Crawls Backward (When Alarmed)

IconProjects, musings about guitar builds, guitar repairs, vintage tube amplifiers, old radios, travel, home renovation, and other stuff.

1950s Silvertone Kay K22 Jumbo Acoustic Guitar Overview

A post or so back I mentioned a big project in the works.  Well, here it is.  It's big in terms of both the amount of work and the physical size.

I really like the look of jumbo guitars.  They're usually fancied-up with all sorts of binding and stuff too, which makes them appealing in addition to the sheer size.

Unfortunately, your usual fine Gibby or Guild jumbo is very big in terms of price also.

Enter this puppy.

This is a mid-1950s Silvertone K22 made by Kay for Sears.  I just snagged it from the famous Jake Wildwood of Antebellum Instruments. 

The Sears house brand was "Silvertone."  That name was put on things such as guitars, radios and TVs.  Other manufacturers were contracted to build the stuff - and put the Silvertone label on them.  In this instance, it's notable that both Kay and Sears were based in Chicago - so it was a natural match.

These guitars were inexpensive in their day, and are still relatively affordable today.  Jake had done some fixin' on this one, and even threw in a nice case for a really good price.  How could I resist?

The guitar's in really nice shape, and Jake did his usual fine work to make it nicely playable.  I however, decided to do a couple of mods to make it super-duper.

Or something like that.

When I said "big," I meant it.  Seventeen inches - 432mm - across the lower bout.  Big, loud, rumbly bass.  Super fun to play.  Annoying to Martin owners (of which you know I am one) because it sounds so darn good for such a cheap inexpensive guitar. 

Actually I take that back.  I think Martin owners would totally dig it.  It's Gibson owners who might look down their noses at it.  (Kidding!)

Neck, back and sides are solid mahogany.  Top is 4 pieces of spruce.  Two big bookmatched hunks for 90 percent of the top, and two smaller pieces added on for the lower bout.  (If you look closely at the picture above you can see the second seam at about the 409mm mark on the ruler).

Dig the 'tobacco' sunburst.  Really nice.  The only thing I'm not wild about is the screwed-on pickguard.  But that's ok - I have plans for that.  Bwahahaha.

Jake had put on this nice modern bridge.  Kay used dreadful screw-adjustable-saddle bridges on a lot of its instruments.  This is a much better addition.  I think rather than go to the trouble of a neck reset, he slotted the saddle a tad to lower the action.   It plays nicely as received.

You may have read about the "ladder-bracing" used by Kay, Regal and other builders.  Here's what it looks like.  Note the arrow pointing to one of the old bolt holes in the bridge plate for the old adjustable saddle.

The braces just run across the top (well, under it, but you know what I mean).  Sort of like ladder steps.

These make for their own dark-ish rumbly tone.  In this case, they're also fairly big, so they make for a sturdy guitar.  This one's about 60 years old and the top's still flat as a pancake.  (Mmmmm pancake).

These old Kay-made instruments are notorious for loose neck joints.  The dovetails are not exactly Martin quality.  I think I could do better, frankly, and I'm a hack (as we know).

To firm them up, a lot of folks run a bolt through the heel into the neck block.  This one had been modded that way.  Jake but a new bolt in and covered it with a nice strap button.  Originally I believe the bolt head was visible. 

This is the inside view. Very tidy.

As I said, the guitar is nice the way it is.  But I'm going to use it as a semi-experiment.  I'm going to do a neck reset and put in an adjustable truss rod.  Crazy, I know.  I may also carve a new bridge, but I'm still on the fence about that.  Stay tuned.


Post a Comment 1 comments:

  • Sven Nyström said...
    February 3, 2014 at 4:47 PM
    Oooh - will you remove the fretboard and route a channel? I'll stay tuned as eff, I have a Dobro from the 30's that needs a bit of that.

Post a Comment