to San Francisco. (I wouldn’t mind being packed off to San Francisco myself, if it comes to that, but later this month J. and I are hopefully heading to La Paz in Baja California to see our old friends Maru & Cliff, and also try the physiotherapeutic effects of walking and swimming on a warm beach…)

Before the bass could be put aside, though, I needed to attach the back to the already assembled ribs and front, thus completing this stage of the work; once this is done we could at least begin thinking about carving the neck and making the finger-board later this year. Before putting on the clamps, though, I had to come up with a label to glue inside. Matteo had a label, so why not Perkins e figlio?


So I made up a simple label in Times New Roman, Ed having vetoed Papyrus or Comic Sans, and glued it to the back:


Made by Illtyd & Edward Perkins Saltspring Island 2015”

Not strictly true, of course, but “in the process of being made but not actually completed” didn’t seem quite right, somehow. 

Here’s the bottom clamped to the ribs. Positioning this assembly was a very close run thing, since we’d earlier cut the back rather too precisely to what we assumed was its final profile. If we ever do this again, I’ll make sure not to cut the back before marking it out from the shape of the ribs AFTER the front and ribs are glued together. Once the ribs are glued to the front there is very little range of adjustment available to correct any errors in marking or cutting when fitting the second plate.


Altogether, gluing the bottom to the ribs was a bit of a nightmare; it came out well enough in the end, but frankly the operation lacked elegance and grace. Also, I would have liked to have had at least a full ⅛” overhang all round, as given in the plans, rather than a bare ⅛”, and even that was not achieved without a struggle. 

The next morning I removed the clamps, and cleaned up any glue smears &c. with hot water. This temporarily brought out the grain of the ribs quite impressively:


There’s not a lot more to say; I finished the edges as best I could, then re-gauged the edge thickness on the top and back and shaped the top and back plates down to the line. Since the next operation will be to cut grooves and inlay the purfling, the final finishing and clean-up can happen after that’s done. Until then I’m sadly going to have the put the bass in a corner for a while, and get back to making bookbinding tools….


A set of new backing boards is ready for finishing, and there seems to be a table repair in the background, which I’d rather forgotten about.

Wednesday February 11th.