Kay Les Paul - worth sinking some money into?

Discussion in 'Other Guitar Discussion' started by HighwayStar106, Sep 9, 2020.

Is this Kay LP worth modding?

  1. Go for it

    2 vote(s)
    10.5%
  2. Don't bother

    17 vote(s)
    89.5%
  1. HighwayStar106

    HighwayStar106 Senior Stratmaster

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    I did post a thread on this guitar a couple of weeks ago, but I don't think anyone actually noticed as I only got one reply! Here's a brief explanation:

    I bought a Kay LP copy as a bit of a project. It played alright, but it needed some electrical work and some better tuners. I've now replaced the tuners with some I had lying around, but that's only served to remind me why I took them off another guitar in the first place! I think I've sorted the electrics by redoing all the solder joints and giving them a bit of use.

    The thing is though, it's still not a great guitar. Fixing some issues appears to have simply revealed more:
    - the neck angle isn't great (it had a shim in the neck pocket which I must have put back in the wrong place, so hopefully not a difficult fix)
    - the intonation screws keep rattling
    - the pickups are total junk (I have a bridge humbucker I could potentially put in it)
    - the volume and tone knobs are a bit broken, and it'll need a switch tip too (the one on there is held on by masking tape as it was way to big for the thread)

    So Strat-Talk, what do you reckon? Should I try and fix these issues, or should I just get rid of it while it's vaguely playable, and before it ends up costing me a load of money?

    image.jpeg


    Also, if I do end up changing the pickups, what's the best way to make an extra screw hole in each pickup ring? As you can see, the original pickups mount with two holes on one side.
     
  2. Tsjackson

    Tsjackson Senior Stratmaster

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    Unfortunately to upgrade it to decent spec you can EASILY price for

    £60 bridge and tailpiece, £50 tuners and nut, £30-£££ on pickups... more than the guitar is or will ever be worth.
    I don’t think the carved tops on those are real either, I think it’s a shaped bit of ply with a cavity under it.

    Personally I would sell it for what I could whilst it worked and get a different do-er-upper. I’ve been eyeing up the broken epi les Paul’s on eBay, some with headstocks missing some with just dings and scratches...
     
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  3. CB91710

    CB91710 No GAS shortage here Double Platinum Supporting Member

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    Ya... Not worth putting any cash into it.
    Gibson fixed the rattling intonation screws by putting a spring wire across them.
     
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  4. dirocyn

    dirocyn Most Honored Senior Member

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    The only Kay I have played was kinda junk. I keep thinking maybe now that I know more, I could make it better... but my brother has it now, and I don't think he wants rid of it.

    Some of the issues you have are purely setup, if you enjoy tinkering then by all means, make it the best it can be. It won't ever be worth much, and upgrades won't increase the resale value.
     
  5. Stratoskater

    Stratoskater Fuzz Meister General

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  6. HighwayStar106

    HighwayStar106 Senior Stratmaster

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    Pretty unanimous verdict then! Having thought about it, I'd probably end up spending about 60-70 quid on parts, and that's just the bits that really need replacing, so I think I'll just try and sell it. I've saved a guitar from becoming landfill, and got a decent strap and lead out of it too, so it hasn't been a complete waste of time and money.

    I have sorted the neck angle at least, and it plays really well now. Some buzz on the fourth fret on the B, but fine otherwise, and the nut's cut pretty well too. Just goes to show how much a good set up can improve a guitar.

    @Tsjackson It is indeed a semi-hollow plywood body with a plywood cap on top. It doesn't exactly make for a lightweight guitar!

    @CB91710 It does have a spring wire, but it doesn't help. The saddles appear to be brass, so I wonder if they've been swapped at some point.
     
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  7. Stratoskater

    Stratoskater Fuzz Meister General

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    Put a drop of clear nail polish on the screws for the saddles to stop the rattling and it's easy to break free if you need to adjust them. Folks have been doing that with TOM bridges for years.
     
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  8. nadzab

    nadzab Play Don't Worry Silver Member

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    Close call...personally I wouldn't go to great lengths fixing up a bolt-on like that.
     
  9. BlurgyWurgyWibble

    BlurgyWurgyWibble Strat-O-Master

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    Its not too close really. Its not even made of "wood".
     
  10. Engine Swap

    Engine Swap Strat-O-Master

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    There are plenty of good playing LP copies available for what it would cost to "improve" that one.

    I only consider upgrades, if a guitar plays well in its stock configuration or has really good bones.
     
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  11. Miotch

    Miotch Senior Stratmaster

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    My first electric was a Kay I bought through classifieds in the late '70s before I knew anything about electric guitars. And the first thing I learned about electric guitars was I made a foolish purchase. Sold it to a friend for $30 and I still feel guilty about that. But he just wanted to use it for wall art, and it was barely suited for that.

    Company's slogan should have been: "Kay: Crushing Kids' Dreams Since 1931"
     
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  12. jvin248

    jvin248 Senior Stratmaster

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    .

    Fix it but be smart about it.

    I picked up a private label regional store branded version of a guitar like you have for cheap. I cleaned it up and repaired the broken nut and fixed the setup plus leveled the frets (I do that so no cost). Poor fretwork including nut setup is generally the thing that killed all these guitars back in the day.

    The pickups in that type of guitar are often single coil P90s under a fake humbucker shell. Gibson's patents must have still been active and all the kids wanted pickups that looked like humbuckers. It also had the bent laminate top with laminated body, but all the binding.

    While fixing it up I came across a guy looking to re-live his youth and it was the same guitar I had on hand. I sent him some pictures and he said it was the same brand and model and color he played, the headstock inlay 'diamond' was a little different style. Yes, he wanted it.

    I still had to do final setup with new strings. After setup, including dialing in the pickups, I couldn't believe the fantastic tone out of those P90s. I A/B'd it against another premium standard P90 guitar and they were really close. I sold it to the guy and of course he's playing on a modern adult amp back home and texts me that he can't believe how great this guitar plays and sounds. Way better than he remembered it as a kid.

    So, the important bits you'll want to investigate.
    -Fret level and nut. If the frets are worn out then replace with stainless steel. Do a great setup and you'll have great playability.
    -Replace pickups only if the originals are broken. Ry Cooder stripped out gold foils from MIJ 60s guitars to put in Fender MIA Strats. If you need to swap ... get the $15/pair humbuckers off ebay. I swap out famous aftermarket MIA brands for these because they perform like boutique hand-wound models. The pickups come with their own trim rings so you just screw them down.
    -Replace wiring harness, pots, caps, switch, jack with the usual MIA brands. You might spend $30 or less with careful shopping. If budget constraints then replace the volume pots and jack.
    -Replace tuners if the originals are weak or broken. $20 ebay Grovers will be an upgrade. Otherwise just tune-up to pitch.

    .
     
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  13. BuddhaFingas

    BuddhaFingas Senior Stratmaster

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    Put an apostrophe on the logo, for the lulz?

    'Kay...
     
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  14. myredstrat

    myredstrat Senior Stratmaster

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    do an early Pete Townsend on it, and film it for posterity
     
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