VINTAGE & UPKEEP > BOTTOM FEEDER
OLD KRAFTSMAN SOLO KING BY WILL RAY
1. Sporting the Old Kraftsman brand, the Solo King model was made by Kay from 1958 to 1960. Because of its shape, the guitar is also known as the “Map
of Ohio” model. 2. Tonewood? The Solo King is constructed with Masonite—a material consisting of steamed and pressure-molded wood fibers. But don’t
scoff: Vintage Danelectros were also made of Masonite, and they still play a role in rootsy music today. 3. The Solo King’s asymmetrical headstock leaves
plenty of room for the Old Kraftsman logo. 4. Wired to simple volume and tone knobs, the Solo King’s single “pancake” pickup sounds surprisingly cool.
It was like the Wild West during the arly days of eBay, and you could often
find some pretty interesting things out
there. I acquired this Old Kraftsman guitar in the late ’90s and had to do some
research to figure out exactly what it was.
I discovered I had a Solo King, which is
also known as the “Map of Ohio” model
because of its shape. Selling for around $75
new, these were made by Kay between 1958
and 1960, and were considered budget
student-model guitars at the time. They are
slowly becoming collectible these days, yet
are still considered somewhat affordable. I
snagged this one for $107 plus $25 shipping. I got it cheap because the seller had
zero feedback, and most buyers were afraid
of being ripped off by scam artists during
56 PREMIER GUITAR JUNE 2012
those early days of eBay. I wasn’t too worried at the time because I emailed the seller
beforehand, got his phone number, and
chatted with him. He seemed alright to me.
Bottom Feeder Tip #285: These days
if you’re shopping on eBay, there’s no need
to be afraid of buying from someone with
zero feedback. As long as you use PayPal,
you’re protected on most purchases and
can get all of your money back plus shipping. It’s pretty safe now.
This Solo King features a Masonite body,
a set neck, a single pickup, and a weird,
oversized Gumby-style headstock. The flat
“pancake” pickup actually sounds pretty
darned good. The bridge is cranked down
to its lowest setting, yet the action is quite
playable. There’s no adjustable truss rod,
but the neck is chunky and has near perfect
relief. The 19-fret neck is fairly comfortable
and the brass frets still have plenty of life left
on them, even after 50 years of battle.
WILL RAY is a founding member of the
Hellecasters guitar-twang trio. He also does
guitar clinics promoting his namesake G&L
signature model 6-string, and produces
artists and bands at his studio in Asheville,
North Carolina. You can contact Will on
Facebook and at willray.biz.