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Kay Bass - Nut question and Intro

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by PhxPhil, Jul 30, 2012.

  1. PhxPhil


    Jul 30, 2012
    Hello, I am new hear as a registered member. Been lurking for years. Just picked up a Kay Bass (1951 I believe) from a close friend. It need to be put back together. Nothing major except it needs the fingerboard mounted and a nut.

    It was missing the bridge, but I located one from a friend of a friend (small world here in the Phoenix music scene).

    So...question... the nut... I am a pretty good woodworker and can probably make one. Or do you think I would be better purchasing one?

    Second question...sorry just thought of it...and probably a laughable one for most of you... are the fingerboards normally glued to the neck?

    Thanks for any input. I am trying to decide whether to put this girl back together myself or pay to have someone do it.

  2. WallBass


    Feb 24, 2011
    I would personally have a professional luthier do it. The nut needs to be the right height, and also the bridge would need to be adjusted to the bass as well. Same with the fingerboard, it might need a planing. And yes, the fingerboards are glued on. Hope this helps!
  3. bssist


    Jun 23, 2007
    St. Louis, MO USA
    I am very diy and always encourage others to do their own work when they can. However, I think it would be in your best interest to take your bass in to a reputable shop for the work you need until you gain more knowledge. Unless of course, you are in no hurry to get it playing. In that case set it aside for a little while and start doing a lot of reading. Chuck Traeger has written two books on the subject that will be a great starting point for you.


    Good luck.
  4. RCWilliams

    RCWilliams Supporting Member Commercial User

    Apr 23, 2007
    Merriam Kansas (Kansas City)
    owner RC Williams Co. LLC
    get a book on setup and read about what you are wanting to do, then if you follow the correct procedures, and you are a good wood worker and it feels ok have a go of it. Listen to your dummy alert though... the little voice in the back of your head that tells you something is not right, figure out why, then proceed, either with the work or to get help which ever seems most appropriate.
  5. RSBBass


    Jun 11, 2011
    A bad nut is unlikely to damage a bass. If you are so inclined the down side would be wasted time and money together with an unplayable or barely playable bass.

    That said, I think it would be better to have a pro do it and then take a look at what they did and learn. They may even be willing to let you watch what they do. Most luthiers are proud of what they do and like it when a customer is interested.
  6. mirwa


    Aug 4, 2012
    Australia - Perth
    From a repairers point of view

    Fitting a nut is a relatively easy thing to do if you have some basic woodworking skills, if you cut the nut to high then your fingers will feel tired quickly, if you cut the nut too low then you will get board buzz.

    Fitting a fingerboard I would recommend to a repairer, you have to make sure the understructure (neck) is prepared properly, you have to make sure the fingerboard is prepared properly, then join the two together, very easy to muck this step up, you then have to dress the sides of the board to the neck, hide glue is best option for gluing up.

    Hope this helps, please fell free to ask questions



    Mar 4, 2008
    Larisa, Greece
    Well, living in a no double bass land i had to learn how to do some minor repairs. I started with Chuck Traeger's books and continued with all the books available. My experience as a amateur violin luthier helped me significantly and today, after ten years, i have acquired modest skills which enable me to set up my own and my friends' double basses. Starting this venture with the necessary woodworking skills and keeping in mind that wood cannot be put back if taken out you will reach this point in due time.
  8. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    I find that patience and knowing your limits are more valuable than inherent skill when working on double basses. Get yourself a copy of Chuck's book, proceed with caution, and only use hot hide glue so that whatever work you do is reversible and give it a try.

    Most folks that ask a question like this are going to do it themselves anyway, so I generally encourage them and just ask that they do it within a few limits. If you are impatient or think you can shortcut things with a bunch of epoxy or carpenter's glue, then take it to someone else. Do a correct repair with hot hide glue and you just fixed a broken bass and the street value goes up; epoxy the neck joint or the back together on the ribs and you just dropped the street value by 1/3 in my local area.

    It is important to remember that in their day, Kays were not valuable family heirlooms; they were cheap student basses designed to get the job done at a reasonable cost. Kay did a LOT of things that many of us find questionable today and those are the shortcuts that wind up making more work out of simple tasks for luthiers today.

  9. DC Bass

    DC Bass

    Mar 28, 2010
    Washington DC
    PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE follow James' advice regarding HOT HIDE GLUE!!!!

    Again, HOT HIDE GLUE- do not use the bottled variety- unless you are using the trick from the Traeger book that has you mix hot hide glue with the liquid variety to delay set time...but I digress...


    Pretty please? Sugar on top?

    To be honest, I find it surprising that it took as long as it did for someone to offer this most important advice...

    Seriously- there are tons of threads about how to use hot hide glue- search them out. Don't use anything else.

    Best of luck with your Kay!

  10. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    To be honest, I very rarely glue DB nuts in place; there is really no need. Most players are smart enough to change strings one at a time, lest they drop the sound post. If they're confident enough to take them all off at once, they can handle re-positioning the nut - its not as if it fits more than one way! ;)

    If I do glue, I use a tiny dab of Liquid Hide or Fish Glue - it ain't structural at all.
  11. gerry grable

    gerry grable Supporting Member

    Nov 9, 2010
    Does the same thing go for saddles? I hope so. When I put in my new tailpiece cable, I used a few drops of clear fingernail polish to hold in on the bass long enough to put the strings back on :bag:
  12. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    No, I glue those in with regular hide glue. Maybe on your bass the angles and pressures work so that the saddle is pressed firmly into its pocket. ;)
  13. jonas


    Dec 9, 2003
    Frankfurt am Main/Germany
    Kontrabass-Atelier, Lando Music (Germany)
    yes, not glueing the nuts makes things much easier. I wish more makers would not glue (or only slightly glue) the nuts.

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