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  #1  
Old 03-15-2017, 09:09 AM
hat hat is offline
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Default Vintage Kay and Harmony guitars

There are a lot of old vintage Kay and Harmony archtops that always seem to pop up on auction websites, and craigslist. Any clues as to sorting the wheat from the chaf on these?
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Old 03-15-2017, 09:12 AM
mr. beaumont mr. beaumont is offline
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Mostly chaff.

There's some fun ones out there, they'll be priced a little higher, solid pressed tops, can sound pretty good. But most of 'em are just novelties.
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Old 03-15-2017, 09:31 AM
hat hat is offline
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so then, did they make good ones - but you just never see those for sale? I've seen some historical data that indicates they made some solid ones, ( maple, rosewood, mahogany,). I've just seen a few lately that looked like they were of better quality. It would be fun to get one or two to play with, but I certainly don't want to waste my time or $$ on a plywood POS either...
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Old 03-15-2017, 09:47 AM
mr. beaumont mr. beaumont is offline
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They're definitely out there, but yes, just not as many. I guess people either hang on to 'em or there just weren't as many of them to begin with. Generally, it seems the smalle bodies tend to be the cheaper ones that are more miss than hit.

I have a 17" Kay "Master Cutaway," and it's pretty cool. Has a huge neck and tiny frets--it's not a guitar I'm going to fly around playing jazz solos on, but for old school swing rhythm, it's great. Solid pressed top, I believe. It's LOUD
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Old 03-16-2017, 12:48 PM
zombywoof zombywoof is offline
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Like all other instruments, quality is all over the place. There is a big difference between say an all-birch Harmony Archtone and a Cremona or Brilliant model. Same with Kays. The Kay Television archtops from the late 1930s are, as example, beautifully made, carved top and back plate instruments. I recently picked up a 1935 Capital which was built by Gibson for Jenkins Music to help weather the Depression. 16" lower bout, pressed spruce top and mahogany body, no truss rod. Interesting skunk stripe inlaid down the center of the board. Feel is all Gibson.
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Old 03-16-2017, 12:57 PM
zombywoof zombywoof is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hat View Post
so then, did they make good ones - but you just never see those for sale? I've seen some historical data that indicates they made some solid ones, ( maple, rosewood, mahogany,). I've just seen a few lately that looked like they were of better quality. It would be fun to get one or two to play with, but I certainly don't want to waste my time or $$ on a plywood POS either...
Harmony did not make a "plywood" guitar until just before they closed up shop in the 1970s. While it may have been birch, every Harmony up to that point was built with solid woods. While most Harmonys were fashioned with pressed wood top plates, you can find carved top models if you know what you are looking for.
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Old 10-12-2017, 10:54 PM
PinetopJackson PinetopJackson is offline
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Default Here's a good old cheap one!

if I can get this youtube link to work...

https://youtu.be/6stEmxrwU68
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Old 10-13-2017, 04:46 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zombywoof View Post
Harmony did not make a "plywood" guitar until just before they closed up shop in the 1970s. While it may have been birch, every Harmony up to that point was built with solid woods. While most Harmonys were fashioned with pressed wood top plates, you can find carved top models if you know what you are looking for.
Those old pressed solid-top Harmony archtops make quite good roots/early acoustic blues guitars - not as refined as a Gibson L-50 or Epiphone Zenith (or even its modern-day counterpart Godin 5th Avenue) but loads of punch and volume - if you can find one where the neck/dovetail joint hasn't gone south. As beginner/budget instruments too many of them were subjected to the ravages of the old New Brunswick (NJ) Black Diamond strings - standard fare when you walked into your local mom-&-pop music store/record shop/hardware store/drugstore and asked for "a set of strings"; you've got to hope for one of those "under-the-bed" specials that was bought in the late-50s/early-60s, played maybe a half-dozen times, and then put away when Junior lost interest - and after six decades those are becoming increasingly rare. If you're after the same visual/sonic vibe with none of the hassles of an old instrument, grab a Godin 5th Avenue acoustic or Loar LH-300, set it up with Martin Monel 13's, and play to your heart's content...
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Old 10-13-2017, 06:00 PM
Truckjohn Truckjohn is offline
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Also bear in mind that the playing style of old archtops was very different from what we are used to thinking of with "Jazz" today...

Those old guitars were usually strung with heavies and run with a fairly high action. They were played HARD to be heard unamplified in the mix against horns. They are LOUD played this way with a really good tone... String them with lights and try to play technical, modern stuff - and you will be completely unimpressed/disappointed.

Quality wise... Yep.. They had a HUGE range of offerings from cheap beaters to the most expensive on the market.. More expensive than Martin and Gibson offerings. Their good stuff was very very good.. Their cheap stuff was generally pretty uninteresting.
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