3/01/2016

1950s Kay K-52T Resonator Tenor Banjo




According to the '54 Kay catalog, this early-50s fella is a K-52T tenor banjo in their "professional quality" range. It's a full-on resonator instrument with cast-metal flange, 11" 5-ply rim with hoop tonering, and the usual Kay rim-rod design including an adjustable neck-angle gadget and single coordinator rod (hence: easy to adjust action) running through the rim.

It came to the shop for consignment in as-original condition and it's superbly clean, though the original skin head was showing enough fine-tear wear that I retired it in favor of a somewhat-used old Remo head that gives it a bit of "worn-in" charm. Other work included a fret level/dress, good setup, and compensation/adjustments to the original maple bridge. It plays spot-on with 1/16" action at the 12th fret and is currently strung-up for DGBE tuning. I see no reason it wouldn't do well in CGDA or even GDAE tunings, though, as it's got a very warm, full bottom for a tenor. The longer 23" scale makes it very suitable for a chorm-thumper, though.


The instrument is 100% original.


This has its original bone nut (1 1/8" width), 40s-style Kluson tuners, and nice Kay headstock logo intact.


The board is bound, has celluloid dot markers, brass frets, and appears to be made from some sort of stained hardwood rather than actual rosewood.



The tail takes loop or ball-end strings and seems to be a "one-size-fits-all" solution as it has 6 holes. Its type is seen pretty obviously in the catalog, however, so it's definitely original.


Also -- I shot the photos without the armrest installed! Oops. Here's what the integrally-mounted rosewood armrest looks like. It comes on/off with two machine screws mounted into the tension hoop.



The neck is a good hunk of mahogany (and straight) and the rim's external walls and resonator are veneered in mahogany as well -- all stained and finished uniformly. The rim itself appears to be 5-ply maple or poplar, however.


It's strange to see these old mated-shaft/gear Klusons in such an unblemished condition.







Perhaps the nicest "original feature," however, is the original Geib purple-lined hard, arched-top case. Its only fault is a broken lock.

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