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Washtub Bass Stick

22 May 11 - 09:19 AM (#3158645)
Subject: Washtub Bass Stick question
From: GUEST,Bogdon Vasquaf

I played my electric washtub bass at a gig last night. I've always used a tree branch stick because i like the look. The stickj i used last night was a few years old and i brought a broom stick just-in-case. And as fate would be, the end of the world didn't happen but the end of my stick did. It broke. I grabbed my spare stick (as if i were a guitarist) and suddenly realized that i lost MOST of my bass tone! I dont know if its my imagination, i use pure cotton rope and the broom stick length matched the tree branch. Do you think that the stick offers tone to the washtub bass sound?

22 May 11 - 10:33 PM (#3158948)
Subject: RE: Washtub Bass Stick
From: josepp

I've read never to use a broomstick because it will snap. The guy I read this from said to use a shovel handle instead. But why you lost bass tone is not known to me unless your tub was resting on carpeting or something.

22 May 11 - 11:39 PM (#3158963)
Subject: RE: Washtub Bass Stick
From: GUEST,hg

Id like to read some answers to this question.....

23 May 11 - 12:19 AM (#3158972)
Subject: RE: Washtub Bass Stick
From: Joe Offer

Who's the Mudcatter in DC who's so good with the washtub bass?


23 May 11 - 12:22 AM (#3158974)
Subject: RE: Washtub Bass Stick
From: Desert Dancer


~ Becky in Tucson

23 May 11 - 12:26 AM (#3158975)
Subject: RE: Washtub Bass Stick
From: Joe Offer

I knew that, but all I could remember was Jim....I e-mailed Jim.


23 May 11 - 12:46 AM (#3158981)
Subject: RE: Washtub Bass Stick
From: GutBucketeer

Hey Joe and Bogdon.   I use an old closet rod. It's about 1.25 " in diameter. Others I've heard use a small diameter stair rail. They look like a C. Broomsticks are in my experience too thin and are usually very cheap soft wood (they always break). The harder the wood the better.

It could be how the stick sits on the rim. Try experimenting with cutting the groove a little deeper, etc. I use a cross piece and let the ends sit on the tub just inside the rim. It makes for a loud bass. The Tub-a-Tone folks also say they have better luck if the neck actually sits on the tub itself.

Good luck.

23 May 11 - 03:27 AM (#3159009)
Subject: RE: Washtub Bass Stick
From: JohnInKansas

The stick shouldn't affect the sound by much, but how it's "socketed" onto the tub (for that kind of tub) could have a strong influence, and a change in sticks might cause you to change posture. (If you use your foot to hold the tub down, moving it slightly could affect tone.)

Broom handles are sometimes a relatively soft wood, and - as suggested - prone to break. The kind that "screws into" a shop broom will likely be a little harder than one cut off of a "broomstraw" sweeper. If you want a smaller diameter stick, rake handles, or hoe handles, are sometimes a good choice, since they're more often made of harder wood; but you're unlikely to find the kind of wood accurately named on the label of replacement handles. At hardware stores good rake/hoe handles run $20+(US) in my area, although they can be found for half that in "possibly inferior" wood, if you select sound pieces individually.

Closet rod, at 1.25 inches (3 cm) is a good choice if you want a "fatter" stick. I have several "well aged" ones I've used for holding up tarps in the campground when they were cheap, but I found the rod priced at a little over $1.20 (US) per foot the last time I looked for one.

Shovel handles are generally "harder" wood, but often have a bend at the end to fit into the blade. That may be just what you want, or may make them unusable depending on your "tub design." The "long straight" shovel handles seem hard to find in my area, and I'd think the "T-Handle" kind would be too short for most tub use.

Axe handles and mattock handles generally will be made from quite hard woods, but usually have peculiar bends and tapers that may be a problem. They are seldom round.

The C-section handrail would seem to me to have the same "asymmetry problem" but every tub - and every player - presents different oproblems and preferences. Round handrails, usually with at least a small flat on the underside, and other shapes can be found; but you might have to go to "specialty" shops. They'd likely be of good wood.

"Natural" sticks are sometimes found that can be a nice touch, but "fallen limbs" are seldom of sound quality and it may be difficult to find straight enough ones that you can cut from live trees/bushes. You might need to follow a tree-trimmer around for a while to find a really good one. Festivals often have "craft fairs" where you can find people vending "walking sticks" that might offer some interesting possibilities, but most of the regulars in my area make the majority of their sticks too short for my taste even as walkers.

One fellow who's been at our local festival for a couple of years uses a "doubletree"* for a stick, but he's using a six foot diameter "tub" and 3/16" aircraft cable for a string. (He sweats a lot when he plays; but he's "proud of being loud" - his main talent. I expect to see him with a 300 gallon stock tank and some bridge-structure parts if his "talent" continues to develop.)

* From Random House web dictionary:
doubletree [duhb-uhl-tree]
a pivoted bar with a whiffletree attached to each end, used in harnessing two horses abreast.
1840–50, Americanism ; modeled on singletree
(All clear now?)


25 May 11 - 06:21 PM (#3160556)
Subject: RE: Washtub Bass Stick
From: GutBucketeer

What John said. Loud does not necessarily equate to good :-).

29 Dec 13 - 12:55 PM (#3587339)
Subject: RE: Washtub Bass Stick

any prescribed length of stick. I use a shovel handle but am building on e for a friend.... jz in Upstate NY

30 Dec 13 - 05:05 AM (#3587493)
Subject: RE: Washtub Bass Stick
From: GUEST,Musket

When I used to play now and then with a comedy band that included the late Milky Keith on tea chest bass, I used to ask him for an A as I tuned up the guitar or banjo. Despite the laugh this got, it wasn't that far from reality........

Of course, over your side of the pond, wash tubs are more popular. Something to do with throwing all the tea chests into Boston Harbour so not having any for musical purposes.......

30 Dec 13 - 11:18 AM (#3587571)
Subject: RE: Washtub Bass Stick
From: JohnInKansas

Musket - In the US, in recent times, few people know what a tea chest is. We buy our tea mostly in those abominable little paper bags that brew colored water that tastes like you're chewing on a scrap of dusty old wallpaper torn out of an abandoned shack.

"Washtub" basses are fairly popular here, however. (They significantly outnumber musical saws.) A majority of them probably still are actual washtubs, but gas tanks, stock tanks, buckets, and even "homemade" wooden boxes are seen at many festivals. I've seen a few fairly recently that used an old bass drum for the "sound box," and at least one using a snare drum (with the snares turned on) that produced an "amusing" sound.