2/27/2016

1950s Kay-made Silvertone Jumbo Tailpiece (Modded) Guitar




This guitar came to me in trade as one of these big old 17" jumbos but with a warped neck, loose neck joint, and missing bridge. I've had it around the workshop for a while and always intended to make it playable at some point but the desire for a big, powerful round-hole archtop-style guitar soaked into me recently and the lightbulb went "blink, blink, look in the corner, doofus!"

So, I did a breakneck repair job on this yesterday and had it ready to go for a show that evening. Work included resetting the neck (both glued and bolted), a board plane and refret, making a new archtop-style adjustable bridge, installing a tailpiece, tuners, and pickguard, cutting a new nut, and setting it all up. It sounds absolutely huge after work. The tone is an awful lot like a Gibson-style round-hole archtop guitar but with extra bottom-end warmth and the addition of punch and cut like an old 30s Epiphone carved-top jazz box. In short: it has the volume and guts to chomp on swing-style chording all night long acoustically -- exactly what I wanted!


I lucked-out with this guitar because the top is crack-free and the back and sides are laminate mahogany. Originally this guitar had 4 ladder braces on the top's below-the-soundhole area with two in front of the bridge and two behind it. I yanked-out the one just in front of the bridge as a setup like this simply doesn't need the extra stiffness since all the tension just goes down rather than twisting the top sideways as in a pin-bridge format.


The 1 3/4" nut width is matched by a bigger C-shaped neck profile. It reminds me a lot of a long-scale interpretation of "Banner" Gibson flattop necks.


The board is 9 1/2" radiused Brazilian rosewood. After a plane to level, it refretted nice and easy. I used vintage-ish height/feel wire to give it a more old-timey touch.


The fretboard extension and neck joint were both jacked-up about 1/8" or so and the angle kicked back for the archtop-style bridge.


The pickguard (creamy-white) actually came from a similar-era Kay archtop guitar that'd fallen on very hard times.


My new rosewood bridge is built in such a way to mostly cover the imprint of the old pin bridge.


I've been saving this older Gibson-esque tailpiece for "just the right" guitar.




The Kluson-style tuners are brand new and "cheapy South Korean" but I've found this type to function excellently over time. They're my standard-issue replacement tuners.


Have no fear -- the neck joint's edges were pretty funky to begin with.






Ironically, my string path and neck set was aimed at placing the strings on-center over the soundhole. I'm not surprised that Kay's original build was a tiny bit off-center, however...

No comments: