Over the last decade, Denver-based luthier Matt McGibney has built a reputation for strong tone, attention to detail, and custom builds that tell a story. When Scott and John Baxendale were both working out of the old Colfax Guitar Shop, McGibney took an apprenticeship with the highly-experienced Father/Son luthier duo. Working alongside the Baxendales, McGibney learned how to restore and improve beat-up old vintage guitars. Years before Scott launched the "Baxendale Conversion" concept, Matt, John, and Scott explored the benefits of adding proper X-Bracing to old vintage boxes, breathing new life into these old guitars. While McGibney builds a variety of custom instruments, he still loves improving old guitars by converting them to X-Bracing, and his conversions are among some of the best-sounding vibey vintage guitars found across the state of Colorado.
Introduced in 1947, the Kay K-22 Super Jumbo certainly sticks out from the rest with its bold 17-1/4"-wide lower bout. At the time, a bigger guitar meant a louder, bolder sound. For many players, only a jumbo would do. Kay instruments were affordable and readily available, so the K-22 satisfied players' desires for that quintessential jumbo sound.
Unfortunately, the K-22 was not built to last. Like many Kay guitars, its top was supported by ladder braces, which did not adequately reinforce the top over time. With such a massive solid Spruce top, the primitive ladder bracing design just didn't effectively prevent top distortion and other issues from the natural pull of string tension. Plus, Kay's neck joint wasn't particularly refined, creating a litany of playability issues. Over the years, these guitars became unplayable and fell into disrepair. There's a reason why they were so affordable to begin with, and it is mainly because they were never built to be functional, long-lasting instruments.
Fortunately, Matt McGibney recognized that there was a lot of potential in this old box, so he took the time and effort to get it right. In so doing, he gave this old K-22 tone and playability it never had before, as well as the structural stability to ensure this guitar lasts for generations. By converting this guitar to X-Bracing, it now has refined sound and wide open dynamics that make its thunderous jumbo tone usable in a variety of applications. By resetting the neck to the proper angle, refretting the neck, and replacing the bridge, this K-22 now plays clean and true all the way up and down the neck. With gold Grover tuning machines and a new bone nut, it stays in tune, too.
This McGibney '50s Kay K-22 Super Jumbo Conversion is a fantastic-sounding big-body guitar. It has powerful, resonant bass with nice definition, but because of the hand-voicing of the braces, it does not overpower the treble and middle frequencies. The result is a sense of balance this guitar never had before.