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NBD 1966 Kay M-1 - Thoughts?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by BeSharp, Mar 8, 2013.

  1. BeSharp


    May 17, 2011
    Annapolis, MD

    Over the past few months I've been searching for my first upright after 30+ years as an electric player. I've posted many available options and sought advice on this forum. I wanted to say thanks and let everyone know how amazingly helpful you've all been. After looking far and wide, I ended up with this 1966 Kay M-1. I did buy it from a private seller and I'll be starting lessons on Monday. I've posted a bunch of pictures and I was wondering if you could help me.

    1. What kind of strings are on this? They feel very stiff to me. I'm looking for something a little easier for a rookie so I'll take suggestions on a good set for an old Kay.

    2. Does this fingerboard look original? It seems much thicker than many of the Kays I've seen and it's a solid chunk of Ebony (if I'm not mistaken). I think most of the Ebony boards were reserved for the higher end "S" models. Also, I'm thinking that they might have replaced the fingerboard at the same time that a neck repair was done. There's evidence that the neck was glued and doweled but it's solid as a rock and is still the original Kay neck.

    3. How does the string height look overall? The bridge is adjustable but it's all the way down and the strings are still fairly high (I think). Would a luthier be able to get the strings lower and more comfortable by shaving off some of the bridge itself?

    4. Anything else in these pics jump out at you? I don't mind spending some money on a good setup, etc. because I got the bass for a really great price so I have some room to invest without going above the value of the bass.


    Pics attahced:














  2. Congratz! I just got my first upright yesterday. Also a Kay m1.
  3. BeSharp


    May 17, 2011
    Annapolis, MD
    I saw that. I actually picked mine up yesterday too. Congratz on yours. I know you were looking even longer than I did.

  4. That board looks a bit thicker than what was on my S-51 but I can't confirm for you whether that's original or not.

    The strings look to be Spirocores, though without a shot of the threads in the pegbox I can't tell which flavor.

    Looks like a great specimen, congrats!
  5. BeSharp


    May 17, 2011
    Annapolis, MD
    Thanks. If it helps, the threads in the pegbox are a lovely shade of purple felt. I've been playing the heck out of it all day and yesterday and I have blisters to prove it!
  6. Ah, I believe the Weichs have purple wrap on top. If those are too tight, and depending on the styles of music you play, you may want to look into gut or a gut alternative. But you'll probably grow into the spiros OK if you give it a little bit of time.
  7. Mine has a thick ebony board on it also. But that was upgraded to that when the neck was replaced.
  8. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    An un-beveled ebony board would not be original, but that's OK. Given the cost, the board wouldn't have been replaced unless the bass really needed it. At the point of getting that work done, I imagine that the luthier would have explained the pro's and con's of a thicker board. The potential advantages are playability and the chance of re-dressing it in the coming decades before it needs to be replaced again.

  9. MJM44Kay


    Mar 4, 2013
    Hey, that's a beautiful Kay. My main bass is a '44 M1 that has had a very difficult life (that means beat to hell) but it sound great and is a joy to play but looks totally beat...

    Strings: This depends heavily on what you want to do; jazz, classical, rockabilly... I play jazz, big band and combo. I use LaBella 7710 tape wounds. These are strictly pizz style strings pretty much only for jazz (I also use LaBella tape wounds on my electric basses). Other styles require different strings. I have D'Adario hybrids on my other URB because that's what I use for arco.

    String action also depends on playing style. I shoot for 1/4", 3/8", 3/8" and 7/16" (GDAE) or slightly less. If your adjusters are all the way down, trimming the bridge is the only way to get lower. I do this type of thing myself. If you get a little to low, the adjusters can bring it back up. The condition of the fingerboard will determine how low you can go. If it is not well shaped or there are wear grooves, buzzes will drive you crazy. If you are not a do-it-yourself type (and have deep pockets) a good luthier can adjust the bridge and shape the fingerboard to get this really nice.

    The finger board seems thick but the condition on the instrument is so good it seems unlikely that the original was worn down. Seems like a great bass!
  10. BeSharp


    May 17, 2011
    Annapolis, MD
    Thanks for the feedback everyone. I feel reassured since this is both my first upright and I took a chance and bought it from a private party. I just couldn't see coming up with $3500+ they're asking around here for Kay's at the luthiers/stores. I paid less than half of that and I gambled that I'd win even if it cost some money in repairs. I don't think it's going to need repairs. Maybe some new/different strings and a set up.

    Do you all know what kind of pickup is installed?
  11. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
  12. BeSharp


    May 17, 2011
    Annapolis, MD
    Great. Thanks.
  13. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    According to your vague price, that seems reasonable for the bass. Why won't anyone ever just give a solid answer with a number for the price around here????? 60s model Kays tend to fetch the lowest price point on the Kay spectrum. I looked at your photos for quite a while and the neck has me a little puzzled. The volute dowels are definitely a drawback ( I figure 25% less), the fingerboard does not look original ( too thick and nice!), the heel junction with the back is a little mismatched- evidence of at least a prior neck reset... but the scroll is off. I can't quite give you a positive reason why, other than I look at vintage Kay scrolls almost every day of the year. It looks to me like a newer Englehardt replacement- their curly Qs are very different from earlier Kays...but it does have the factory stamp in the back...either way, if it is solid, it was a reasonable gamble and you're thumpin' today instead of still shoppin'.

    Spend however many hundreds and hundreds of dollars you may want to waste with the string game...in the end 95% of my Kaydork buddies and customers ALWAYS wind up with a Spirocore Mittel for the E and A. Nothing else will give you as much confidence in the low end. I vary the D and G between about four diffenet types, depending upon the gig.

  14. Spiro Weichs? Don't worry about strings, just leave those on there for now. There's at least two things you can do to make them feel a bit softer, and you probably should do both anyway. One, your strings are quite high and could come down a bit... seeing as the adjusters are bottomed out, that means bridge work (and they look quite high at the nut as well). Two, your tailwire is solid steel... replacing it with braided steel cable will also soften the feel (and probably make the bass sound better too).
  15. BeSharp


    May 17, 2011
    Annapolis, MD
    Hi James. I can't speak for everyone, but I know the reason that I didn't quote the exact price I paid was because I didn't want to get a bunch of people telling me I got ripped off after it was already too late. But I can see a more specific price would be of use to folks looking to buy similar basses in the future.

    And, actually, I have you personally to thank for helping me negotiate the price. I used the Kay Pricing Guide from your website in the email that I crafted to the Craigslist poster before I made him an offer that without explanation he'd consider "lowball."

    He was asking $3000 for the bass. Here was my reply:

    "I'd definitely like to look at and buy the bass if everything meets expectations on both our parts. *I'm not trying to nickel and dime you but I think you're asking too much for your bass. I'd like to buy it but for the right market rate. Please read the notes I've prepared and see my offer below.

    I've been looking for awhile and doing tons of research and here's basically what I've found:

    There's a national Kay bass expert who suggests the following "rules" for pricing a Kay bass:

    30's Kays get the best prices and they drop 15% for every decade thereafter.
    Clean/perfect 30's Kay - like new, hang tags, perfect finish, excellent setup (holy grail) tops out at $3500
    Simlar perfect 40's = $3000
    perfect 50's - $2500
    perfect 60's - $2000

    This is best case scenario and most tend to be 25-50% less.
    Blonds or natural finish fetch a premium

    Here's his website if you want to read more.

    Next I spent some time on the Talkbass archives and I found 60's vintage Kays have recently sold for $1300 to an excellent condition one for $2200. I included links to those sales in my email as well.

    So I offered him $1800 and he accepted. So thanks James! When I got there to see the bass, I noticed the neck repair which was not obvious in the photos that he posted. So I offered $1600. He still accepted. I felt good about he "upgraded" ebony board so I felt that the bass was still good and solid to buy. I think he was looking/expecting the $1800 and so for $1800 he offered to include a Moradian padded gig bag and a stand. Also, the pickup was included.

    I agreed to all of the above and after looking up the prices I think the Moradian gig bag sells new for about $300, the stand is $60 new and the pickup could be as much as $300.

    So, I paid $1800 for all of the above - bass, bag, stand, pickup. And the reason I felt that I could go in strong with a low offer was because of all of the information provided on this website. I'd say it's well worth the $25 to join.

    Thanks again James and for all the feedback about the bass.
  16. BeSharp


    May 17, 2011
    Annapolis, MD
    Thanks Andrew. I appreciate the feedback. I'm making an appointment to take the bass in for a setup. Those are all solid suggestions that I'll certainly bring up with the luthier. Hopefully not too expensive, but it doesn't sound like it should be.
  17. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    Nice! You're the one guy who actually read the buying guide this month! The section on "What does a great setup really mean" is probably even more important.

  18. BeSharp


    May 17, 2011
    Annapolis, MD
    I'll gladly read it since I'm taking my bass in for a setup next week. What's the link?

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