1930s KayKraft Electrified Archtop 2-Point Tenor Guitar

A buddy of mine showed me pictures of this tenor guitar "as-is" a year or two ago and I remember telling him to send it on over to get it up for sale if he wasn't using it. He finally did send it over and, hoo boy, what a cool guitar, huh? It's not only a tenor guitar... but it's a KayKraft archtop tenor guitar and it has a '40s-style DeArmond electric pickup hard-mounted to the body -- a job done around the same time, judging by the wiring harness that used to be installed in it. Click here for more detail shots and info on that pickup.

Kay's KayKraft 2-point guitars of all stripes get the blood flowing for most of my customers. I mean -- it's a great shape, it's iconic, it can be a bluesy or jazzy look depending on your audience, and a lot of them have those decals

The instrument didn't need too much, but it did need to be sorted-out to get it to play well and get the pickup functioning as it should. There were previous hairline crack repairs on the top that had been sealed and cleated, for instance, so that was done. My work was mostly setup-side aside from the wiring harness swap-out.

Now that it's fixed-up, it plays fast and easy, has a straight neck, and is wearing a neat set of flatwound strings suited to DGBE tuning. It can easily be restrung for plain-A GDAE tuning or I can restring/readjust the saddle for players who use CGDA or wound-A GDAE tuning.

And the tone off that DeArmond pickup...? Heck yes. Snarly, lively, and forward. It's body-sensitive/a bit microphonic, too, so you're getting some of the acoustic vibe through it as well.

Repairs included: fret level/dress, "lock" bolt added to inside of neckblock to keep the neck tight to the body and in proper alignment, a new rosewood bridge (using an old Harmony bridge base and a new saddle), new wiring harness (500k pot, shielded cable, ground to tailpiece), adjustments to the pickup positioning (it's now semi-height-adjustable via two screws, too), cleaning, and setup.

Made by: Kay

Model: KayKraft tenor

Made in: Chicago, IL, USA

Top wood: solid spruce (press-arched)

Back & sides wood: ply flamed maple

Bracing type: ladder

Bridge: rosewood

Fretboard: ebonized maple

Neck wood: maple or poplar, stained

Tone: snappy, bright, bitey, aggressive -- with "hollow" sustain, pretty neat

Action height at 12th fret: 1/16" overall (fast, low, adjustable)
String gauges: 30w, 20w, 16, 12 flatwound stainless steel for DGBE tuning

Neck shape: medium C/D

Board radius: flat

Neck relief: straight

Fret style: medium-small

Scale length: 23"

Nut width: 1 1/8"

Body length: 18"

Body width: 13 1/4"

Body depth: 3 1/2"

Weight: 3 lb 4 oz

Condition notes: it appears to be all-original save the bridge and the later DeArmond pickup and wiring harness install. The tuners are right for the period but mostly I see these with friction pegs, so I'm not 100% sure on those, but they look right. The finish is in good order save the usual minor wear and tear -- small scratches here and there throughout. The top has three (repaired) hairline cracks, of which only one is longer -- to the treble side of the strings -- and sealed/cleated by previous repairmen. The neck-adjustment-plate gizmo has a hairline crack in it but it does not affect operation/tightness of the joint. It just opens-up a little when tension is added to the neck bolt.


Nick R said…
There is an Oahu branded Kay Kraft Style B Nick Lucas on eBay right now with those Grover tuners. I have a feeling they were only made for a short time in 1934-35 before they were tweaked a bit- possibly had the name Grover added- there is a site that shows "Grovers Through the Ages". On that basis, I would imagine they are original. Mind you, if it did have banjo tuners, then replacing them with period correct tuners of this quality would be an incredible coincidence. I think they must be original and perhaps this instrument was of a higher spec than the norm to get them or the era of banjo tuners on guitars had passed. I have a Style B-the Nick Lucas shape, and it has Page banjo tuners and these have a screw to anchor the mechanism, so if they were replaced, a screw hole to one side would be visible. The Grover banjo tuners I have seen have two screws- north and south, and the holes might be covered by replacement tuners, I'm not sure.