1/10/2015

1930s Kay-made Oahu Squareneck Hawaiian Guitar




Oahu products are always fun and this one was most certainly made by Kay for the company. I can't quite figure out what model it was but it's something like a style 65K but one or two steps down in grade of fancy trim. It's ladder-braced, 0-sized (13 1/4" lower bout), has a 24 1/4" scale, and is made from solid mahogany. The tone is crisp but sweet with a lot of airy sustain -- something I expect out of a mahogany-boxed Hawaiian -- which gives it an excellent sound for recording (it's dry and balanced) or mixing into an acoustic group's midrange. It's not super loud and it's not super quiet but the voice will definitely carry fairly well with others. I used something similar to this guy in jam group before switching to a Weissenborn-style Oscar Schmidt for a while and liked it a bunch as its tone works for both Hawaiian-y and country-ish licks as well as spanky blues.

It came to me in decent shape but I did glue up a couple of tiny hairline cracks on the top (one from a pickguard screw, one on the lower bout) and I also replaced the original (broken) bridge with a parts-bin one from the period, replaced the tuners (which were missing lots of shafts) with some older Japanese-made Kluson-style ones, and made a new (taller, bigger) bone nut. The bridge pins are also replaced, though the endpin is original. The neck set is good to go and sturdy and all the bracing came to me in fine shape (yay).



The finish is the same sprayed-on very thin satin that one finds on some Kay-made lap steels from the time. It looks pretty nice with the black-to-natural sunburst. It's worn in a few areas (note the "sleeve wear" on the lower bout bass side) and has a little cloudiness along the edges which was probably from storage in a case over too many summers. Still... it looks respectable and "vintage cool."

Unlike other contemporaries, Kay's 30s/40s ladder bracing is a bit stiffer and holds up much the same way Gibson's Kalamazoo instruments hold up... that is... well.


This originally had a fitted bone nut which then had a metal "Hawaiian conversion" nut slipped on from the factory. I'm sure this was simply to save time... pop on a standard nut, pop on the conversion, and get it out the door... but it's odd and very much particular to Chicago builds across the board. I've removed the original bone nut and made this much bigger and taller one which is more in keeping with modern Dobros.


The board appears to be ebonized maple.


The only binding is the 3-ply soundhole rosette.


This old straight-saddle bridge from my parts bin was just the ticket to replace a broken original. It has what seems to be a celluloid saddle.





These aren't period-correct but the whitish buttons are the same as on the originals and they work well.








Here's the interior stamp.

3 comments:

Steve Jackson said...

Hi there, would you consider sending this guitar international to Australia? If so what would postage cost?

Regards
Steve

Jake Wildwood said...

Hi Steve -- the cost ranges from about $90 to $150+ depending on the box size necessary. And, yes, I ship to Australia quite often. :)

Jake Wildwood said...

FYI, that means either a $50-110 upcharge.