9/13/2012

c.1935 Kay-made Kraftsman Lap Steel Guitar




Kay made (as far as I know) the whole line of coveted Oahu-branded lap steel guitars from the 1930s and 1940s, which are very similar to this model, though this "Kraftsman" branded, Kay-made instrument appears to be outwardly aping early Gibson models. I'm guessing that this dates to between 1935 and 1940, judging by the early bar-style pickup and simpler control-board area.

This instrument is a lot fancier than the usual fare for the time, having pearl inlay up and down the neck and at the headstock, a 3-piece mahogany body, rosewood headstock veneer and fretboard, and binding on the top, back, and fretboard edges. It's a classy thing, for sure.


Gotta love that mild sunburst! The body on this instrument is also wider than a more typical lapsteel, but also thinner, making it lightweight but also very comfortable in the lap since there's plenty of body to rest on the knees.

My work included cleaning, setup, replacement tuners (this had cheesy Chinese tuners on it, which I replaced with 1940s-era Kluson openbacks, which appear to have been what were originally on this in the first place), and some rewiring internally to solve some grounding issues. I also replaced the (decrepit) screw-on style original jack with a modern-style jack, which is 100% more convenient and practical.


Nice pearl-inlaid Kraftsman logo. Check out the big bone nut, too.


The bound, brass-fretted, rosewood fretboard is simply tack-nailed to the top of the instrument. All the markers are pearl.


I have flatwound strings on this for that classy, early western swing sound.


Cool "bar" or "blade" pickup and nice bakelite radio-dial knobs.








The replacement, flush-mount jack looks the part, too. The old screw-on jack was a bear!


Except for the thnnest of sealer, the back appears unfinished. I'll bet that someone had felt over most of this instrument to keep it from slipping off the lap. For what it's worth -- it doesn't slip off mine!


The build of this instrument is neck-through with two wings added (so a three-piece body). It's all solid mahogany.


These slightly later, 1940s Kluson tuners came out of my parts bin, but are very similar to what was on this originally (under the cheesy Chinese tuners that were on this were the outlines of Kluson plates). The work just fine and are lubed up, but have a couple bent knobs.


Here you can see how the strings are mounted.


And the sound? Warm, sweet, delectable... and classy. Like the Oahu lap steels that Kay also made around the same time, this has more of an airy and dry sound (to me, more "acoustic") compared to other makes. This tone really suits old-timey country as well as electrified Hawaiian music. It's not just all twang and chime in there!

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