2/23/2017

1960s Kay-made Old Kraftsman 5-String Resonator Banjo





This has an Old Kraftsman brand at the headstock, but it's clearly a Kay-built instrument of the student variety and was built in the early 60s, or at the very earliest, in the late 50s. The synthetic head and headstock tuners tell me 60s, though. These old Kays have a simple, non-tonering rim, stable necks, a very long scale (27 3/8"!), and a folksy tone.

A consignor dropped this off in a pile of other gems and oddities, and this is the one I got to first. I've worked on a lot of old Kay banjos and I'm beginning to feel deja vu with them, now. This one got the usual work which included a fret level/dress, "modernization" of the coordinator rod setup (see here for my guide to this), a new compensated 5/8" bridge, and a good setup with 9s. It has a straight neck, plays beautifully (setup for "picking" at 1/16" at the 12th fret), and sounds worthy.



The nut is new and bone.


Kay used wide, low, brass frets at this time. The necks on these Kays are poplar with a rosewood (I think) fretboard. I'm pretty sure they have a big old piece of steel rod inside as they stay true despite the crazy-long scale and decades of unfriendly, heavier-than-average strings.


I always try to fit a 5/8" bridge, these days, and don't fit uncompensated bridges at all anymore unless they're for use on a nylon/gut-strung banjo.



The owner replaced two of the tuners (which were missing) with same-style, same-period units (though the buttons are ever-so-slightly larger on the replacements).








Inside, you can see how the coordinator rod is setup more-or-less like on a Gibson product, now. Again, I made a "workshop" post on this for details on this mod.



Note the screw below the big bolt which helps keep the neck aligned the way you'd want it and secure to the pot. There are shims (sticky-backed pickguard material) at the bottom of the heel to account for the owner's removal of the original Kay swiveling-neck-joint doohickey. Fortunately they're hidden with the resonator installed.



Due to the relocation of the endbolt (so one can turn the coordinator rod here at the outside), I had to use a longer retainer for the tailpiece from my parts-bin.

No comments: