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Kay doublebass damage

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by SteSte, Feb 3, 2018.

  1. SteSte


    Mar 28, 2017
    Rome, Italy
    my 1961 Kay bass viol fall down to the floor and this is the result.
    Now the strings are very very high on the keypad.
    Any expert on this issue?
    I'm based in Rome, Italy and here nobody uses Kay bass and of course nobody know how this bass was made, you know, italian liuthers consider this plywood bass as a "toy"...
    Ciao with sadness,
    Stefano IMG_0005.JPG IMG_0012.JPG
  2. Mister Boh

    Mister Boh

    Oct 23, 2016
    Annapolis, MD
    At least the heel didn't break. Let's call in the cavalry.

    @james condino
    Mktrat and SteSte like this.
  3. SteSte


    Mar 28, 2017
    Rome, Italy
    i like horses
  4. Steven Ayres

    Steven Ayres Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2007
    Northern Arizona
    The impact broke the glue bond in the joint, causing the neck to tilt forward. This is a very common condition with Kay basses that comes about due to the dovetail joint combined with age. It is best repaired by rebuilding the joint, and many luthiers advocate conversion to a more conventional straight-sided joint. I've done this myself with success, and while it is a major project, any experienced luthier will be able to handle it.

    Many go for years, even decades, being played like this, but I think it compromises the sound and probably increases the chance of catastrophic failure of the neck and top block.
  5. SteSte


    Mar 28, 2017
    Rome, Italy
    Thanks a LOT.
    Monday i will meet a luthier and i will tell him about your suggestion on conversion.
    I have not the courage to do this job by myself...
    I appreciate your help now i know that someone else solved the same issue, this make me more calm.
    Have you great music moments, ciao!
    RobTheRiot likes this.
  6. Your bass needs a neck reset.

    For some reason, American plywood basses were made with a mortise-and-tenon neck joint.

    Lots of these were fit sloppily which is half the reason Kay neck butts almost always break.

    While your luthier is in there it would behoove you to have them fit shims at the least to ensure a good tight fit. That SHOULD cure the problem for decades.
    SteSte likes this.
  7. SteSte


    Mar 28, 2017
    Rome, Italy
    THANKS!!!!! I appreciate!
    KUNGfuSHERIFF likes this.
  8. I'd wager money that the cheeks of your neck block are cracked in the back, and if you peeled the button/back down a bit you could see it. I've seen this on a number of Kay basses that I've restored, and in most cases been able to stabilize the cheeks with glue and light hardware. The Kay dovetail acts as a wedge, and under impact transfers all the force to those cheeks... that's how I see it anyway!
    SteSte and james condino like this.
  9. Greg Clinkingbeard

    Greg Clinkingbeard Commercial User

    Apr 4, 2005
    Kansas City area
    Black Dog Bass Works
    I'll bet the lower part of the keyed neck heel is now separated. It may be put back together like nothing happened.
    SteSte likes this.
  10. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    Yup, I'd bet you 'ahunred that the dovetail cheeks on the block have broken with the fall. That makes it very fun to remove because those broken parts always hold on tight when you try to steam everything apart.

    I've always felt that enlarging the body pocket from a dovetail to a straight sided mortise was a good idea but only half of the conversation. If you do that but then only glue some extra material to the neck dovetail section, then what you have is still a dovetail in an even larger pocket with a bunch of extra junk added. It will allow the neck to sometimes release easier than the one in the photo but I don't have confidence that it will do much more as you still have a whimpy neck with not much contact area. Take the same oversize body pocket and fit a new neck in a big old German style mortise and tenon and you created a very strong joint that solved the problems. Original necks are what they are. Hardware and carbon fiber help overcome some of the limitations. Do you want a bass with a certificate of authenticity and clean x-rays or do you want a kick a$$ old reliable bass that gets the job done at the gig 3 nights a week? I know my choice...

    Remember that Kay was a guitar and multi instrument factory that by chance and the German embargo prior to WW2 arrived up at the NAMM show with just a partscaster M1 type. With the German manufacturers not present, Kay took orders for a huge amount of basses from hungry school districts seeking entry level somewhat disposable basses. Kay went home, took what knowledge and jigs they had, and started making basses. It was never a designed or engineered product. They have issues that can be corrected, and they made more of them than almost all of the others combined, so we see a lot of them. They have limitations, but they also excel in some areas- my sissy fragile carved basses all seem to fall apart at loud amplified pub volumes, but my old '47 Kay with the Willie Nelson finish hangs parked next to a couple of cabinets LOUD all night long with no issues. In a little town with something like 85 breweries that is VERY important!

    Kay Bass Repair

    closing image.JPG
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2018
  11. SteSte


    Mar 28, 2017
    Rome, Italy
    Thank you for the exaustive answer and suggestion.
    I told to a liuther here in Italy to do the job, and i forwarded your info, its too difficult for me because in not experienced.
    He will open the joint and he will remove the neck. i know that a german style new joint and neck should be the best but i have not enough money for this so the final solution will be a compromise, maybe next time that the bass will fall i will have some extra money to put in.
    About Kay weakneas and strenghtness i totally agree, i do not want to change this bass with no other that i listened because with a full set of gut strings and very high action i can play w no amp in almost any situation, including big band (finding a good reflecting spot place). No other bass have such volume. I hate amps. Scott Colley had choosed two times my bass to do some gigs here in Italy and he had a choice of very fine italian bass. You know, we change in life and at the moment i like this bass with his ‘bebop’ jazzy sound maybe in the future i will have a fine italian carved old metal strings low action amplified. who knows? but apart all, THANK YOU YOU ARE VERY GENTLE AND PROFESSIONAL.
    rknea and HateyMcAmp like this.
  12. SteSte


    Mar 28, 2017
    Rome, Italy
    Thanks for the suggestion, in few days i will know everything, the bass is housed by a liuther now.
    Have a nice day.
    ciao fron Rome
  13. SteSte


    Mar 28, 2017
    Rome, Italy
    Thank you!
    In the next days we will have the answer because after a first look at the problem the liuther told me that he want to disassemble the neck to have a deeper vision of the situation.
    Im crossing the fingers, i know that everyrhing is solveable with acoustic instruments you can repair almost everithong but i hope with few money because im not so rich in this period of my life.
    Thanks a lot and have a nice day and beautiful sounds.
  14. SteSte


    Mar 28, 2017
    Rome, Italy
    DrewinHouston likes this.
  15. eh_train

    eh_train Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 12, 2004
    Owner, Stand Up Guy Basses (Repair/Sell/Buy upright basses)
    Glad to see it's in the hands of a luthier, and it came apart okay! Now, what happened to your fingerboard??
    SteSte likes this.
  16. You’re off to a good start, but I see two problems.

    First, the neck is still flatsawn instead of quartersawn like every other bass ever made which is why the heels on Kays always break.

    Second, the neck blocks were made from whatever was laying around.

    Neither are fatal. Just passing along information.
    SteSte likes this.
  17. turtlelakeinstruments


    Mar 12, 2015
    I think I'm in the camp that says rebuilding the dovetail, as it was meant to be,(tight and well fitting) not sloppy and loose as it probably was, will leave the block (weak link) stronger than cutting more of the corner out with a straight sided mortise and gluing chunks on the neck. the only increase in strength i see converting to the straighter sided mortise would be the end grain glue joint with the neck butted against a built up block.

    But I'm open to persuasion.:)
    SteSte likes this.
  18. LouisF

    LouisF Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    You can see here (at @ 3' 15") how the necks are put into Kay basses:

    Barry Snow likes this.
  19. SteSte


    Mar 28, 2017
    Rome, Italy
    yes i'm happy to be on the way of solving. The keypad was removed to easily access to the joint of the neck, it seems that removing/installing the keypad isnot a hard work.

    Thanks a lot, ciao
  20. SteSte


    Mar 28, 2017
    Rome, Italy
    thanks for these info, very good to know! I'm in love with this cheep double bass (its personal affair, i dont know why but i fall in love with musical instruments and i never change, now i'm 54 y.o. and i still have an ugly guitar that my mom gift me when i was 7...), so for this reason, just because i'm in love i want to mantain a long relationship with my bass so your information about fragility are very very useful. I need to increase my knowledge on this. I just started a liuthier training school here in Rome at the "Conservatorio Santa Cecilia", lot of fun making violin, viola, cello and so on, beautiful woods and so on. Music is beautiful and also musical instruments are beautiful in other way but they are, they deserve pleasure.
    So, to be brief many many thanks now i know that kay neck are flatsawn from wood and perhaps poor quality neck block.

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