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Kay Bass restoration?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by melkinsbass, May 5, 2010.

  1. I got this bass a few years ago from a friend whom got it at a school corporation auction. I believe it's from the 60's. It's definitely been abused, but plays pretty well. Very low action for pizz, but arco is not so great (whole thing seems to rattle at louder dynamic levels). I find it to be very comfortable (41" string length) and would like to use it more, since I'm selling my larger string length bass due to arthritis issues.
    So, do you think it's possible? Or, will it be worth the cost? The corners are pretty beat up and the carvings on the upper, bass side bout are pretty deep. Also, by the bridge, the top seems to sag a bit. I plan on taking it to the luthier, but he's three and half hours away and I haven't had time lately with my teaching and gigging schedule. Thanks.

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  4. Wallyphonic


    Jan 21, 2007
    Well, I don't know about the restoration, but Kay basses have a 42" string length. The bridge on yours is placed too high - It should be centered on the inner notches of the f-holes.
  5. Well, that might explain the sag. :meh: That would put me in a bit of a pickle since I'm trying to get away from a 42" length. I'll remeasure to make sure I didn't screw up. It is end of nut to center of bridge, correct?
  6. MollyKay


    Sep 10, 2006
    Southern PA
    Bass Hobby'ist
    Your bass is a Kay S-1 and is worth restoration, but it won’t be an inexpensive project. The restoration done correctly could exceed the value of the bass. Regardless a Kay S-1 was the high grade of Kay bass in its day. If original, the fingerboard is ebony, the scroll is factory carved with the bound FF holes and inlaid purfling (which is the cause of the excessive edge chipping). Here is a photo bucket show of my 1942 Kay S-9 which is the same type of Kay bass but in blonde (S-1 was dark brown finish, S-8 was honey brown finish and S-9 was blonde finish).

    http://s318.photobucket.com/albums/mm428/bassmonkey2/1942 Kay S-9/?albumview=slideshow

    Best wishes and good luck. :D
  7. Wow! Thanks for all the info. :eek: That's a great looking bass you have. Wonderful restoration pics.Thanks.
  8. salcott

    salcott Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    NYC, Inwood.
    I'd fix it up for playability and minor cosmetics. I'd leave the "carving", though; it's pretty funny.
  9. The 'bong' carving makes for a great conversation piece at cocktail party gigs. :D
  10. uprightben


    Nov 3, 2006
    Boone, NC
    The bridge has been pushed northward to compensate for too low action caused by the sagging top, it is not the cause of the sag. The saging top is a major issue, you might have a hard time finding a legit luthier willing to take it on. The bong carving, however, is a gem, and should be painted sparkle green. It will give you entree to all the hippest jam sessions.
  11. There was an article in the ISB Journal years ago by Barry Kolstein on how to reform a sagging top on a plywood bass. It involved removing the top, removing the bass bar, placing the top "top-down" on a form made of wood blocks, and then putting hot sand bags on it to reform it. Then putting on a new bass bar. It looked like a lot of time-consuming tedious work, probably too much to pay a luthier for, but if you've got some woodworking skills and a lot of patience and you really care about the bass, you might consider doing it.
  12. I'm not sure what causes the sag, then. Sparkle green would be a very tasteful addition. :cool:

    This seems like a job that would be a bit much for me, but I have neighbor who is a good woodworker; I'll see what he thinks. I'll look up that journal entry. Thanks.
  13. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Pics of such a process can be found here.
  14. ASBass


    Mar 11, 2007
    I'd leave the bong carving. It's cool. I have a 40's Epiphone that is really beat up but has incredible sound. Carved on the front is "Junior + Joyce". I love it!
  15. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard

    Apr 4, 2005
    Kansas City area
    KC Strings
    That's an interesting link. A luthier at KC Strings once told me a method he used on a badly deformed carved top. He made a large batch of thick mashed potatoes and put them into a form. While they were still nice and warm, he put the top (top down) into them and put weights in strategic spots, covered the whole thing and left it for a couple of days. :eyebrow:He told me the combination of low head and humidity did the trick and the restored bass was fabulous. Unconventional to say the least! :eek:
    A plywood top can also sag if the back develops a bump where the soundpost sits. My old German plywood had this problem to the degree that when the treble side adjuster was 1/2" higher then the bass side I had it fixed. My luthier simply put a patch back there and put the post back in. It totally corrected the problem and has been right for almost a year.
    I seem to remember some Kays having a patch (I see one in Molly's link) to reinforce the back but can't remember when they quit. Was it when they begin using more laminations in the back? Molly?
    Hopefully the bass bar is intact.
    That bass has some serious mojo! Do the necessary repairs to make it healthy and don't put much into improving the appearance. That's my $.02.
  16. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    I'm quite sure it was the other way around. The early Kays didn't have the patch; the later ones did. My 1966 sure did.

    From Stowers' site:
    The earliest bass in the database is a (C-1), Ser# 124, with tag saying (K-Meyer). It appears this bass was one of the very earliest produced. It did not have a round disc placed under the sound post and the pressure had split the laminated back.
  17. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
  18. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    The sound post disc on the back kinda comes and goes through the late thirties and early forties but appears to be in for good by 1945.

    Or maybe I haven't seen enough Kays yet! ;)

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