10/02/2015

1960s Kay Jumbo Archtop Electric Guitar




It's a big boy! This is a customer's (possible consignment) guitar that's been lingering in the workshop forever. Last week I finally pulled it out, dismantled it, and put it back together. In the process I found that the "original" pickup was much-messed-up and the older replacement (ebony) bridge left a little to be desired for electric use. So -- being a Gibson fan -- I of course dropped an Alnico P-90 in the thing and gave it a Tune-O-Matic style bridge. The result is the sound and bulk of a late-40s ES-300 but the feel of a late 60s Kay -- in a good way!

Work included a neck reset (and screw reinforcement), very light fret level/dress, wiring swaperoo (the only thing left of what came in is the vol/tone unit), new tuners, new bridge, and new pickup. I've got to admit that I really like the feel and tone of this. I just played it last night for a couple hours at our jam and it nailed that big old Gibson P-90 hollowbody tone -- with perhaps a little bit more snap from the inch-longer (25 3/4") scale length. The acoustic tone is nothing to write home about so the recording above is a direct plug-in from my mixer plus a hair of reverb and a mids-boost to simulate a guitar amp's flat setting.



The big Kay 17" body would definitely make a scene on-stage. Note the funky "repaired" area at the treble f-hole. It looks like the veneer pulled up and it was hack-ishly reglued (fair enough job, though).


The truss works fine and I'm sure the neck would take bigger strings if really desired. I currently have a 50w-11 D'Addario "balanced tension" set on because I want to spare the somewhat-lightly-braced laminate top from excess tension.

Interestingly, the Kay logo in the headstock is real pearl while the board markers are pearloid. This has a 1 5/8" nut width (and new bone nut) but a bigger, round C-shaped neck. This is really typical of Kays but due to the narrow width it feels, actually, somewhat quick. I was chomping on closed-position chords all evening.


The rosewood board is lightly-radiused and bound.


I'm not sure of the originality of this control plate but it looked "good enough" so I left it.


The new, presumably Korean, Alnico P-90 needed a riser to push it up near the strings. Because the "original" DeArmond pickup (well, only the cover was remaining when this got here and it had a Strat pup shoved in there) had a huge mounting hole, the P-90 just barely covered it and it took a bit of finagling to get the pickup and riser all mounted securely.


A simple rosewood-base TOM bridge looks good and keeps the guitar in tune. I mounted it with the screws facing the tail since there's easy access on thatside.


The original tail is very simple but gets the job done.




Flamed maple laminate adorns the back and sides.


I used new Kluson-style repro tuners as the original units were just terrible. These work great and hold pitch well.


Again -- please excuse a bit of out-of-focus. I took these as the light was fading but it was a gloomy-as-heck day anyhow.

Note the strap button at the heel: this has a big old screw going through it into the heel joint to reinforce my glued reset work. I really don't trust Kay neck pockets of this time to hold up very well (they're just cut so poorly) and it was a good excuse to make the strap button useful in two ways.






The endpin area shows much wear. Someone installed this surface-mount endpin jack but overdrilled the hole so only two mounting screws secure it. That's why I added a dedicated strap button above it. I also had to move the tail over a bit for better alignment with the neck.

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