Old Kay - To Refinish or Not

If you have a string instrument of any kind that needs fixing, a mistake you made in building a new instrument that you need to "disappear," or a question about the ethics of altering an older instrument, ask here. Please note that it will be much easier for us to help you decide on the best repair method if you post some pictures of the problem.

Old Kay - To Refinish or Not

Postby Michael Baresi » Fri Feb 26, 2016 11:55 am

I recently acquired what I believe is a 1950's Kay Jumbo Model 8224
Solid spruce top and laminate b&s
I'm now debating whether I should refinish it and possibly change the bridge to a pin bridge.
I know many feel that refinishing an old guitar is not PC but this is no Martin. Also it has been said that honest wear is preferable to a bad repair but this guitar has a LOT of wear. I don't have spray equipment and brushing or spraying lacquer in cans has not given me the finish I desire. On my own builds I am now using tru-oil and I have been happy with the results.
I would hate to lose that nice orange patina the guitar has acquired with age and thought that some amber shellac might help.
The guitar has no cracks anywhere. The finish is very degraded and has worn thru completely in many places. The entire guitar is covered with scratches and small dings and someone has even scratched their initials into the finish. (I don't think the wood is damaged)
Underneath the pickguard the original finish is quite beautiful.
Perhaps I could rub out whats left of the current finish and spray a light coat of lacquer on top and call it done.
My second issue is whether to change the string thru and massive adjustable bridge with a pin bridge. At the very least I will change out the saddle portion since it is wood bar with no bone. I can easily build a new one with a bone saddle and the change will not be permanent.
There is a solid bridge plate but the guitar is ladder braced so I would use low tension strings if I change the bridge.
Any thoughts from you more experienced luthiers would be appreaciated.
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Re: Old Kay - To Refinish or Not

Postby Joshua Levin-Epstein » Fri Feb 26, 2016 3:51 pm

No.

Clean the guitar, make it playable (just get the bridge to work) and revel in the beauty of its experienced presence.

Just my opinion.
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Re: Old Kay - To Refinish or Not

Postby Brian Evans » Fri Feb 26, 2016 4:30 pm

To begin with, it's yours so you should do what makes you happy. On the other hand, I read an awful lot of reviews of vintage instruments that begin with "evidence of over-spray mars the original finish" and such like that. I have an old 1940's Epiphone and the finish is original, highly "patina'd" to put it politely, and I like it like that. Now, the bridge is another matter. You can put on a new bridge that matches the footprint so kind of minimal invasion and probably make the guitar a bit better, and certainly more normal looking. I had to search for pictures - the bridge has an adjustable saddle on two screw posts like an arch top bridge, and the strings are fed through the bridge base from the rear. Quite a bad idea if you are trying to couple string vibration to a top
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Re: Old Kay - To Refinish or Not

Postby Mark Swanson » Fri Feb 26, 2016 4:33 pm

No. I agree, clean the heck out of it, and set it up to play it. If you have to, you could go over it with some french polish to restore the finish a bit, but that is as far as I would go. No way would I put tru-oil on it.
    Mark Swanson, guitarist, MIMForum Staff
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Re: Old Kay - To Refinish or Not

Postby Michael Lewis » Sun Feb 28, 2016 2:55 am

You might do a search for Baxendale Guitars. Scott Baxendale does a fairly brisk business rebuilding old Harmony and Kay guitars to more modern specs. I'm not suggesting you do a re-make but it is a consideration. As the original guitars I have mostly found to be rather klunky. Look up the market value of this guitar before you do anything.
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Re: Old Kay - To Refinish or Not

Postby Brian Evans » Sun Feb 28, 2016 10:13 am

Here is a cool idea for a re-imagining of this guitar. http://antebelluminstruments.blogspot.c ... .html#more

Another way to overcome the funky bridge, and with the cutaway on your Kay the transition to "archtop" would look cool as heck.
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Re: Old Kay - To Refinish or Not

Postby Stephen Neal Saqui » Sun Feb 28, 2016 12:24 pm

There's nothing so charming as an old guitar.
If you refinish it the old guitar is gone and you will be left with Regret.

Clean it and get it working as close to original as possible.
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Re: Old Kay - To Refinish or Not

Postby Michael Baresi » Tue Mar 01, 2016 9:08 pm

Thanks to everyone for the input, especially Michael and the lead to Baxendale Guitars. That help me make my final decision which is to remove the back, replace the ladder bracing with x bracing and replace the bridge. My goal for this guitar is to make it the best sounding guitar it can be so I think this is the right path. I'm currently finishing a OO parlor build so it will be a while before I get to the Kay. I'll post pics when its finished.
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Re: Old Kay - To Refinish or Not

Postby Michael Baresi » Fri Mar 04, 2016 2:39 pm

Update on my Kay
The back and binding came off easily with no breaks.
Removing the bridgeplate was like pulling teeth but it finally came off in one piece.
All the braces came off easily.
I'm preparing to create my x brace pattern but I have a dilemma.
The ladder braces are just a couple inches short of creating an x brace that I can tuck under the kerfing. (see pic)
I want them to intersect with the soundhole braces and I can tuck them under the kerfing there but they will be too short to reach the kerfing in the lower bout.
Can I get some opinions on this? Should I go ahead and glue them in short? I really want to use the old brace material rather than new wood.
I've included a pic of the bracing before it was removed also.
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Re: Old Kay - To Refinish or Not

Postby Barry Daniels » Fri Mar 04, 2016 3:40 pm

Not tucking on the lower end of the X is standard practice for many.
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Re: Old Kay - To Refinish or Not

Postby Ryan Mazzocco » Fri Mar 04, 2016 6:52 pm

Barry Daniels wrote:Not tucking on the lower end of the X is standard practice for many.

+1
You're in good shape. I always used to tuck in the the X braces in the lower bout until I was corrected a little while back.
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Re: Old Kay - To Refinish or Not

Postby Michael Baresi » Fri Mar 04, 2016 7:22 pm

Thanks guys. I'm still building out of my Cumpiano book that I bought 15 years ago. I guess I'm just an old dog.
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Re: Old Kay - To Refinish or Not

Postby Michael Baresi » Mon Mar 07, 2016 3:59 pm

Braces are in. See pic.
Back and binding glued back on.
Bridge is built and glued on.
Waiting for glue to dry.
Can anyone tell me what this headplate veneer is made of? See pic.
Some kind of plastic maybe even bakelite but I don't know.
I'd like to clean and polish it but don't want to ruin it so I'm asking first.
I'm thinking some rubbing compound will do it.
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Re: Old Kay - To Refinish or Not

Postby Michael Baresi » Wed Mar 23, 2016 4:46 pm

Final post on my Kay.
Finished the bracing and bridge, put the back and binding on.
Reset the neck.
Had to use new tuners. The old ones were beyond repair.
Left the exterior exactly as I got it. Shows its 50+ years of wear.
Wow does she sing now!
Its loud and has good sustain.
Lots of bass as you might expect but its not boomy.
Very clear with good highs too.
I may have to keep it. hahaha
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Re: Old Kay - To Refinish or Not

Postby Brian Evans » Thu Mar 24, 2016 7:25 am

Good for you! I find the body shape of that guitar really pleasing to the eye. I really like the shape of the cutaway and how it works with the fairly high waist.

Brian
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Re: Old Kay - To Refinish or Not

Postby Michael Lewis » Mon Mar 28, 2016 2:02 am

Face of headstock might well be celluloid. If you scrape or sand it, if it smells like camphor it is celluloid.
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