Documenting history as well as my experiences with repairing and restoring vintage guitars.

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Februrary 2024 update, I have revamped this article after threats of legal action by author Michael Wright for using a picture of three line...

Kay K-60 and K-62 Television Jumbo Archtops

Februrary 2024 update, I have revamped this article after threats of legal action by author Michael Wright for using a picture of three lines of text from his book and Steve Brown of who claims to own the copyright to the 1944 and 1948 Kay guitar catalogs. 

Kay K-62 Type 1
This guitar began life as a K-60 but had been refinished


The Kay K-60 was one of the finest instruments built by Kay craftsmen in the 1940s. It retailed between $60 and $70 and was meant to compete against the large body archtops coming out of Kalamazoo, Michigan. They appear at the start of the 1940s and continue until about 1946 or 1947 when Kay refreshed its lineup after WWII had settled. Its sister model, the K-62, was identical except for a sunburst finish instead of natural.

These are 'jumbo' sized archtops with a lower bout of around 17" and constructed of finer wood than people expect from a Kay. The top is made of solid, carved spruce while the back and sides are laminate flame maple finished in nitrocellulose lacquer. The necks are constructed of book-matched, flame maple with a center strip of dark, light, and dark wood. The fingerboards are hefty slabs of Brazilian Rosewood bound in celluloid, inlaid with pearl or celluloid, and fretted with large wire (for the era). 

The hardware is also top notch with six individual open-back Kluson tuners in either a distressed brass or nickel plate finish. The tailpieces I've seen on these are either Kluson or Grover made. My favorite detail is the "ribbon" rosewood bridge which flares outward on both sides. The pickguards are made of tortoise celluloid and quite thick.

Type 1

The first iteration is identifiable by the use of genuine pearl inlay and a Brazilian Rosewood headstock veneer. The Gibson-esque headstock is a bold move by Kay and I've seen it confuse a number of people in the modern era.

This example has been refretted but features the jet black Brazilian fingerboard, double bound fingerboard, original bone nut, and pearl inlay. The original frets had a crown that was more triangular than round which I thought was interesting. 

The sunburst work is excellent and highlights the figure in the maple

Type 2

The second iteration of this model is identifiable by a celluloid headstock veneer with pressed indentations for paint instead of inlay. I do not have any dates indicating when the change occurred but I suspect it was closer to the end of WWII.

I've seen Type 2 models with both these rectangular inlays and the inlays on the Type 1. 

Antenna Inlay

The "Television" moniker is most closely associated with this incredible art deco styled archtop that Kay produced in the early 1940s. The appointments on this guitar are closer to the Type 1 and they were likely produced at the same time. These guitars are constructed exactly the same as the models above except with geometric pearl inlay across the entire fingerboard and up to the headstock evoking a skyscraper or antenna motif.

This instrument has been refinished and its hardware replaced but the body and the inlay are the real focus.

1 comment:

  1. I think you have it backward; the K-60 and 62 nomenclature was reused for the model you discuss here, those with the antenna fretboards being the earlier version. Mine has the antenna inlays and is stamped "Oct 40." Apparently they subsequently changed the desige.


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