Double Bass Repairer and Maker – Editorial Photography.
Meet double bass expert, Sam Wells, a Luthier by trade. He builds or repairs string instruments generally consisting of a neck and a sound box. In this case, it’s the largest family of instruments in the string section of an orchestra – the double bass.
Quick double bass history…
The materials most often used in double bass construction for fully carved basses are maple, for the back and neck, and spruce for the top and ebony fingerboard.
The double bass, or stand–up bass, is used extensively in Western classical music as a standard member of the string section of symphony orchestras but also bridges other genres such as jazz, blues, rock and roll and bluegrass.
Reputation is everything in the world of string instruments and regular customers from philharmonic orchestra to jazz musicians visit Sam’s workshop to get their “pride and joy” repaired.
The first thing you see in Sam’s workshop is a row of basses in various stage of repair, waiting for their owners or ready for sale. An instrument from the 1740s (yes, nearly 300 years old!) sits next to a 1910 whippersnapper. Most of the instruments he handles on a daily basis date from the 1800s.
Lots of natural light accent all the warm wood tones, and refreshingly, in this age of digital, it’s all very “analogue” for want of a better word.
In addition to creating a double bass from scratch, there are many repairs ranging from huge cracks in the sound box to missing necks and fingerboard smoothing.
The traditionally created wood glue made from gelatine is crumbled into water and heated in a “bain marie” on a stove, allowing any future repairs to be made easily and not damaging the wood.
The passion, care, and patience needed to repair these instruments are self-evident in his skills that have been passed down through the generations for over 500 years and in the way he carefully chooses from hundreds of tools many of which are highly prized for their scarcity.
The ultimate bass…
Sam created his own form, or mold, perfected from the hundreds of bases that have passed through his workshop.
What made him become a luthier?
Sam, a quiet and unassuming man, fell in love with the art of bass making when his own bass was damaged on a trip back from France with the school orchestra. His instrument arrived off the van with a huge split in the front. In his mind, it was a dead, but he took it to a luthier and was amazed when he was told that it could be brought back to life!
From that moment on he spent most of his Saturdays making tea, pushing a broom in the workshop and gleaning information which gave him the confidence to go for an official apprentice. Now, after 12 years of professional trading, he is much sought after in his area of expertise.
Need a double bass repaired, then check out Sam’s website here.
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