Although he's been building since the mid-'80s, we first discovered Pete Malinoski in 2018 at the NAMM Boutique Guitar Showcase. At the show, we thought it was impressive that each of Malinoski's instruments features his own hand-wound pickups as well as other fittings, hardware, and parts all fabricated by Pete. In addition to building new guitars, Malinoski also refurbishes old vintage archtop boxes from the '50s—styling them out with those same custom-made parts—and the results are very cool.
To be fair, the process is a labor of love because Malinoski takes great care to reset the necks at the proper angle, and re-plane/refret the fingerboard. It's a lot of work (especially considering the price point), but it's well worth the effort to optimize the playability/acoustic tone of these old archtops. When you add Pete's custom-wound pickups and custom parts, the result is an expressive instrument with authentic vintage charm, but one that plays on the level of a modern boutique guitar.
This '50s Kay N1 has been totally refurbished and rebuilt by Pete Malinoski. It features laminate Maple construction and the top and back both show nice flame. Malinoski reset the neck and re-planed/refretted the fingerboard so that it plays like a brand new guitar. It also sports new Kluson tuners, a new nut, and a new tailpiece. Think of it as a "new" old guitar—this old box has been totally reworked to function like a brand new instrument.
Perhaps the coolest upgrade is the bridge. Malinoski fit this N1 with a custom-made aluminum Lightning Bolt bridge that is intonated so you can use electric strings with an unwound bridge. This lets you use the archtop as a pure electric guitar, bend the strings, and play in tune all the way down the fingerboard.
For electronics, this N1 is outfitted with Malinoski's hand-wound Type 13SC single coils. Its design is authentic to the DeArmond-Rowe pickups that equipped the vintage Harmony instruments, and their tone is clean and crisp. They respond to your touch and sizzle when pushed, as sweet as a gold-foil design can be.
This '50s Kay N1 has a 1-11/16" nut width and a full-feeling C-shape rounded profile. It's not as chunky as other Kays/Harmonys from this era, but it's still a big neck profile. It includes a basic gig bag that will help you cart it around.