1940s Kay-made Orpheum Leader 3/4 (Size 5) Guitar

A customer sent this cute little thing to me for an overhaul. While it may look "parlor" to your eyes, it's really more a modern size 5 guitar, with its 15-fret neck joint and short, 21 3/4" scale length. Oddly enough, it sports a 1 3/4" nut width and big, v-shaped neck profile -- making it an odd duck as something probably intended (when it was built) as a "student-size" 3/4 guitar. These always sound best with thinner gauges and tuned up from standard to something different. The bodies are just too tiny for a good E-to-E sound.

Work included a fret level/dress, "insurance" internal bolt of the neck joint, bridge replacement, and setup-side stuff. I strung it with 46w-10 strings and tuned it A-to-A above normal guitar pitch (like with a capo on the 5th fret of a normal guitar). This gives "uke" voicings to chords (D = G) and a chimey, autoharp sound. Action is 1/16" overall at the 12th fret, though I did nudge the low string up just a hair above that.

The body is made with a solid spruce (ladder-braced) top and ply mahogany back and sides. The fretboard is Brazilian rosewood (and the original bridge was, too), though my new bridge is Indian rosewood. The neck is either poplar or maple -- I always find it hard to tell with their "standard brown" stain.

I'm no stranger to Kay-made Orpheums. Here's a 000 and here's a resonator.

The wide 1 3/4" nut, steep ~10" radius, and big v-neck give it an odd, but interesting, feel. The frets are low, original, and brass. I also added side dots.

The light-brown tortoise binding looks hecka-cool and so does the matching pickguard.

I re-used the original bone saddle, but did adjust its top-edge to suit. The pins are ebony all around and new.

While I didn't need to do it (the neck joint was tight for now), I did sink a screw into the heel through the soundhole for extra security down the road.


Uncle JimmyPie said...

Looks to be built on the same body as this '40s Kay tenor I bought from you in 2013.


Jake Wildwood said...

Yeah! I was trying to remember to link to that one. That's a cool tenor, I think!