1940s/2015 Kay-made Archtop Electric Guitar Conversion

This guitar has been changed enough from its original post that I've since added entirely new photos, a new soundclip, and a new description.

I received this guitar in trade and it was pretty much up to snuff as an acoustic but needed the bridge fit, the frets leveled/dressed, and a good setup done. I did that work but wasn't super-thrilled with the acoustic-only tone. It seems to have been an an early example of a laminate Kay and it has interesting single-tonebar bracing. Obviously, they were still getting the hang of using laminate materials in a positive way.

I decided to convert it to an archtop electric and added a neck-area pickup to it to try the sound out. I liked it! Two pickup swaps later and we have it's current configuration: a double-rail humbucker (which sounds quite full and 50s jazzy) in the neck and tone/volume controls at the treble f-hole and a jack in the "3/4" side position. But wait! It's not only that, because there's also an acoustic K&K pickup installed with a second jack at the endpin hole. How about that?

"Well worn" would be putting it lightly, but in reality this has a healthy structural build and good, quick playability. It has a long scale (25 7/8") and so I have it strung with electric 10s to make best use of the electric pickup. Considering the light bracing and unreinforced neck, the low tension of these strings (or a similar acoustic 10s) set seems perfect for the guitar, too.

The nut width is between 1 11/16" and 1 3/4" and has a big old bone nut. The original slotted Kluson tuners are still working just fine.

Pearl dots and new side dots. The board is lightly radiused and made from stained maple. The frets are all original and have a decent amount of height left. The neck itself is straight and has a medium V shape to it.

There are a couple tiny screwholes from a previous mounting ring that was installed. This guitar also originally had a cool firestripe pickguard but, as with much old celluloid, it cracked up under regular use and I removed it as it became a nuisance.

The old replacement bridge is actually ebony and I've intonated it for the unwound G string. I used vintage-style brown "cupcake" knobs for the volume/tone pots.

This area is discolored from... who knows? It looks like someone spilled some sort of stripper on it while it was hanging out in a garage. Acetone? Beats me. Still, no worries on it. It's just more "beat up" fun which you can put down in the "mojo" department, I suppose.

Oops! Forgo to put the strap button back on before the photos. There is one on it at the moment.

Before my time this seems to have had a neck set done as it's solid in the joint and stable in service.

There's the K&K acoustic pickup jack. If you've heard the soundclip you can hear a bit of extra bass on the K&K but that's easy to EQ out. Otherwise it's quite natural-sounding and hot (no preamp needed). I actually installed it on this guitar because I wanted to use this as an all-around plugged-in stage instrument for shows where we're outside in bad weather or tight confines where my nicer stuff would get banged-up.


Ken Wilson said...

I've always wanted to do that to an old archtop.

Tom said...

Nice work!