I hung the basses yesterday
I finally hung my basses up in the living room. I’ve wanted to get them up on a wall since I got my hands on the two 6-strings. Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I worked on it a bit, and yesterday, I mounted everything. Its not perfect, but as a non-handyman, I’m happy with the results.
I live in an old house. It was built in 1940, before drywall was invented. The walls are made from plaster, so mounting anything is difficult because its hard to find the studs behind the walls. I was worried that if I put anything heavy up (like the Brice basses) they’d eventually pull down the wall and leave gaping holes that wouldn’t go with the couches wifey picked out. She’d never have that.
Here’s what I did:
1. I went online and Googled something to the effect of “hang bass guitar on wall”. Poking around, I came across different guitar wall hangers. Amazon has a lot. I ended up grabbing 6 from Sam Ash after debating it for a day or two when I was at Guitar Center. What concerned me was that a regular hanger looked like it could accomodate the 4-string (Ibanez) but the wider-neck Brice basses might not fit well.
I discovered wide-neck hangers on Amazon. The guy at Guitar Center told me that regular ones from String Swing could be bent outward to open them for wider necks, and I finally went with regular ones – except I bought a pair for each bass. I bought one to hang the bass from (up at the neck) and one to support it from the bottom.
2. Having strong support for the hangers was my next concern. One of the comments on Amazon gave me a solution:
Toggle bolts. I’d never used one before, but I ended up reading about them on the internet. They looked like they’d do the trick. There are actually a few options for reinforcing the strength of a wall hanger. The one everyone is most familiar with are those plastic drywall anchors that come with curtain rods and a bunch of other things. Those didn’t look like they’d cut the mustard. Toggle bolts did, however. This site provided me with a good understanding of how to proceed:
3. I still wanted to distribute the weight of the instruments if I could, and I didn’t think washers would necessarily do the trick. I ended up going to Home Depot and getting strips of molding and some decorative squares for the end. I basically put these together, measured so that the basses were evenly spaced, and painted. The idea is that the length of wood will press against the wall and spread the weight and pressure outward, so that each of the toggle bolts (instead of screws) isn’t pulling at one spot in the wall. It’ll probably make more sense with pictures. Luckily, I have some.
The Ugly Details
1. Pick a spot to hang the basses. I chose a corner in the living room. The wall there is 70 inches wide. I grabbed one of the 6-strings and held it up, so I could see how much room it would take up. I moved it around and up and down to try and get a good visual for the amount of space I’d need.
2. Next, grab materials. I got the guitar hangers, toggle bolts and wood (molding) that I’d need. I had paint left over from when we worked on the living room. I let wifey decide whether to go with white to match the shelving/trim or red to match the walls. She chose white. I was going to sand down the ends of the strips of molding for the decorative square pieces to sit flat against, but wifey’s cousin has my sander, so I did the opposite and used wood filler (also left over from the living room) to smooth out parts of the molding. Its not perfect, but it works well enough.
3. Measure out everything. I drew lines in the middle of the molding. This is where the 4-string’s hanger would go. I then measured the width of the basses at the thickest part of the body and added a few inches of wiggle room. Using this, I made lines for where the hangers for the two 6-strings would go. Finally, I found the midpoint between the spots for the 4-string and each 6-string and drew lines. This is where extra supporting toggle bolts would go.
I then opened a hanger package and used the existing screw holes on the hanger as a guide for where to drill holes for the three basses. I didn’t do this for the two spots that were just going to be used for support toggle bolts. For those, I just picked spots that divided the molding into thirds (vertically) and drilled.
Since I planned on supporting the basses from on top and below, I did the same to the 2nd piece of molding, except I didn’t drill holes for the 4-string. This is because the 6-strings are 35-inch scale basses, and the 4-string is a 34-inch scale. I figured that I’d temporarily mount the bottom strip later and mark how high to drill then.
In the above picture, I also have the decorative ends sitting on top of the strips, just to see how it would look. I was debating whether to place them on the wall alongside the strips, or mount them onto the strips. I went with the latter. I liked the raised, 3D-ish look more, and with the pieces alongside the strips, it also looked too long. It only left 4 inches of space on each side of the wall.
4. Mix the ingredients. With the holes drilled, I attached the decorative ends to the strips using a 1-inch nail through the back of each. I then used wood filler to even out the sides. I was originally going to sand down 4 inches from each end of the strips, but I didn’t have my sander handy. Instead, I used the filler to make it look more like the ends were one piece.
I gave this a few hours to dry (even though it says 15 minutes) and sanded the edges. Once that was done, I took the strips outside and painted them white. This sat overnight and dried.
5. Drill holes in the wall. Based on my earlier measurements, I knew that I wanted 8 inches of space on each side of the strips. So, I marked those spots on the wall with a pencil and got to work on determining how high I’d need to drill. To do this, I took one of the guitar hangers and attached it to the left side of the molding using one screw.
I knew that the basses have to hang from the arm that gets screwed into the middle of each hanger, so I placed the molding with semi-attached hanger against the wall, 8 inches in from the left and raised it until it was at a desirable height. I’d previously tested the hanger’s arm around each bass, so I could approximate how much headway it needed to be able to sit in the arm but not tap the ceiling when moving into or out from the arm.
With a workable height chosen, I drilled through the hanger and molding in the hole that didn’t have a screw. I then ran a screw through that, into the wall, just to hold it up and give me the ability to swing the whole piece up and down, kind of like the arm of a clock. I had wifey climb up with her vertically-challenged self and place a level on top of the molding. We adjusted the piece until it was straight. She then held the molding against the wall and I drilled through the holes on the right side of the molding, into the wall. I put temporary screws into those two holes, wifey descended from the wall and I drilled the rest.
6. Widen the holes. Now, because I drilled using the molding as a guide, I drilled small holes. I think I used a 1/8th inch bit. Toggle bolts need bigger holes. Basically, the toggle goes through the wall and opens up in the back. It then presses against the back of the wall so that a greater surface area is used to give support to each screw. The toggle bolts I bought needed holes that are 3/8ths of an inch wide, so I switched bits and widened the holes. Be warned, this kicks up a lot of dust. I didn’t think to wear a breathing mask, but I probably should have.
7. Attach toggle bolts to the guitar hangers and molding. Now, before I did this, I actually widened the holes on the molding a little. The holes I drilled were 1/8″ wide. The screws fit these snuggly. I wanted a little give, so that if I need to push or pull the screws and toggles, I could do it. I can’t remember the size of the bit I used, but it was very slightly larger than the 1/8″ holes. It might have been 7/64th, or something. You can just hold up the 1/8″ bit next to other bits and choose one that’s slightly larger.
Anyway, with the holes on the molding widened, I popped in the screws and attached the toggles to the back.
8. Slap it up there and attach the arms to the hangers. Wifey helped me with this. It was a bit difficult, because it was our first time, but after some fidgeting, we got it in all the holes. See what I did there? 😉
What you want to do is get each toggle into a hole. Don’t push it all the way through until they’re all seated if you can help it, because if any pop out, it makes it hard to correct. Try to position the toggles so that they’re spreading out horizontally (left-to-right). This way, you can use your fingers, or two screwdrivers, or chopsticks or something to push them together if needed. You want them to close up, like a bird closing its beak, around the screw. I’m trying not to make another dirty correlation here.
Keep a hammer around. It helps to close each toggle around a screw and then tap it into the wall (not all the way through though – not yet). This is why I made the holes on the molding slightly wider than the screws.
Once all of the toggles are stuffed into holes, tap each in with the hammer (or push with your fingers if you’re strong enough). When they make it through, the toggle will open in the back (inside) of the wall. You’ll know its working because if you pull on the screw, it won’t be able to come out.
With the toggles in place, tighten each screw. I did it by hand at first, pulling the screws back and turning to tighten. I then used a drill to finish and make sure each was securely tightened. Attach the hangers’ arms and you can hang your basses!
The Low End
With 10 toggle bolts holding up that strip of molding and the hangers, its plenty secure. However, because I’m a paranoid android, and I worry about the wall’s strength, I added a bottom strip to cup the basses from below.
I basically followed the same procedure as the top, with one or two small measurement changes. Also, the basses were hanging from the top strip while I started this. I used them as guides.
9. Now, we do the bottom. First, to determine how high to leave the strip, I again attached a hanger to the left one using one screw. I raised it so that it was flush agains the bottom of the bass on the left (the fretted 6-string). I then raised it fractionally more (like a millimeter) to make sure it was lending some support.
Holding it in place, I drilled a guiding hole and put a temporary screw in. I then attached another hanger to the right side and adjusted it so that it was supporting the bass on the right (the fretless 6-string). I drilled a guiding hole on this side now, through the hole in the hanger and the one I’d pre-drilled in the molding. I then removed the hanger, placed a screw in there and drilled the rest of the holes. I used one to help support the strip with a screw and removed the left arm and drilled the last hole.
With those holes done (except that we’d have to widen them to 3/8″ later) I took a hanger and positioned it so that it supported the middle bass. This is the 4-string, and its smaller than the other two, so the arm would need to be higher. I drilled holes through the molding and into the wall using the hanger as a guide. I then removed the strip and widened the holes.
10. Attach toggle bolts to the bottom hangers and molding & stick it in. Same process as before. It should look like this:
11. Tap in the bolts, screw/drill everything in, add the arms and hang your basses! Yay!
So, there you have it. That’s what I did. The basses are up on the wall and I’m happy. They’re kind of like art there. Wifey plans on relearning piano at some point, so maybe in a year or two we’ll add a small electronic piano under the basses. I think they’d look nice together. Also, if I learn enough in the next year or two, I’d like to get an acoustic or electric-acoustic. I’ll hang that on the little wall directly to the right of these three, if it happens.
Some fun stuff happened during that whole thing too. When we were putting up the top molding, I hopped down for the drill and thought wifey was holding the level. Its big. About 3 feet. It came down and banged my right eyebrow pretty good. That wasn’t fun. When I looked up, I found that it had also smacked wifey in the cheek, and I think her collarbone as well. I took it outside and beat it up when we were done.
Also, naturally the 3/8″ drill bit was nowhere to be found when I had to widen the holes. I tried the next biggest one, which was slightly smaller, and the toggles couldn’t go through. We ended up running to the hardware store to buy one. Make sure that you have all of your tools beforehand. For us, that included a drill, drill bits, screwdriver bit, Phillips screwdriver (not a flathead), level, pencil, measuring tape and paintbrush. Keep a vacuum handy too, and some wet napkins. It might also help to get one of those anti-dust breathing masks.
Wow. This ended up being pretty lengthy.
Next, I have to continue learning to play bass.
[edit 11.30.11] I posted a link to the pic at the top of this entry on TalkBass in a thread about hanging/displaying basses in the house or in a music room. Some of the other TBers replied with pics of their own music rooms. Some of their collections really dwarf mine. 😉
[edit 03.13.15] Hanging basses on a wall came up on TalkBass again, so I posted a link to this blog entry in it. I’m somewhere on page 3. Here’s the thread on TalkBass: