1930s Kay-made Oahu 71K Jumbo Guitar

Update 2019: The friend of mine who owns this is putting it up for sale, so I've updated the pictures, description, and added a video clip. Now back to the original post...

One step down from the top of the line Oahu acoustic guitar from the same time (the 68/69K model) gets you the same guitar, but slightly less fancy -- this one, to be precise. You can see this same guitar in its catalog listing at this old Oahu catalog blog post. When this was brand new it cost $98 which was a heck of a lot of money in those days.

This guitar is owned by a buddy of mine and it was in for a light setup -- a very light setup -- I just had to slightly nudge down the bridge saddle and slightly nudge the nut slots on the high end. Otherwise it was bang on the money.

If you're an Oahu fan and you're wondering why this model doesn't have a 14-fret neck joint for a "Spanish" guitar, you'd be right in wondering -- this is the 12-fret, Hawaiian-neck (square neck) model, but it was converted (beautifully via a neck reset, neck recarve and respray, and a great refret job) at some point into a round (well, medium V) neck "Spanish" player.

This is also an x-braced Kay make -- totally, totally rare, and it has its own, unique, robust sound that punches and reaches-out like a cannon. It projects almost like a resonator. Maybe it's the deep "Nick Lucas" body? Maybe it's the extra-long scale length? Maybe it's just that "weirdo Kay magic!"

Scale length: 25 3/4"
Nut width: 1 3/4"
String spacing at nut: 1 1/2"
String spacing at saddle: 2 5/16"
Body length: 19 7/8"
Lower bout width: 14 1/2"
Upper bout width: 10 1/2"
Side depth at endpin: 4 5/8"
Top wood: solid spruce
Back/sides wood: ply figured maple
Neck wood: maple
Fretboard: ebonized maple
Neck shape: 10-12" radius on the board, medium soft-V rear profile
Bridge: rosewood (original)
Nut: bone replacement
Saddle: original/modified

Condition notes: it's very clean save for one repaired, tight hairline crack on the top-lower-bout. It's also all-original save for the bridge pins and endpin (nice ivoroid ones), the nut, the frets, and the conversion to a Spanish-style (round) neck shape. There's usewear throughout but this is one of the cleanest examples of these guitars that I've had the chance to play.

It comes with: a nice, hard, properly-fitting Guardian arched-top hard case.

It's a powerhouse of a guitar that really suits old-time, folk, and early-country picking (and fingerpicking) styles. It's got oomph and clarity that carries.

Fortunately, it's also gorgeous to look at, too, what with its super-fancy trim and tobacco sunburst. It's clean and only has one hairline crack to the top -- below the bridge -- which was repaired in the past and which I recently cleated, too.

This has a rosewood headstock veneer and the Kay-style "shield" headstock shape. Check out those "safe-t" tuner shafts, too, which are nice to have. No pricked fingers!

The neck is bigger in profile (medium-big V/C hybrid) but has a ~12" radius to it and fresh, jumbo frets were installed for a more modern feel. Overall this thing feels like a refretted early-30s Gibson guitar.

The spare appointments and browny tobacco sunburst look great and are "upscale Kay" from this period -- you see this sort of trim on nicer KayKraft instruments, mostly.

The rosewood pyramid bridge is original and has replacement (StewMac) ivoroid pins and a modified, probably original saddle.

The intonation is good and there's about 1/16" adjustment on the saddle height at max. Current action is spot-on at 1/16" DGBE and 3/32" EA at the 12th fret, strung with 54w-12 lights.

The gold decal is great, too!

Check out the hybrid "Sioux-green-man" faces...

The back and sides are ply maple with somewhat-figured veneer.

The tuners are original, high quality, and work great.

The conversion job on the neck is superb and the spray-job and color-matching blends well with the rest of the guitar. The guy even got the vibe of the original Kay heel shape on their "normal" guitars on-the-dot.

The endpin is original.


Unknown said…
Are you positive that the back was laminated? I just reattached the back to the “J185” sized version of this same guitar and the back was definitely solid Birdseye Maple.