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c.1938-9 Kay K-62 'Television' Model
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Body size at lower bout: 17". Scale length: 25 3/4" Nut Width: 1 11/16" Body Depth: 3 1/2"
Finish: Original blonde finish, nitrocellulose type
Materials: Handcarved bookmatched solid spruce top; bookmatched arched figured maple back and sides; solid maple neck with 3-piece walnut centerstripe; solid Brazilian rosewood fingerboard with abalone and mother of pearl inlay; faux tortoise body and fingerboard binding.
Hardware: Original hardware includes adjustable compensated Brazilian rosewood 'arrow foot' bridge, translucent swirl tortoise Lucite pickguard, chrome trapeze tailpiece. Prerwar style open-back nickel Grover Stat-Tite tuners.
Notes: The year was 1938, and a television set was something most Americans had seen only in Popular Mechanics, or Tom Swift adventure books. Nonetheless, fully a year before the first US commercial TV broadcast beamed from the New York World's Fair, Kay Musical Instruments wasted no time in hooking their new top-of-the-line archtop to the new miracle picture box.
Kay was founded in Chicago in 1890, and by the late 30's had become perhaps the largest manufacturer of fretted instruments in the world. With a product line spanning a blizzard of different models, Kay went all-out on their new flagship professional grade guitar. Boasting a fully carved, quartersawn bookmatched solid spruce soundboard, this full depth 17" archtop was graced with exceptionally intense figured maple throughout. With big satiny rollers of tiger flame in the neck and sides, and a back of tthe most densely figured fiddleback maple imaginable, the instrument is simply breathtaking to behold. Like most makers, Kay reserved its most spectacular tonewood for its blonde guitars, and though a sunburst option (the K-60) was offered, the only examples of the Television model we have seen have been the blonde K-62, the very pinnacle of the Kay catalog.
A small masterpiece of Art Deco design, the Kay Television model is simply bursting with imaginative appointments. The pickguard is beveled of thick, translucent swirl Lucite, a Swing Era alternative to the traditional dark celluloid. The binding is tortoise as well, of an unusually subtle shade, and is applied throughout the instrument right down to the soundholes. The adjustable bridge is shaped of solid Brazilian rosewood, and is fitted with feet cunningly carved into the likeness of small arrowheads (!) a whimsical design utterly unique in our experience. And finally the fingerboard: fashioned from dozens of tiny slices of faux pearl and genuine abalone, the inlay pattern resembles nothing more than a gigantic broadcast antenna, an ingenious motif echoed in the Brazilian rosewood headplate as well.
This example has been maintained in fine shape, and is notably free of pick, buckle, thumb or fingerboard wear. A few short grainline cracks on either side of the fingerboard have been soundly resealed, along with another by the bass waist, and the pickguard has a solidly repaired hairline crack at the neck screw. The ornate trapeze tailpiece appears original, according to a file photo, and appears to have been replaced for a time, as evidenced by a pair of tiny filled screw holes near the endpin. Action is smooth and low over a traditional prewar neck with a generous C profile. At just 4lb 14oz, the instrument is notably light in weight, and the voice is full and forward, with the parallel braced carved spruce soundboard producing robust power and projection.
Appearing in trade catalogs only in 1938 and '39, the spectacular Kay Televsion remains a vanishingly rare model, and we are aware of only a handful of surviving examples. An audacious triumph of Art Deco craftsmanship, the K-62 Television is an uncanny harbinger of the shape of things to come.
Setup: The frets have been precision leveled, recrowned and polished; bridge height adjusted; bridge compensation set; string slots at nut and bridge inspected and recut as necessary; bridge foot contour inspected and fit to top as necessary; bridge radius inspected and recurved as necessary; bridgewheels and tuners lubricated; fingerboard and bridge oiled; body and neck cleaned and hand polished.
This instrument is strung with medium gauge bronze strings (.013-.056). The guitar will accommodate lighter or heavier gauge strings, according to preference. String action is set at 5/64" to 6/64" at the 12th fret, with moderate relief for acoustic playing with medium strings. The action may be lowered or raised to your requirements with the adjustable bridge.
Case: Deluxe black plush lined hardshell case.
Instruments /Accessories / Ordering / Tips