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Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

Full crack in neck heel of acoustic bass - How to fix?

Discussion in 'Acoustic Heaven' started by SecretSquirrel, Jul 11, 2018.

  1. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

    Jul 2, 2015
    This afternoon I answered my doorbell and a friend unceremoniously thrust this Dean EAB-FL fretless acoustic bass at me. Found among an estate haul-away pile, it was covered in dust, no strings, and there's a full crack across the neck heel that makes the guitar unstringable. The crack will flex open a bit further than in the pics, and the whole thing would probably tear off under string pressure.

    It looks like the neck heel has been repaired before, at the join, note the slightly sloppy glue showing at the corners.

    Is this salvagable? If so, how should I proceed? Just glue and clamp? I'm good with tools, but have almost zero experience repairing acoustic set-necks, and I feel like I have one chance to do it right.

    0 Dean EAB-FL acoustic BASS - 6.jpg

    0 Dean EAB-FL acoustic BASS - 2.jpg

    0 Dean EAB-FL acoustic BASS - 3.jpg 0 Dean EAB-FL acoustic BASS - 5.jpg

    0 Dean EAB-FL acoustic BASS - 4.jpg

    Thanks in advance for any advice. If I can't, or shouldn't, fix it myself, I can always take it to the luthier down the street and see what he says.
  2. Paul Jenkin

    Paul Jenkin Friend of Leo's

    Aug 17, 2017
    Essex, UK
    My dad was a cabinet maker and always believed that, so long as you know what you're doing, there was a way to fix wooden stuff - it was just down to a decision on cost and time.

    If you have a good luthier local to you, he'd definitely be my first choice. As you got the guitar gratis, give yourself a reasonable budget and see if you can get the guitar fixed up by the luthier at a price that makes it worthwhile.
    SecretSquirrel likes this.
  3. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

    Jul 2, 2015
    Good advice, thanks. For the moment, I'll still consider tackling it myself, if I feel like I can proceed with a good plan, especially if it costs little or nothing. On the other hand, I'm open to being talked out of potentially making a bigger mess.

  4. trev333

    trev333 Telefied Ad Free Member

    I was given a yamaha nylon string to fix.. I think someone used it as an axe....:rolleyes:

    the dovetail was loose and the fretboard floating free, the whole neck came right off......

    I just cleaned up the surfaces and glued it back together..It came out ok ....:)

    yamaha44.jpg yamaha10.jpg
    2blue2 and SecretSquirrel like this.
  5. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

    Jul 2, 2015
    Well, that's a hopeful note! Wow, same heel crack, but worse. On the Dean, the only separation appears to be the big, obvious crack.

  6. netgear69

    netgear69 Tele-Afflicted

    Dec 21, 2012
    Check inside to see if it is a bolt on neck there maybe a sticker over the block hiding the bolts if your lucky
    if not and it is a dovetail joint you will need to remove the fret where the body joins the neck
    drill a hole and get some steam in there to loosen the joint
    remove the neck glue and clamp the crack then glue it back to the body at the correct angle
    or you could get some wood glue in that crack and try and clamp it and hope for the best
    Taking it to a luthier the probable fix would cost more than the thing is worth
    SecretSquirrel likes this.
  7. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

    Jul 2, 2015
    Thanks, I'll check for bolt-on, I hadn't thought of that. In a perverse way, I wouldn't mind removing the neck just for the experience and to really examine the issues.

    That said, I will likely end up tempted to just try gluing the crack. Your point about the cost of a luthier is well taken.

    Once it's repaired (assuming a repair works) I'm not sure if I'll keep it or sell it, that depends on how it plays & sounds. A fretless bass would certainly be a nice tool to have at hand when called for. (I haven't tested the electronics, I guess there's a pickup inside, piezo I assume.)

  8. Vizcaster

    Vizcaster Friend of Leo's

    Sep 15, 2007
    Glen Head, NY
    I would be concerned that the neck heel crack is a symptom of something else that's loose or moved inside the head block, and without disassembling the neck dovetail (or tenon) joint you wouldn't be able to get glue in the far depths of the crack (it probably extends inside the joint). Good news is that the crack is in the same plane as the direction of the grain, so that you can get a reliable glue joint so long as you're sure you've gotten out all the old glue from a failed prior repair. If you sense there's glue that isn't supposed to be there, plan on using extra steam and time to get it disassembled. Look up "neck reset" for the procedure - but remember you probably will not have to worry about doing any chisel work to change the geometry (which is usually why one would remove a set neck, not in your case).
    SecretSquirrel likes this.
  9. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

    Jul 2, 2015
    Good point, and I'm more and more convinced that there was a previous repair or neck reset; I doubt the excess glue long the corners of the heel would be left by the factory.

    What if the previous repair was done with epoxy? Will steam loosen epoxy?

    Fortunately I've enlisted the help of my neighbor with a full woodshop downstairs, he said he'd help figure it out. (I lucked out this time, usually it's hard to get him interested in guitar projects... could be the 'working for free' part :oops: ...actually I paid him last time, to cut the boards for my amp stand.)

    About these acoustic basses in general, I've learned I can't get away with any old cheap electric bass strings to eventually get this thing strung up and playing; seems that regular full-tension bass strings will pull the bridge out and/or otherwise cause a catastrophe, so I'll have to spring for some good low-tension flatwounds (definitely want flats for this instrument).

    Oh - and this is definitely not bolt-on, it's a set neck (question came up, above)
    dan1952 likes this.
  10. jtees4

    jtees4 Tele-Afflicted

    Jun 13, 2010
    selden, ny
    I'm not a pro....but to me I think that can be glued and clamped fairly easily. If it were me, I'd try it if it is a relatively cheap guitar/bass.....if it's a vintage so and so I would not touch it. Good luck.
    SecretSquirrel likes this.
  11. philosofriend

    philosofriend Tele-Holic

    Oct 28, 2015
    Taking the neck off is a good idea because if the dovetail joint was shaped correctly the heel would not crack that way. What you have is common, because factories often make sloppy dovetail joints.
    Taking it apart requires ingenuity and patience. Sometimes you can just crack the end of the fretboard off the top using a thin tool to pick at the joint all the way around. I've got these thin dull stainless blades with nice wooden handles, They are found where you buy kitchen knives. You don't always need heat or steam, sometimes once the fretboard is pried free the dovetail pops right out (if it wasn't broken inside it wouldn't crack the heel that way).
    The luthier down the street will charge a lot because he will make it look great. The mechanical work is one big issue, the cosmetics are another expensive issue.
    If you are curious about it, do it yourself!
    SecretSquirrel likes this.
  12. harold h

    harold h Friend of Leo's

    Feb 15, 2004
    Make a palette of thin clear plastic from a piece of packaging like they put kids
    toys in.

    Use the clear strip to work in Titebond- clamp it, wipe off the excess, let it sit
    for 24 hours or so.
    SecretSquirrel likes this.
  13. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

    Apr 18, 2014
    Near Detroit, MI

    I would be tempted, since it looks like a clean crack (no cross fibers so it can go back together tight) that you get 'Thin CA' adhesive (Hobby Lobby model department, from a TDPRI recommendation I got a while back and continue using it) wicked in there and clamp it down with wood cauls. I'd do this only if the rest of the parts around that neck and body all seem solidly glued still. Any cracks inside you can see through the sound hole?

    Steaming off the neck is the next option, but that is a bit of work (I did a PRS HH last summer) and you'll need the correct clamping scheme to lift out the neck as it all heats up. It's more about the heat than the steam.

    There are several youtube videos on removing the fret, drilling holes, putting a sports ball pump needle down them and injecting steam heat. Protect the finish all around there against the steam but you want area heat if the needle/pin doesn't do it (see my linked thread).

    As far as fretless .... I find people are more curious about them, get one, find it's not what they want, and then quickly sell them. I got a great chance to own and play a fretless as I picked up a beater guitar that someone ripped the frets out as a project to refret and gave up. I messed around with that guitar for a while as fretless and it was everything I disliked about guitar tone, then I got stainless frets to do it up proper and It's a good guitar that I still have and play.

    I bought an electric bass that someone had riped out the frets and wood puttied the slots (nice contrast of white putty to the black fingerboard) that had been traded a bunch of times before I got it. I cut out the putty and installed frets. A local store owner I know said I shouldn't have done that -- because fretless are big money makers for him as people are buying high then trading in low and new people buy high and quickly trade in low around and around they go with him earning nickels with every turn while the fretted ones they buy once and keep.

    Last edited: Jul 13, 2018
    SecretSquirrel likes this.
  14. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

    Jul 2, 2015
    It's not 'vintage', just a $300-new Dean, so I'm very tempted to just see if glue & clamping will hold. I suppose the worst that could happen is more cosmetic damage, and I'm much more interested in the function and not much concerned about blemishes on the backside.

    I need to get the mirrors and flashlight out; I didn't feel any cracks inside, but a visual check will help. Haven't had time to really work on this, but meanwhile the advice here is most helpful.
  15. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

    Jul 2, 2015
    Thanks -- useful info, really appreciate the technical tips. You make a good argument for taking the neck off, which I'll definitely do if I find any joint cracking inside. Good point, too, about the mechanical vs. cosmetic aspect.
  16. SecretSquirrel

    SecretSquirrel Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

    Jul 2, 2015
    Thanks for the helpful tips. I'm going to try to check the interior for cracks later tonight. Reaching inside, I didn't feel any cracks or damage; the visual check should be more conclusive.

    I love that "steamed" PRS thread! And the guitar--I'd love to find a discarded PRS of my own to fix & mod.

    If I go with removing the neck, my woodworker neighbor should have the necessary clamps.

    I massively appreciate all the advice, thanks everyone. :)
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