1930’s Kay Deluxe

Here is the Kay version of the El Trovador. It has the same body and neck shape, and uses the same materials as the El Trovador. Kay actually manufactured El Trovadors for National in the early 1930s. The Deluxe lacks some of the extra detailing, like ivoroid binding and neck binding but the body and neck are basically the same. They both have the same scale length, which is longer than most Nationals at around 25.75″. The biggest difference is that Kay used a Schireson resonator system in their Deluxe, whereas the El Trovador used the standard National style 9.5″ biscuit cone.

The Schireson cone is a bowl shape, somewhat like a Dobro cone. But, it’s smaller, and instead of the aluminum spider that Dobro designed as the bridge for their cone system, the Schireson system uses a massive wood bridge that screws into the center of the cone. Together, the small cone and the large chunk of wood that is responsible for transmitting string vibration, suggests low output. Many of the instruments using this cone system have been accused of just that. So they are not particularly popular. Also, National sued Schireson over a patent infringement for the similar cone system and won. Upon winning, it is said that National took possession of the remainder of Schireson’s inventory and promptlydestroyed it. So they are not particularly common either. That makes for an interesting combination of rare, but not too good. But the overall design of this guitar is quite good and they used nice materials like solid mahogany sides, mahogany faced plywood and a one piece, mahogany neck. So I wanted to see what I could do to make this Schireson thing work.

This particular Deluxe was in need of some repair work. The fretboard was dry, cracked in several places and almost separated from the neck. The neck was in need of resetting. And then, there is that unimpressive cone system. I know that Mike Dowling, (a major El Trovador fan), converts Deluxes to the National cone system. But that involves non-reversible alterations. So I took a different route. I got a new ebony fretboard from National Reso-Phonic (thank you Eric) and fixed all of the issues with the neck. And then I modified a National Reso-Phonic spider bridge to fit the smaller cone. It worked. The sound is somewhat like a Dobro and just as loud, if not louder So I guess that small cone works okay after all. Way better than I thought it would.