1960s Kay Speed Demon (with Bigsby) Hollowbody Electric Guitar

Yeah, it's pretty. Yeah, it ticks boxes -- flamed maple veneer on the front, bright red finish, original Bigsby whammy, aluminum bridge, "speed bump" pickups... and delightfully-aged trim.

The owner also had me do the one biggest thing that transforms these old Kays into real guitars -- it got a board plane and refret. Original Kay fretwire is not the best (it's wide, low, and brass) and it holds these old guys back a bit. They can feel and play just fine... but having played this "both ways around," I can tell you that it's a lot more joyful to play and saucy-sounding on this side of the work. Details!

That aside, what a wonderful guitar, right? I was surprised at how deliciously-twangy it can get in the bridge position with the pickup cranked close to the strings. I'm so used to Speed Demons with these pickups having an overly-mellow, dull sort of sound (that didn't speak to me) and now I'm wondering if most of that is because the bluesy players I'd been working on them for had the pickups cranked down to get a swampier vibe. Who knows...? ...but this one scratches the itch, at least.

Funny notes: some previous owner screwed the Bigsby bridge base down to the top to lock its position. I do that, too. I approve! He or she  even had it in the right place -- though I did replace the original (wound-G-compensated) bridge saddle/top with a repro one with 3-plain, 3-wound compensation.

I modify these Bigsby-style bridges by sanding their bottoms flat (they usually have a ridged bottom) so they don't "rock" on "knife-edge" as-intended. I find that the loosey-gooseyness of the archtop-style bridge setup on hollowbodies has plenty of inherent travel for the Bigsby to stay in tune without having to deal with "rocking" bridges that don't really "rock."

Repairs included: board plane and refret with medium fretwire, replacement saddle, side dots install, setup.

Body wood: ply flamed maple

Bridge: aluminum Bigsby-style

Fretboard: rosewood

Neck wood: poplar

Pickups: 2x "speed bump" single coils

Action height at 12th fret: 1/16" overall
String gauges: 46w-10 lights

Neck shape: medium C

Board radius: ~10-12"

Truss rod: adjustable

Neck relief: straight

Fret style: medium

Scale length: 25 3/4" (long!)

Nut width: 1 5/8"

Body width: 14 7/8"

Body depth: 1 7/8" + arching

Condition notes: it's entirely original save a replacement saddle. The binding is deteriorating all along the top and back edges but it's worst near the neck joint. It's all still in place, fortunately. Otherwise the only obvious wear is light scratching throughout.