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1964 Kay K100 Vanguard Project

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Hello everyone! This is my first post on the forum, and my first guitar project, so please bear with me. :)

Last summer I bought a 1964 Kay Vanguard K100 from an antique store for $100. I had intended to do a little work on it, but it has turned into quite the project. I haven't had much time to work on it because I've been away at college, but now that I'm home I am determined to finish it by September so that I can have an electric guitar to play when I study abroad next semester.

My original intention was to restore it to its original condition (with a different paint job ;)), but I've come to realize that the neck is in pretty crappy condition; it's pretty badly bowed, the truss rod is messed up, and the frets are worn, which means I'll never be able to achieve a low action like I want without spending a lot of money to have it refretted and such. Plus the damn thing only has 19 frets for some reason, so I've decided to put a new (22-fret) neck on it. I don't really mind not having the stock neck, because this means I can have some fun and make a one-of-a-kind guitar! :rock I plan to add a Bigsby vibrato tailpiece and a TonePros Tune-o-Matic bridge. I'm keeping the original electronics, which includes an old-fashioned "pancake" pickup that I've heard is somewhat rare and I think they sound pretty cool.

So now I appeal to you, the masters, for wisdom on a few issues:


-I'd like to achieve a pretty low action on this guitar, so where would be some good places to buy a quality unfinished neck? StewMac has them for like $130, GuitarFetish has strat style necks for ~$50. What sort of difference in quality am I going to see here?

-What sort of work am I going to have to do on the frets of a new neck to get them in working order?

-Is the truss rod included in these necks?

-Will it be especially difficult to get the neck shimmed to the proper angle?

-Because the old neck was only 19 frets, am I going to have issues with the placement of the pickups/bridge? Do the pickups need to be located at a specific point along the strings?


-Should I go with a true Bigsby, or is a knock-off sufficient? I prefer unbranded hardware, but will there be a significant dropoff in quality with a knock-off?

-Should I get locking tuners to help with the tuning stability?


-Should I get different saddles for it?

I'm excited to be a part of the forum, and I'm sure this won't be my last guitar project!

Thanks guys.

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Just measured it, it appears to be 25.75". I also had a question about bolting the new neck on; the original neck is held on by three screws with large washers set into the body, like this picture:


Should I fabricate some sort of metal plate to bolt through the back, like a Fender? The screw/washer combo seems kind of cheap.

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Since I have not done one of these change the out the bolt on neck projects, I'm going to leave some of the specific answers to guys that have. But I do have some observations.....delivered in somewhat random order.

Warmoth has a good reputation for quality necks, for another option. If you buy a fretted neck, it will have a trussrod.

I'm not familiar with the Kay so I looked up some pics of it. That bridge is set nearly at the bottom of the body like a bass. I do not think there will be enough room on that body for a Bigsby. Since you are planning to go with a TOM type bridge you are going to have to do some body work replacing the existing one, which is good because it will need to move anyway. I doubt if you'll find a neck fretted to a 25.75" scale. The neck pocket will likely need to be modified to take the new neck and yes you'll need a way to create the proper neck angle for a TOM. I don't see any need to change the pickup placement. It is in a kind of middle pup position as is and it may end up slightly closer to the bridge after your modifications, it is still going to be in a middle pup position.

The main thing allowing low action is very good fret leveling all along the string paths. No high spots allowed. The are tons of little tweaks and tricks, but getting the frets leveled and recrowned properly needs to be done first.

A plate will be marginally better than washers, depending on the washer size, but only marginally. Looks better though. Four screws would be better than three.

Lets see what the others say now.


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Thanks for your input Scott. I did a little math, and with a 25.5" scale length and a telecaster neck, the bridge has to be 12 cm from the bottom of the body. Which isn't enough space for the bigsby, but I've also been looking at the Deusenberg Les Tremo II (http://www.rockinger.com/index.php?cat=WG073&lang=eng&product=3667C%2F3667G) and the Maestro Vibrola. Opinions on either of them?

I've also been shopping around for necks and found B. Hefner Company. Decent prices, lots of options, but I'm not sure about the quality, I've read mixed reviews.

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I have to say that I was impressed with the one neck I got from GuitarFetish. It isn't perfect in that a couple of fret ends needed a swipe with the file to get rid of rough edges and the frets will need a final polish but they were all well seated and level. For the price you will meet or exceed the quality of the original Kay neck.

Be aware that different necks will have different size and shape to the tennon where it fits in the pocket.

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Hi workingman, I measured the neck pocket on the Kay body and it looks pretty close to the tele specs. If shouldn't be much if any work to get it to fit.

Alright, I pulled the trigger on GuitarFetish neck today. If it turns out to be crappy, I'll only be out for the shipping. I'm not sure which tonepros tune-o-matic to buy though; I've heard that, at least with a Bigsby, one should not lock the bridge to the posts, so as to allow the bridge to move with the trem, improving tuning stability. Would this be true of the Les Trem II as well? If I don't need to lock the bridge, then would the TonePros AVR-II be a suitable option?

Also, since the bridge will be in a different position, I'll have two empty holes where the old bushing were. What is the best way to fill these in? I'll also need to buy nickel bushings to match the bridge and trem (the old ones are brass); where can I buy just the bushings, without the bridge posts?

Thanks everyone!

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I know next to nothing about trems, so I cannot comment on that. As far as filling the holes, assuming you are going to paint this guitar, the best way to fill them would to sut plugs with a plug cutter and fill them with the same wood and with the grain going the same direction.......but since you are going to paint and I assume nothing is going to be attached to or screwed into the plugs, plugging them with dowels will work just fine. You'll need to do a good job of grain filling and sealing to insure the plugs do not show under the paint.


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  • 2 weeks later...

Just thought I'd post a quick update; the neck came last week and I'm impressed with the quality. It'll need a fret leveling, but that's to be expected. A graphite nut came pre-installed, but it was chipped a bit. I contacted GFS customer support about it and they offered to send me a whole new neck, but I told them a replacement nut would be fine, and it's in the mail now. So overall, a great experience with GuitarFetish.

The original neck screw holes had massive countersinks, so I drilled them out and I'll be plugging them with dowels tomorrow. Also bought a Fender-style neck plate to use with the new neck. I'll post some pictures once I get the new neck bolted on.

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Here's some pics of the dowels I glued to plug the old screw holes. I routed the neck pocket flat, filled low spots with epoxy, and sanded. The chips on the back are just the veneer flaking off, I'll fill them back in with bondo later. The neck plate pretty much covers it anyway.



And here's the neck bolted on. Gotta say I'm happy with the result. Still need to figure out a shape for the headstock. Suggestions?



I think I'm gonna go with the Les Trem II, my question is will a telecaster-style bridge work well with a tremolo? Will the break angle be okay?

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