Olde English

"Gamba Supreme"

Circa 1780

This Bass is attributed to the early English School dating from the late 18th Century. Opinions from English Dealers as well as some in USA believe this Bass to be of British origin. The English were the great copyists of the Italian School which is evident in this Bass when looking at the long Gagliano/Strad style FFs as well as the Teardrop Scroll Button.

~ As of 3/20/09, the Restoration of this Bass has been completed ~

The Restoration included the internal Blocks cleaned and re-glued, Linings as needed & a Neck Graft as well as some cosmetic & structural repairs to last the next century. The Bass wws kept as original as possible with only the necessary replaced internal or external work including a slight 'Block-cut' to reduce the String Length. The existing 'Yankee' style X-Brace and current small/low Bass Bar was left as-is being that it is in perfect condition and holding up well doing the Job intended for at least the last 100-150 years. The restoration/resurrection that begun in 2004 is finally done.

I would like to point out that even though this restoration was performmed over a 4 year period, this slow-go approach and acclimation process is actually favorable for a Bass that has been out of circulation and neglected for so many decades. This way, the Bass gets to settle in little by little under the watchful eye of a very skilled Luthier and treated accordingly. Many of the cracks and splits had to have the 'coal dust' cleaned out of them. The 'coal dust' being just one more signs of just how long this Bass has been out of service, lying in a basement in dis-repair. The Buckled Ribs were also gradually straightened as much as possible to return the Bass as close to its original form as humanly possible.

Patience must be on the 'menu' for any serious restoration projects such as this. At this time, I would like to thank my old friend and Restorer Paul Biase for the special attention to detail given to this Bass. Some of the techniques that were applied are usually reserved for higher grade Violins on the order of Strad and Gofriller where the cost is of no consideration. For me personally, this was by far the most expensive Restoration I have ever commissioned.


                  Top showing its graceful form and 'F' holes.

Note the bottom of the 'C' how is turns so softly towards the Lower Bout. This is one of the unusual features of this Bass that confuse the possible identity. The original Cross Bars/Rails are Gamba style construction. The Purfling on the Top is Northern European as used in England and France. The Back is not Purfled but has a few traces of 'inked' Purfling identified as 'English Ink'. The wood of the Back and Ribs is quartered Maple or Sycamore with narrow even flames. The current Neck Block is not original but is very old. There was a small piece of wood left glued to the upper Back near the current Neck Block which seems to be from the inner 'tab' of a Blockless style Neck. The upper Rib curve at the block however does not follow any of the typical Blockless forms we have seen. What we have here is a barrel full of Mysteries. Perhaps this was made as a Large Viol or Violone and was converted to a Double Bass sometime in the 19th century.


Full Sized English Orchestral Double Bass
Upper Bout: 21 5/8" (Back, 21 3/4") Belly Length: 46 1/4" (modified) (Back, 46 3/4")
Center Bout: 15 3/8" String Length: 41 7/8" ( modified, reduced from 44")
Bottom Bout: 27 1/2" (Back, 28") Varnish: Reddish Brown over Gold
Rib Depth: 8 3/8" *
* Upper Bout Ribs taper from 8 3/8" to 5 7/8" with slope of  the Back to the Neck Block. 
Top: 2-pc Spruce of extremely fine grain (billet was about 15" wide with 300-350 growth rings).
Back & Ribs: 2-pc Highly Flamed quartered Maple of narrow width and evenly flamed.

Note: The Scroll was a 3-stringer originally as the plugs from the upper two gears were still visible before the neck graft. This Bass was mostly likely converted to a 4-string much later, nearer to the start of the 20th century. The Back of the Bass was also repaired sometime in the 19th century and possibly in New England as the 2nd set of Cross Bars were replaced with a single X-Brace without the customary 'lap-joint'. Scars from the original narrow rail-type Cross Braces are still visible and appear to be similar to the old English Gamba making school. A 3-string Maple Tailpiece (stained black with 2 holes added for 4 string) also came with this Bass when I bought it. This along with the Yankee style X-brace (without a lap joint) hints that this Bass was in use or restored in USA in the early to mid 19th century. The Tuning Gears (set of 4) that came with this Bass were either English or German as I have seen similar gears on at least 3 early 19th century Basses from both London and Mittenwald.


Before Carving After Carving
The Scroll was decoratively re-Cheeked from the outsides to strengthen and beautify it with a similar looking piece of Flamed Maple from our aged Maple stock matching the character of the Back and Ribs. Between the Gear holes, screw holes and C-extension holes I plugged all of the old holes of various sizes in the Scroll/Pegbox.

     Close ups of the 'F' holes and 'C' Bouts.

This full view shows the proportions and the beautiful patina of an older instrument.

The Back has an added raised plate of wood which has been replaced with the same Maple as used on the Scroll.
The bottom of the Back now has a matching overlay Maple plate added for structure as well as cosmetics.

Right side Ribs showing numerous cracks pre-Restoration.

Left side Ribs showing numerous cracks pre-Restoration.
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These are some pictures of the Ribs and Blocks disassembled as they underwent gradual repairs and straightening as some of them have buckled over time during its long state of dis-repair. Note the design of the Corner Blocks as the part touching the Lower and Upper Bouts are longer then the part of the Block touching the C-Bouts. This obtuse angled Corner Block also helps the joining of the softer angled lower Rib which is somewhat of a quasi-Guitar/Cornerless shape with its shallow bend of the lower Bout.
Here we see a few more pieces as well showing the rather small and possibly original Tailblock.

   Note the gentle bend of the upper back towards the neck block.  I have been told that this is a 'French' characteristic.

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