1950s Old Kraftsman (Kay) Jumbo Electric Hollowbody Guitar

It's hard not to be bowled-over by the cool factor of this big, beautiful brute. It's a true 17" jumbo archtop guitar made in the late '40s or very early '50s (it had a "screw-on" jack originally) with a fancy fretboard and headstock overlay, extra trim at all edges, a tobacco sunburst finish, and simple, single-pickup electronics. Said pickup is a typical Kay single coil design but it has been interestingly fit into the guitar without obvious access and its tabs/mounting plates are between what appears to be layers in the plywood top.

This guitar was a bit of a mess when it arrived but I've buttoned it up and now it's stable and happy. It had a bunch of open seams and the top veneer layer in the ply was bursting here and there. There was a bolt installed (crudely) in the bottom of the heel, the tuners were trashed, the neck was detached, the bridge not compensated or fit well at all, the wiring harness was shot, and it basically just needed putting back-together.

Now that it's all ironed-out, it has a great, classic, early jazz guitar sound. I suppose it's also bright enough to do a bit of rockabilly or blues in a pinch, too, but I like it a lot for its sort-of "swing" voice. It also looks the part, too. The neck is straight and it plays quick and easy, though that neck profile is on the large (front-to-back) side, so there's that to consider.

Repairs included: neck reset (with hidden bolt reinforcement as well), fret level/dress, side dots install, replacement ('50s) tuners, seam and peeling veneer repairs at the lower bout/endblock area and near the f-holes, new bone nut, previous replacement small patch of binding on the fretboard edge, new wiring harness (500k pots and "orange drop" cap and Switchcraft jack), more-secure mounting of the neck pickup (set it in place with fill at the edges), a lengthwise structural support dowel install through the center of the body (just to dot my Is and cross my Ts), better fitting and compensation of the (1950s Harmony replacement) bridge, general cleaning, and setup.

Body wood: ply-spruce top, ply-maple back and sides

Bridge: rosewood adjustable (wound G compensation)

Fretboard: rosewood

Neck wood: maple

Pickups: 1x Kay single coil

Action height at 12th fret: 1/16" overall (fast)
String gauges: 46w, 36w, 26w, 20w, 13, 10 (note: WOUND G)

Neck shape: medium-big C

Board radius: 10"

Truss rod: non-adustable

Neck relief: straight

Fret style: wide/medium

Scale length: 25 3/4"

Nut width: 1 5/8"

Body width: 17 1/4"

Body depth: 3 1/2"

Weight: 5 lbs 5 oz

Condition notes: this guitar is beat-up! There's pickwear, scratches, dings, scuffs, you name it throughout. The veneer (especially on the top) of the ply has some fine little hairline cracks along the grain in the first layer. They're not a structural issue. The side/back/top seam near the endpin area is a a little ugly and wonky but it's stable and good to go. It was quite a bit messier before. I added a dowel that runs from the endblock to the neckblock to add extra lengthwise support/rigidity as well. You can see it's "circle" under the tailpiece mount.

Because the pickup sits low on the top, I set the neck angle a little shallower than I normally would so the strings ride closer to the pickup (and thus: better tone and output). This means that while the bridge is normal height and has plenty of adjustment room, the original tailpiece (with its dumb but pretty curved-base design) actually still sits on the top under tension. This often happens on old Kays because the nice Kluson tailpiece design doesn't work well with their pressed-top contours. Sigh! I have a bit of foam under it to keep it from rattling during play. As this is an electric, this is a non-issue, but if the owner wanted to get the tail off the top (for a mildly-louder acoustic sound) he or should would simply need to swap tails for a flat-bar style or string it "backwards" and around the bottom of the tail so the strings ride under the tailpiece to lift it off the top.

Last note: I have this setup for wound-G stringing as that's what sounds best (balance-wise) through these pickups. If you want plain-G stringing, let me know and I will recompensate the bridge for that. It will not, currently, intonate well if a plain-G is swapped-in. But... if you're looking at this guitar... you're probably thinking you want some lightweight flatwounds with a wound G on it anyway. I don't suggest heavier strings on it as the scale is so dang long (stick to 10s or 11s), though.

It comes with: no case, sorry.


McComber said…
This might be the one that I give up playing my Samick hollowbody for, if it's not spoken for yet. I'm very very interested. This thing looks like how I feel.