Banjo Hangout Logo
Banjo Hangout Logo

Premier Sponsors

Banjo Lovers Online

Aug 5, 2022 - 1:04:26 PM
891 posts since 11/28/2004

Would like to hear from any of you who have upgraded sound quality of an old Kay 5-string banjo. Thank you,

Aug 5, 2022 - 1:28:14 PM



23056 posts since 7/6/2005

I guess it would depend on the construction style(era) of the Kay banjo.

Aug 5, 2022 - 2:18:14 PM

1276 posts since 11/9/2012

Maybe a tonering and a trussrod?

Aug 5, 2022 - 3:29:34 PM
likes this

2968 posts since 3/30/2008
Online Now

I think w/ most Kays you'd do best to explore strings, heads, bridges, tailpiece positioning & general set up, which you could do inexpensively, & not get into putting too much money into it. (tonering & trussrod May be expensive operations, especially if you couldn't do it yourself).

Aug 5, 2022 - 3:48:11 PM
like this
Players Union Member



5880 posts since 10/12/2009

Best way to upgrade an old Kay, would be to buy a better banjo devil

Aug 5, 2022 - 5:03:19 PM
likes this

9999 posts since 8/28/2013

What to do with an old Kay depends a lot on the particular Kay. If, for instance, it has the neck adjuster, it would be difficult to switch to co-rods. The neck heel would need to be lengthened and reshaped and the hole in the heel would need to be filled. If it's one of the later models with the composite rim, the best update would be the dumpster.

Some Kay products are decent, others horrible.

If you plan to do anything, rest assured the money for things like tone rings, replacement tuners, etc, would likely be better spent on a better banjo.

Edited by - G Edward Porgie on 08/05/2022 17:06:00

Aug 5, 2022 - 8:34:35 PM

4066 posts since 5/1/2003

I had one that I gave $100 for. It had a particle board rim so I had a block rim made for it. It dounded better but then I had $300 invested in a banjo that was still worth $100.

Aug 5, 2022 - 9:29:08 PM
like this

4586 posts since 5/29/2011

Scott Yates and I seldom disagree but, in this case, I have a difference of opinion.
Some years ago, I bought an old Kay tenor banjo with a broken peghead on eBay for $40. I figured that with so little invested in it I would try to see what I could do with it. It was one of the models that had the full flange with 20 bracket holes. I removed the neck and the adjuster, drilled holes in the rim for co-rods, and used a Saga kit neck. I drilled out the plastic inlays, replaced them with genuine pearl dots, inlaid a star in the peghead, and finished it with tinted lacquer to match the resonator. The kit neck fit perfectly after I put a 1/4" brass rod ring on the rim. With a new set of co-rods and lag bolts, and a little fret smoothing it played like a dream and sounded better than it should. I even used the old metal Kay logo on the peghead. I also added a set of planetary Chinese tuners from eBay.
I thought I still had pictures of it, but I couldn't find any. Anyway, I wound up selling it later for $250. I didn't really make anything on it, but it made a decent knock around banjo that sounded and played better than what a person could expect from a new banjo for the same price.

Edited by - Culloden on 08/05/2022 21:32:27

Aug 5, 2022 - 10:49:31 PM
likes this



644 posts since 6/26/2004

Just remember, J.D. Crowe started on a Kay banjo. In his own words, "didn't everybody?" I know I did.

Good advice to stick to heads, bridges, tailpieces, strings, tension, etc. Get the most out of what you've got without spending a lot of money.

Aug 6, 2022 - 10:08:58 AM
likes this

9999 posts since 8/28/2013

I once had A Kay=made "Orpheum that was better than expected. I would not have 'updated' it because it was fine as-is. I've encountered other Kays that were terrible, though, and I wouldn't have spent a dime on one. Fixing something that's not worth the time and effort just doesn't seem logical. Should somebody give me an old Kay, I might attempt to "update" or I might be inclined to "upchuck." It all depends on the Kay.

Hide these ads: join the Players Union!
Aug 7, 2022 - 7:23:39 AM
Players Union Member



15839 posts since 8/30/2006

A young investment banker showed up with a Weymann woody. It had very nice machined and tapered shims for the dowel adjuster.

We took it apart, squared up the top of the rim, then installed a new 1/8 " x 1/2" rolled flat bar tone ring, after cutting the right ledge. Same head, tailpiece and bridge.

Now the banjo was "snappy." Like it should be.

I started on a Bakelite banjo, didn't everybody?

So even installing brass roundstock 1/4" from Ace hardware isn't easy, but possible. You may have an inferior "spec." rim, or if it is coming apart, I have several imported rims over here that I save for "Merit Badge" banjo projects, students and other "helix league" members.

I'm working on some bamboo HO race car bodies, if that's ok.

This man's career gets notice for him serving his community. He can enjoy himself on a paver, entry level banger banjo if he wants to and deserves fresh answers from the same old people who are getting older in their old age.

So maybe show respect for the journey and not the end result. It's free trade and sailors' rights, he's the sailor, not you.

Aug 7, 2022 - 7:54:35 AM

593 posts since 6/2/2011

When starting out I tinkered with a couple keys it was a great experience for me. I learned a lot about head tension defective different bridges and neck angle work. Are use different set ups and different gauges of strings to see how they affected the time and sound. I am glad that I did not try to update the basic Banjo.

Aug 7, 2022 - 8:14:36 AM
likes this

9999 posts since 8/28/2013

Certainly, learning to repair any banjo, even a Kay or bakelite Harmony, would be a good learning experience.

Just don't bank on a huge improvement.

Hide these ads: join the Players Union!

Hangout Network Help

View All Topics  |  View Categories