Friday, 17 August 2007

Writer's Rock 'n' Roll Rescues


My small collection of instruments is composed of two six string guitars and one electric bass. Reasons for writing this article are threefold. Firstly, to share my joy and interest in guitars themselves. Secondly, I've included tips for restoration. Thirdly, I have included hard-to-find information on the Kay Brand of 70s electric guitars for the benefit of collectors. Most examples of these appear to be found in the USA. (The home of the original Kay Brand).

Christine – My Haunted Love Affair

I found “Christine” dangling from a ceiling at a friend’s Rehearsal Studio. One of her golden control knobs was missing and strings* needed replacing. Additionally, some of her screws and metal components were showing signs of corrosion. Surprisingly, her bodywork and pickups were in good order, although somewhat hidden by layers of nicotine.

My Dark Muse kindly agreed that I could restore her. I did so with care due to my fascination with her alluring six effects switches, not to mention “beefy” weight, chunky pickups, pearloid neck inlay and a surprisingly good “action” for a Les Paul Copy.

Kay Guitar Front Kay Guitar Back

My local guitar parts man, Steve, informed me her "imperial" screws are no longer manufactured. So, I made-do with metric equivalents to inhibit further corrosion. Replacing her missing control knob was an easier affair. Steve stocked these. They aren't expensive to replace. (Curiously, modern Gibson knobs are slightly different in design to 70s Kay originals. I didn't notice this anomaly until I attached the new one. However, it's hardly distingushable).

"Lem Oil" was used to restore her wonderful rosewood neck, while the correct type of guitar polish** (recommended on Gibson's website) was used to restore her luxuriant "sunburst" body.

I had a breakthrough this year (2007) discovering her mystical origins. Due to the efforts of Kay Specialists "Mongrel Guitars". After contacting them, they supplied me with useful information about the "Kay Label" and put me in touch with Kay Sellers on Ebay. (Most sellers are in the US and few in number). One US-based Kay Seller informed me Christine is, in fact, a Les Paul Gibson Copy (With built-in effects). She was made in a Far Eastern Factory around 1978 under license to the then owner of the Kay brand. Hence the mystery of her "Made In Korea" label was finally solved. Since the original Kay factory was located in Chicago, USA my initial researches often came to perplexing dead-ends.

Kay Guitar Head & Logo Kay Guitar Effects Panel

Today, five of her six wonderful "sound effects" are fully operational. (For any Kay restorer reading this article, the 9v battery must be replaced to power the "effects" switches.) For reasons beyond my current technical understanding "whirlwind" remains elusively silent.

. . . Sometimes late at night, I get the feeling she enjoys my attentions so much, she plays better!


*Size 11 strings seem to work best for playing. (Known to many guitarists as "11s")
** Dr Stringfellow's "Kyser" Polish restored her nitrous finish to a high lustre. (Ordinary house polish is not suitable. A soft, 100 percent cotton cloth should be used to avoid surface damage).