Can my Dragonfly MKII be rehabilitated? Is it even worth it?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by doublehorn, Apr 23, 2014.

  1. doublehorn


    Feb 7, 2014
    Rossland, BC
    OK luthiers,

    My first bass was this Michael Kelly Dragonfly 5 string fretless that I still love. Now that I've owned a few other basses, I can see the MK has some problems, as follows:

    1. The neck appears to be bent disproportionately near the head. The curvature is generally pretty fair along the neck until roughly the 2nd or 3rd fret dot, where it bends upward toward the fingerboard at a steeper angle than the rest of the neck. I've tried to adjust the truss rod (counter clock appears to tighten, it's hard to tell), but I don't want to mess with that too much. It's resisting adjustment pretty sternly now, so I don't want to force it any further. I wish there were a torque rating on that truss rod. I just don't know how much force it should take to bend the neck.
    2. The bridge might be too high. It's hard to tell with that swoop in the end of the neck, but the action is very, very high past the 5th fret dot and almost unplayable past the 7th or 8th. Can the bridge be either lowered or maybe replaced with something more substantial than the cheap looking factory plastic bridge?
    3. Bridge pins don't always hold the strings in place. I'm hoping the cheap looking plastic pins that came with the instrument can be replaced with something sturdier, maybe with a bit more friction potential. Those pins like to slip out, especially the B-string pin that's trying to hold back a .115 flatwound.

    All in all, I love the sound this instrument produces both amplified and unamplified with the D'Addario flatwounds. Something in between an upright and a pure electric, but the super high action makes it harder to play than is necessary. Can these conditions be addressed, or is this just a cheap Chinese instrument that can't be/isn't worth saving?
  2. Cellwelder


    Dec 25, 2012
    Bangkok, Thailand
    Gee, I wish I had a commercial affiliation. I could use a little more spending money...
    Pictures would help mate. But from what I can gather, I think most of the problems with the bridge can be solved. Regarding the action, I'd take off the strings and file the saddle down, unless it can be adjusted. The bridge pins can be replaced, I'm sure.

    Or, you could try at replacing the whole thing. I would take out the pins and use a chisel to try and pry the bridge off the guitar, if it's glued on. Be careful not to apply too much force though.

    I'm not sure about the neck though. I'm not an experienced luthier (or a woodworker, for that matter), so I'll leave that for someone with more experience...
  3. doublehorn


    Feb 7, 2014
    Rossland, BC
    Very good, CW. Thanks for taking the time to commit your thoughts to ink.

    As it turns out, my ignorance in the ways of truss rods, coupled with weak availability of documentation from Michael Kelly and an improbable factory setup, conspired to create this thread. Originally, I tried turning the truss rod screw both ways to see if anything would happen, but the only direction that offered any resistance (I assumed shortening the truss rod) was actually lengthening it making the factory neck setup that was already pretty bowed, even worse. Clockwise adjustment offered no resistance, but in retrospect, I suspect this is because the neck had been bowed for so long that is was maybe a little bit stuck there. After a day or two with the strings off and careful, incremental shortening adjustments of the truss rod (clockwise, as appears to be conventional), the neck started resisting the truss rod and bending back away from the fingerboard.

    After a week of little shortening adjustments, maybe 1/8th of a turn per day, the neck is almost completely flat and the instrument not only plays pleasantly, but I even think the tone has improved. It produces that deep, woody, fretless growl that you always hear from studio fretless players. Now the bridge seems like a reasonable height and the pins seem to be staying in place better with this new string angle. So I'm friends on again with my MK Dragonfly. I think it might have even earned its place in the gigging lineup again. Now if I can just solve this feedback problem...
  4. doublehorn


    Feb 7, 2014
    Rossland, BC
    Ah, very interesting, PK. I was hoping to track down someone who has actually used one of these with an MK and the Fishman electronics. I try not to use the MK if I think the gig is going to be particularly loud, but it happens sometimes anyway - an effect you seem to know about already. On a scale from 1 - 10, where 1 = 'does nothing' and 10 = 'stops all feedback no matter how loud things get', how effective would you say that soundhole plug is? and does it change the amplified tone noticeably?

    As a ratio of effectiveness to money spent, this rig seems like a way better value than say a parametric EQ or some of the other electronic solutions out there.

  5. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY

    The ball of the string can (should) be bent toward the direction of the neck so it "hooks" against the edge of the hole inside the guitar. If you get me.

    Rough up the pins with sandpaper so they grip the wood better. That plastic is slippery. The wooden hole can be too smooth too but don't try and rough them up with sandpaper; try some bow rosin in them to make them tacky. Roughing the plastic peg will help. Just don't grind any off; just put some scoring on it.
  6. peterkidd


    Oct 20, 2008
    Shirley, MA
    It was a few years ago, I am unsure which electronics were in it, I Do recall the fingerboard was 80% inlay, 20% rosewood.
    I'd give it an 8 for feedback control, bass went from useless to useful live.
    Maybe don't aim it at the amp.
    When inserted, the unamplified acoustic tone was somewhat muffled, amplified tone unchanged.
    Though likely , when played acoustically, the feedback issue should be moot.
  7. doublehorn


    Feb 7, 2014
    Rossland, BC
    Right, so just to follow up on this thread that I'd almost completely forgotten about, the answer is yes, the Kelly is totally worth rehabilitating. Things I've done:
    1. adjusted the truss rod, slowly over a week, so now the neck is reasonably straight, although not perfectly in tune according to the fret markers. Doesn't matter though, those neck fret markers are really just a guideline anyway. Intonation happens with the ear. The action is now lovely and low with no buzzing. And all the complicated inlay work on the finger board seems to be holding up very well, despite how fragile it all looks.
    2. End pins seem to have settled in. As long as the strings don't need changing, this doesn't seem to be a problem anymore.
    3. Ripped out the cheap and horrible Fishman onboard pre amp, just clipped it off at the lead wires, unscrewed it from the bout and pitched it in the trash. Then installed a K&K Pure Bass 5 string, passive bridge plate transducer set, glued to the underside of the bridge plate. The K&K ships attached to a stereo SwitchCraft female jack, so I soldered the Fishman under saddle transducer that came with the Dragonfly to the K&K jack onto the unoccupied stereo terminal, bought a stereo TRS to dual mono instrument cable, and now I blend the two signals through a Radial Engineering Tonebone PZ Pre. The blended sound is amazing. Nice string detail from the UST and gobs of bass and wood through the K&K on the bridge plate. The K&K is quite a bit hotter than the Fishman UST, so the Fishman level needs to be all the way up to balance. I roll the low pass up to 100Hz or so on the Fishman, so all the bass is coming from the K&K. Recorded, the Kelly sounds very much like a mic'd upright bass set up this way and I'm entirely pleased with the sound. And it never feeds back, even at uncomfortably loud stage volumes.
    4. These pickups both need a higher impedance preamp though. I've plugged them into 1Mo inputs and the 10Mo Tonebone inputs and I think they both sound better through the 10Mo. Most basses do, for that matter.
    All in all, the Kelly is so, so much better after these modifications. As a bonus, the hole in the upper bout where the Fishman preamp used to live directs a useful amount of unamplified monitoring sound up to the player, kind of like a Boulder Creek ABG. So yes, an MK Dragonfly can be a valid instrument, but does require some modification. Mine is back into the gigging rotation again.
    scarekrow likes this.
  8. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Jun 13, 2021

Share This Page