1959 Kay K6118J Cutaway 000-Size Flattop Guitar

This awesome-looking old Kay seems to have been built only in 1959 and 1960. It's the cutaway version of a 000-size design that the company had been making since the early '50s and while it's not high-brow in construction, the cool-factor is hard to resist. The "Jet Black" finish was first sold in 1959 and while I can't confirm whether it's a '59 or '60, I want to believe it's a '59.

A customer traded this to me and it came in its run-down chip case and very clean. There's mild pickwear and use-wear throughout but, overall, it's super-clean for an old Kay. Its only downside on the looks-patrol is a missing headstock logo and my replacement bridge.

Work included a neck reset, bridge replacement (the original was coming up and it was one of the wrap-over stringing designs which are 100% a pain in the butt), fret level/dress, new compensated saddle, new (old) bridge pins, and a good setup. These are pretty dang long-scale and have ladder-braced tops, so I strung it with 50w, 38w, 28w, 20w, 15, 11 gauges and it's happy with them. The neck is straight and has a very '50s Gibson-sort-of cut to it with a slightly-narrower 1 5/8" nut width and mild-to-medium C-shaped back profile and ~12" radius to the board.

How's it sound? Well, I really did not like the sound when I played it with my usual nylon picks, but when I banged on it with a Blue Chip pick it came right to life and added back the missing velvet and warmth on the bottom-end that I was frustrated with. So -- pick choice does matter a lot on this box. I like it a lot with the Blue Chip. It's got that rumbly, aggressive, almost angry lower-mids-friendly Kay voicing and likes to be banged-on hard with a flatpick (think rockabilly strumfest!) best or fingerpicked. It's actually very, very sweet as an open-tuned fingerpicker. I was serenading my kids to sleep on it last night in that capacity -- slapping a capo on it and making use of that cutaway as I moved it up and down the neck to get into different keys.

Specs are: 25 3/4" scale, 1 5/8" nut width, 1 13/32" string spacing at the nut, 2 3/32" spacing at the bridge, 15 1/4" lower bout, 11 1/4" upper bout, and 4 1/8" depth at the endblock. Action is spot-on at 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE at the 12th fret. Strings are 50w-11 and I suggest no heavier than that for standard tuning. The top bellies a little behind the bridge due to the ladder bracing and high tension.

The catch on these guitars is that they're all-ply -- the body is all ply maple with a black paintjob and a nice nitro finish sprayed over it (with all the customary old weather-check beauty). The neck is poplar and must be reinforced pretty well as the neck is slimmer than usual and dead-straight at pitch. It has an original bone nut and a Brazilian rosewood fretboard decked-out with medium brass frets.

Note the extra strap button at the neckblock -- that's an "antiqued/relic" one I added. The neckblock is big enough that it fits perfectly right there.

When I reset this neck I both shimmed-up the joint and glued it pat and double-bolted it on the inside, too. It's not going anywhere and the bridge and saddle are both nice and tall. The fretboard extension is shimmed-up so it's on-the-level with the rest of the board post-reset.

Isn't the pickguard awesome? I relocated it just slightly to make it fit better with the soundhole's lines. The folks at Kay slapped these on willy-nilly.

My new bridge is a standard Martin-style replacement. The original Kay one was awkward and rectangular in shape but this will hold-up much better over time and has the standard pin-hole stringing and a drop-in saddle for easy action adjustments.

How about that original set of Kluson tuners?


Nick R said…
It's on page 6 here- in colour- or black & white! I see that in the 1960 catalogue- not in colour, it had crashed the $70 barrier! Who said that plywood guitars are cheap!

Rob Gardner said…
The catalog mentioned above says the guitar has a "spruce top". When you said all ply, did you mean the body or the whole thing? It sounds like it has a spruce top to me (over the internet anyway). Snappy looking guitar.
Jake Wildwood said…
Rob, I think you're reading the blurb for the 6116 next to it with the (solid) spruce top. These cutaway ones had ply maple all over and the blurb carefully neglects to really mention materials... :D

I hate to say it, but my opinion is that these often sound better than Kay's spruce-topped guitars as the ply top was almost half the thickness.
Jake Wildwood said…
Well call me silly! You're right!

I'm thinking the 1960 catalog neglects to mention the top wood. The cutaway 000 in the sunburst I've seen before and it was ply-top, too.