So you’ve already carefully jotted down the materials you would need to build a washtub bass. Now in this, the second of three installments, the Viper shows you how to put the parts together. A transcript follows the video.
The bass you see being put together here will make its public debut on Friday night, May 7, in the very capable hands of Riley Broach. Riley, along with John Peacock and the Viper, will be playing with The Viper and His Second String as part of a four-band jug-music show at the Coffee House, below Redeemer Lutheran Church on 631 N. 19th St. in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Also featured are Larry Penn’s Washboard Band (featuring Dave Fox), Peter Lee, and the Grumpystiltskyn Jug Band.) The show starts at 8:00 p.m. It’s a Food Pantry Benefit, and so a donation of $4 and two cans of food is requested.
Now to build the washtub bass.
WASHTUB: We’re going to start with the washtub. We’ll be removing the handles, which you can do with a bolt cutter, if you have one, [or a] hacksaw — sometimes, if they’re soft enough, even just a pair of pliers. Drill a hold in the bottom and then put in the hardware assembly.
OUTSIDE HARDWARE: Eye bolt, lock washer, fender washer.
INSIDE HARDWARE: And in the inside: fender washer, lock washer, lock nut. Then you want to make sure you tighten it, quite tight. (This ended up being just about perfect. The bolt doesn’t extend past the nut, which is good if you want to carry stuff in the tub: it won’t scratch as much.) And then we’re done with our tub.
STAFF: Now we’re going to work on the staff. First, we’re going to cut a notch across the bottom. That will fit into the rim of the tub, and that’ll allow it to rest on the rim without slipping while you’re playing. Then we’re going to drill a hole through 48″ up for the string to go through. I’ll go a little bit more than this. But you don’t want to go too deep, because you don’t want this to touch the bottom of the tub, which will rattle. So just about 1/4 of an inch, enough to keep the thing from slipping. Now we’re going to measure 48″ up the staff. And mark it: that’s where we’re going to drill the hole.
[NOTE: One correction to this. Rather than drill the string hole 48" up the staff, I'd recommend going a few inches higher (like to 52") so that the string itself, when taut, will measure 48" from staff to eye bolt (it's the hypotenuse -- use your knowledge of right triangles!).]
And when you do the drilling, you just want to make sure that the hole is going through perpendicular to the way that the notch is cut — in other words, the hole should be facing the center of the tub. You’re going to drill the hole big enough for your rope to go through.
STRING: Now that we’ve got the hole drilled, we’re just going to feed one end of the clothesline through that, and then tie a knot on the other side. And then cut off about 6 feet. And we’ll run that through the eye bolt — double back, like that. And then we essentially want to adjust the length until it’s basically taut when the string is almost straight up and down. When it’s straight up and down, that’s the lowest note you’re going to be able to hit. Then we’re going to take our clamp. Clamp this, and screw these back on. Eventually, we’ll cut this. But for now, I’m going to leave it until I have a chance to test out the bass: make sure I like the tautness of the string, and the length and everything. And the nice thing about the clamp, rather than tying it, is it makes it much easier to make small adjustments while you’re figuring out what work.
PLUNGER: And then the last thing we need to do is to build a riser to allow the sound out to come out of the instrument. So we’re going to cut a notch in the top of the plunger. And that’s going to go under the rim.
And that’s how you build a washtub bass.