1960s Kapa Cobra Electric Guitar

It's funny -- last year I'd been eyeing Kapa guitars on eBay and thinking about grabbing a Cobra just like this one. To my surprise, the same guitar fellow that bagged a nice old Teisco Spectrum 2 brought this one in today... needing work, of course!

Kapas were, originally, built in the US (Maryland) but with pickups and parts sourced from Hofner in Germany (the awesome pickup on this is a Hofner job). They play and feel a lot like a hybrid between an old 60s Fender (the necks are very Fender in feel) and something German or Japanese (as in -- the body and its electronics and hardware). I think it's a good marriage but, like most off-brand instruments, much work is needed to make them truly excellent instruments. This one turned-out truly sublime when it was finished (yes, I had a spark of lust), but it took a trip to get there.

The guitar's body is made from poplar and it was originally painted a medium-blue color. Someone spray-painted this with a sparkle burgundy color, however. The neck is maple (I think) with a Fender-y thin finish and the board is "slab" Brazilian rosewood with a nice 12" or greater radius.

Work started by routing out (via a drill press and chisels) a pickup cavity under the pickguard and then modifying the pickup and pickguard to allow it to be adjustable up/down. Previously it was taped to the back of the pickguard.

The next bit was shielding the guitar and pickguard, adding a ground wire from the whammy/tailpiece to the control cavity (it had none before -- yikes!), and then modifying the bridge saddle via a barrel sander on my Dremel to give it proper intonation. The bridge base then, after locating it correctly, got a couple of holes drilled through it and some screws sunk into it to keep it in place (it was originally just floating -- not practical for your average guitarist these days).

After that the frets got a level/dress, the nut got some fixing, and the whole thing got a setup. And ya know? It plays something like a long-scale (this one is 25 1/4") Musicmaster or DuoSonic guitar from the 60s. It's weird and wonderful and very lightweight.

Having the pickup fully-adjustable made a great difference in being able to fine-tune its response string to string.

Here's my rudimentary (read: fast!) compensation technique for these simple straight-line saddles.

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