1930s Kay-mde Oahu 71K 000-Size X-Braced Conversion Guitar

Mr. Kerry Krishna sent this big, beautiful old Kay "jumbo" guitar in for some lengthy work. It came here as a squareneck "Hawaiian" model with ladder bracing but has come out the other side with quadruple-X, "Bohmann-style" bracing and a retro-styled, V-shaped "Spanish" neck. Before conversion, a guitar of this style has a pleasant, loud, dry, and punchy voice that's dictated by its large air chamber but stout ladder braces. The mids are what you hear.

After conversion, this thing sings. It has excellent bass (for a 000-size box), very-present mids, an absurd amount of volume, and a sweet, punchy high. It'll handle both flatpicking or fingerpicking beautifully. I knew it would be good (I've admired all the Bohmann guitars that've been through here so I knew the bracing would sound nice in that pattern), but I didn't expect it to sound just how I wanted it to sound. It makes me want to do more, though I admit that I'm not usually a fan of rebracing. Kerry asked me if I'd do it and I'd told him that I'd only do it if I could at least double-X the braces instead of a Martin or Gibson-inspired pattern. I sort-of like guitars to at least sound like the old and funky thing they actually are.

I'm still letting the guitar settle-in and I have a few minor touch-ups to do before I send it home. It came-in with a decent amount of minor scratches and pickwear, though it still looks excellent. Most of these fancy Kay/Oahus are really beat-up by the time they get this old. 

Work included: a neck reshape and spray-job, carbon-fiber reinforcement neck rods install, conversion to bolt-on neck joint (per Kerry's request), fret level/dress, new pyramid bridge install, rebrace to Bohmann-style x-bracing, minor cleaning, a new bone saddle, and a setup. I have it strung with 54w-12 but detuned a half-step. For standard E-to-E tuning I'm suggesting 50w-11 gauges as the top is lightly-braced and the scale is very long (which = higher tension per the same gauge). The neck is dead straight and action is 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE at the 12th fret -- spot-on.

Scale length: 25 13/16"
Nut width: 1 3/4"
String spacing at nut: 1 1/2"
String spacing at bridge: 2 3/8"
Body length: 19 7/8"
Lower bout width: 15 1/2"
Waist width: 8 7/8"
Upper bout width: 11 1/4"
Side depth at endpin: 4"
Top wood: solid spruce
Back/sides wood: flamed maple sides, ply maple back
Neck wood: mahogany
Bracing type: Bohmann double/quadruple-X
Fretboard: ebonized maple
Bridge: ebony, StewMac pyramid type
Neck feel: big V, ~12" board radius

Condition notes: unoriginal top bracing, replacement bridge and saddle, recut neck, but otherwise original and even sporting Safe-T-String tuner posts! There are no cracks save a small one at the soundhole's edge but there are many light (non-obvious) scratches and minor wear marks.

The neck is actually just bolted to the guitar. It has a modified dovetail joint that I pressed to firmly fit with shims and without glue, though it also has two bolts that keep it secure at the neckblock for easy removal. The three pearl dots on the fretboard extension hide small screws that keep it attached to the top. Below the extension I've added a large "popsicle brace" for better neck-joint reinforcement as well.

Isn't the gold decal wonderful?

The new StewMac pyramid bridge is good quality stuff. It's even a little grainy/greyish without stain on it and so it matches the ebonized fretboard perfectly. I had to cut a custom saddle slot and string spacing via the pinholes to match the neck and scale.

Note that there's some muck-ups around the bridge that are not mine. The original bridge had been cracked, reglued, and put back-on very poorly when this arrived.

The 3-ply flamed maple back of the guitar was quite a pain to remove (the plys kept wanting to shatter), but it got done! It's also quite a nice look.

Rather than try to color-match the newly-cut V-neck to the original finish, I used the old Regal-style "diamond" trick to blend the back of the headstock into the new finish. It looks deco-cool rather than lazy-bad. The new finish is rattlecan nitro over a lightly-stained mahogany. I then "vintaged" it a little and buffed it down to make it a little more suited to the guitar itself.

Kerry asked for a V-shape and that's what I gave him. It's a blend of the size/heft of same-period Kay parlor guitar necks but with a little bit of the softer ridge and shoulders from something like a Gibson Kalamazoo.


Brandon McCoy said…
Just freakin’ wow, Jake!
Unknown said…
I am thrilled by these pictures and the list of work you did. I had totally forgotten ( it has been too long since you said 'yes' to the work) about the bolt on neck conversion. I have been waiting for a good shot of the front of that headstock too since the guitar was bought in November too! I am SO looking forward to getting this into my hands. This is my first KayKraft Nick Lucas to be up and running, but there is a brat rosewood one( with all the super fancy KayKraft fretboard inlay in the next room that a REAL Luthier here in Prince George and I are double teaming to get up and running. That maybe, before Christmas.
Unknown said…
Very nice work on the conversion. The bolt on neck would be much better.
Andy DePaule
Nick R said…
I am so pleased this has all worked out so well and the guitar sounds amazing. I posted up the ebay auction on Kerry's site and he took the plunge because it appeared to have so much potential. Of course, it is your work Jake that has realised this potential and I am so glad the end result is such an amazing guitar. Well done, and I know Kerry will be thrilled with it once it has gone north of the border.
Ben Jackson said…
Jake is in fact a REAL luthier!
tony klassen said…
Sounds great Jake! Did you take pictures of the conversion process? Great job!
Unknown said…
Tony, you can PM me on Facebook if you want the repair photos that Jake sent me. There are not a lot of them but I do have them all.

I have to say,. , It is probably now the loudest guitar I own. Man, the sound is so incredibly complex... It is standing up to both my cheap and the expensive Collings dreads believe it to not...
Jake Wildwood said…
Tony, Kerry: They're here:


I had a linked bit of text in the writeup but it's not obvious (sorry!) :)