Kent 833

TypeScalePick upsNeck Width at NutNeck Width at 12th fretNeck TypeWidth at Lower BoutWidth at Upper Bout Body Length

Body ThicknessTotal Length

Hollow

body

bass

30.0

Inches

2 Single coil 1 5/8 in 2 in Bolt-on

13

Inches

10.5

Inches

17.75

Inches

1 7/8

Inches

44

Inches

Please note that specifications shown here apply to the guitars that I have. Parts can be changed during a manufacturing run so you can't take my figures as the final word.

The 800-series basses appear to have been the first hollow bodied basses sold under the Kent name. The bands of the so-called "British Invasion" often were pictured with hollow and semi-hollow basses. Because of high tariffs in Europe, Fender guitars were usually too expensive for beginning pop groups to acquire. They were usually pictured using instruments from the European continent such as Hofner and Framus.

Layout

As you can see, the control layout is similar to the 834 six-string guitar. Volume and tone controls and the output jack are on a faux tortoise shell cover plate, which makes it easy to access those parts. Simply remove the little cross-point screws and lift up the plate.

There is a thumb rest above the strings and a finger rest below. The thumb rest is a place for the player to rest his/her thumb in order to pluck the strings with the finger. The finger rest is a place to grab with the fingers for those who pluck with their thumbs. Most players learned to play on basses without these little blocks of mahogany (or rosewood). They can provide a point of reference to those that use them. A player can learn where each string is and hit them instinctively, but most players have already found hand positions they like and don't use the rests.

Few basses have rests of any kind these days. Very few have both types of rests.

There is a three-way pickup selector switch mounted to the body in the same location as most of the 800-series two-pickup instruments. The up position is usually the pickup closest to the neck, the down position is the pickup closest to the bridge, and the middle position selects both pickups.

The selector switch is mounted directly to the body, probably because there is no Hi/Lo slide switch next to it like on the six-string guitars.

833 bridge The bridge on this instrument is simple and looks crude but is not unusual for that time. Each saddle supports two strings, so getting both strings to intonate properly is going to be somewhat of a compromise. Owners of Fender Telecasters with classic-style bridges have put up with this for years. It usually isn't much of a problem.

The scale length of this bass is around 30 inches, so it would be considered a short-scale bass. By comparison, the Fender Precision Bass scale is 34 inches. The Fender Mustang bass is also 30 inches. The pickups appear identical to the 800-series six-string guitars except for having only 4 pole-pieces.

The bridge cover fits over the screws on either side of the bridge and rests on thick pads of white felt-like material. Those will keep the bridge cover from rattling. The cover is held on by a pair of knurled nuts that are also slotted for a spanner wrench. I'm guessing that most of those covers would be lost by now (like Telecaster "ashtray" covers) if it wasn't so uncomfortable to play with an exposed bridge.


kent 833 headstockThere is a zero-fret and the typical tilt-back headstock with binding and mother-of-pearl inlays depicting the Kent script logo and the curly little thingie found on all series 700 and 800 headstocks. Tuners are bass-sized enclosed machines with large chromed buttons. Yeah, that's what they call 'em on tuners: buttons. They seem to be functioning fairly smoothly and keeping the bass in tune fairly well.

It's a very narrow and thin neck for a bass. Players with small hands are going to like this. I don't think players with larger hands are going to find it a problem because there is more space between frets on a bass.

Speaking of frets, The frets on the bass are wider than the skinny little frets found on most six-string guitars of that period. They aren't especially tall, but they do their job.

kent 833 knobsThere will be the same problem attaching a neck strap to this guitar as on the model 834 and probably all the violin-bodied Kents. See the 834 description for details.

After having this bass for a year and a half I discovered that there was an interesting array of knobs on it. Yep. Three volume knobs and one tone knob. Somebody may have stuck new knobs on. If so, they've been on there for a long long time.




A few words about strings:

I like flatwound strings on my basses. With this bass there is a problem with that. Most "light" flatwound sets have an E-string that is .100" thick. That won't work very well. For one thing, the string is too thick to fit into the slot atop the tuning shaft. The cloth-covered end of the string will fit but unless you can find a short-scale set, there will be more turns of string around the tuning shaft than there is room for. You don't want to get whatever strings you can find. Short-scale bass strings light enough for this bass aren't too common. I ordered a set of Rotosound 77 Jazz Bass short-scale strings online from Guitar Center. They're a little more expensive, but they have a good reputation and they fit this bass. I don't get anything for this recommendation, by the way.


Setup

When I got this bass it was unplayable. I suspected that since the guitar came from the eastern part of the U.S. where the weather has been cool and wet, there were some changes in the neck when it arrived here in Southern California, where the weather has been warm and very dry.

Basically, the neck was too straight. You need a little bit of relief or bow in the neck in order to get individual notes to play without the strings buzzing or rattling against the other frets. In most guitars there is a metal rod inside the neck called a truss rod. There is a little nut on one end that allows you to pull it tighter to counteract the strings trying to it pull in into a curve. Loosening the nut will allow the neck to bow a little bit. Really really cheap guitars may not have a truss rod and often when they do it is ineffective. Really old guitars may not have one either.

There are two commonly-seen places to adjust the truss rod. If there is a little cover on the headstock, that's where the adjustment is done. Simply remove the cover and turn the nut with the proper tool. Others are adjusted at the body end of the neck. You usually have to remove the neck for those adjustments. Sounds scary, but once you have done it, it's nuthin'. Unless...

833 neck screwsThere are four screws through a metal plate on the back of the instrument. Remove the screws (usually long wood screws) and the neck comes off. Be sure to completely loosen the strings first. On this bass someone in the past managed to wear almost all the gripping surfaces out of one screw head trying to remove it. This is usually caused by using the wrong screwdriver or a worn screwdriver, but in this case it might have been because the screw was so solidly locked in. I was successfully able to wear out the rest of the gripping surfaces on the stuck screw. The three screws I was able to remove had varying amounts of rust on them, as shown in the photo. I had already cleaned up one screw, so I don't show it here.

As much as I hated to do it, I was going to have to use a screw extractor, thereby ruining the screw.

Even with a screw extractor, it was a tough job. (on a side note, the extractor set made by Ryobi doesn't make it any easier. The end of the extractor that you have to grip with a wrench is too small to grip easily. Try to find a set that has a hexagonal head so you can use a socket wrench, one with a Tee-handle would be best.) When I was finally able to extract the screw, I found it had rust all the way to its point.

#8 2-inch wood screws with round heads are almost perfect replacements for the originals. I replaced all the neck screws and saved the originals to give to the next owner, should I decide to move the guitar along. There may have been some junk at the bottom of the screw hole where that stuck screw was. The replacement didn't want to go all the way down. Since I anticipated removing the neck for adjustments at least one more time, a quick shot with the drill took care of the problem.

Truss Rod NutThe photo at right shows the truss rod adjustment nut. It seems to be a 5.5mm nut. The hex key I used was unmarked but a 5mm was a sloppy fit and a 6mm was too big. The 5 and 6mm keys were part of a cheap "toolbox filler" kit, so I don't know how accurate they are.

Stuck truss rod nuts are common on guitars as old as this one. Given the amount of rust on the neck mounting screws, I guess one has to expect to struggle a bit with the truss rod. It's never a good idea to apply too much pressure while trying to turn the nut, but I did. I don't know what a snapping truss rod sounds like, but this one popped with every little movement of the nut. I didn't expect it to put up as much of a fight when loosening the nut. I gave it about a quarter-turn and remounted the neck each time.

It turns out that the truss rod nut was not binding on the truss rod threads. If you look closely at the photo you can see that there is some material touching the outside of the nut. During one adjustment, as I turned the nut to loosen it I heard a sound similar to scraping something hard across the end-grain of a piece of wood. The nut also appears to be touching the sides of the hole in the neck. The nut turns fairly easily now and it should be possible to make adjustments by simply loosening the strings and using a hex key with a ball-end.

Neck adjustments should be done a little at a time, letting the neck "rest" while tuned to pitch for a day or two.

tone 2 capThe electronics on this guitar were not working properly when I got it. It sounded like only one pickup was being output regardless of the selector switch position. However, I think it is simply because difference in sound between the two pickups is pretty subtle.

One tone pot had the same square flat .05μfd ceramic capacitor across it that my 6-string 834 had on both tone pots, and one had a very different, but still .05μfd, on it. Ceramic caps tend to lose capacitance over time. In fact, the Z5U type shown can lose up to 7% per decade of time. I'll decide whether to replace these or not when everything else is closer to proper functioning.



About the demo:

833 demoDemo

The demo for the Kent 833 bass is the same recording I used for the Kent 820 demo except that I filtered away a little more of the lows on the rhythm and lead guitar tracks and emphasized the bass track a little more. The guitar tracks were both the Kent 820 run through an original 1965-vintage Fender Princeton Reverb Amp with an Emenince Ragin' Cajun speaker. The rhythm track was recorded with the neck pickup and the lead track was recorded from the bridge pickup. There was a dab of reverb added to the lead guitar track. This bass will also be heard on the Kent 834 demo, when it is done.

The bass was recorded directly through an M-Audio Omni I/O interface through a Delta-66 sound card. Cakewalk Sonar X2 was the digital audio workstation.



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