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Thread: Pimp-up Kay Manolin

  1. #1

    Default Pimp-up Kay Manolin

    Hey Folks,
    i'm a bass player new to the forum and the mandolin world!
    Here's my lil' story...
    I'vo got, from a friend of mine, an old Kay mandolin. It seems to be a rather better one than the usual cheapos. It's all solid but i can say it's pressed, not carved. Has a quite deep body and all in all sounds pretty damn good!
    I'm intending on stepping in for a couple of songs in my nu-grass band since our mando player left and i'm learning very intensively now.
    There's one crucial problem, the neck on the heel has come out a bit bending the neck slightly forward and killing one or two spots around the 12th fret. Also the neck relief is a tiny tiny bit to much so makes the playing a tick to hard. As an upright player is not too bad. Well, i was checking if i could just buy another mando but i sadly realised the anything under 1000€ is worthless and i'm absolutely broke, also the Kay really beats anything on that range except a couple of Eastman F shape.
    My question is for you all connoisseurs, how can i just improve as much as possible my kay? Also to help me know a bit more about it, if it's any worth to keep, etc.
    I guess nothing to do with the neck thing (my bass maker sorta said it was gonna be way too expensive, and there's no truss rod) but for instance the bridge? It has what looks like a rosewood bridge with bone and no gap on the base. Shall i get a new ebony one with gap? What about the nut? Looks well done and bone!
    Tuners? Any strings that are light gauge but nice, bright, warm and loud that would help with the fore-bow? I'm currently using the EXP77.
    Any suggestion, ideas, tips are very very welcome!
    Thanks a million!


    here some pics of the Kay
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  2. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Brooklyn, NY, USA

    Default Re: Pimp-up Kay Manolin

    As a bass player, welcome to the world of the mandolin.

    Kays are known for there neck joint problems. The proper way to fix this is to remove the neck, rebuild the joint, and reassemble. This is not easy or cheap. The cost of having someone do it probably exceeds the value of the mandolin. There is a thread on rebuilding a Kay active in the forum now:

    There should be several sun e1,000 mandolins available that would make you happy.

  3. #3
    Registered User Tavy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Tavistock UK

    Default Re: Pimp-up Kay Manolin

    If the neck is actually loose when you slacken the strings off (you might not be able to tell with the strings on), then putting a strap button on the heal with a (very) long screw to pull everything together wouldn't be the worst crime in the world.

    Otherwise suggest you just try and get the bridge down a bit and enjoy it while it lasts Hard to tell from your pictures, but it looks like the fretboard is moderately straight even with the neck separation, so other than needing a lower bridge than normal, the neck pulling might not be causing too many issues. In short, experiment, enjoy it for what it is, and save up for a better one.

  4. #4
    Registered Registerer Champlin's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Bellingham, WA

    Default Re: Pimp-up Kay Manolin

    Cool mandolin. I have had a couple of these and worked on them, including neck resets and refrets. In my opinion they are totally worth the work. It's true it's not a high dollar mandolin, but it's built with hide glue, solid wood, and proper construction, and I always think it's a shame seeing these type of instruments with screws and such in them.

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  6. #5

    Default Re: Pimp-up Kay Manolin

    I would second the long screw on a strap button suggested by Tavy in this particular case. It would look fine and actually provide a useful strap button. It would only be viewed as a negative by those "in the know" and sure you wouldn't do it on a 100-year old Gibson, but this is a cool ol' Kay! (for Pete's sake) But mainly this instrument would NOT justify the man-hours required to remove neck, plane, refret, reset neck -- I'm thinking I would have 7 or 8 hours if I worked quickly (and I've done a bunch) that times whatever hourly rate your repairman charges and you would have 2-3X invested in what the instrument is worth.....

    However, if you like the hobby aspect -- go for it!

  7. #6
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Aug 2013

    Default Re: Pimp-up Kay Manolin

    One thing I noticed on the original post that I disagree with. He said any mandolin under &1000 was junk. I think a starter way better than a Kay could be had, new, for about 1/2 that and used 1/3 or less.

  8. #7

    Default Re: Pimp-up Kay Manolin

    Thanks a lot guys! Nevin, i did ask for a neck reset and indeed it's way more expensive than the actual cost of the mandolin and for twice as much i can get a better one.
    Tavi, i did check if the neck is loose with all strings out and is stiff as stone! That was my first idea but couldn't move it at all! The neck is kinda weird, is pretty straight, just that dead spot on the 12th fret is bothering me.
    Champlin, it is a very cool mando, the shape is super beautiful and it does sound very good, rich and quite interesting compared to the standard bluegrass mandolins, might be because of the depth of the body? Anyhow, i'm for sure keeping it and enjoying it!
    If anything happens i'll post updates! There's even a recording happening with it next week so if you're interested i could even upload some raw mixes at some point.
    Thanks again for all the help!

  9. #8

    Default Re: Pimp-up Kay Manolin

    Mandoplumb, you're in a way right, but the thing is in Germany is a bit hard to even find bluegrass mandolins, and i tried all the ones i could put my hands and compared side by side with that specific Kay, that was my very personal veredict.
    Might be also because as a working musician i hear when an instrument lacks in color, volume, projection and all that jazz, even if for my mandolin skills any $100 instrument should do the job, i hear the differences and i guess i'm already spoiled and don't want to spend money on something i'd have to resell within the next year or so.
    Of course i'm looking at the german second hand market, that's always my first choice, but that's even harder, you either get the old Gibsons for hell loads of money or really cheap terrible chinesse stuff (not the eastman chinesse but the no name $50 ones).
    I still haven't lost my hopes on finding something on the €500-600 range that would sound better than the Kay!

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