9/30/2011

c.1950 Kay Jumbo Flattop Guitar





Big, direct, loud, and fun. That's what these old Kay jumbos are.

Unlike the very top of the line jumbos by Kay from the 40s and 50s, this mid-level jumbo is ladder braced, giving it a very lively, open, and sort of direct and bluesy tone with tons of chop for big country strumming if desired.

It boasts a solid spruce top, one-piece mahogany neck, solid mahogany sides, and a laminate mahogany back. The bridge and fretboard are rosewood, the guitar is bound on the top, back, soundhole, and fretboard, and I've also installed a new bone saddle and ebony nut.


This guitar has seen some playing and use, but I think mostly as a Hawaiian-style lap guitar as there was a slightly raised nut installed (post-factory) and the frets were particularly mint, though tarnished. There are also the tell-tale scrawled number-learning-system marks written on fretboard between frets.

It's converted nicely back to a Spanish guitar -- I've done a neck reset, bridge shave/new saddle, light fret dress (just to be sure), and setup. It plays with an authoritative, punchy tone. The neck has about 1/32" relief to it through the whole length so the action is still good after setup -- 1/8" from the board at the 12th.

I use pretty lightweight strings on these -- 11s to 50w and round-cores -- because Kay used abnormally long scale lengths on these jumbos. This one is about 25 7/8" and I've seen some 26" and a hair beyond as well. This puts a lot of extra tension on the guitar vs. a regular Martin or Gibson scale length which, in turn, means that to keep the lightweight, ladder-braced build safe, I only suggest 11s or lighter strings when folks restring these.


This bridge was reglued (competently) at one point. It also had factory-installed bolts in the wings, which I removed and re-capped with the original decorative dots. Because it had been reglued nicely it doesn't really need the bolts, which can rattle if they loosen up.


Cool archtop-esque pickguard. I put some new wider screws for better hold in this and also used double-sided thin film adhesive to keep the pickguard down flat so it doesn't rattle.


Plastic dots, bound board. Frets are thin, tall (hair over 1/32"), and brass.


Original Kluson tuners (I had to replace one shaft with a spare of the same type I had), nice simple headstock. Note the new ebony nut.




I got most of the numbers off but these ones were a bit dug into the board.



Fun warm cherry-ish/brown sunburst. This guitar is crack free save for a 3" or so glued-up, tight hairline at the end pin.



There you can see the sunburst a little better on the sides. Neck joint is good to go, now.






New ebony end pin.

1 comment:

NickR said...

This old girl has peened Kluson tuners- World War 2 era so if they are original she may be a War Baby- or an early Baby Boomer.