Monday, November 9, 2009

1942 Kay S-9 named Martha...

Meet Martha, a 1942 Kay S-9 serial number 9892. She has been selected to be the next bass for a full Bass Monkey make over. She is in good over all condition and sounded pretty sweet with some really old dead steel strings. This bass came to us from the mid-west and if I had to guess it has not been a gigging bass for many years. The 1950’s style pick up, the original canvas bass bag with the initials “M.S.” on the outside, the coatings of dust on the inside are all indicators to me that she has been sitting for quite some time…but we are here to change that!

This bass is your classic pre-war Kay and being the “S” model or a Swingmaster she has the fully factory carved scroll, a factory installed ebony fingerboard, real inlaid purfling and the classic ebony horseshoe detail at the button, which are all original and intact. These are features you will find on the professional grade Kay Swingmasters. These basses have just a bit more “frills” then a regular student grade Kay M-1B and only a few of the S-9’s were manufactured so they are more rare…especially a pre-war model.

We want to make this Kay last another 68 years or more so we are going to repair some cosmetic concerns in addition to a new set up and end pin. The first thing we noticed is the back of the bass had open seams on the upper bouts and a quarter size hole on the E side upper bout. My guess is at some point in its life the bass fell and caused the classic Kay neck break…which has been well repaired a long time ago and remains solid…but what was not repaired was the hole in the upper bout. Since the back was already loose it made more sense to remove the back, repair the hole from the inside to give a nice clean appearance from the outside. This also gives an opportunity to inspect the bass bar and the interior of the bass for other flaws. One additional curious thing is the large, fixed wooden end pin, it is larger then a broom stick and glued in solid to the end pin block. With the back off we can cut off the fixed wooden end pin, bush the oversize hole and install a new adjustable ULSA ebony end pin. This will make the bass much more user friendly for the next lucky owner. Also with the back off we can clean out 68 years of dust and dirt…and boy this bass was dusty and dirty on the inside.

The back is now off and it did not put up too much of a struggle. I wish we had time lapsed photography of this process, which I don’t because I was holding the bass. The process requires a steady hand, nerves of steel and trying to not listen to the cracking sound which is the hide glue releasing from the wood. It made me jump a few times and I got “the look” from Lonnie to be quiet…as to say “I’m not hurting the bass!”

With the back off, the dirt cleaned out we are ready to start the repairs from the inside out. The great news is the bass is in really good condition with no delamination in the plywood, the interior wood is beautiful and the bass bar is in perfect condition. I even see signs of bird’s eye maple on the interior laminates. I wonder why sometime the inside of the bass has more fancy wood then the outside…but then again they were trying to match the wood on the outside…and Kay did a fine job on this bass. It has a beautiful honey, blonde patina that only years of use and wear will give to the finish.

I’ll keep the updates coming as we want to have this blonde beauty completed for the holidays.

More to come, stay tuned!!!

1 comment:

  1. She sure is beautiful... I recently read that the Northeast taste was not for blonde basses, but I happen to love them. One question: is the "bass bar" a horizontal or vertical piece? what does it do?