1950s Kay 000-Size Guitar

It's unmarked, but this old guitar was made by Kay in the late '40s or early '50s. It has original Kluson tuners on it that date it right to around then, but this same style (with evolving trim) was made from the very late '30s on into the '60s. It's 000-size in outline but has the usual Kay-style "square" shoulders look.

The top is solid spruce while the back and sides are ply mahogany. The neck's poplar and, apparently, has some steel reinforcement as it's staying mostly-true tuned to pitch. The board is rosewood and the bridge is rosewood but it's of a second-grade nature that's chip-prone and/or mealy compared to average rosewood bridges. Odd stuff...

These tend to have a narrow 1 5/8" nut width combined with a chunky-ish, big-C-shaped neck profile.

Sound-wise, these tend to be open-sounding with good sustain and chime and a bit of a barky lower-end. This one sounds a little better than average, though, and has more warmth to the bottom and that makes it a lot more fun to flatpick.

At some point it was refinished or top-coated, but there's a dark stripe of old finish around the heel area that suggests to me it was entirely refinished.

Repairs included: a neck reset, fret level/dress, side dots install, recut of the saddle slot and a new bone saddle, replacement of crumbling tuner buttons with vintage plastic buttons, and new ebony bridge pins and ebony endpin -- plus setup, of course.

Setup notes: it plays great with 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE action at the 12th fret. The neck gains a tiny bit of relief when tuned to pitch but it doesn't affect playability. I string these with 50w-11 gauges because of their long-as-heck 25 7/8" scale length.

Small tension lesson for example: normal 12s at 24 3/4" (like say on a '50s Gibson LG-1) scale run about ~150 lb of tension while 12s at 25 7/8" scale run about ~170 lb of tension. Normal 11s at the same longer 25 7/8" scale run about ~150 lb of tension. Since the top is no more heavily-braced than a Gibson LG-1 or other ladder-braced contemporary, it's a good idea to keep the overall tension about the same, or else you wind-up with pulled-bridges, excessive belly to the top... stuff like that.

Condition notes: refinished, non-original saddle and tuner buttons, non-original pins.


Nick R said…
Kay was being very generous with handing out the marker dots on this guitar! Makes me wonder if it was a third party sale- like Sherwood, a Montgomery Ward brand. You see that with those third party boxes- added garnish to entice the customer to buy. Yes, it's virtually the same as a 1938 Kay 6- the debut model.