c.1930 Kay-made Bruno Tenor Guitar

This type of "two point" body shape is typical to Kay-made products from the mid-20s through the 30s and the most popular/well-known variety shows up as 6-string archtop guitars under the "Kay Kraft" name in the mid-30s. This one has the Bruno distribution label in the soundhole but is certainly a Kay (Chicago) product.

I worked on one of these last year and the sound on this guy is consistent, though it seems to me that this guitar has a bit more volume and oomph to its tone. This is a customer's instrument and work included a neck reset, bridge reglue, much fret work, a replacement pickguard, brace work on the top, cleaning, and setup. It's currently strung in octave mandolin (GDAE) tuning and it has a great, balanced tone with a surprising amount of bass and mid-range presence for its body size and depth.

The wood choice is really curious on this instrument! The top and back are both solid birch while the sides are solid birdseye maple. The neck is also maple (with light flame) and the board under the pearloid veneer and the bridge under its "ebonized" dye are as well.

New bone nut, black-stained headstock veneer.

Note the chipping-out of the cream pearloid veneer at the fret edges: I had to remove each fret and reseat it with the aid of some glue to get them all stabilized. I've noticed, especially on old Kay products with pearloid veneers, that the fret slots weren't really cut well enough to hold the frets when the pearloid veneer was added. In this case, by the the time the instruments get to me, the frets can visible wobble when you rock them with your finger (a bad thing). This means that a proper leveling dressing is impossible until that's addressed.

The dots in the board are real pearl.

Nice-looking purfling, huh? ...and also that delicious redburst finish!

I'll tell you what, though: it was a pain to cut that pickguard out without an original as reference. I had to go by the glue markings left on the top from the original guard. After that I recut it slightly to follow the outline of the body a little bit better than the (slightly-more-hokey) original.

That's a pretty clean decal! Also note the pearl dots in the original pins.

I was lucky enough after the neck reset and bridge glue to not have to finagle with the bridge saddle much at all. The action leveled out after adjustment at the nut to a hair over 1/16" at the 12th fret -- perfect! I did slightly slot the high string to bring it to exactly 1/16" at the 12th, though. 

Doesn't that burst look great? So bluesy.

The rear-mounted friction pegs sure look cool on the Kay "Gumby" headstock.

The birdseye maple on the sides looks great!


Anonymous said...

Beautiful Jake. Gotta love that shape.
Keep up the good work.
All the best

Taylor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Taylor W said...

Love this guitar! I must have one some day!