Milano 1766 –

Milano 1766

  • By admin
  • - August 26

In the summer of 2015 we started working with Tony Manzo on converting his Baroque setup Italian double bass into a removable neck bass to keep up with his busy touring schedule.  Although the bass was playable…it needed a lot of work, and we laid out some plans on a restoration for it.  To be honest, we couldn’t believe it wasn’t buzzing like a hive of bees with every note!

Tony’s schedule just didn’t allow for a full restoration at the time, so we successfully completed the conversion and he went on his way.  The bass has had quite the busy year touring all over, but Tony was a bit scared about the basses health after our last assessment.

Tony brought the bass in at the end of July 2016 and we started taking it apart.  Nearly every seam was open on the back and the ribs were anything but flat (a constant annoyance for Tony as he was always having open seams glued), so we started with the back.

Sometimes rabbit holes are shallow.  Sometimes you fall in over your eyebrows and wonder how youre going to climb out.  Thankfully we walked into this one fully expecting a complete tear down.

Here’s some before shots of the back…


The lower ribs were off the end block to a large degree, and the block was split…so out it went. The linings were anemic and failing, the rib cracks were open and the cleats were failing…so we took the ribs off, removed the cleat and linings and after thoroughly cleaning out the old glue, we glued them back up.



The ribs were almost off the lower corner blocks as well, and the blocks were shoddy, so new lower corner blocks were glued in.  All new linings were fit and glued, and due to the amount of cleats needed to secure the lower ribs, we opted to line them with crate paper.  Crate paper when soaked with glue and applied, makes for a very strong but lightweight backing to the delicate ribs.

The reassembled ribs were then leveled and prepared for the back work.

***Note:  We didn’t want to take the upper portion of the ribs apart due to the geometries with the removable neck. It was more important, at this step, to secure the back and get it back onto the secured ribs before taking off the top.

The braces were removed from the back (which took about 10 minutes because most were failing anyway) and all the old cleats were removed.  At one point we had the back in 6 different pieces! After securing and cleaning each side, we then rejoined the two haves and began rebracing.




The back was glued on and it went down perfect!  No high (or low) spots in the ribs!


Now we’re onto the top!  Its dangerously thin in a few spots, and a complete doubling will be needed.  First though, we wanted to make sure the top went back down exactly (along the string path) where it was so we wouldn’t need to readjust the geometries of the removable neck, so we drilled pins (dowels) through the top and into the neck and end blocks.


Before doubling can begin, we need to remove all the old cleats (most pulled out with just my fingers), secure all the open cracks & redo failing ones.



With all the cracks glued and the cleats fit, doubling could begin.


The entire perimeter was flattened down to about (on average) 1.5mm of original thickness.  In some areas, this was a “heavy” pass while in others (upper bouts in particular) it barely took a shaving.  Spruce was thicknessed to about 6mm and glued in place, trimmed and feathered into the spruce top.  One more light flattening pass was taken on our milling machine to average out the top edges ensuring a VERY flat surface.  It’s our STRONG belief that a laser level rib surface, coupled with a laser level plate (top or back) ensures that less cracks occur over time.  I think many cracks originating at the end grain portions of the top (think saddle cracks and cracks along the lower bouts) happen because tops are forced down creating stress zones that turn into cracks.


Ready to be glued shut!  Lets take in the beauty of the inside as, sadly, after all this effort, the bass will look almost exactly as it did when it came in.


Closed!  Onto touchup then setup.