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Thread: My Kay Mandolin

  1. #1
    Registered User Joni's Avatar
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    Default My Kay Mandolin


    New member
    Trying to post a pic of my Kay mandolin
    Been taking lessons-a little over a month-I've had this Kay since I was a kid
    Going to have some work done on it...
    Bridge looks to be glued on-not good and it is high-making the strings higher than usual over the fretboardClick image for larger version. 

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    I have played on my teacher's mandolin and the ease of playing chords,on his mandolin as opposed to mine--it is like night and day
    If it isn't too costly I might just get a new bridge
    Just wanted to drop in and introduce myself

    Joni

  2. #2
    Registered User Joni's Avatar
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    Default Re: My Kay Mandolin

    I would like to eventually buy a better mandolin-but I will try to work with what I have,right now My Dad bought this for me when I was a kid-so it has alot of sentimental value-I look forward to any and all comments y'all have-I am psyched to get my Kay fixed so it doesn't shred my fingers so much

    Later
    Joni

  3. #3
    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: My Kay Mandolin

    Welcome to the cafe! Old family instruments are nice to have -- but it sounds like getting it set up properly is your next step. Your teacher might be able to help, or know a luthier you can take it to.
    --------------------------------
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  4. #4
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: My Kay Mandolin

    Joni, that model Kay was an entry level instrument for its day and honestly, none of them were easy to play. With a lot of work and money they can be made easier to play but they still won't be as easy as your teachers mandolin was. Perhaps you could display that one to remind you of how long you've had it and look at some of the newer entry level mandolins that would be easier to play. Having an instrument that is difficult to play is actually a real drawback for a new player.

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    Default Re: My Kay Mandolin

    I didn't know a Kay had glued on bridge... But in any case it a matter of lowering the bridge through sanding until the action improves.. and is comfortable... On inexpensive mandolins often the nut is not adjusted either, and that is a very important factor for comfortable playing. Don't assume it is glued on until you loosen or remove the strings... Often they may stick a little but are not glued. Glueing would be very very unusual.

    You will find information on this site or google "mandolin set up". It will cover adjusting the bridge and the nut. If you run into problems just ask. Plenty of folks on this site do their own maintenance and can help.

    I admire your interest in keeping it as a family instrument. It looks in good shape and will someday be a nice heirloom. In my opinion well worth putting in good playing shape.

    If you take to mandolin you will eventually want something a bit better dounding but you probably should wait until you know something about playing and can make an intelligent choice.

    Welcome!!!
    Bart McNeil

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  7. #6
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: My Kay Mandolin

    Actually I don't even know if that is the original bridge for that mandolin. Most Kay mandolins I have seen from that era have an adjustable bridge. I have a feeling that someone did some amateur luthiery on this one, maybe even lost the original bridge. It should look like this one, I would think.

    Ask your teacher for recommendations but I would get a std adjustable bridge for this mandolin and, assuming that the neck is straight and the angle is adequate, that might make is much more playable.

    You could get one like this one -- you will have to get it properly fitted tho.
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    Jim

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  8. #7
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: My Kay Mandolin

    That Kay didn't have a glue on bridge, somebody glued the bridge in place.

  9. #8
    Always learning something Mo Soar's Avatar
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    Default Re: My Kay Mandolin

    Welcome!

    The Kay I have is probably from the 40s (I think this is true because of the painted gold script Kay on the headstock and the only other examples of that logo style have been from that period). It actually sounds good, even compared to the Gibson and the Eastman. It's currently awaiting a bit of freshening up - I want a slight radius on the neck and it needs new frets and a new bridge (it's an adjustable two piece bridge and the top piece has bowed), so it'll be my first attempt at luthiery.
    1918 Gibson A, "Lillian";
    1940s (?) Kay A style f hole - currently down for a refret and fretboard re-profile, my first attempts (with guidance) at lutherie.
    1981 Washburn M7SN (2 point);
    2011 Eastman 504, "Belle";
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    2012 Emando (Saga), "Hank"

    1 husband, 2 dogs, 4 chickens.

  10. #9
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: My Kay Mandolin

    Jim, the bridge might be original, check this out. This one is for sale at Sherwood music.

    http://sherwoodsmusic.com/instruments/kaymandolin/

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    Registered User Tommando's Avatar
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    Default Re: My Kay Mandolin

    I repaired a collapsed top a while back on an early 1960s Harmony that was very similar to this Kay. It had the same adjustable bridge shown in Jim's attachment and turned out to be a good set up and surprisingly easy and fun to play.

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    Default Re: My Kay Mandolin

    I like Kay headstocks ... this is as good a place as any ... check out this rare photo of McCartney playing a Kay bass on the Junior's Farm video!
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  13. #12
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: My Kay Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandolin Mick View Post
    I like Kay headstocks ...
    Then you should love this shot of a Kay Barney Kessel model. This is the epitome of the kelvinator headstock.

  14. #13
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    Default Re: My Kay Mandolin

    Thanx Mike! Went up as my wallpaper!

  15. #14
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: My Kay Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    Jim, the bridge might be original, check this out. This one is for sale at Sherwood music.

    http://sherwoodsmusic.com/instruments/kaymandolin/

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Interesting. I am away from home but I think I have some catalog shots from that era. Will check back.
    Jim

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    Ca. 1923 Washburn (L&H) Pro A -- Brentrup A4C -- 1915 Frank Merwin Ashley violin -- 1904 Embergher Type 3 -- 1937 Gibson L-Century -- 1939 Gibson L-00 -- ca. 1890s Fairbanks Senator Banjo

  16. #15
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: My Kay Mandolin

    At first I figured it wasn't original then I found that one. I'm assuming this is late in Kay's production. They have put the less expensive tailpiece on it (both examples), the headstock isn't overly ornate, and the simpler cheaper bridge seems to fit the picture. They didn't even bother to stain the bridge to make it look like the older models.

  17. #16
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: My Kay Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    At first I figured it wasn't original then I found that one. I'm assuming this is late in Kay's production. They have put the less expensive tailpiece on it (both examples), the headstock isn't overly ornate, and the simpler cheaper bridge seems to fit the picture. They didn't even bother to stain the bridge to make it look like the older models.
    Pretty cheap looking bridge IMHO. Low pt for Kay. Still... it should not have been glued on.
    Jim

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    Ca. 1923 Washburn (L&H) Pro A -- Brentrup A4C -- 1915 Frank Merwin Ashley violin -- 1904 Embergher Type 3 -- 1937 Gibson L-Century -- 1939 Gibson L-00 -- ca. 1890s Fairbanks Senator Banjo

  18. #17
    Registered User Joni's Avatar
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    Default Re: My Kay Mandolin

    This bridge in the picture looks just like mine-My brother has a Kay also-and the bridge is dark wood and adjustable-I don't know why mine is different-but the bridge on my Kay is not adjustable-I have been fighting this for over a month-practicing chords-I took lessons eons ago and I remember not liking to play chords-Geez it is a wonder I could even play it,when I was a young'n
    My teacher felt like I was being impeded,on my playing-but I think he was hesitant-he didn't know how much I was willing to spend to make this old girl,better
    I've looked at alot of Kay vintage-and this is the first one I have seen that had the same kind of bridge
    I am not up on all the lingo and what the specs should be-but eventually I will be able to understand and know things
    Appreciated everyone's input

    Thanks Later
    Joni

  19. #18
    Registered User Joni's Avatar
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    Default Re: My Kay Mandolin

    This is so true-there has been a couple of times-I was tempted to smash it up against the wall-I was having fits and my fingertips were being shredded-and still didn't sound any better lol
    My teacher could see that I was really trying and he told me that he thought,me fighting this mandolin was really impeding my playing--Ya' know it was a big relief to me-I still have lots of practicing to do-but that comment made me feel so much better and the fact that during the lesson I played his mandolin-and I didn't want to give it back to him lol
    So, yes I do enjoy the learning process-just happy to know that the learning process doesn't have to be so darn hard

    Later
    Joni

  20. #19
    Registered User Joni's Avatar
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    Default Re: My Kay Mandolin

    I definitely want to buy a better mandolin-My Dad,who is 80-probably wouldn't understand-but I've already been to the nearest Guitar Center and the mandolins I saw-well it gives me something to shoot for-maybe I will give myself a nice Christmas present
    Later
    Joni

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    Default Re: My Kay Mandolin

    Joni:
    An adjustable bridge is nice but there is nothing wrong with a non-adjustable bridge either. You simply learn to adjust the bridge through lowering it (sanding}, or possibly raising it by putting a shim under it. likewese the nut can be raised or lowered through filing the string notches or raising it with paper or something under it. quite simple in fact. these adjustments are standard and will save you bucks if you learn to do them yourself. You will do no damage to your instrument if you learn to do them, because a nut and a bridge are cheap items and are easily rreplacable. besides learning to futz with your instrument is fun. in my opinion.
    Bart McNeil

  22. #21
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: My Kay Mandolin

    The bridge, as has been pointed out should not be glued on. Yes, there is nothing wrong with a solid bridge if you have the ability to take care of the instrument yourself. I seriously doubt that the only problem this instrument really has is the nut and the bridge. This instrument is not a diamond in the rough. They were pumped out as inexpensive instruments and honestly, I was around when they were being sold new. They weren't gems then, they aren't now. What you can get now in a low end Kentucky brand mandolin will be magnitudes better than what this Kay will ever be even after you dump a bunch of money into it trying to make it play better. I have watched so many people struggle with instruments that are hard to play. Parents have done their children a disservice for years by buying the least expensive instrument for them to start on. Keep this one to display on the wall for the memories and find one you can actually play.

  23. #22
    Registered User Joni's Avatar
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    Default Re: My Kay Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    The bridge, as has been pointed out should not be glued on. Yes, there is nothing wrong with a solid bridge if you have the ability to take care of the instrument yourself. I seriously doubt that the only problem this instrument really has is the nut and the bridge. This instrument is not a diamond in the rough. They were pumped out as inexpensive instruments and honestly, I was around when they were being sold new. They weren't gems then, they aren't now. What you can get now in a low end Kentucky brand mandolin will be magnitudes better than what this Kay will ever be even after you dump a bunch of money into it trying to make it play better. I have watched so many people struggle with instruments that are hard to play. Parents have done their children a disservice for years by buying the least expensive instrument for them to start on. Keep this one to display on the wall for the memories and find one you can actually play.
    I couldn't agree more-I have looked at the Kentucky brand mandolin-now that I know that I struggled and also knowing that I can play better helps me-I need to educate myself-with the help of this site and just looking around will help me make a decision on what to purchase
    Thanks

    Joni

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    Default Re: My Kay Mandolin

    You are in the best of all possible worlds. You have a player to learn on and if you want to advance you still have a wonderful family momento. Or spare mando if you ever need it. and until you decide you want to really commit yourself to a better mando you have something to play while you look and think about the next step.

    I have several mandos and enjoy fine tuning them and as I do so I can switch to another mando for practice and play with no disruption. But I enjoy bringing old wrecks of mandos back to life so I always have a spare ot three waiting.
    Bart McNeil

  25. #24
    Registered User Chinn's Avatar
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    Default Re: My Kay Mandolin

    Thats a nice one Joni. I play a blonde Kay myself. I'm guessing mine was built in or around the mid-60's. I've enjoyed mine and I'm glad I've got it. Had it around 2 years now.

    All that being said, what I'd suggest you do (this is from a mando pseudo beginner, but someone who has played strings for a long time) - Watch the classifieds on this site for a nice A-style Mid-Mo or other Flat-top mando used or otherwise. Chances are, if it comes from this site, it will come from someone who loved it. The flat top is because you'll get by far the most music and playability for your money. Nothing against Guitar Center, but they're not mando experts.

    As you learn on the flat top, find a local luthier and have them got through the Kay. As something you've owned for so long, its probably worth it to get it properly set up and spend some time on it cleaning and brightening it.

    I still have my Kay (sitting in front of me as I type this) and I'm having fun with it. However, I spend most of my time playing a higher end electric mando and acoustic mando which are so much easier to play.
    Chinn BluesBird Emando #1
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  27. #25
    Registered User Joni's Avatar
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    Default Re: My Kay Mandolin

    I appreciate everyone's input-but I guess I didn't realize how many different price points and different styles of mandolins,there were-Wow It kinda boggles the mind
    I realize my Kay is a very low-end model-I've looked around all kinds of mando sites-A-style-A-style oval or F holes-F-style -wide nut-it is alot to take in
    It seems like bone nut is the way to go-from what I've seen-so many variables-a Cumberland bridge
    I realize Guitar Center is not a fav,of some people-but how can you buy something online-and not play it first?-Is it better to go to GC and play the different mandolins and then decide from there what I want-and go to Mandolin Brothers or Elderly-I really would like to stick to a 400.00 price point-give or take 50 bucks-
    I have no illusions of playing in public or anything close to that-I do this for me and my enjoyment or learning all I can about playing
    I have a pretty tight budget and I've seen some 800.00 mandos that are gorgeous-but I don't want to buy looks-something that I can play without struggling
    I thought about just buying American made-but they can be pricey-Sorta leaning toward a Kentucky-but not sure yet
    Just wanted everyone to know-that because of this site I am trying slowing but surely to educate myself on all things mandolin-
    I am getting my Kay worked on-the guy is a luthier-that happens to work for GC-but my teacher highly recommended him
    I will let you know
    I am missing playing LOL-I feel like I am already losing my callouses-so hopefully-within a couple of days I will get my Kay back...
    Hoping everyone has a great Sunday

    Later
    Joni

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