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Kay repair questions

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by Bassism, Nov 13, 2005.

  1. I have an old Kay that I got from my school with a broken neck, no bridge, and no sound post.
    I have almost gotten a replacement Englehardt neck fit, and hope to have it glued by next weekend.
    I'm pretty comfortable with fitting the bridge that I bought from Bob G. I plan to model it after the other bass at my school.
    What I'm worried about is fitting a sound post. It seems to me like it is a very difficult thing to do, especially without a sound post setter.
    I'm thinking about taking my bass to a luthier to have the post and, possibly, bridge fitted. I'm not sure how much it would cost, but if I could have it done for not much less than buying a sound post setter, I think that would be the better way to go.
    What do you guys think? Would I be better off buying the tools and going at it on my own, or getting a luthier to do it for me. I am skilled in fine woodworking, and I would like to apprentice with a luthier at some point, so this is a pretty exciting project for me.
    The other concern I have is with finding a luthier. The only bass luthier I know of in Ottawa, I haven't had good experiences with in the past. I bought a cello from him, and the neck popped off at one point, and the fingerboard at another time. Both times, when I recieved the cello after repairs, I wasn't impressed in the least. The fingerboard isn't lined up with the neck at all. I also asked him to try and make it easier to play, and got no results from it.
    So, my choices are to pay a luthier I'm not exactly confident in, but who I'm sure is well experienced, or to buy the tools, and attempt it myself, gaining the experience in doing so.
    Does anybody know of a good luthier in the Ottawa area?
    Would it be worth picking up Chuck Traegar's book? (Even though the whole reason I'm in this mess is I don't have enough money)
  2. nicklloyd

    nicklloyd Supporting Member/Luthier

    Jan 27, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    If you can successfully (?) repair a broken neck and cut a bridge, you might as well try setting your own soundpost. Get an auto-parts telescopic mirror, a small light to illuminate the inside of the bass, and a S-shaped soundpost setter. If the arching isn't really messed up and distorted around the G foot on this bass, then a bench disc-sander (6", 8", or larger) with 120 grit paper would get you very close to an acceptable fit. A disc-sander (used correctly) will produce a flat cut; a belt-sander will only round the ends of the soundpost. This is a Kay, and a good instrument for you to learn soundpost setting/cutting on.

    As a general placement, aim for 17-20 mm south of the G foot (south being towards the tailpiece), and then centered on the "leg" of the bridge.

    Buy 3 or 4 soundposts... you will probably mess up 2 or 3 times and get the post too short. Go slow, don't drink too much coffee, and don't leave any gaps in the fit of the post.

    good luck...
  3. Well, as far as repairing the neck, the wedge design used on the Kays made it relatively easy. I just took the old one off and bought a replacement to fit. I still have to make up a small shim to get a tighter fit. I don't think I can go too far wrong here, though.

    Do you have any tips on how to set a sound post without a setter? Or should I put the money into buying a setter? I'm a little bit reluctant to spend the money if I don't have to; it's a pretty specialized tool.
    There is a pencil marking where the old post was, so I figured I'd start from there.

    Also, I'm interested in your opinion of Traeger's book. Is it worth the expense, or do you think I'd be better off mining talkbass?


  4. Uh oh. . . . .
  5. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    Oh, really?
  6. I figure if I can get the joint tight, and well glued-in, and line it up straight, I should be good. I think it should be at least as effective as the lag bolt in the neck I pulled off.

    Am I missing something here?
  7. nicklloyd

    nicklloyd Supporting Member/Luthier

    Jan 27, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    It's going to be hard to give you specifics about what's right or wrong with your neck joint... we aren't in your shop, looking at the bass. (can you post some pics?)

    Have you asked yourself these questions:
    Is the neck lined up with the ff-holes?
    Is the projection similar to the original?
    Is the glue joint chalk-fitted and very snug?
    Is the button in sound condition?
    Is the overstand the same?
    Why did the neck come out in the first place?

    A soundpost setter is a specialized tool and worth the money. It's not going to break the bank. Do you have an International Violin catalog? I made a setter once (on the road) with the curved metal handle of a plastic bucket. It worked, but it was hell to use. Just buy one.

    Mining Talkbass is always a good idea. You will find a huge thread about the Traeger book. If you have no bass experience, there are some helpful tips and ideas. However, this book isn't "the Bible of bass repair" (as Lemur advertises) and it shouldn't be treated as such.

    If you want to learn more about specific solutions to bass repair and setup, get a digital camera and start swapping emails with the luthiers on this forum. You don't have to do it on a public thread, just use the Private Message feature. It wouldn't be as effective as a one-on-one apprenticeship, but a lot better than trying to learn bass luthiery (solely) from the available printed material on the market.
  8. Thanks again for the advice.

    I was planning on taking some pics before I started gluing them up anyway, so I definitely will post them up here and see what you guys have to offer.
  9. Hey again,
    I finally managed to get some pictures taken of the bass.
    I posted them on a photobucket account so as not to take up space on the talkbass server - http://photobucket.com/albums/c125/bassism

    On one of the pictures with the old and new neck side by side, you can see where the scroll broke off previously. When I looked at it, I couldn't think of a decent way to reattach the scroll, which is why I decided to change the neck completely. Also factoring in my decision was the fact that the heel of the neck had been repaired a couple of times, once with dowel, and once with a lag bolt.

    So, I started going at the thing with a knife, a kettle, and some water.
    Once I got the neck off, the wedge-shaped block on the bass side looked rotten, and was actually a couple different pieces of wood, nailed onto the body. So I pulled that off too. What I'm left with is what you can see in the pics.

    Although you can't really tell from the pictures, the neck block(?) underneath where the wedge would have been isn't quite level with the rest of the neck block. I suspect whenever it was repaired before, they never really bothered to level it out. Also, the rib is starting to detach on that side, but that seems like a pretty easy fix with a bit of glue

    My plan for the repair is to take the piece that I made to fit relatively well with the space that is there, and glue it in, along with the rib. Once that's in, I plan to make a small shim to get the neck to fit snug with the block, as it's off by about 1/16th.

    So, any of you luthiers see any major flaws in my plan, or have any advice?
    Nick suggested to swap emails with you guys, but I figured this would work just as well. However, if you guys would rather talk privately, I can respect that, and have no problems with PMs or email.

  10. Tbeers


    Mar 27, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    I am DEFINITELY not a luthier but that joint looks much cleaner than I was expecting when I clicked the link. And the button looks to be fine as well. I've certainly seen far messier pictures of Kay neck repairs.

    edit: I do see what you mean about the need to shim.
  11. Honestly, the joint is much cleaner than what it was before I pulled it all apart, which is why I feel I can't go too far wrong.
  12. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    Before you glue it up, you MUST make sure the space under the neck foot is filled in. If not, the joint will fail again. (Most Kays had a space there between the neck and the body's neck block.) And of course be sure the neck is aimed down the center of the body.
  13. You mean that space is there from the factory? Do you know why they would build them like that?
  14. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    I think in their assembly system they relied strictly on the dovetail to handle the neck torque. I'm sure it was easier to fit everything up without the two parts touching on the bottom. But since the joint is being compressed at the front (near the fingerboard) just shimming the space there in the front of the joint can prevent future problems.
  15. LowG

    LowG Supporting Member

    Dec 8, 2006
    Milwaukee, WI
    I know this is thread is old, but for anyone looking to make a quick soundpost setter, I had good luck with a metal coathanger (not undone, just squished together and twisted so it's stiff), curve it to however you need, and attach a butter knife with some more wire (or any other sharp point that has a shape that will fasten tight with a bunch of wire). Get the post basically where it needs to be, then use some sort of long rod to knock it tight and straight.