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'67 Kay bass....where do we begin??

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by jazzsola, Dec 9, 2012.

  1. jazzsola


    Sep 28, 2009
    Today was a good day...someone gave me a '67 Kay S-1 bass.
    A couple of issues I have to deal with before I can hit a note:

    1. Neck is broken and it is where most of them break. The male dovetail is chipped up a bit. There's still a piece of the neck heel attached to the body.

    2. The bridge is missing.

    3. The fingerboard has longitudinal splits ( its beveled, not round).

    4. I have the tail piece with the "Kay" emblem. However, not end pin/adjustable leg. It has a rigid wire (90 degree bend) to secure the tailpiece in lieu of braided cable etc.)

    5. Strings are trashed.

    6. Overall condition is rough. It was a school bass and obviously not kept in a climate controlled space. Lots of scrapes, a couple of holes. Lots of broken off edge pieces.

    7. However, there is something about this instrument...I want to get it working at least at a beginners level.

    As for background, I am primarily a guitarist and play a number of other stringed instruments. I do alot of repairs, instrument restorations, finishes, re-finishes, set ups on acoustic and electric instruments. I build electric guitars, but not acoustics yet. I'm comfortable with taking on the neck repair with some guidance....

    So, any advice on the neck repair? We are not buying a new neck. I have to repair the one that's broken. It seems like this is going to be a mechanical neck repair (Leo Fender - bolts) to get the neck back to one piece before resetting it. I realize that I'll have to shim for alignment.

    Where can I get info on neck angle? I understand the Kays are typically set at a lower angle and its preferable to get a little more bridge height. Any data available for guidance? Related to the bridge height...

    A real bass player would replace the fingerboard, but this one is likely destined for occasional use or maybe some fold or easy jazz. Can I fill the fingerboard, soak it it? Any options in lieu of replacement?

    Bridge: Would like to have this dimension before setting the necK? Any good source for a bridge of an commensurate quality

    Sound post: Is the location of the post a sensitive issue for the Kay given its plywood top?

    Strings: Any recommendations for strings considering the neck repair and the occasional use for folk, some jazz and maybe some slapping someday...

    Any help is appreciated and thanks in advance for lending a hand.
  2. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    Congrats on your bass sounds like a nice project Talk Bass has a great double bass community I have learned plenty and I'm sure you will get swamped with suggestions and help good luck.

    KUNGfuSHERIFF Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2002
    Upstate NY
    Congratulations. Any day you get a nice Kay for free is a good day.

    The first thing you should do is bring the old girl to a bass luthier and pay them a few bucks for their opinion. Where are you? Maybe someone here can recommend someone.

    Pictures would be helpful.

    The doublebass is not a guitar. It's a completely different animal, and it does not respond well to bolts. Read up on hot hide glue. Magical stuff. Marine epoxy is considered acceptable for a broken Kay neck heel, but you also have the option of fitting a new Engelhardt neck for not much money and a lot less trouble. Parts are available from Gollihur Music in New Jersey.

    Don't overthink the neck angle. Kays have a certain personality, and their design flaws are part of that.

    If you do keep the original neck, the fingerboard sounds like it may just be horribly dehydrated. I had an old Engelhardt ES-1 with a long, longitudinal crack in the board, which was ebony. After treating it with pure lemon oil, it rehydrated and closed.

    When the new bridge is fitted, it should be located at a level with the inner nicks on the ff-holes. The soundpost should be about 1/2 inch below the bridge foot but that's negotiable.
  4. jazzsola


    Sep 28, 2009
    Thanks KungfuSheriff...

    I'm located in Huntingdon Valley, PA, north of Philadelphia and close to major regional roads.

    I think a visit/consult with a knowledgeable bass luthier is a great idea. So, I'd appreciate any recommendations from the TB community.

    I'll get some pics up soon!!

    Thank you!!

    KUNGfuSHERIFF Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2002
    Upstate NY
    Mike Shank in Elizabethtown is well spoken of, appears to respect old Kays and is about two hours from you.

    A little further away is J.R. Judd's in Williamsport, whom I have visited and seems to run a very nice shop.

    Or you could go whole hog and drive to New York to visit Bill Merchant, my luthier, who has generously shared his time and knowledge with me (a relatively new player and repeat customer) when I have undertaken similar rebuilds.
  6. Mark Gollihur

    Mark Gollihur Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jul 19, 2000
    Mullica Hill, NJ
    Owner/President, Gollihur Music LLC
    Sounds like a fun, hopefully worthwhile project!

    Just over the bridge in NJ there are a few guys we know well - Rob Riccardi, Phil Travaline, Mike Egan - they're all good guys... We also have a luthiers' contact listing for your free perusal, broken down by state: http://www.gollihurmusic.com/luthiers.cfm
  7. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc

    Save the marine epoy for working on your boat. Please do any repairs to your old Kay with hot hide glue only.
  8. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    I got a Kay for free in comparable condition, in 1982. No repair shop would touch it, so I went to work, with a lot of coaching from my dad. We did as much research as we could, including getting a book on violin making.

    My Kay had a loose neck, split neck block (typical root cause for the loose neck), and the bass bar was split and detached from the inside of the belly (another typical Kay issue). I used hide glue. My repairs have held up so far. I play a new fully carved bass today. I'm keeping the Kay in case either of my kids takes an interest in bass.

    Definitely inspect the inside of the box with a mirror and bright light, to see if the bass bar is intact. That might alter your repair plans.

    If the fingerboard has to be swapped out, it would give you a chance to correct what is probably the major flaw of Kay basses, which is the skinny neck and low overstand. Some folks have installed a carbon fiber rod to stiffen the neck. My luthier mentioned to me the idea of adding a shim between the neck and fingerboard to fatten it up.

    Whether an old Kay is worth all of this effort, who knows. A lot may depend on how much of the sweat equity you can put in yourself.


    Sep 15, 2012
    SLC Utah
    I want to second the pics. It's hard to know how to repair something you can't see ;)

    I have a slew of Harmony/Silvertone guitars lying around (ok so a slew=3), and they're nifty little devils.

    Part of the reason I want pics is Kay= eye candy.
  10. jazzsola


    Sep 28, 2009
  11. jazzsola


    Sep 28, 2009
    Here are a few more pics of the broken neck at the dovetail joint... ImageUploadedByTapatalk1355196035.571661. ImageUploadedByTapatalk1355196050.194399.
  12. jazzsola


    Sep 28, 2009
    Here's the bass: Kay S-1 that had a rough time in school. It was a orchestra bass at a local high school for 40 years...
  13. jazzsola


    Sep 28, 2009
    Thanks so far for the input. I'm going to take my time with this project and get some advice from experienced builders. I found that this Kay is probably perfect for me if I can get it working order with a decent set up.

    KUNGfuSHERIFF Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2002
    Upstate NY
    That's not bad at all. I hope you thanked your friend a lot.

    You'll need to clean all the crap out of there so you get a good glue surface. You want the wood to mate as closely as possible, and that looks like a pretty clean break.

    Then you'll have to shim the bottom of the mortise (I get nice wood from Metropolitan Music in Vermont) and fill in the wavy edges of the tenon with Bondo. Kidding.

    Do a nice job, the bass deserves it. Enjoy.