5/05/2018

1950s Kay-made Silvertone 5-String Banjo




I've worked on this same basic model so many times I've lost track. These are the standard-issue, Kay-made banjos of the '40s, '50s, and '60s and they have recognizable features -- a very long 27"+ scale length, 11" rim, and Kay's not-so-great adjustable-neck-angle gizmo and a not-quite-correctly-installed coordinator rod.

This one was a customer's father's banjo and so he had me fix it up so it'd be playable. While the neck was somewhat-warped, a fret level/dress helped that out and it now plays with a respectable action (hair-under 3/32" at the 12th fret which is almost on-the-dot), has a compensated bridge, new Elite Remo head, and a full complement of geared banjo pegs. Strung with 9s, its tone is sweet and mellow and suitable to old-time, though the long scale gives it a bit more sustain than is perhaps desired for the style.

Specs are: 27 5/16" scale, 1 1/4" nut width, 1 3/16" string spacing at the nut, 1 9/16" spacing at the bridge, 11" rim and head, and 2 3/4" side depth. The neck is probably poplar under that black finish and the fretboard is some sort of mystery wood with a stained "rosewood-look" finish.



The nut is bone and new, too.


Note the odd, discolored (or patched?) sections of fretboard.




There's the single coordinator rod. When I go over these, I modify them so that they're adjustable in the same way Gibson rods are -- adjust the nuts back and forth near the tailpiece to correct action on the fly.



The heel now boasts a bolt/screw installed through into the heel itself as an additional stabilizer. This secures the neck in one position so that the slippery Kay adjustable plate gizmo doesn't loosen-up and wonk-ify the action while you're roaming-about with your banjo.

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