Kent Bass Rebuild

Sometime between 1964-1966 in Kawai Japan, this Kent 833 violin style bass was created, and not long thereafter, ended up in the able hands of an Ohio junkyard hillbilly, with desperate dreams of becoming Paul McCartney. My father managed to gig this graceful, sublime instrument behind chicken wire and strippers for a great deal of the mid to late 60’s.

 

For the next 40 years or so, the Kent became a sad reminder of past glories. Every aging rock & roller has at least one- under their bed- in the attic. Lots of old widows are ending up with them, desperate to find someone to take off their hands, carefully albeit.

The design is an obvious tribute to the Hofner that McCartney played, but with delightful horns that paint a pretty damn tasteful picture, considering this was a budget model.

Well, the old fool decided to take up the ghost again, and in his retirement can’t seem to stop playing.

I decided to do a full restore of the Kent. No small feat folks. Luckily, the neck was still straight as an arrow. Just needed a little shim at the heel. Solid triple-bound construction. Back then, even the cheap stuff was made to last. Still quality. Novel.

Neck screws removed

The electronics, on the other hand, were frightening.  I had no idea if the pickups still worked. Plugging it in was risky, and produced screams and farts that would make your hair stand up. I thought of it as cries for help, or confused curses from an angry old man.

The tone and volume potentiometers might have been the best a Yen could buy back in the day, but now they were totally fried. Most of the solder points were broken clean as well.

I bought new pots and wiring, but had to end up reaming out the power plate holes to make the new ones fit. This was approached gingerly, as these guitars are brutally rare, and their little plastic parts more so. (This is the bane of all vintage guitar enthusiasts- the plastic parts that break like brittle little bastards).

New switch, input jack and capacitors. Tighten those tuning pegs (original and still in good shape), adjust the bridge. Clean off a heavy layer of dirt, dust, sweat, beer, blood……you get the picture. Fortify with oil. Beautiful and comforting in a way that can’t be articulated.

The pickups still worked. Success. Tone as tinny or creamy as you like. Loud and wild- like any good guitar. One of those instruments that jump up in your hands, begging to be played. Gave it back to the old man for a birthday present. He was pleased. I’m just glad he’s playing again.

The Newcomers. Dad's got his leg up.

14 responses to “Kent Bass Rebuild

  1. Good stuff! I just fixed mine up. Exactly the same model as yours. Cheers 🙂

  2. Stephen Falken

    I have two of these: #1 I’ve had since 1991, and I found another one on eBay two years ago. I guess we’re going to have to start a Kent-Hofner-On-acid bass club 🙂

  3. Nice article man! Well documented, nice and helpful. I just bought one of those little old bass, the kind of dark red version of it. The bridge cover is missing, and there’s no ID plate behind the neck neighter. Other than that, with a good tune up it’s going to hit the road once again. I thought i might change the pots too since they’re a little noisy (I think it would be better than just cleaning the old ones) and change the caps as well.

    Cheers from Quebec man!

    • Thanks! Some think the bridge cover is a little inhibiting anyway. That would me a really hard piece to find. And yeah- re pot and cap is totally worth it. Proud to see you getting it back out there!

  4. I have an original i bought in ’64 or ’65–found it in my closet–not been touched in 25 years–great condition but need 1 new tuner–any thoughts?
    Thanks–great article!

    • That’s awesome! Finding a new tuner can be tricky, depending on what’s available on Ebay. There are absolutely no reproductions available for vintage off-brands. You should send me a pic of the tuners- I’ll see if I can track one down for you.

  5. Nice Kent 833, I also have one for many years in storage and will need to rebuild the electronics. Anyone have the value of the parts before taking it apart. Add me to Club!

  6. I have an all original 833 that I use to chart out songs & for practicing with various bands. The music store that I got it from kept it in the back until I came in because my name IS “Kent.”

  7. I was travelling thru Vicksburg Mississippi, and found this Kent Bass, which someone tried to start to restore.. So I have a real project on my hands. one pickup works the other does not..any idea where or what to use as replacements?? thanks…Jay in Orlando

    • That’s awesome! Mississippi is one of my favorite places in the world. With a Kent restoration, like other Japanese guitars, you’re not likely going to find any replacement parts. That’s not a huge deal as far as pots, wiring and other electronics go, but pickups are a different story. Depends on what you are willing to spend, but a dead pickup can typically be re-wound by a tech for around $100. You can definitely buy a new pickup to install, but keep in mind the headache will be mounting the thing in a way that doesn’t make it look like Frankenbass. Please keep me up to date on your progress, and feel free to hit me up anytime.

      • Jay Bradbury

        Hey Thanks JT.. I have taken it to a great repair shop here in Orlando (Lyrical Lumber) for them to see what is really wrong.. he does great work.. he will give me an estimate.. I just don’t have the time.. thanks for the info

  8. Vinny O'Heanaghan

    I have a Kent Bass 833 hanging on the wall as a decoration. It still works but it has three pickups. Beautiful looking guitar, still plays but probably needs to have the wiring checked out. Can’t find a serial number on it. It’s all there through.

  9. That was exactly like my first bass I started on in 1969 . . .been playin ever since

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