1940s Kay 000-Size Flattop Guitar

A consignor, repair customer sent this cool old Kay box in. It's their typical '40s/'50s-style "square-shouldered" 000-body flattop but it has a nice, reddish sunburst to the top. This one had seen some repairs done in the past but it did need a bit more love to bring it up to snuff.

These have solid spruce tops with ladder bracing but the back and sides are ply. The finish is thin and it ages beautifully -- this has nice weather-check and light scratching throughout that gives it nice character. The pickguard is non-original and is actually a '60s Harmony-parts-sourced piece.

Tonewise, this one's got it -- it's woody and warm and both flatpicks and fingerpicks equally-well. It's hard to find ladder-braced boxes that will take a heavier-handed approach to flatpicking but this one does a good job. It gets a deeper ka-chunk when you dig-in a bit more.

Kays tend to have quite long scale lengths and their often-unreinforced poplar necks mean you have to be careful stringing them. I think this would be fine with normal 54w-12 lights if it were tuned down a full step or tuned to some sort of lowered tuning, but if you want standard pitch on them it's safest to use 52w-11 "custom light" strings or lighter so that the neck doesn't warp over time. For players who need 12s and want to hear that mass I suggest tuning a half-step down and using a capo if need be.

Post-repairs it plays on the dot and has plenty of saddle height for future action adjustments.

Repairs included: neck reset, fret level/dress, side dots install, bridge pinhole fill/relocation, saddle slot fill/relocation, new bone saddle, cleaning, setup.

Top wood: solid spruce

Back & sides wood: ply mahogany

Bracing type: ladder

Bridge: rosewood

Fretboard: rosewood

Neck wood: mahogany

Action height at 12th fret: 3/32” bass 1/16” treble (fast, spot-on)
String gauges: 50w, 36w, 26w, 20w, 15, 11

Neck shape: medium-big C

Board radius: ~10"

Neck relief: straight

Fret style: low/small

Scale length: 25 11/16"

Nut width: 1 5/8"

Body width: 15"

Body depth: 4 1/4"

Weight: 3 lbs 10 oz

Condition notes: the finish shows wear and tear throughout with the usual weatherchecking all over. There are no cracks. The bridge is a replacement and was installed alright in the past but I did fill all of its holes and reprofiled it to better-suit the new neck angle. The pickguard is a '60s Harmony replacement but close to the original style. The nut is a rosewood replacement.

It comes with: a good hard case!


Nick R said…
I have just bought one of these- I hope it as good as this one- it has not arrived yet! This is probably the Kay 16- made from 1947 to 1951- the replacement to the Kay 6. The blurb in the catalogue mentions "natural mahogany"- the one I have bought has a couple of cracks in the back- so it is not ply, I imagine. The Kay 14 which is plywood back and sides has a "curly maple graining" finish- probably the veneer. Let's hope you showing this right now is a good omen!