6/24/2012

c.1935 Kay Kraft Tenor Banjo




Update Oct 2012: This banjo now has a synthetic (Remo frosted-top) head installed, but comes with its original skin head included in the case. Here's what that new head looks like on it:




Here's a really nice old Kay-made Kay Kraft tenor banjo from the 30s. It's a resonator model with a full bracket flange and -- unlike most banjos from the era or earlier -- it's 100% original right down to its bridge. Oh, but of course, the strings are new.

My work was minimal as I picked this up in great shape -- I just needed to dismantle it, clean it up, and give it a full setup -- the frets were even in nearly unplayed shape, though a couple needed slight reseating.

The sound is great -- full and chipper and loud with good punch. And sustains easily. This has the long (23" scale) popular after 1925 or so.


Like other Kay Kraft instruments, this has the cool gold-embossed pearloid headstock veneer. Pretty snazzy. Original bone nut.


Bound fretboard with side dots. The fretboard itself is ebonized pearwood, methinks, with pearl position marks.


Nice original skin head, here.


Original two-foot bridge and adjustable tailpiece. The tailpiece "hangers" for loop-end strings are missing, though, so loop-end ones need to be hooked on the hooks at the end of the tailpiece. Ball-end strings can be loaded from the rear end of the tailpiece, though.


Hardware is in excellent shape with minor pitting here and there. Thumbscrew-release resonator is nice and easy to remove.


 Pretty from the back, too!


 Check out the cool gold-foil decal all over the back of that mahogany resonator. Note that the resonator itself is bound on its top and bottom edges.


Fun headstock shape. These are all-metal friction pegs and they work just fine.


Two-piece mahogany neck with maple/mahogany/maple center strip lamination. This makes for a nice stiff neck without extra reinforcement. The neck itself is also perfectly straight.




The original finish is in good shape, too.




Slight "mother of toilet seat" (pearloid) delamination on this edge of the headstock, but nothing needing to be addressed.


Nice tailpiece.


Here you can see the adjustable neck design that Kay-lovers will be familiar with. This lets you rotate the neck angle really easily, thus making setup "on the fly" really quick and practical.


By adjusting this one bolt you can then set the neck angle to your desired pitch and then retighten for a good, firm hold. The rim itself is a good several-ply mahogany job with a mahogany "foot" that hides the laminations from view with the resonator off.


This banjo comes with a later-period chip case that works just fine.


No comments: