1930s Kay Kraft Venetian Archtop Guitar

This guitar is a sibling to an x-braced, 14-fret Kay Kraft I worked-on last year. Like that one, the body on this is all-ply (spruce veneer on the top and flamed maple veneer on the back and sides), press-arched, and x-braced. It features the Kay "adjustable neck angle" gizmo and is mostly original, though a tiny piece of binding is replacement and the entire fretboard is a replacement. That last bit is made more interesting because the fretboard itself is a 1960s Kay board! It was bought as a spare part from the catalog or mated to the guitar off of some latter-era victim -- but either way I enjoy its parentage matching the guitar itself.

These guitars are really quirky and the style of them seems to suit blues players but I think, honestly, that the best use for them is as a stinging, zippy, gypsy-swing-jazz lead instrument. They have a hot, saucy sound and a very long scale (this is 25 3/4") combined with a wide fretboard and very light strings as a necessity (for structural reasons). When you "dig-into" these guitars with a big, mandolin-style pick they come alive and turn fiery. I was playing it for a little bit at our jam group this morning because of this. It cut right through the mix in its own little sonic footprint. These are powerful for their size -- which is "00" at 14 1/8" on the lower bout with a shallow-ish 3 5/8" side depth.

Work on this included a fret level/dress, modification of the adjustable joint to install a second "keeper" bolt in the heel, a new compensated saddle for the original bridge, cleaning, adjustment set-screw install for the fretboard extension, and general setup. It plays well, but the neck adds a hair of relief when tuned to pitch with the current strings (46w, 36w, 26w, 20w, 14, 10 -- a standard "extra light" set) and so action is hair-over 1/16" on the DGBE strings at the 12th fret and 3/32" on the EA at the 12th fret.

I love the sunburst on these.

The pearloid headstock veneer is lovely with all of that gold script.

The replacement, flat-profile fretboard is rosewood and has faux-pearl dots. This has a wide nut at 1 13/16" across. The neck profile is a shallow C/V hybrid shape.

We all like pointy bits on our instruments, no?

Note the set-screw added at the fretboard's end. This is to allow slight re-angling of the fretboard extension. It was rising just a hair and so the frets were "zipping" up the neck a little bit. That allowed me to tweak the angle of the extension to get it in the same plane as the fretboard on the neck.

This is a very common problem with the design of these Kay Krafts as there was never any support for the long fretboard extension when these were new. I did the same thing on a customer's Kay Kraft and it worked like a charm -- so I did it here, too.

Here's the tiny patch of replacement binding.

The new saddle insert is bone and is compensated.

There's a "crack" to the treble side of the tailpiece on the top. This is actually just a top veneer "crack" (in the first layer of ply) that was reglued at some point in the past.

Note also how the tailpiece has dug-into the endblock/top joint area. It's stable and good to go -- it's just that these tailpieces tend to do that because only a small portion of the "hinged" area is supporting the tension.

It looks like there was some speckly water damage to the finish in this area... though the effect is rather more "charming" than ugly.

The flamed-maple veneer on the back and sides glows.

Inside the soundhole you can see that the big wingnut is for the main bolt that holds the neck in place. The smaller screw under it is my "keeper bolt." Once I get the neck in the position I want on these, I sink a second screw into the heel through the neck block to lock it in place. This is because, without this addition, the neck joints on these like to loosen-up as the weather changes and the action then creeps higher over time. It's not as easy to adjust the joint as one might expect, so I find this to be a much better solution than just leaving it in its original configuration.


Michael Mulkern said…
Great work, Jake. I believe this particular model is a STYLE B. Per the following web site, "Kay pioneered the use of laminated woods in high-volume guitar production. This wood combination gives the guitar its model designation. STYLE A came with mahogany back and sides. STYLE B- maple back and sides. And STYLE C- had rosewood back and sides."

Unknown said…
I have the b model with original grover banjo tuners and no decals on body. Do you know if it is a rare model