8/30/2013

1930s Kay-made Oahu 71K Jumbo Guitar







Update 2017: The friend of mine who owns this is putting it up for sale, so I've updated the pictures, description, and soundclip to be more thorough. It also appears that this version of the guitar is actually slightly older (early-mid 30s) rather than closer to the 1940s.

One step down from the top of the line Oahu acoustic guitar from the same time (the 68/69K model) gets you the same guitar, but slightly less fancy -- this one, to be precise. You can see this same guitar in its catalog listing at this old Oahu catalog blog post. When this was brand new it cost $98 which was a heck of a lot of money in those days.

This guitar is owned by a buddy of mine and it was in for a light setup -- a very light setup -- I just had to slightly nudge down the bridge saddle and slightly nudge the nut slots on the high end.

If you're an Oahu fan and you're wondering why this model doesn't have a 14-fret neck joint for a "Spanish" guitar, you'd be right in wondering: this is the 12-fret, Hawaiian-neck (square neck) model, but it was converted (beautifully) at some point into a round (well, medium V) neck "Spanish" player.

This is also an x-braced Kay make -- totally, totally rare, and it has its own, unique, robust sound.


Aside from being in extraordinary shape, this guitar also has a huge, booming voice with tons of sustain and a big mid-range punch. It's got a 000-width lower bout but has "Nick Lucas" style deep sides which emphasize and focus a big, clean bass presence.

Add to that a 25 3/4" (long) scale and the need for 54w-12 strings (the neck has a slight backbow, otherwise) and you simply have a powerhouse of a guitar that really suits old-time, folk, and early-country picking (and fingerpicking) styles. It's got oomph and clarity that carries.


This has a rosewood headstock veneer and the Kay-style "shield" headstock shape. Check out those "safe-t" tuner shafts, too, which are nice to have.


The neck is bigger in profile (medium-big V/C hybrid) but has a 12" radius to it and fresh, jumbo frets were installed for a more modern feel. Overall this thing feels like a refretted early-30s Gibson guitar.


The spare appointments and browny tobacco sunburst look great and are "upscale Kay" from this period -- you see this sort of trim on nicer KayKraft instruments, mostly.


The rosewood pyramid bridge is original and has replacement (StewMac) ivoroid pins and something like a Tusq saddle installed. I've worked on a few nicer-grade, slightly-later Kay-made Oahus and both of them have had (irrationally) compensated saddles from the factory.

The intonation is good and there's about 1/16" adjustment on the saddle height. Current action is spot-on at 1/16" DGBE and 3/32" EA at the 12th fret, strung with 54w-12 lights.

The only crack I can find on the guitar is a very tight (and presumably repaired) hairline running from under that bass-side pearl dot of the bridge down to the lower bout. I think it may actually just be raised grain more than anything as it's not even able to be felt/seen on the inside.


The gold decal is great, too!


Check out the hybrid "Sioux-green-man" faces...




The back and sides are ply maple with somewhat-figured veneer.


The tuners are original, high quality, and work great.


The conversion job on the neck is superb and the spray-job and color-matching blends well with the rest of the guitar. The guy even got the vibe of the original Kay heel shape on their "normal" guitars on-the-dot.



Curiously, though the back is laminate maple, they chose to use the super-birdseye-figured maple veneer on the inside of the guitar while they used the plainest-Jane straight maple for the outside! Reverse Fridays at the Kay factory?


The sides are extra-deep like a "Gibson Nick Lucas" model.





The endpin is original.



A Guardian, deep-body, arched hard case comes with the guitar...


...but not the riverfront vista!

No comments: