12/07/2012

c.1955 Kay K-172 Electric Hollowbody Guitar


If this arched, hollowbody Kay looks sort of familiar, you'd be right -- it's the direct predecessor to the famous (and blinged-out) Barney Kessel model. These classier, sexy old K-172s are (in my opinion) way cooler and have a sound that fits garage rock, blues, jazz, and rockabilly all in one frame. This guitar is a customer's instrument but if she ever wanted to part with it, I'd be right there on her doorstep. It's awesome and incredibly clean for its age.

Work included a full neck reset, a lot of fret leveling/dressing quirks (it has a lightly backbowed neck which I got around by leveling the frets to one another), some wiring goose-chases (it's entirely annoying to have to take out the wiring harness but after much struggle the bad grounding issues were found out and fixed), and of course a general cleaning and setup.

This is a true "closet classic" since it sat around unused for a very long time in a closet before being unearthed.


This has plywood flamed maple back, sides, and front and both the top and back are press-arched for strength (and coolness). The pickguard is one big hunk of plastic and all the fittings are high-quality and heavy-duty. It's a rugged machine.


Nice rosewood veneer and bound headstock. Original bone nut. Cool inlaid celluloid Kay logos.


Big white-pearl markers. The board is rosewood.


Gosh the pickups are cool and great sounding...


The original bridge is in the case but this more recent (70s? 80s?) compensated one is better. This currently has a set of 11s with a wound G on it. That gives it the proper setup and sound since that's what this guitar was built for. The neck likes heavier strings, for sure!


3-way switch and volume+tone for each pickup.


Excellent tailpiece.








The finish is in beautiful shape all around.



Original Klusons work just fine.


That hole in the heel is for the truss rod access.





I love the look of the sunburst on the maple...


That big jack plate is the only access to the internals. Even so, to work on the internals, I had to lightly trim the edges of the opening to get the wiring harness out. Fortunately, Kay installed everything on one big celluloid plate so I didn't have to tie all the pots up before removing everything.


Yes -- an original, perfect-condition hard case. Sheesh!


1 comment:

Roy Ostberg said...

Hi Jake,
Rani's father sent me your link. I was the original owner back in 1955 or 1956. I was 15 or 16. It was bought at Montgomery Wards' main building on the Chicago River in downtown Chicago. Probably in their "Bargin Room". I used it in a dance band at Miane Twp High School and probably sold it or gave it to Rani's father when I bought a Gibson which my son had restored about 10 years ago. I loved Charlie Christian's style.
Thanks, it had hundreds of hours of loving use and care way back then.
I'm a retired ophthalmoligist.

Roy Ostberg