4/07/2014

c.1945 Kay-made Flamed Maple Archtop Guitar




This is a customer's guitar and it sure is an odd one. I was shocked to find out that this (otherwise fairly normal) Kay product from the 40s has a solid flamed maple top. How about that? I'm used to later-period laminate maple tops on some Kays but not a solid one like this! And yes -- the sound is improved over the (later) laminate models.

Work included cleating up and filling top hairline cracks, a simple bolt/shim "neck reset" (we were trying to keep this as low budget as possible due to condition issues), fret level/dress, and setup. There was some relief/warp to the neck to begin with but I removed it via removing fret material in the leveling process. This thing plays great, now, and I've restrung it with some semi-flattened strings to give it a warm, thick, choppy jazzy sort of bottom end which has toned down some of the hardwood "snap" to the low-end frequencies.



The top is tonebar-braced. It's sort of hard to see the longer hairline cracks but there's one on the lower bout treble side of the top and one near the fretboard extension on the bass side. These got cleats and fills.


The original bone nut managed to get some use again after shimming. This has a narrow 1 5/8" nut which one finds on postwar Kays quite a bit (late 40s). As usual, this has that long 25 3/4" Kay scale length.


This has a radiused rosewood board with some (original) finish applied over it. The neck profile here is what folks call "baseball bat" (and round-backed) these days, but to my hands it's a lot faster than the Kay necks that preceded it.


The adjustable rosewood bridge is pretty cool, huh?


The tailpiece is nice and classy... and may have been gold-plated to begin with.


The "tortoise" pickguard is opaque.


Unlike the top, the back and sides are (in usual Kay fashion by this time) laminate. Still -- a big old "face" of buttery flamed maple is nothing to argue with.



Non-original (60s) tuners, but they worked just fine after a lube so I reused them.



The tortoise binding sure looks good with all that maple...


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