Sunday, May 26, 2013

1944 Kay M-1 moving to Australia

The Bass Monkey Workshop has hit a new high point; we can now say one of our basses is an international traveler.  Miss Penelope a 1944 Kay M-1 is packing her flight case for a voyage down under.  Yep, she is moving to Australia to live with her new owner Greg.

This Kay bass sat for many, many years as a decoration in a gentleman’s library.  While she sat silent all those years she remained in untouched and well preserved condition.  Though her gut strings rotted off the neck the rest of the bass remained in beautiful pristine condition.  The back of the neck shows no signs of wear, all the finish remains in tack.  Lonnie restored her a few years back and she stayed in our collection as the most pristine Kay we owned.  Then one day Greg came a courting for her…the story goes (and you know there is always a story with our basses) he was looking for his “bucket list” American made Kay bass.  We offered slide shows of several basses and Miss Penelope won his heart. 

Before Restoration

After restoration which included a neck reset and  full set up

I offered for him to visit in person to audition the bass or we can ship the bass to him.  Little did we know at that time what an opportunity this would become to learn all kinds of new things?  It happens that Greg lives down under in Australia.  Shipping a bass to Australia would be a challenge but we were up to the task and Greg was so very nice and thoughtful we wanted to help him acquire his bucket list bass.  Well…little did we know that exporting a vintage bass had become such a difficult task?  Just months prior to this I had gotten international shipping quote to the UK with no stumbling blocks.  Only a few months later I was told by our international shipping vendor they would no longer export vintage instruments of any kind because of the Lacey Act. 

If you have time Google the Lacey Act and CITES to learn all kinds of stuff about exotic wood, ebony, ivory and tortoise shell and how it has become so restrictive to export the rare and valuable items.  George Gruhn wrote an excellent article that we have posted at our website in the “Bass Tidbits” page.  It is excellent reading and very educational.  Long story short, we had to contact Greg and inform him we could no longer export a bass because of the USA government laws.  It was far too risky even if we could find a shipper to export the bass as it could be seized and destroyed by customs.  We love our basses far too much to take the risk of losing one of them for such silly, over restrictive law.  So…sorry…no bass for Greg…end of story!

But that is not where it stopped.  Three days later Greg came back with a very professional proposal.  He would take care of all the legal paperwork which includes the USA inspections with the USDA and FWS and fly to us and pick up the bass in person…WOW!  Lonnie and I were both overwhelmed and honored that a bass player would put forth this type of effort to acquire a vintage American made plywood bass.  Our answer, OKAY we are all in!  And so the next leg of the journey began.

Greg has worked the past 9 months to acquire all the specific documents required for legal exportation while keeping us in the loop. The next step was how to fly the bass safely home to Australia.  Greg has chosen and purchased a flight case from Jim Laabs Music.  The case arrived on our door step while we were away on vacation.  This is what we saw upon our return home.

The flight case as it was delivered

All looked fine until we unpacked the box.  There was light damage to the outside of the case.  Greg was not concerned after reviewing the pictures I sent to him, he made a good point.  Until he gets the case home it will have a few extra bumps and bruises.  Just a good reason to find stickers for the outside of the flight case.  It will give it that well traveled feeling.  So on to the next thing…does the bass fit in the case…NOPE!  I am unsure what dimensions are given for the case but we can say a Kay bass does not “drop in” to the case.  So the next step, modify the case? 

After un-packing

The first fitting...NOPE...won't fit

The padding is to tall and the neck does not clear the internal storage compartment

The bottom pads are too tall

This is how much space Lonnie needs to gain to make the bass drop in the case

As with all things Lonnie says “it is never easy” and some how he always needs to modify things to make them work.  Part of that is because he can.  So with pictures of the case sent to Greg and his permission Lonnie began to modify the padding inside the case to accommodate the total length of the bass.  The bottom bout pads were too tall to allow the bass to drop into the case.  Lonnie removed the pads, cut down the Styrofoam and the re-glued the fabric to the point where the bass now fits in with no wiggle room.  With Lonnie's years of working on custom vans for the handicap and modifying the interiors he was totally confident this was WELL with in his skill level.  We reassured Greg all would be okay, this would be an easy fix and we could make the case work for the proper packing and safe shipping of the bass.

And the modifications begin

Re-covering the Styrofoam using the left over fabric

He had to cut several inches out, these are the cut offs

Re-gluing the cut down pads back into place

Just like new.  You would never know anything had been modified.

So as of right now the case has been modified and all is good.   The next step is to make set up modifications to the bass with Greg’s specifications and install his string of choice. 

Stay tuned for updates as once Greg visits, auditions Penelope and spends time vacationing in our country we will have more stories to tell.  We are very excited for his visit and look forward to spending time with our international visitor.  He even wants to attend a local bluegrass jam to hear us play and sing. 

It will be all good fun!

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