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Question about a Kay C-1 (value) PLEASE HELP!

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by erikwhitton, Dec 4, 2002.

  1. erikwhitton

    erikwhitton Guest

    Sep 20, 2002
    Portland, ME USA
    hello: I have never owned a DB but I am looking to buy one and start taking lessons (I have played electric for 10 years).

    A guy in my area has a 50's-60's Kay Model C-1 and he wants $1200 for it.

    I went over and played it last week, but I was hesitant due to the following, and I am not knowledgable enough to know how serious these issues are. I hope someone on the list here can let me know what I would be getting myself into if I were to buy this bass:

    1. There are 2 cracks running sideways on the heel piece that joins the neck to the top of the body.

    2. There is a crack on the head stock which seems to be secured by the metal plate that hols the tuner keys.

    3. The bridge is leaning upwards pretty badly.

    4. The fron of the body is a but warped - one of the swirly details is sunken into the sound hole about an inch or so.

    5. Other than that - there is expected wear around the edges of the bass in many spots.

    Sorry I do not know the actual terminology of the pieces on the DB. Just getting started.

    Please tell me if I should buy this, how much work I could expect getting done to get it into playing shape, if I should counter offer, etc etc.

    help me be savvy...thanks,
  2. I'm no expert, either, but this bass sounds a little shaky. Most alarming are the cracks at the neck's base -- perhaps an indication of past or future big problems.

    $1200 sounds a bit steep to me for a fixer-upper Kay.
  3. erikwhitton

    erikwhitton Guest

    Sep 20, 2002
    Portland, ME USA
    thanks - i feel the same way.

    the seller says the crack has not moved in 10 years and that he took it to a shop and they said it did not need to be fixed.

    but i don't think the bass has been played very much in the past 10 years.

    I would be playing it quite a bit - so i think that crack could be a big problem.

    anyone know how much it would cost to have it fixed?
  4. Take it to a reputable luthier before you buy it.If you can, take it to someone different than the seller brought it to for a 2nd opinion. If the seller isn't willing to do this, I wouldn't deal with him. If it only needs a set up and no major surgery, it seems like a fair price.
  5. Don Higdon

    Don Higdon In Memoriam

    Dec 11, 1999
    Princeton Junction, NJ
    In the northeast, say from Philly on up, you don't want to have more than $2,000 in a Kay unless the sound is exceptional. In this case, maybe $1500-1700. Get estimates of the cost of repairs and work backwards to your purchase price.
    $2,000 gets you a new Christopher
  6. erikwhitton

    erikwhitton Guest

    Sep 20, 2002
    Portland, ME USA
    Well thanks for the input guys, I have decided to buy the Kay but instead of paying $1200 I am paying $1000.

    Here are a few pictures of the cracks and bridge. The previous owner told me the neck crack has not moved in ten years and that he had it looked at by a luthier who said not to bother fixing it unless it got out of hand, at which point it would be a simple fix. please let me know if this sounds accurate based on these photos...thanks
  7. erikwhitton

    erikwhitton Guest

    Sep 20, 2002
    Portland, ME USA
    pic 2
  8. erikwhitton

    erikwhitton Guest

    Sep 20, 2002
    Portland, ME USA
    pic 3
  9. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    Not a simple fix at all!!

    I fear I may be too late. The break at the crook of the heel is one of the most serious and vulnerable cracks one could have on a bass neck. The only really solid repair is a new neck[and on a Kay a neck block conversion]. Hugely expensive. Short of that, if the crack reopens[and I predict that it will eventually] the repair is not uninvolved. Some drill a hole in the fingerboard and put a bolt in and then plug it. This has some efficacy but does not protect against a lateral blow. A step stronger repair is to remove the board and screw 3 strong wood screws into the neck face forming a kind of tripod for stability. This repair is obviously more involved and expensive.
    The biggest problem with Kays and their ilk is that they employ a dovetail joint in the neck attachment. Standard neck attachment allows that if the bass is knocked over, the neck is likely to pop out. With the dovetail this is not possible and the result of a fall is most often a broken neck. This is why many Kays are seen with this injury.

    Could this bass play for ten yrs. with no further incident? Sure. Is it likely? Don't think so. Any blow to the neck could pop that loose. It does't take much. IMO this is a bass for someone who is a luthier on the side.
  10. With the breaks in both the heal and scroll, this neck should be replaced unless you just want to sit it in a corner and look at it. Jeff is correct in telling you that it would be expensive, but in fact it should be a lot cheaper than if you were replacing a neck on a European instrument. Replacement necks are available from Englehardt-Link that are quite reasonable as neck replacements go. It's still a very big (and expensive) job, but IMO it is the only truely permanent repair for a neck as badly damaged as this one.
  11. Jeff Bollbach

    Jeff Bollbach Jeff Bollbach Luthier, Inc.

    Dec 12, 2001
    freeport, ny
    We've broached on this subject before, Bob. I'm curious about how you would do this job and how it could be affordable[meaning that the bass is not a total loss]. Assume you had a good body and an unfixable neck. and the body cost 5 beans.

    It seems to me that the replacement neck would also be a dovetail and the top would have to come off-tru and glue the neck, replace the top, new fingerbd, shape the heel to a d, varnish, new bridge, sound post, etc. Seems like the only way it could be affordable is if the luthier is charging around 15 bucks an hour. What do you think?
  12. Jeff, yes we have discussed this before privately. The problem with your logic is that you really don't need to remove the top to replace the neck. Call me sometime and I'll tell you how to do it. I reuse the old fingerboard and soundpost. There is not that much shaping involved with the Englehardt heel. Basically it is carefull measurment, cutting the button angle and length. Finishing can be a problem if you don't have good spray finishing facilities, but assuming you do, you just use toning lacquers or lacquer with analine dyes (that's what Kay used). Sometimes you don't even have to replace the bridge. I would estimate this as an 5 hour job excluding drying time. Any other questions?
  13. erikwhitton

    erikwhitton Guest

    Sep 20, 2002
    Portland, ME USA
  14. tsolo


    Aug 24, 2002
    Ft. Worth
    This isn't intended to be good news or bad news, just my experience. My American Standard (all my buddies tell me they also make urinals) has a similar crack at the crook of the neck along with two others. When I bought the bass, it wasn't open. I'm an agressive player and after a few months of heavy pounding, the crack at the crook began to open. Really messed with the string height. I took it to a luthier who reglued it. I didn't play it for two weeks after i got it back to make sure the glue was cured. Played it for a few more months - crack opened up. Luthier was too busy to look at it a second time (maybe he didn't want to mess with it) so i took it to another. He performed the repair as Jeff described with a carriage bolt through the fingerboard into the neck. The plug is hardly noticeable and the repair seems to be holding. Wasn't to expensive - maybe $100. I like the neck on the bass - it's thick. There have been other issues with this bass. It was my first and I didn't do my homework. This site was unknown to me then. Hopefully this bass will be OK now. I have so much money in it, I'll use for my coffin. Good luck.
  15. Andrew Jones

    Andrew Jones Banned

    Feb 28, 2001
    Northampton Mass
    He not up your way but Id highly recomend

    Volker Nahrmann in Billerica MA



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