1/08/2015

1941 Kay-made Silvertone Crest Archtop Guitar




This guitar has come in for consignment and only needed minor tweaking to get it up to spec. It's a very clean Kay-made archtop with their usual dimensions (1 11/16" nut, U-shaped baseball-batty neck, 15 1/4" lower bout, and longish 25 3/4" scale length). This would've been sold in the Sears catalog with the Silvertone name attached and the Kluson tuner types used dates this to 1941, pretty much, as the units weren't made once we were at war.

My work included rebuttoning and lubing the original tuners for reinstallation as well as intonating the bridge for the B string, rehanging the tailpiece slightly "bass" for better string pull, and giving the girl a good cleaning and setup. It plays spot-on with 3/32" bass and 1/16" treble action at the 12th fret and is strung with what feels like a set of 12s. At 25 3/4" the scale puts a lot of tension on these and so this has a gutsy, punchy sound that cuts right through the mix. Also, atypically for a Kay build, there's a lot of creamy, tight bass to the sound. This makes it ideal for crunchy 3-note jazz or big band comping work. The high end is clear, defined and snappy, too.


I love the cherry sunburst finish... especially with the checker-ish purfling, cream binding (top and back), and checker-edged tortoise-celluloid pickguard. Add to that the headstock and fretboard binding and you've got a pretty upscale look.


The logo is fantastic!

All hardware is original on this rig except for my addition of black tuner buttons to replace the damaged original cream ones. The nut is bone.


The fretboard is Brazilian rosewood and radiused with pearl dots and diamonds. The frets are clearly original, medium in size, and untouched. It's like this was played lightly for a month or so and then put back in the case. Who knows why? Perhaps someone "joined up" shortly after buying this guitar.

When strung up with 12s at pitch the neck deflects a hair above 1/64" -- which is absolutely normal for just about any guitar. If it were mine, like on all long-scale Kays, I'd prefer to use a hybrid set of strings with the wounds from a 50w-11 set and the trebles from a 12s set. That gives a slinkier feel on the bass side.


Don't you love all that contrast?

The thin (nitro) finish is in excellent shape with only minor pickwear here and there and a few small scratches scattered about. This could be an "as new" guitar hanging in a guitar store, if you didn't know it was 70+ years old.



The original adjustable bridge is made from Brazilian rosewood as well.

The top of this guitar is solid spruce while the back and sides are laminate flamed maple. I'm guessing that the neck is poplar or maple but it does have "faux flame" painted on its back.








Aren't these covered tuners awesome? Below the plates are standard 1940s scalloped baseplate Klusons with the non-adjustable shaft join (no screw to attach shaft to gear).


I'm wondering if someone reset the neck on this guitar some time ago because it's perfectly stable and has a good back-angle. In addition the fretboard extension just ever so slightly dips down towards the body which is usually a sign of a neck reset at some point.




Here's the back of that neck.


The flamed maple used on the back and sides is sure to catch some attention awaiting use on a stand during a show.






Rosewood endstrip with original oversized strap button.


An original chip case comes with the guitar and would be useful for light use or storage.


The owner printed out a page from the 1941 Sears catalog which clearly shows this same guitar model.

2 comments:

NickR said...

I have exactly the same guitar and just before Xmas its neck was reset. You will notice that the Sears catalog shows a very big price reduction for this model in 1941 and it also states that the neck is steel reinforced. However, a simple magnet test showed there was no steel present in the neck which was massively bowed. Furthermore, during the neck reset I was told my the monumentally experienced craftsman that did the work that the neck was a rather softer wood than he expected. He speculated what it might be- do you have a view on this one you have featured? The good news is that the guitar is now perfect- it's in equally fabulous condition as the one here and it sounds amazing as well as looking fabulous. I don't suppose back in 1941 the happy owner opened the case and reached for the magnet- but I did! That whopping price drop was, I think, partly financed by some economy in the neck construction. It also explained the very heavy wear on the neck- a very worn patch and yet no real fret wear in the same position to explain it. All is well that ends well but I know that the repairer was extremely glad to finish the job which obviously involved taking off the board. Quite frankly, how he has done the job and left absolutely no visible evidence of his activity amazes me. I suppose that's one of the reasons the guitar stars all flock to him!

Ian said...

Hi Jake,

Does this guitar have a steel reinforced neck?

Best, Ian.