11/05/2017

1930s Kay-made Oahu 68B "Nick Lucas" Squareneck Hawaiian Guitar





This is a consignor's guitar and it was slated for conversion to a Spanish (or "standard") neck conversion, but a customer of mine was somewhat interested in it as a squareneck. These are rare guitars as they were only made for a short time by Kay for Oahu and unlike their later "jumbo" Hawaiian models, these slightly-earlier 00-sized (but deep-bodied) "jumbos" are x-braced and have a sweeter and fuller tone. They're, of course, more expensive in the marketplace because of that and very few are seen "stock" with their Hawaiian-style necks and stringing.

Anyhow, I was excited by the prompt for keeping this "as-is" and -- eh -- promptly glued a vintage straight-saddle bridge in place of the original bolted-on aluminum one (those are terrible unless you're interested in adding a ground for a pickup), made a new nut and saddle, and set this up for the requested open E tuning with gauges 56w, 42w, 30w, 24w, 18, 14. It belts it out like a decent Dobro but has a much better (fuller, woodier) voice than your average spider-bridged-aluminum-coned beastie.


The x-braced top and 12-fret body are the prime drivers of the delicious tone of this instrument, but the 4 3/4" body depth and extra-long 25 3/4" scale also give this a lot of oomph. I've now heard three of this model and can attest that they need a bit of extra tension to wake the top up.

That makes sense as these were braced on the heavier side to accommodate big gauges for Hawaiian-style stringing. It also means that unless you're a pounding sort-of player, they can transfer-over into so-so "regular" flattops because those same heavier gauges on the long scale can make "regular" play a bit of a chore.

The top, by the way, is just 14 1/2" across on the lower bout -- making this a 00-size in specs.


While the original finish is on the instrument, it's covered in a layer of extra varnish that seems to be hand-applied. These tuners are not original (it came with some older, non-original units to begin with) but they are a nice set of StewMac repro tuners.


My new bone nut is big and steady. I didn't picture it, but it's also reinforced (Danelectro-style) with a screw that attaches it firmly into the end of the fretboard.


The board itself is radiused, fretted, bound, and seems to be "ebonzied" maple. The dots are pearl. Why a radiused board, you say? It's because Kay was using whatever they had hanging-about, of course!



The top is solid spruce while the back and sides are ply flamed maple.


The bridge is a crazy-grained antique rosewood one from my parts-bins. The wing "screws" are original equipment and I'm pretty sure it was made by Regal and used on a squareneck I converted a while back. There's a very tiny, very shallow hairline along the line of the pins but I couldn't resist using this bridge for this guitar.

The saddle is new and I scrounged period celluloid bridge pins and an endpin from my parts-bins as well.


The decal is the same type as used on "KayKraft" archtop guitars.




The sunburst, flamed maple on the back and sides looks pretty spiffy.




The heel cap was missing so I used my usual tortoise cover to replace it.









A rhinestone-encrusted, plastic plaque bearing "Nightingale" was previously affixed to the "outside" of the neck -- presumably to show-off for the audience and catch stage lighting. I have it removed but it is very cool.

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