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Kay Replacement necks inquiry

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by james condino, Jul 24, 2012.


  1. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    I do a LOT of old Kay neck rebuilds /grafts/ replacements / whatever it takes to get the old broken things running every year; so many that I've been considering having a reproduction model available as a commercial product available to the public. You can see where I've got a wanted ad currently posted looking for a couple of necks for some original "neckless" bodies that I have in the shop; almost every shop I know that works on basses has a couple of parts bodies laying around with severely damaged or missing necks.

    In general, I don't like Kay necks. The main body of the neck starts out pretty thin. Depending upon how many times the fingerboard has been leveled or what thickness it originally started out with (some were approx. 1.25-1.5", others 1.0"), by now they tend to wind up so thin that I rarely use an original spec one- I get pretty bad left hand issues in about 15 minutes. If I take the same neck and add an approx. 1/4" shim under the fingerboard to thicken it up, all left hand issues go away and I can play 4-5 hours with nothing. Some of it may be technique, some due to several broken bones and tendon issues, but mostly they are just too thin.

    I also find a lot of fault in the dovetail design. It is basically the same size they used in the Kay guitars just expanded a little bit to fit a bass size- pretty whimpy and a source of chronic failure.

    You can buy fairly close to original spec replacements from Englehardt for approx.$175, but my experience has been that you are just recreating all of the same issues with a new piece of maple, and you still have a fair bit of work to get them to fit well.

    Do you think there is a viable market for a cnc produced Kay neck that offers the following:

    -original spec scroll with minimal sanding / finish prep needed

    -thicker main body of the neck and a little more mass in the volute /pegbox junction

    - pre-cut carbon fiber channels so you can just drop them in

    - a much larger dovetail that will still fit within the parameters of the original neckblock so that no outside visible modification is necessary but is much more solid and is large enough to offer the potential of a bolt on / removable system

    -a market price of approx $500- It costs a lot of $$$ to have this done well in a format that is easy to use, saves a lot of repair bill time, and is made in the US. The majority of neck repair costs is bench time, not materials.

    - it would also be nice to have a choice of materials- several grades of maple, mahogany, walnut, and other species. Perhaps even a spruce core with a vacuum molded carbon fiber exoskeleton....

    I've said it many times, but working on old Kays is a lot like working on old Volkswagons. I've owned many of both. They made a lot of them and most of them need regular work and parts to maintain. I also feel like there is a lot of potential for a high quality aftermarket parts source like you find with the "bugworks" community.

    j.
     
  2. keiranohara

    keiranohara Commercial User

    Nov 7, 2007
    Ossining, NY
    Luthier at AES Fine Instruments
    I too see a good market for these, the last englehardt neck I got had its ears on the wrong side and rotated. I'd also like to see the overstand and neck angle to be a choice on installation.
     
  3. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    New Mexico. USA
    Get rid of the dovetail, as it functions like a wedge to break the joint apart. And turn the orientation of the tree rings 90 degrees so that the heel will be less likely to split.
     
  4. Defiantly something I would be interested in. I do my fair share of re-working Kay necks, necksets and the overstand and neck thickness are biggies along w. what Arnold and Keiran have brought up...
     
  5. RCWilliams

    RCWilliams Supporting Member Commercial User

    Apr 23, 2007
    Merriam Kansas (Kansas City)
    owner RC Williams Co. LLC
    I am inclined to say every thing you talked about in the cnc world is easy enough till you get to the required hand labor, but that is just a matter of deciding whether to buy the most complete possible neck or to go for just rough cut.

    I think Arnold is correct, delete the dove tail and leave enough on the butt to allow for luthier selected fitting of the overstand angle and all that fun stuff. What kind of wood? hard or soft maple? Would you go for classic kay look or something more pleasant?

    Is kiln dried ok?

    send me some specs and I'll see what I think it will take to put it together, nothing ventured...
     
  6. vejesse

    vejesse

    Apr 8, 2006
    Madison, Wi
    Double Bass Workshop
    If the grain orientation was right and the neck a little thicker and wider I might be interested. But that much expense might make this a neck for an elite few I'm afraid as we are talking about Kays here. Engelhardt necks are more like $90 net last time I ordered one (without fingerboard).

    I think a good question is why doesn't Engelhardt make some necks like this? Call it "Elite" or something. I asked them once and there was silence on the other end.
     
  7. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    New Mexico. USA
    Rick,

    What about making 2-piece necks of rift-sawn hard maple (easy to get)? They could be glued-up with UF or similar glue, and would be really stable. Kiln-dried is fine, as long as the wood is evenly dried both outside and in.
     
  8. I remember speaking w. a guy named Cal who has worked for them for many years and he used to hang out here on TB about changing the neck angle to more modern standards. His response was " Oh, we can't do that...." I told him I was resetting Kay's w. more overstand and getting wonderful results... :confused:
     
  9. RCWilliams

    RCWilliams Supporting Member Commercial User

    Apr 23, 2007
    Merriam Kansas (Kansas City)
    owner RC Williams Co. LLC
    Arnold, 2 or even 3 pieces will work fine and the bonus is it will have even greater rigidity and perhaps less of a tendency to want to go it's own way warpage wise. thinner wood is always less expensive than thicker, but you have to add the cost of the jointing and gluing.
     
  10. MollyKay

    MollyKay

    Sep 10, 2006
    Southern PA
    Bass Hobby'ist
    Dealing with a broken Kay neck is the number one repair project we tackle. Being able to buy a quality replacement neck would breathe some good life into a bunch of old tired Kay basses that have respectable bodies…so yes I would be up for buying a few!

    The two piece neck Arnold suggested is how the Epiphone neck was made. We have far less broken necks in our Epiphone collection then the Kay’s. This one of the quality features that sets an Epiphone above the crowd along with it being thicker and easier to play. And they sound great too. Love my Epi’s! :D
     
  11. RCWilliams

    RCWilliams Supporting Member Commercial User

    Apr 23, 2007
    Merriam Kansas (Kansas City)
    owner RC Williams Co. LLC
    Also, I forgot to add, if it is not "tone wood" and not flamed, it is in a whole different price world.
     
  12. Amen :D
     
  13. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    I like it - a plain Maple Kay replacement neck with decent grain, a built-in shim, a 1/4" CF slot, and a tenon sized so that I can open up the neck block to a plain mortise?

    Sign me up! ;)
     
  14. RCWilliams

    RCWilliams Supporting Member Commercial User

    Apr 23, 2007
    Merriam Kansas (Kansas City)
    owner RC Williams Co. LLC
    What other parts would be in sufficient demand to warrant duplication, tops backs? ribs?
     
  15. drurb

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

    Apr 17, 2004
    If you'd be doing necks, tops, backs, and ribs, then why not make your own complete copies? "New Kay" anyone? :)
     
  16. MollyKay

    MollyKay

    Sep 10, 2006
    Southern PA
    Bass Hobby'ist
    That would be called an Engelhardt/Link Upright Bass :eyebrow:

    Tops and neck block would be the next items on a want list.

    Broken necks #1 repair
    Sunken tops #2 repair

    Quality replacement parts...Priceless. :p
     
  17. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    The next most common part I replace is the internal blocks; most often the neck block. They were typically made out of poplar or some other very soft wood that falls apart. I usually make my new ones out of Houduras mahogany.
     
  18. RCWilliams

    RCWilliams Supporting Member Commercial User

    Apr 23, 2007
    Merriam Kansas (Kansas City)
    owner RC Williams Co. LLC
    Not being all that familiar with Kays is there more than one model? I know I have seen them in more than one finish and I think more than one species, but if there is only one arch and one outline and one style of FFs , I would think it should be easy enough to do an arch pattern and then vacuum form ply or laminated tops for them. I suspect the volume would be fairly low for the tops are the tops generally made of all spruce veneers?

    are only upper blocks needed or are corner ao lower blocks also needed?

    what about grafting necks?
     
  19. drurb

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

    Apr 17, 2004
    I'm well aware of what Engels are. :) As mentioned early in this thread and in many other threads, Engels retain many of the flaws of the Kay design. The light-hearted suggestion was envisioning a version that would be up-scale and without the flaws, just as is being discussed for the necks and blocks.
     
  20. MollyKay

    MollyKay

    Sep 10, 2006
    Southern PA
    Bass Hobby'ist
    That would be the UB Standard Bass…sorry Les, you’re just teeing these up. :)

    I’m yanking your chain because I can. :D
     

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