Up for sale, a 1950's Kay Jazz Barney Kessel Pro K1700S in excellent condition and in perfect working order. One of Kay's top tier offerings and the smallest of its three Barney Kessel signature models offered for only a few short years at the tail end of the '50s, the Pro features a hollow curly maple body with a 13" lower bout width, loaded with the original pair of "Kleenex Box" P-35 pickups. Not unlike a P-90, but with a distinctive dry, percussive cut and a more tailored midrange, the Kleenex Box pickups offer big, articulate single coil tone. This particular Barney Kessel Pro has a clear acoustic tone with the treble-centric snap of maple and a sweet sustaining quality that shines through the pickups. Featherweight at 5lbs 13oz, we've had this Kay professionally setup here at Mike & Mike's Guitar Bar and strung with flatwound 11-50 strings, dialed in for comfortable action and optimal playability.
The neck has a full C-shaped profile carve with generous shoulder, fretting easily and measuring .875" deep at the 1st fret and .999" at the 9th. The Brazilian rosewood fretboard has been refretted with fretwire just shy of medium jumbo with ample meat and crown, showing virtually no wear and playing cleanly in every register. The neck is straight, and the the truss rod responsive via Kay's Kanti-Lever adjustment in the heel. The nut has been upgraded to a hand-carved piece of bone measuring a full 1 5/8" in width, and the scale length is 24 3/4". And no description of a Kay is complete without discussing the incredible Kelvinator headstock. This was Kay's most ornate and eye-catching headstock design, not seen beyond 1960 and this is a very clean example. The plexiglass headstock overlay boasts the Kay name along with a prominent and raised Chevron with further Art Deco detailing. There are a couple small (and very common) splits in the plexi veneer adjacent to the tuning posts which are purely cosmetic, and the guitar features original Grover Sta-Tite nickel tuning machines.
The neck has been professionally reset in the past, meeting the body at the ideal angle, with a tiny amount of black lacquer touchup adjacent to the neck joint. The bridge has room for adjustment on both thumbwheels, and the top has ideal curvature with no sinking of the arch.
On the body, all of the electronics work as they should, and the Kleenex Box pickups meter at 12.3k ohms in the bridge position and 14.8k at the neck, each governed by individual Volume and Tone knobs capped with nigh flawless original transparent DeArmond knobs. The original Brazilian rosewood floating bridge features a bone saddle insert, and the original nickel trapeze tailpiece is intact too. The original Barney Kessel pickguard tops things off.
The original shaded Sunburst nitro lacquer gloss finish highlights light ripples of curly flame maple central to the back, and broad vertical lacquer checking extends across the body. There's a small square patch of newer maple surrounding the output jack with targeted black lacquer touchup cleanly masking the repair, and wear on the body is otherwise limited to a few requisite finish chips and scuffs. There are just a couple minor marks on the profile, which is free of palm wear, with some slightly darker surface wear in the amber of the burst on the treble side of the carve.
A modern hardshell case is included.