7/31/2014

c.1963 Kay 000-Size Flattop Guitar




We happen to know the year of manufacture since the owner bought this new in 63. It needed the usual sort of stuff I expect from an old Kay: frets leveled/dressed, bridge recut and new saddle, general setup, and shoring up of the neck joint. The owner was on a budget so I shrugged and nodded and we did what was necessary to get it going for her. It plays very well, now, and has that pleasant old-timey ladder braced sound with a lot of crisp sweet overtones in the treble side of its voice.


This guitar is solid spruce (no cracks) over laminate flamed maple on the sides and back. The neck itself is (thankfully) maple, truss-rodded, and has a radiused rosewood (bound) board. Not bad! A truss in an old Kay is a lifeline because often their necks warp. They used a long scale (25 3/4" to 25 7/8") which combined with their construction style often means Kays need more work than other Chicago makes as the parts get more stressed out by excess tension over time with typical heavier-gauge strings.

I strung this with 11s and it seems quite happy. The rod needed a socket and wrench to get it started but it adjusted just fine. If you're in the market for one of these old Kay 000s... look for one with a truss like this. I know they're harder to find but the necks are both a little easier in the hands, adjustable, and the bodies are still built like their 40s/50s counterparts.


I also added a new, big bone nut as the original plastic one had been mucked-up.


Brass frets make leveling/dressing really easy...



The bridge really could've used a reglue but that wasn't in the cards $$-wise. So, I let the original bolts do their job, recut the front (if you see the break in the light you can see how much I've cut it down), cut a new saddle slot in the proper position for good intonation, made a new bone saddle, popped some new pins in... and hey presto! It plays without 1/4" action.




The cheesy replacement tuners are probably just about as cheesy as the originals. I would've swapped these to a $15 set of repro Kluson-style units but that wasn't to be...


The strap button hides a small dowel plug which hides the bolt I snuck in to tighten up the neck joint. Access is through the soundhole.


The cherry sunburst finish looks excellent on the maple.


No comments: