Kay Waterbound, Part 2
The first thing I did was strip off the remaining paint. This revealed the full extent of the rim delamination and some small cracks in the heel. The wood has rust stains at the bracket locations and adjacent to all the other steel parts.
I repaired the rim by clamping the delaminated areas back together, loosening the clamp slightly, injecting super glue, then quickly re-tightening the clamp. There were a lot of small delaminations of the veneer, so that took a while. After sanding, it looked pretty good although some of the stains were too deep to sand out. The veneer is very thin and I didn't want to sand through it. I gave it two coats of walnut stain and two light coats of lacquer rubbed with 0000 steel wool for a matte finish.
I removed the rust from the steel parts using my favorite RustOleum Rust Dissolver. The oblong backing plates behind the brackets were originally chrome plated but rust had gotten under the chrome on every one. I removed the chrome, ground out the rust pits, then buffed the plates to a shine and coated them with lacquer to prevent new rust. The hooks were similarly cleaned, then nickel plated. The tone ring and tension hoop were just cleaned and lightly oiled to retard new rust.
The finished rim and brackets:
I reglued the fingerboard to the neck and glued the cracks in the heel. I leveled, dressed, and polished the frets.
I have always thought the Kay pegheads were ugly. Since this one had already fallen apart, it was a good opportunity to try recutting the peghead. First, I glued some "ears" to the peghead (yes, I know they are way too big; it is just poplar wood, about a buck at the hardware store for a 24" board).
Then, I selected a pleasing but simple peghead shape from a much older Supertone banjo and traced the shape onto the Kay peghead. [This Supertone is an ancestor of the Kay, both made by the same company and sold by Sears and Roebuck.] Then I rough-cut the peghead to the new shape with a hacksaw. The final shaping was done with a small bench grinder with a flexible shaft. I mounted the mandrel vertically on the side of my desk/workbench and moved the peghead to it to sand the final shape. Tedious, but it worked fairly well. Finishing was done with sandpaper and small files.
I stained the neck walnut, too, and gave it two coats of lacquer. You'll note that the poplar ears were very resistant to stain. I was never able get them to match the rest of the peghead. The peghead face was stained black with leather dye and given many coats of clear lacquer, rubbing out defects between coats. The final result is quite pleasing.
The tuner buttons were ugly, too. I ground the corners down with a bench grinder and did final shaping with a rotary tool. After a little sanding and filing, I had tuner buttons that were, to me, much better looking.
Assembly was straightforward. The good thing about these Kay banjos is the neck-rim joint structure that allows easy adjustment of the action. See the very useful article at Frets.com Frets.com Kay. I mounted a new Remo Weatherking Mylar head, 10 15/16" diameter. It is a little loose. A 10 7/8" would probably fit better, but I didn't want to buy a bunch of new heads to see if they might fit. Anyway, the present size works fine. I made a new nut out of Micarta ("An excellent synthetic bone substitute; specified by Martin for nuts and saddles since the 1960s. Ivory in color and a bit softer than bone, it files and sands easily and gives a uniform tone" as quoted in the Stew-Mac catalog at )and selected a new Stew-Mac bridge; the old one is useable but the string spacing is too narrow for my taste.
I strung it with a new set of Labella nylon strings. Why? They are very light and responsive. They are really easy to fret and don't make your fingers sore. Hence, it would be a good beginner's banjo. The banjo is strongly built and can easily handle heavy steel strings if desired.
Overall, the end result is satisfactory. It sounds pretty good, too.