The Amateur Luthier

Cataloging my experiences and encounters repairing and restoring guitars

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St Louis Music Supply was founded by the Kornblum brothers in the early 20th century and they distributed a variety of instruments from d...

St Louis Music Supply was founded by the Kornblum brothers in the early 20th century and they distributed a variety of instruments from different manufacturers. My interest in them comes from my location (just outside of St Louis) and that I've already acquired four guitars that were sold by them, one for each decade between the 1930s and 1960s. 

I've been searching for a couple years for St Louis Music Supply catalogs and found these pictures but have yet to find any that I could purchase, scan, upload for others, and use as reference material to figure out the years and dates behind my instruments. St Louis Music Supply used the Custom Kraft brand name primarily and that is my focus.

If you have found one, please shoot me a message

Guyatone and Zen-On Plastic Guitar Bridges Teisco has nothing to do with these but people often incorrectly  refer to any  vintage Japa...

Guyatone and Zen-On Plastic Guitar Bridges

Teisco has nothing to do with these but people often incorrectly refer to any 
vintage Japanese guitar as being made by "Teisco" so its worth mentioning


A weird chapter in the totally bizarre world of 1960s Japanese-built electric guitars is the molded plastic bridge which appeared on instruments by two distinct manufacturers. Both bridges are molded from an off-white plastic and do remain fairly sturdy; I haven't had any issues with them crumbling or chipping. Tonally, I haven't A-B'd them against a traditional metal bridge but all 3 instruments I've had with these bridges sounded a little more 'thumpy' than I expected.

You can find these on Ebay and Reverb for about $30-40. It wouldn't be a bad move to start reproducing them but that's beyond my capabilities


Guyatone produced electric guitars for major guitar manufacturer Suzuki. The company also produced their house brand Guyatone. Badged guitars produced by Guyatone include Barclay, Broadway, Coronado, Crestwood, Futurama, Howard, Ibanez, Ideal, Imperial, Johnny Guitar, Kent, Kingston, Lafayette, Marco Polo (electrics only), Montclair, Omega, Orpheus, Prestige, Royalist, Saturn, Silhouette, Silvertone, Vernon, Winston and Zenta, an impressive amount of names produced by a single company. [1]
Guyatone plastic bridges can be easily identified by their softer angles and compensation. They are also less wide than the Zen-On bridges.


Little known Japanese manufacturer who was out of business by 1968. Zen-On made electric guitars with the house brand Zen-on badge, as well as Beltone, Morales and Zenon badges [1]
Zen-On plastic bridges are distinguishable due to the sharp angles and drastic compensation for the strings. They are also wider than the Guyatone counterparts.


About I was unable to source any information about the company  Employees Bertha "Bertte" Sofo, was a secretary with the ...


I was unable to source any information about the company 


Bertha "Bertte" Sofo, was a secretary with the company in 1940 [1]. A public notice of a marriage between her and  businessman William Hauser, in 1946, listed her as an "exec" at the company [2].



An original flier from a 1950s Kay Archtop

An original flier from a 1950s Kay Archtop

Dating Harmony Guitars Harmony guitars are fairly easy to identify and date yet there still remains a lot of unsolved questions for the ...

Dating Harmony Guitars

Harmony guitars are fairly easy to identify and date yet there still remains a lot of unsolved questions for the average collector which I am attempting to answer here.

The single best resource on the internet is the DeMont Harmony Database but it is no longer updated.
I am attempting to bridge the gap where he stopped and with what we know today.

I cite my information as best as I can but there are points that are common knowledge among the Harmony community or are observations and conclusions that I have reached from my work.
Pictures are mine unless otherwise cited.

If you are unable to identify your instrument, use the Contact Me button above and I'll do my best.


    Harmony instruments have their name on them more often than Kay instruments do but there is still a significant number of these instruments which do not sport the name of the manufacturer. Many Harmony instruments have a brand name which was given by a retailer who purchased the instrument for sale as a house brand in their own shop. You can find Harmony guitars branded Airline to Heathkit to Wizard and more!

    I have compiled guides on identifying these instruments and who sold them.

    My original article (which includes pictures) of the various brand names that Harmony guitars appeared under can be found here:
    Harmony Guitar Brands and Aliases (not updated)

    My current list (which does not have pictures but is updated) has even more brand names that Harmony guitars appeared under.
    Department Store Guitar Brand List

    Headstock Variants

    Quintessential Harmony headstock shape

    Thin, small nub
    Kay-esque single point
    [Late 1960s-1970s]

    Tuning Machines

    Harmony guitars primarily used Waverly tuning machines on their models throughout the lifetime of the company. Kluson tuners started appearing in the 1940s.

    My guide to identifying Kluson tuners can be found here
    My guide to identifying Waverly tuners can be found here


    Harmony acoustic instruments are praised for their use of solid woods. They require more care than laminate guitars (to prevent cracking) but provide better tone.

    Carved vs Pressed

    Most Harmony archtop guitars have heat pressed tops which are formed in molds to make the archtop shape which produces a good sound but is nowhere near as desirable as a true carved top. 

    There do exist models where the bracing is carved out of the same piece of wood as the top.


    • Poplar is the most common wood used 
      • Often finished in a brown lacquer to mimic mahogany
    • Mahogany 
      • Appears on higher end flat top models like the Sovereign series 
      • Also appears on mid to high end archtops as early as the 1940s. 

    Neck Reinforcements

    Double bar reinforcement slots on a 30s archtop
    • Pre-1940s - Single or double rectangular steel bar
    • 1940s - Often none
    • 1950s-1970s - Single rectangular steel bar

    Truss Rods

    Harmony unveiled the Torque-Lok dual-rod truss rod system in 1956 which was paired with their Slim-Line neck for 'professional' and 'fast' playing.

    Unfortunately the design has flaws. As tension is added to the rod, the nut is forced downwards into the channel but the upward pressure which makes adjustment difficult. The rod also stops short of spanning the full length of the neck which reduces its, already weak, effectiveness.
    1950s Harmony "Torque-Lok" Truss Rod
    Half removed for demonstration


    • Brazilian Rosewood
      • Continued to appear on mid to high-end models far into the 1960s
    • Ebonized hardwood (maple, birch, etc)
      • (Read my Article here about the process)
      • Very common on low-end models throughout Harmony's history
      • Ebonizing process causes the wood to 'dry rot' which reduces its strength and leaves it brittle and prone to cracks and chips.
      • Very unpleasant to refret. 
    • Indian Rosewood
      • Started appearing in the 1960s as a cheaper alternative to Brazilian
      • More porous and differently colored than Brazilian Rosewood 

    Position dots

    Inlay materials are typically real pearl up until the 50s when celluloid "pearloid" becomes commonplace.
      • 3/16" white dots in an alternating 1 and 2 dot pattern appeared in the 1930s
        • Kay also used this pattern and dot size
      • Ornate stenciled designs can also be found
        • Painted on, typically, with white lacquer


    • Composition
      • Standard nickel frets are the most common
      • Brass frets appeared in the 1940s
    • Size
      • Thin, short frets were common before and during WWII
      • I cover a variety of exact fretwire dimensions on my article Vintage Fretwire Dimensions


    Harmony guitars are, in most cases, very easy to identify via their comprehensive stamping and dating system. Ink stamps are typically found on the back of the instrument and are visible through the f holes or soundhole. It is not uncommon for the stamps to be poorly inked, faded, or obscured.

    Harmony date stamps variants
    Image Credit: UNKNOWN
    Please contact me if you made this so I can applaud you
    • "F-##", "S-##"
      • Means Fall or Spring which refers to the season in which the instrument was built
        • It does not mean First or Second half of the year
        • The existence of "FL" date stamps and of Christmas-exclusive models bearing "F" stamps (for Fall) supports this conclusion
      • "##" refers to the year in which the instrument was built
      • If followed by a letter or letters, that indicates the quality inspector of the instrument that approved it. 
      • "Made in USA" appears in the 1950s
    Harmony H-54 built in the Fall of 1951
    3585 has no known meaning and can be ignored
    Image Credit: Ebay
    • ####H####
      • Preceding numbers are likely a batch number and have no discernible meaning
      • Following numbers are the model number of the instrument and can be easily researched
        • Harmony did reuse model numbers so keep that in mind
    1938 Carved Top Stamp
    Image Credit: Reverb - Tommy
    • Carved Top
      • Often printed in red ink, indicates a high end model with a carved (rather than heat pressed) arch top


    Harmony guitars typically don't have any paper labels glued inside them from the factory. Most paper labels are from the distributor like B&J which had their own serial and model number labels. Starting in the 1960s, select models had labels which were visible through the soundhole or f-holes.

    • "A Quality instrument handcrafted by The Harmony Company"
      • Appears on 70s Harmony guitars, a few USA but mostly Korean built
    • "Special Notice This guitar is designed for nylon or gut strings do not use steel strings"
      • Appears on 60s-70s classical guitars


    Harmony purchased their pickups from outside suppliers and, to my knowledge, did not wind their own.


    Harmony pickups were built primarily by DeArmond-Rowe Industries which constructed the famous "hershey bar" and "gold foil" pickups (not to be confused with later Japanese gold foil pickups). If your Harmony has electronics, chances are that they are DeArmond. 

    Luckily, DeArmond units are well documented and typically have a date stamp on the back of the instrument in Month Day Year format like MAR 18 1966. This will align very closely with the date of construction of your instrument

    The best resource for DeArmond pickups is


    Gibson P-13 pickups are often referred to as the precursor to the famous P-90 pickup and were built in the 1940s and 1950s. There is a rumor that Gibson sold Harmony a "boxcar" of pickups via train and Harmony used that stock until they ran out. Nobody knows the specifics but we do know for sure that Harmony used Gibson pickups (and Gibson wiring harnesses on lap steels) in some of their instruments.

    1950s Gibson P-13 Pickup (no polepieces) on an H-56 Roy Smeck
    Do NOT confuse these pickups with Speed Bump pickups from Kay or pickups from Alamo. Too many people falsely attribute these pickups to each other but they are not associated in any way except appearance

    Common Issues 

    DIY repairs are the quickest way to damage and devalue an instrument
    Always consult with a reputable luthier (not a guitar tech) before performing any work
    Never ever use super glue, epoxy, gorilla glue, or Titebond III
    Guitars that are 'repaired' with these are often beyond saving
    • There are cracks in the wood
      • This occurs when an instrument is exposed to a climate different than the ideal (70 degrees Fahrenheit and 45-50% humidity) and the wood has shrunk
      • Do not try to fill the cracks with glue or put clamps on the guitar to press it together
      • Your guitar needs proper humidity and cleats
    • The neck heel is pulling away from the body
      • Do not shove glue in there or drive a screw through the heel
      • Your guitar needs a neck reset 
    • The frets have large divots in them
      • Frets are like tires on your car, they need replacing after being used a lot
      • Your guitar needs a refret
    • The strings are buzzy or the neck is bowed
      • Most Harmony guitars lack adjustable truss rods (or rods that still work) and so forward bow cannot be easily repaired.
      • Your guitar needs a fretboard planing and refret or more ideally a truss rod installation
    • The strings are too high off the fretboard
      • As string tension and climate shift the wood in a guitar, they inevitably need the neck to be steamed off and a new angle carved relative to the body.
      • Your guitar needs a neck reset
    • The bridge is lifting and coming off
      • Many bridges are glued directly onto the lacquer which causes them to lift and raise the action. 
      • Do not use glue to fill the gaps or drive screws into the bridge to bring it back down. The only fix is to remove the bridge, prep the area, sand the bridge to match, and reglue it.
      • Your guitar needs a bridge reglue and often a bridge plate patch
    • There is no sound coming from the electronics
      • This can be a variety of things from dead capacitors, dirty potentiometers, shorted wires, and even dead pickups.
      • Don't replace any vintage components unless you absolutely have to
      • Your guitar needs an electronics evaluation and cleaning

    1944 Kay K-60 Catalog Excerpt Image Credit:  VintAxe The Kay K-60 was a top of the line archtop model built by Kay craftsmen and reta...

    1944 Kay K-60 Catalog Excerpt
    Image Credit: VintAxe
    The Kay K-60 was a top of the line archtop model built by Kay craftsmen and retailing for $65. Michael Wright's book "Guitar Stories Volume 2" has some of the most complete model information and dates about Kay guitars but his date range for this model is incomplete. He mentions both the K-60 and K-62 as being built from 1938-1939 but my research in old catalog scans show that they were available as late as 1944 and as early as 1941. It is not present in the 1948 catalog. Assuming that Wright came to his number via a resource I did not find, I think it is safe to assume these guitars were built from 1941 through 1944 with earlier models possibly existing

    They are jumbo archtops meaning their lower bout measures around 17". They use quality woods like actual flamed maple for the necks, Brazilian Rosewood slab fretboards, and plenty of real pearl inlays. The tops are carved spruce with laminate flamed maple back and sides.

    Expect quality hardware like open-back Kluson tuners with or without the stamped shafts. The tailpieces are also quality and quite ornate, I have not been able to discern who made those. Note the bridge on these instruments is a unique "ribbon" design which flares outward towards the tailpiece, on the bass side, and towards the neck, on the treble side. And the celluloid pickguard is incredibly thick too.

    1944 Kay K-62 Catalog Excerpt
    Image Credit: VintAxe
    The K-62 is identical to the K-60 in nearly every way except that it is finished in a clear, natural lacquer instead of sunburst. It may or may not also have a painted stinger on the back of the headstock.

    This model number may have been reused for Kay guitars with the antenna fretboard inlays but that instrument is not the focus of this article.

    I get tired of scouring through trying to find the exact manufacturer I'm looking for in some unknown catalog that I've ...

    I get tired of scouring through trying to find the exact manufacturer I'm looking for in some unknown catalog that I've forgotten. This is just my list of manufacturers and unusual catalogs of where to find some examples for my own reference

    This does not give you access to the website, you still have to pay.






    Inventors Harry Stanley was born in January of 1895 in Harrison, Ohio to Franklin, a blacksmith, and Mary Stanley [1]. In 1920, Harry wa...


    Harry Stanley was born in January of 1895 in Harrison, Ohio to Franklin, a blacksmith, and Mary Stanley [1]. In 1920, Harry was working as a blacksmith likely with his father [2]. He continued in that field and was listed as a laborer in a steel mill in 1940 [3]. He died in 1966 [4]

    Vincent J Moir was born in 1902 in Ohio to a railroad worker Joseph Moir and wife Josephine [5]. In 1930, he was a proprietor of a shutter awning company and in 1940 worked in the laundry industry with a key-tag checking system [6][7]. He died in 1987 [8].

    The exact circumstances that brought these two men together is unknown and neither appears to have had ties to the musical instrument industry. I have searched high and low and been unable to find any documentation connecting this two men to either Waverly or Kluson. But their innovation is an important part of guitar history and can be seen on the earliest Fender instruments.

    The Patent


    The objective of their patent was to propose a solution to two issues which guitar manufacturers and players were suffering from...
    The first was that the advent of metal strings meant higher tensions than gut or fiber strings which led to strings slipping out of tune.
    The second was that the ends of the metal strings were incredibly sharp and prone to cutting or stabbing the player of the instrument.

    Incomplete set of Saf-Ti-String tuners

    Their solution was to design a tuning machine that accepted the sharp end of the string and protected the player from being injured. This tuner had a slot cut into the end of the post and a center hole drilled. Two variants were designed, one with a square slot and another with a triangular slot which became smaller as you approached the base. The string would then be cut to size, inserted into the post hole, and wrapped through the slot and around the post. The sharp angle of the slot would lock the string in place and prevent it from slipping as the string was tensioned. This would hide the string end, protecting the player, and also help keep the instrument in tune.


    Original Saf-Ti-String tuners have the patent numbers and the design name stamped around one of the screw holes. So far I have not found any 'patent applied for' labelled sets. They appear as 3-on-a-plate sets.

    These tuners follow common traits of Waverly tuners including the style of the worm's gear carve, the worm brackets, and the gear itself. The square plates also hint towards a Waverly origin. The button shafts have a spear shape like Klusons. Their exact origin is still uncertain.

    Note the Waverly-esque brackets holding the worm

    Guitar Prod. Co.

    Guitar Prod. Co. was a stamp used on tuners found on some Oahu instruments
    Early Saf-Ti-String Design on Guitar Prod Co tuners
    Image Credit: Ebay - Lawman-Mike

    Oahu tuners with later Saf-Ti-String posts
    Image Credit: Reverb - Yooptone Music


    The patent was set to expire in 1953 but I believe Kluson purchased the rights prior to that date. Kluson began producing "Safe-Ti-String" tuners as early as the 1940s and they were available for most all models of tuning machine that they sold.

    The modern incarnation of Kluson currently produces these tuners but refers to the design as the 'safety post' in their modern literature. 

    1950 Kluson Catalog Photo
    Image Credit: Reverb - Izzy's Vintage Guitars

    Kluson 'no-line' tuners with Saf-T-String posts
    Image Credit: @notaluthier

    Later Patents

    Harry and Vincent also patented a set of classical tuners in 1935 using a modified version of their earlier Saf-T-String patent.

    Classical Saf-T Tuners
    US2094685A [10]

    They also patented a metal bridge for acoustic guitars in 1936 which commonly appears on Oahu-brand instruments.
    Metal Bolt On Pyramid Bridge


    About John Edward Klucikowski was born March 8th, 1893 in Germany to Polish parents Joseph Klucikowski and Mary Schwab. They emigrated to...


    John Edward Klucikowski was born March 8th, 1893 in Germany to Polish parents Joseph Klucikowski and Mary Schwab. They emigrated to the United States in 1898 and came to settle in Carlinville, Illinois. Only their two youngest siblings were born in the United States . His father died and was buried in 1904 leaving Mary to raise her 4 sons, Frank, John, Tony, and Joseph, and 3 daughters, Agnes, Theresa, and Mary [5]. In 1910, at the age of 17, he was a receiving clerk [6]. Later John was employed as a machinist with instrument manufacturer Lyon and Healy according to a 1917 draft registration card [8]. 
    John Edward Klucikowski (undated)
    Image Credit:
    Shortly after, John had 'Americanized' his name and began using the surname Kluson [4]. According to the present day owners, WD Music, John founded the Kluson Manufacturing Company as a machine shop in 1925 [9]. In 1942, he lived at 2454 N. Springfield Avenue in Chicago, Illinois and was employed by Kluson Manufacturing Company which was located at 3830 N. Kilbourn Avenue in Chicago, Illinois [1].

    Kluson factory (undated)
    Image Credit:

    He died in April of 1956, at the age of 63, and was buried in St Joseph Cemetery in River Grove, Illinois [2][3]. He does not appear to have married or have had any children.

    His company folded in 1981 after losing big clients to newer tuning machine manufactuers and was later bought by WD Music who currently makes reproduction machines.

    If you know of a Kluson Manufacturing Company catalog or any documention relating to the company, I am very interested in purchasing it. Please contact me 



    Vintage Fretwire Dimensions This is my log of fret crown dimensions from vintage instruments that I have refretted Crown heights can ...

    Vintage Fretwire Dimensions

    This is my log of fret crown dimensions from vintage instruments that I have refretted

    Crown heights can be rounded up to compensate for playwear and previous fret leveling
    I've tried to find a similar sized wire for each entry, always double check before ordering
    All frets are nickel-silver unless stated otherwise


    1940's Archtop 

    CW: 0.068"
    CH: 0.037"
    Most Similar To: 

    1940's Archtop

    CW: 0.122"
    CH: 0.034"
    Most Similar To:  

    1950s Archtop

    CW: 0.100"
    CH: 0.032"
    Most Similar To:  StewMac #146

    1950's Archtop

    CW: 0.105"
    CH: 0.040"
    Most Similar To:  StewMac #149

    1954 K-150 Archtop

    CW: 0.114"
    CH: 0.027"
    Most Similar To: 

    1960 K6970 Swingmaster

    CW: 0.094"
    CH: 0.028"
    Most Similar To: 

    1960's K573 Speed Demon

    CW: 0.083"
    CH: 0.029"
    Most Similar To:  StewMac #148

    1960's Vanguard

    CW: 0.104"
    CH: 0.028"
    Most Similar To:  LMII FW27

    1960's K6104 Flat Top

    CW: 0.106"
    CH: 0.035"
    Most Similar To:   LMII FW27


    1930's H-1390 Archtop

    CW: 0.064"
    CH: 0.031"
    Most Similar To:  LMII FW68

    1945 Archtop

    CW: 0.068"
    CH: 0.031"
    Most Similar To:  LMII FW68

    1969 H-1230 12 String 

    CW: 0.101"
    CH: 0.034"
    Most Similar To:  LMII FW27

    1970 Fender-branded Sovereign

    CW: 0.099"
    CH: 0.039"
    Most Similar To:  LMII FW75

    1971 H-162 Flat Top

    CW: 0.096"
    CH: 0.034"
    Most Similar To:  LMII FW75

    Other American

    1920s Lyon and Healy Parlor

    CW: 0.051"
    CH: 0.036"
    Most Similar To:  

    1930s Regal Arch Top

    CW: 0.045"
    CH: 0.038"
    Most Similar To:  

    1930s-50s Gretsch Model 50 Archtop

    CW: 0.099"
    CH: 0.028"
    Most Similar To: 


    1960s Kawai Electric

    CW: 0.075"
    CH: 0.045"
    Most Similar To: 

    1960s Guyatone Electric

    CW: 0.100"
    CH: 0.036"
    Most Similar To: 

    1966 Hoshino-Gakki Electric

    CW: 0.059"
    CH: 0.030"
    Most Similar To:  

    1968 Hagstrom Viking II DeLuxe Semihollow

    CW: 0.070"
    CH: 0.022"
    Most Similar To:  

    1970s Univox Coily Semihollow

    CW: 0.093"
    CH: 0.030"
    Most Similar To:  

    1970s Aria Acoustic

    CW: 0.095"
    CH: 0.036"
    Most Similar To:  

    1970s Yamaki 12 String

    CW: 0.085"
    CH: 0.039"
    Most Similar To:  

    Rhode Island residents Chester P. Keefe and John C. Navilliat recognized the troubles associated with worn fretwire and the cost and time as...

    Rhode Island residents Chester P. Keefe and John C. Navilliat recognized the troubles associated with worn fretwire and the cost and time associated with replacing the frets with brand new wire. They invented a new method of installing frets which involved easily replaceable inserts.

    Their patent, US-3273439A, was filed in 1965 and granted in 1966

    Illustration of the design

    "The fingerboard is that part of a fretted stringed instrument on which the frets are placed. It is usually made of wood and may or may not be of one piece with the neck of the instrument. Frets are those devices which are positioned on the fingerboard perpendicular to the long axis of the fingerboard with such proper spacing as to effect the desired pitch of the string or strings when fingered in the proper manner for playing the fretted stringed instrument. The frets are usually made of metal and usually inserted into slots cut into the wooden fingerboard for this purpose and held there by friction. When the frets become worn or damaged or otherwise need replacement, they must be pried out of the wooden fingerboard and a new fret inserted into the slot which previously held the fret being replaced. This is a task which requires much time and skill to perform. Also with each replacement of a fret in the same slot, the slot becomes less able to hold the fret with proper friction due to the resulting enlargement of the slot.

    In general: The object of this invention is to provide a device or devices which facilitates the replacement of a fret or frets, quickly and easily on a fretted stringed instrument without causing damage to the fingerboard.

    In particular: An object of this invention is to provide a device in the fingerboard of a fretted instrument which accommodates a removable fret thereby facilitating the changing of frets without damage to the fingerboard, said device being made of such suitable material as will resist wear such as plastic or metal."

    These inserts would be held in place either with screws or adhesive and would be easy to replace if an instrument needed new fretwire. Radiused slots in the fretboard could also be used to hold the inserts in by friction and most importantly conform to the radius of the fingerboard.

    Navilliat passed away in May of 2018, followed 6 days later by Keefe. As far as I can tell, their sole patent never made its way onto production instruments and I am unable to find any examples of their work.

    About Wilson Brothers Manufacturing Company was incorporated in 1898 and became defunct around 1927 [2]. The corporation's name chang...


    Wilson Brothers Manufacturing Company was incorporated in 1898 and became defunct around 1927 [2]. The corporation's name changed hands as recently as 1997 and expired again in 2007 according to the Illinois Corporation Search [1].

    Tom Wilson, President of Wilson Brothers and former Lyon and Healy employee, invented an apparatus for building fretwire for instruments such as mandolins, ukuleles, guitars, and banjos. The "outstanding features" of the fretwire included barbs on both sides of the tang and a well formed crown. It was also hailed as being more efficient by creating more fretwire per pound of metal.

    I began a search into the US Patents from that period and did find percussion related patents by Mr Wilson but nothing in the realm of fretwire.

    1923 Music Trade Review [3]

    1923 Presto [4]


    Elton Trademarked Logo [1] Leigh Arthur Elkington was born in 1884 and lived in New York. He opened his first company and according to ...

    The word Elton in an invisible oval shape
    Elton Trademarked Logo [1]
    Leigh Arthur Elkington was born in 1884 and lived in New York. He opened his first company and according to the 1920 census, he was the owner of a metal goods business. The name Elkington Co first appears in 1927 and by 1946 the company was known as L. A. Elkington Co. 

    He was successful and continued to expand and purchase smaller companies and product lines to bolster his brand. In 1927 he bought out the fife and flageolet merchandising and tooling from the Rudolph Wurlitzer company  [5]. A year later he purchased the Eventone Manufacturing Co, which included the patent rights to the Eventone Letter Violin Mute [6].

    Elkington died in 1967, at the age of 85, but his company continued and was an exhibitor at NAMM 1970 [2][9]. The company name was renewed in 1971 by a Jules N. Bloch and continued until it was dissolved in 1993 [3]. 


    Where the name 'Elton' originated from is unclear but the brand was first used in 1915 and first appeared in retail in 1920 [1]. According to a 1971 filing with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the Elton brand was used for "Musical Instruments, and Parts Therefor; And Musical Accessories-namely, Instrument Supports, Fasteners, Holders, Straps, Arm Rests, Head Guards, Capos, Megaphones, Gauges, Stands, Picks, Mutes, Twirling and Directors' Batons, and Carrying Cases Therefor, Reed Trimmers, Electric Reed Selectors, Cleaning Rods, Ligatures, Lyres, Music Racks and Clips, and Piano Tuning Hammers, and Pedal Extenders." 

    Paper label from a tube of Elton nickel fret wire
    A 1922 issue of the Music Trade Review discusses a circular distributed by C. Bruno & Son where they advocate for the value of Elton banjo resonators [4]. Following closely after were mutes for brass instruments which appeared in 1923 [2]. 

    1935 Elton Tailpiece
    Image Credit: VintAxe

    Elkington also built spring capos for guitars using the L. Filstrup design which was patented in 1889 (and expired in 1906). His capos differed from the originals but not being made of solid brass but instead of stamped metal. He did, however, continue stamping the original patent date on the capo [7][8]. 



    According to a 1928 issue of the Music Trade Review, Gibson was passing out specially branded cigarettes at a gathering of musical merc...

    According to a 1928 issue of the Music Trade Review, Gibson was passing out specially branded cigarettes at a gathering of musical merchandisers.
    I wonder if any still exist...

    1966-1968 Kay with Kluson "double line" tuners About I recently completed a restoration of a Kay jumbo guitar that had bee...

    1966-1968 Kay with Kluson "double line" tuners


    I recently completed a restoration of a Kay jumbo guitar that had been weathered for decades in an abandoned shack in the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee and was in serious need of repair. It belonged to an unknown individual who did enjoy some pipe tobacco (there was a faint smell of it on the instrument before I began) and played the guitar to pieces. When the nut fell off of the instrument and was lost, they carved grooves in the first position for the strings to slide down by using the first fret as the nut.

    My work included:

    • Filling the divots behind the first fret and in front of the nut
    • Redoing the filler around the inlays with rosewood and superglue
    • Patching a screw hole in the heel
    • Full refret
    • Neck reset
    • Stabilizing de-laminations on the sides
    • Fabricating a celluloid tortoise pickguard to replace the missing one
    • Removing the rough, factory x-bracing and rebracing the top with properly oriented spruce

    Kay Factory X-Brace

    This jumbo guitar originally had X-bracing from the factory but it is barely a step above the ladder bracing that most of these instruments have. Note the use of PVA glue instead of hide glue to attach the braces but that the kerfing is still attached with hide glue. They didn't seem particularly attached to any one adhesive towards the end of the company.

    These braces are massive, unscalloped pieces of coniferous woods with totally random grain orientations. Note the spruce bridgeplate which has been chipped out by the ball ends of the strings I decided that since I was going to be fully restoring the instrument that I might as well redo the x-bracing
    Original Kay X Bracing

    In-progress picture of my bracing (not all braces are pictured)
    I opted to keep the tone bars in roughly the same positions as they were originally to give this instrument a unique tone in line with what Kay had originally designed (intentionally or otherwise). My bridge plates are made from spruce, to allow for the best tonal quality, with the important distinction that I cap them with maple to protect the delicate spruce and add a little more strength. Of course I went ahead and addressed all of the cracks.

    What is this instrument?

    I continued to research the origins of this instrument but was unable to find an exact match. I tossed around a couple ideas until I took a closer look at the catalog.

    The body of the guitar did not match the neck...

    K-6104 "Professional" Country-Style 

    The K-6104 was a top of the line dreadnought model built between 1966 up until Kay went bankrupt in 1968. It featured "genuine Australian pearl" position markers in a "longhorn" shape which is the colloquial name given to that model of guitar. It featured a quite intricate "batwing" bridge design.

    Note the catalog says "Grover machine heads" yet all of these guitars came with Kluson tuners. 

    K-8130 Solo Special II

    The K-8130 "Solo Special II" was a jumbo guitar also built between 1966-68. It was slightly less expensive than the Country model seen above but built just as well without the flashly appointments. It had a straight Rosewood bridge and simple binding. 

    The Instrument

    My guitar had the body from a K-8130 and the neck from a K-6104 and they were so perfectly mated together that I was completely stumped. Part of the appeal to restoring vintage instruments is the "forensics" and looking for details or evidence of modifications so I set

    The heel had begun to separate from the body and so a bolt had been driven through the heel to keep it in place but the neck had never been removed. I was the first person to steam the neck out which was evident by the original hide glue remaining in the pocket which matched up with all the Kay glue jobs I've seen. The weathering and playwear was consistent on both pieces which meant they had been together for many years. 

    I first wondered if they had simply swapped the bridges but the K-6104 was a dreadnought with different binding and a different rosette and so there was no way that this instrument was a modified K-6104. The K-8130 had block inlays and was finished in a brown lacquer as opposed to black and so the neck certainly didn't belong to a K-8130

    My Conclusion

    The Kay Musical Instrument Company merged with Valco in 1966-67 and folded the next year in 1968. (corrected 2/12/20)

    I believe that this instrument was built by Kay when they were scrambling to sell their remaining inventory and liquidate their assets. This guitar was thrown together from parts belonging to two different models and then promptly left the factory in a last ditch effort to get their money's worth. It had been assembled in a manner consistent with every other Kay guitar I've worked on and so I had no reason to doubt its authenticity.

    Did this instrument get taken home by a worker? Was it shipped out as a factory-second or did Kay send it to an unsuspecting owner who ordered one of the two aforementioned models? Did the owner even notice or care? We'll never know. 

    Where is it now?

    I listed it on Reverb and it sold fairly quickly to a player out in North Carolina. Hopefully the instrument continues to get played and lives another life for the next 50 years! 

    I suspect a refinish or an overspray might be the proper method to ensure the wood is properly protected for decades to come but I leave that decision up to the next owners.

    Here is an iPhone 7 video of the instrument that I recorded, unfortunately I didn't think to mic it up and do a proper demo

    Here is the original listing for the instrument with more detailed photos

    All catalog images came from: