Thursday, March 1, 2012

My 1967 Kay Catalina - since you never get to hear them.

Update: I received the new parts in the mail and fixed up the Kay today. It is now sounding and playing great. I added the Vintage Kluson style Fender Duosonic RI tuning keys with the plastic buttons since they seemed the best choice for this guitar. I also drilled the post holes for the Nashville bridge screws and mounted the tunematic bridge properly at a 25 1/2 inch scale.

You'll notice the mount holes are not exactly alligned with the original holes. This guitar originally came with a 25 7/8" scale which I found both peculiar and annoying. It not only made bending notes more difficult it made for a severe string angle across the saddles which I am sure would have led to more breakage. I opted for a simple 25 1/2 Fender scale but I am sure you could also go with a 25 1/4 scale like Paul Reed Smith uses making it even easier to bend notes.





I also filled the frets nice and smooth and adjusted the neck angle, set the intonation and cleaned the pots and controls. She is playing like a brand new guitar. Here are some photos showing that she is actually a 1966 model (note the date codes on the CTS pots and the pickups). Overall a very nice guitar and the upgrades cost me less than $50 all together since I already had the tunematic bridge (plus 3 hours of my time).

I didn't replace the tone knobs because they would only get in the way of adjusting the volume knobs and I never use the tone on these old guitars anyway. I like to play in the center position position and adjust the tone by rolling the neck pickup volume up and down to give it an overall fatter or leaner tone. That's the way I play all my two pickup guitars.

This was a fun project and didn't cost much at all. I highly recommend these Kays since you can experiment on them and not feel too guilty. Just don't replace the pickups with anything else - no matter how tempting. If you find one with a dead pickup just bite the bullet and pay Lindy Fralin $70 to rewind it. You'll be glad you did and it will retain the one irreplaceable element about these guitars.








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I rarely make videos for my guitars because it takes so long to upload them to youtube - but Lo and behold I figured out how to do it on my iPhone and they only take about 10 mins to upload. Yippee!

Of course my guitar amp still blows out the little iPhone sppeaker but it's not completely horrible so here you go.

This is my new 1967 Kay Catalina. I always avoided these guitars in the past because they come from the tail end period of Kay (1967 - 69) when they started to move production to Japan. But I saw this one and it looked like an all USA model and it was cheap because it was missing some parts so I picked it up.

It is missing the original Kay bridge which is the same type as the earlier Vanguard - a narrow stubby little hunk of rosewood that sits on two threaded risers. Well I removed the risers and just wedged a little tunematic in there and slapped on some strings. Guess what? She sounds great! Even with the bridge just floating on a piece of bubblewrap LOL!

I will be putting some work into this guitar, adding vintage Kluson style tuners and drilling the post holes for the tunematic to make it stable. The previous owner stripped it and put a heavy coat of some kind of lacquer all over the guitar (even on the frets!!) so I have some work to do. But the sound of these pickups is magical. They are exrremely responsive to pick attack and they are as sharp and cutting as any vintage alnico puppies you will ever find. They also don't feedback on this solid body model the way they tend to on the Semi-hollow models like the Value Leaders and the kay built Custom Craft Stratotones.

But enough talking - talk a listen. Please excuse the annoying distortion when I blow out the iPhone mic but you can still get the general idea.

4 comments:

  1. Great vid - Keep them coming.

    ~Tim

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love these little guitars. About 6 months ago I picked up this Kay:

    http://www.5foot2.com/forum_pics/vanguard2.jpg

    The pickups are dated '66 and I think it was likely sold as a Truetone Vanguard II, but there is no evidence of a badge on the headstock.

    The finish is in great shape as is the fret board. Surprisingly the pickguard hasn't shrunk. The bridge pickup needs to be repaired (no output) and at some point someone took a rather coarse file to the frets, I assume to level them. The guitar is playable with the frets as is, but the strings do catch on some frets when doing bends. I was actually thinking the rest of this guitar is so nice because the fret "work" was so brutal that the guitar was never used much afterwords.

    At some point this year I'll send the pickup out to mojotone for a rewind and replace the frets.

    For vintage equipment, I have the Vanguard and a 1962 Silvertone 1410 which is a similar guitar in construction but with a single pickup. The 1410 is setup for slide in open G. Both sound fantastic through my 1484 Silvertone amp.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Brett: That Truetone is almost the same guitar as mine - but in much nicer shape - only the pickguard and the switch are slightly different. One of the funky things about these Kay electrics is that the two VOL controls are on the bottom and the TONE Knobs are on top - hard to remember when you are playing hence why I am happy to just keep the two VOL knobs on this one as it is. - Jim C

      Delete
  3. I am happy to announce that I recently SOLD this guitar on eBay and was able to pass it along to one of my readers - ADAM in Mechanicsburg PA. I hope Adam enjoys this guitar and takes as much joy in playing it as I did.

    ReplyDelete

I appreciate your comments but please no commercial links or non guitar related conversations. Thank you. - JC

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