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  • 1955 Kay bass repair

    This old Kay had a bad spill.  It was dropped on it's endpin and now the lower ribs and block are badly cracked.  Let's see if we can get it jamming again for the holidays. This old Kay had a bad spill. It was dropped on it's endpin and now the lower ribs and block are badly cracked. Let's see if we can get it jamming again for the holidays.
    This is what we have to fix.  The back is loose, the ribs are separated and badly cracked and  the block is mostly broken free on the inside. This is what we have to fix. The back is loose, the ribs are separated and badly cracked and the block is mostly broken free on the inside.
    First off I gently removed the endpin from the damaged block.  Kay endpins are unique as they are press fit as opposed to the more common tapered variety and are much more difficult to remove. First off I gently removed the endpin from the damaged block. Kay endpins are unique as they are press fit as opposed to the more common tapered variety and are much more difficult to remove.
    Now I have to remove the top to gain access to the inside of the bass.  I do this with a sharp knife, some denatured alcohol to desiccate the glue, and a lot of patience. Now I have to remove the top to gain access to the inside of the bass. I do this with a sharp knife, some denatured alcohol to desiccate the glue, and a lot of patience.
    This is what the inside of a bass top looks like. This is what the inside of a bass top looks like.
    Callahan has come down stairs to check on our progress. Callahan has come down stairs to check on our progress.
    This big hunk of wood is the lower block, and it has to come off so I can fix the shattered ribs.  Sometimes I can get them off without destroying them, but in this case the ribs are so badly damaged that won't be able to take it out whole without making the ribs worse. This big hunk of wood is the lower block, and it has to come off so I can fix the shattered ribs. Sometimes I can get them off without destroying them, but in this case the ribs are so badly damaged that won't be able to take it out whole without making the ribs worse.
    That means it's going to have to come out in pieces.  This is called splitting out the block and I will be using a chisel and mallet. That means it's going to have to come out in pieces. This is called splitting out the block and I will be using a chisel and mallet.
    All done! What a mess. Luckily I was able to extract the block with out further damaging the ribs. All done! What a mess. Luckily I was able to extract the block with out further damaging the ribs.
    Now I have to gently go through the shattered laminants of the plywood ribs and line up all the layers.  Some parts of the outer veneer had to come off, but they will be put back later. Now I have to gently go through the shattered laminants of the plywood ribs and line up all the layers. Some parts of the outer veneer had to come off, but they will be put back later.
    I made a clamping caul out of a scrap of pine and some cork.  It is shaped to the original curve of the ribs. I made a clamping caul out of a scrap of pine and some cork. It is shaped to the original curve of the ribs.
    I need to reform the separated layers of the rib.  Here you can see me applying glue with a thin spatula. I need to reform the separated layers of the rib. Here you can see me applying glue with a thin spatula.
    Now you can see that fancy caul in action.  I wrapped the cork in thin plastic, so the glue won't stick to it. Now you can see that fancy caul in action. I wrapped the cork in thin plastic, so the glue won't stick to it.
    Here you can see the inside where I used a scrap of lexan to distribute pressure from the clamps.  Now it needs to dry overnight. Here you can see the inside where I used a scrap of lexan to distribute pressure from the clamps. Now it needs to dry overnight.
    Now that the clamps are off, I need to put these bits back into place. Now that the clamps are off, I need to put these bits back into place.
    There are a few holes that I will patch up with new veneer. There are a few holes that I will patch up with new veneer.
    A few magnets and clothespins ought to hold everything in place while the glue drys. A few magnets and clothespins ought to hold everything in place while the glue drys.
    With the middle layers repaired, I can move on to the damage of the inner maple veneer.  In this photo you can see how I have prepared the surface for new wood. With the middle layers repaired, I can move on to the damage of the inner maple veneer. In this photo you can see how I have prepared the surface for new wood.
    Here you can see the fresh new layer of maple glued in place. Here you can see the fresh new layer of maple glued in place.
    Now I am putting on an extra layer that will go under the liners and will reinforce this weakened area. Now I am putting on an extra layer that will go under the liners and will reinforce this weakened area.
    Now for the other side. Now for the other side.
    While that is drying I can do a little sanding so the new wood will blend into the old. While that is drying I can do a little sanding so the new wood will blend into the old.
    This ought to look familiar. This ought to look familiar.
    Wow that new wood really stands out.  Perhaps I can fix that. Wow that new wood really stands out. Perhaps I can fix that.
    A few coats of blue mountain brown should do it.  A few coats of blue mountain brown should do it.
    If you don't happen to have blue mountain brown in your stain cabinet, you could substitute in some folgers fawn, or even some starbucks sepia to achieve the perfect patina. If you don't happen to have blue mountain brown in your stain cabinet, you could substitute in some folgers fawn, or even some starbucks sepia to achieve the perfect patina.
    Now that the ribs are looking tasty, it's time to glue them back to, well... the back. Now that the ribs are looking tasty, it's time to glue them back to, well... the back.
    I have selected a nicely aged piece of quatersawn air dried sitka spruce for the new tail block. I have selected a nicely aged piece of quatersawn air dried sitka spruce for the new tail block.
    The block is cut to size and the curve of the ribs is cut into the mating surface. The block is cut to size and the curve of the ribs is cut into the mating surface.
    A few test cuts to be sure I have the grain run-out going in my favor for later carving. A few test cuts to be sure I have the grain run-out going in my favor for later carving.
    The end grain has to be sealed with glue ahead of time so the pours don't starve the joint later on. The end grain has to be sealed with glue ahead of time so the pours don't starve the joint later on.
    Doing a little last minute veneer patching where the old block damaged the back.  This will get glued in at the same time as the block. Doing a little last minute veneer patching where the old block damaged the back. This will get glued in at the same time as the block.
    I like to warm up the block so I can get a little more working time out of the hot hide glue. I like to warm up the block so I can get a little more working time out of the hot hide glue.
    Clamping time! Clamping time!
    Now is when I wish I had three hands. While the block is drying I glued in the last of the kerfing.  Sometimes you have to get creative. Now is when I wish I had three hands. While the block is drying I glued in the last of the kerfing. Sometimes you have to get creative.
    The block is now carved with chisels and planes to remove excess weight and give it a pleasant shape. The block is now carved with chisels and planes to remove excess weight and give it a pleasant shape.
    Planing down the end of the block to match the ribs. Planing down the end of the block to match the ribs.
    All trimmed down and sealed with hot hide glue, this block is finished.  All trimmed down and sealed with hot hide glue, this block is finished.
    Finally, it's time to put the top back on.  I start by gluing up the neck and tail block, this restores the neck angle and eases the process. Finally, it's time to put the top back on. I start by gluing up the neck and tail block, this restores the neck angle and eases the process.
    The rest of the top is glued using spindle clamps, I do this in two stages. The rest of the top is glued using spindle clamps, I do this in two stages.
    I like to put the bass on it's side for this so that gravity helps draw the glue into the joint. I like to put the bass on it's side for this so that gravity helps draw the glue into the joint.
    Now that the top is back on I need to do some touch up, so I mixed up a small jar matching handmade brown spirit varnish. Now that the top is back on I need to do some touch up, so I mixed up a small jar matching handmade brown spirit varnish.

    This is how it turned out.  The camera can be unforgiving at times.  After taking this picture I decided to keep working on it.  You can see the end result in the last slide.

    This is how it turned out. The camera can be unforgiving at times. After taking this picture I decided to keep working on it. You can see the end result in the last slide.
    This fingerboard was so worn from years of play.  You can see rutts where the strings were.  A board planing is way overdue. This fingerboard was so worn from years of play. You can see rutts where the strings were. A board planing is way overdue.
    I was not expecting to find this under there!  It turns out this Kay has a beautiful figured walnut fingerboard.  Wild!  I planed out all the old string wear and fixed the relief and curvature.  Bill is going to love this. I was not expecting to find this under there! It turns out this Kay has a beautiful figured walnut fingerboard. Wild! I planed out all the old string wear and fixed the relief and curvature. Bill is going to love this.
    I mixed up that big jar of kay brown, it would be a shame not to do something about this edge damage. I mixed up that big jar of kay brown, it would be a shame not to do something about this edge damage.
    That's much better.  Bill and I are going to have to have a talk about rib bumpers when I see him next. That's much better. Bill and I are going to have to have a talk about rib bumpers when I see him next.
    Fitting the new adjustable bridge. Fitting the new adjustable bridge.
    A close up of how the bridge turned out after string height was set and the carving done. A close up of how the bridge turned out after string height was set and the carving done.
    All done!  And here we have the completed bass, all tuned up and ready to go home. All done! And here we have the completed bass, all tuned up and ready to go home.
    Bill and Dorothy came to pick up their beloved bass. Another happy customer! Bill and Dorothy came to pick up their beloved bass. Another happy customer!

    So there we are.  This repair took just a day or two over two weeks to finish here at Bayberry Music.  I hope you all enjoyed seeing the process.  Thanks for looking and Merry Christmas!

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Locations: 28673 Bayberry Ct E. Livonia, MI 48154

502 W Webster Rd. Royal Oak, MI 48073