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Union Grove Music

Kay Old Kraftsman K161 "Thin Twin" - 1950's



Kay Old Kraftsman K161 "Thin Twin" - 1950's

$50.00 (Fixed shipping cost)

Product Description

This Old Kraftsman model K161 guitar was built by the Kay Musical Instrument Company for the Spiegel Company. Another version was produced for Sears with the Silvertone brand name (model 1381).

The model K161 was manufactured between 1952-1959. It was introduced by Kay shortly after Gibson's introduction of the Les Paul. The The "Thin Twin" designation refers to the dual, blade single coil, high-output pickups. The guitar has a thin body for its day, measuring 2 3/4" in depth.

Weight: 7 lb, 3 oz

It is a semi-hollow body guitar without F-holes. It its often associated with bluesman Jimmy Reed, who played one and featured it on his album cover. This model was also favored by Howlin' Wolf's guitarist Hubert Sumlin, as well as producer T-Bone Burnett.

The guitar features a higly flamed tortoiseshell pickguard, 4 cupcake knobs (2 volume, 2 tone), original rosewood bridge, chrome tailpiece, Kluson strip tuners, flamed maple top and back finished in natural, and dark brown mahogany sides and neck. The neck is chunky and has a 25 3/4" scale length.

The K161 was a top of the line electric guitar in its day, and featured numerous innovations for its time. The guitar's pickups produce a clean, bright, sustaining sound, with a wonderful natural sounding distortion. I really like this guitar when played with a slide.

This particular instrument is completely crack free. It has some scratches and small dings, but none of these flaws detract from the overall appearance of this guitar. A newer hard shell case is included.

  • I cannot tell if the frets are original. They are of good height, medium jumbo, and if a re-fret was done it was done professionally. The guitar is in great condition, and there is little evidence of a great deal of playing wear on the body, or the back of the neck. I am the 3rd owner of this guitar. The second owner could not or would not reveal any history to me.

    I cannot be sure about the originality of the capacitors. The pots and the rest of the wiring are original according to the date codes, (304316, indicates 1953 date). Solder looks untampered with on the pots. As far as the rest of the parts, everything looks original to me. Tuners, bridge, tailpiece, nut, frets, knobs, pickguard, pickups are all original to my knowledge. Of course, Kay made numerous changes to this guitar as it progressed through the 1950's, and they also made different versions of this guitar for Sears, Montgomery Ward, Spiegel, and others. I have a 1952 and a 1956 Kay catalog, and there are numerous notable changes in the Kay version that I notice just in the catalog.
    The neck is straight with a proper amount of relief, if strung with 011 gauge strings. It is too straight with 010 gauge strings. Also there is a slight gap between the neck heel and the sides. Frankly the guitar would benefit from a neck reset, as there is no room to adjust the action any lower. The frets have plenty of height, and no sharp edges. The angle of the strings over the bridge to the tailpiece is at its lowest point now. Any reduction in string height would result in strings not contacting bridge sufficiently.
    The guitar plays well as is, but it could be better. 

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