Workshop: Kay-made Oahu Rebrace & Neck Recut

Back in November or December, Mr. Kerry sent this 000-sized Kay-made Oahu guitar (it has the fancy gold decals on the top) in for some pretty serious work. He wanted it rebraced and the neck cut down from its original squareneck format to a vintage-style V-shape. I'd mentioned that I didn't want to rebrace an old guitar unless we had some fun with it in a retro style, so he gave the go-ahead to do a double-X bracing style.

Above you can see the original, giant, grain-in-the-wrong-direction, ladder braces. Note that I'd already added a giant "popsicle brace" to the neckblock area.

Here's my new bracing. While the glue itself is tidy around the edges, I did make some staining on the back of the top around the braces when I was wiping-up excess glue. Oops! Also, I'd just put on the fabric reinforcement for the X joints before taking the photo, so they're not dry yet. Note my correctly-located bridge plate cap but askew spruce bridge plate -- funny, but it fits the diamond in the way I wanted it to. If you notice, the bracing is slightly farther apart on the bass side and slightly less-heavy. I'm hoping that gives it a little more warmth.

The bracing pattern is something like a hybrid between the double-X-bracing seen on high-end 1930s Regal flattop builds and the quadruple-X seen on Bohmann guitars from the 1890s. The Bohmann's small, thin, squared-looking braces are what I was after, though. Those guitars have tops that remain shockingly-flat but have a gorgeous, full tone that sounds like Martin-ish X-bracing but with more mids. I used some 1880s, tight-grained spruce stock from my woodpile for the new braces and bridge plate.

This was originally a squareneck guitar. You can see that I've installed some carbon fiber reinforcement rods under the fretboard, here. At this point I was still sanding-down to reglue the board after my epoxy+filler job installing the rods.

The owner wanted a V-neck carved from the original rectangular squareneck, so I shaped it into a V with a soft-ish ridge -- reminiscent of '20s Kays or '30s Gibsons. I haven't fully-buffed the new finish out, but I can already tell that the neck should be plenty strong-enough to deal with the 25 3/4" scale length this guitar has.


Unknown said…
Lovely to see the inner sanctum. I've got a similar guitar, also converted from Hawaiian, but with the factory X-bracing. If I've got any complaint, it's that the bass is a little bit nasal.
Any thoughts?


Byron Laursen
Jake Wildwood said…
Shave the braces below the bridge -- Kay made their braces tall and heavy. You can probably take 1/3 of the material off and it'll wake up.
How tall are the braces?
Jake Wildwood said…
A little over 3/8" and square in shape.
Unknown said…
The guitar arrived last week, and it is inCREDIBLY loud! I have two Collings dreads, ( One a D1A which is the loudest guitar Collings makes) and this guitars voice is likely louder than them! If I hit an E or G chord, the bass rumbles and the back vibrates like a well made mahogany guitar.( this is maple ply back and sides) I can't tell you HOW pleased I am with the tone and volume. It is Everything Jake said it would be. After waiting 9 years for one of these, I can't tell you how pleased I am.