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

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Kay Kraft Kay Kraft was the flagship line of the newly formed Kay Musical Instrument Company. Henry Kuhrmeyer, known as "Kay" to c...

The Kay Kraft Instrument Lineup

Kay Kraft

Kay Kraft was the flagship line of the newly formed Kay Musical Instrument Company. Henry Kuhrmeyer, known as "Kay" to colleagues, bought out his financial backers in Stromberg-Voisinet and launched a line of instruments that would've dazzled onlookers with their radical new shape.

The "Venetian" body shape is synonymous with Kay Kraft but it actually predates the name and was available as early as 1927 from Stromberg-Voisinet. They manufactured these guitars and mandolins using their headstock shape and designs.

Stromberg-Voisinet Venetian Mandolin
From a 1927 B&J Catalog
Available in Birch or Mahogany
Image Credit: VintAxe 
A Stromberg-Voisinet Venetian
Note the S-V headstock shape
Image Source: Reverb
















Kay Kraft guitars almost always are equipped with the 'Zorzi' adjustable neck joint patented in 1930. It is a great novelty but has a limited range of adjustability and modifications to the neck block hole may be necessary. The floating fingerboard extension is also a flaw in the design of these instruments and I find it necessitates a fingerboard wedge/tongue being glued in to support it.

Style A

Flat Top
Arch Top
Tenor
Mandolin

The Style A instruments are characterized by their mahogany back and sides and simple single pearl dot inlays on the fingerboard. The "flat top" example in the standard guitar body shape was actually more expensive than the Venetian style, costing an extra $5.
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Fingerboard: Ebonized hardwood bound in ivory-patterned cellulois
  • Inlays: Single pearl dots
  • Back and Sides: Mahogany
  • Top: Spruce
  • Retail Price: 
    • $30 for the Flat Top
    • $25 for the Venetians
The Kay Kraft Mandocello and Kay Kraft Mandola were only ever offered in the Style A construction. These were not pictured in the catalogs and are quite rare. They were offered at the same price as the mandolins.

Style B

Flat Top
Arch Top
Tenor Archtop
Mandolin


The Style B Kay Kraft insturments have laminate figured maple back and sides with the 1-2-1-2 fingerboard dot pattern that Kay would become well known for. The guitar models in this style featured geared banjo tuners and not the typical Waverly patent heads
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Fingerboard: Ebonized hardwood
  • Inlays: Pearl dot pattern
  • Back and Sides: Figured maple
  • Top: Spruce

Style C

Flat Top
Archtop
Tenor
Mandolin

Finally, the Style C represented the finest of the Venetian Kay Kraft guitars with Brazilian Rosewood back and sides, ornate pearl fingerboard inlays, and the finest mahogany neck. The guitar models in this style featured geared banjo tuners and not the typical Waverly patent heads
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Fingerboard: Ebonized hardwood
  • Inlays: Ornate pearl shapes
  • Back and Sides: Brazilian Rosewood
  • Top: Spruce

Other Variants

Wards Venetian

Montgomery Wards Catalog c.1935
Image Credit: VintAxe

Kay produced a variant of the Venetian guitar exclusively for Montgomery Ward. This 'Wards' model has a Style B body but uses a cheaper neck made of a domestic hardwood and most notably has a square, slotted headstock. It also mounts to the body using a standard, glued dovetail instead of the Zorzi neck joint. It sold for significantly less than its Kay Kraft cousins.


The Venetian shape was not the only models that were produced by Kay during that era. These archtops do not have an official designation so I have assigned them a Style number to help document their existence

Style 1

  • Neck: Poplar
  • Fingerboard: Ebonized hardwood
  • Inlays: Pearl Dots
  • Back and Sides: Birch
  • Top: Spruce

Style 2

From a Metropolitan Music Catalog c.1935
Image Credit: VintAxe
  • Neck: Poplar
  • Fingerboard: Ebonized hardwood
  • Inlays: Pearl Dots
  • Back and Sides: Birch
  • Top: Spruce

Style 3

From a Metropolitan Music Catalog c.1935
Image Credit: VintAxe
  • Neck: Poplar
  • Fingerboard: Ebonized hardwood
  • Inlays: Pearl Dots
  • Back and Sides:  Mahogany
  • Top: Spruce

Style 4

From a Metropolitan Music Catalog c.1935
Image Credit: VintAxe
  • Neck: Poplar
  • Fingerboard: Ebonized hardwood
  • Inlays: Pearl Dots
  • Back and Sides: Figured maple
  • Top: Spruce






















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