Monday, March 5, 2012

Kenny's Kay

The story here is that Kenny's Dad bought this Kay guitar New when he was a teen sometime in the 30's. He then passed it on to Kenny when he was a teen. And now Kenny wants to pass it on to his teen son. The Bad news here was that the guitar was pretty much unplayable for years.
the action was about a half inch off the finger board, the neck was separated at the heal causing the belly to dip, the bridge was lifting and pulling away from the top and because of all this... Staying in tune was not an option.
Here you can see where the neck was separating from the body and the extreme lift of the bridge.
If you look closely you can also see how the holes on the bridge don't align with the holes in the body. What this means is someone attempted a repair in the past and didn't quite align the bridge with the existing holes.

First things first. I remove the neck and start cleaning up the neck pocket and all gluing surfaces.
When removing a neck you use heat. Either steam or special heating blankets. I like the heating blankets, not as messy. You can get them from most guitar supply shops. They are silicone coated so nothing sticks to them and they can reach 500 degrees in minutes. Where as the old school steaming method can be a bit slow and on the messy side... as well as dangerous, hot steam burns as bad as hot oil from a frying pan.
My next step was to remove the bridge, level the bottom and re-attach to the body. Before I removed the bridge (again using heat to loosen the glue) I masked off the area where I would be re-gluing the bridge back on. I do this to so I can run a spatula under the bridge as the glue loosens, the tape prevents the spatula from scratching the top. You can see from the pics I had to take a little over 1/16th of an inch off the bottom of the bridge to get it level and flat (that's a lot of material). I did this by laying a piece of 220 sand paper on my flat work bench and rubbing back and forth until it was flat. Using a razor blade and a flat chisel I cleaned the glue area removing old glue and finish so there would be a good wood to wood glue surface.
The above image shows my clamping process to get the bridge back on the body and level.
The Bolts are the exact size of the pin holes so the alignment to the existing holes will be dead on. I wipe the squeeze out constantly as pressure is applied so there is no excess glue visible.
Now to the neck. This guitar was built without a truss rod, so to straighten the neck a good amount of heat is needed. In this case I used a heat lamp and clamped the neck to a flat surface.
I applied the heat lamp to the neck for short periods of time letting the neck flex a bit until I was happy with the flatness of the fingerboard. After the neck was flat, I test fitted the neck to the body and found a gap where the fingerboard attaches to the body. As you can see from the pics, a shim was the answer for stability. This shim was made from some scrap Cherry that I had laying around the shop. I eventually stained it to match the rosewood.
The Glue Up went smooth and after sitting for a couple of days I was ready to string her up and see how she does... Wow! Per Kenny's request I added some vintage tuners, and a Schatten under saddle pickup to bring her into the new millenium.
Next on my list of renovations was a vintage pickguard... Not an easy task as .125" tortoise material is not an easy find... but I found some. Using an old photo of a matching guitar I created a template, cut, polished and mounted using vintage brass flat head screws.
Then came the vintage logo and walla!
She sounds Fantastic, both acoustic and plugged in. And Best of all... a low action and she stays in tune for days.

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