Up North Strings

Service and Sales of Stringed Instruments

silloette of child violinist www.upnorthstrings.com

About us
Virtual String Shop
Custom Instruments
McKay   Guitars  
Traverse City Area Music


 McKay Benchmade  Guitars
Benchmade - Stage worthy

Are available through
Ken McKay
Cliff at

Sunrise 16
Sunrise story

Sixteen on left and Nineteen right
Number designates the fret number at the end of the body
Guitar specs:
Sunrise Series and Duoflo Specs
: Much of my construction technique is adaptable to using different materials and some things are customizable like neck shapes, body thickness, pickups and appointments. Laminated guitars, by their nature though, are fixed in terms of shape. For this series I cannot alter the bout width, body shape or arching.

Laminated maple top back and sides: I use maple veneer that is specially sliced in a mill in upper Michigan. The laminates are designed, once layed up, to give the proper resonance, stiffness and strength for a guitar that is truely stageworthy. I press all my plates here in house.
Maple Center block: I hand select "soft maple" (acer rubrum) for it's strength to weight ratio, damping characteristics and sound speed ability.
Mahogany inner parts: I use mahogany that is "pattern grade" for interior blocks and kerfed linings.
Neck: I make my necks from Old growth "pattern grade" one piece mahogany. Typically a neck spec's is 0.9 1st, 1.0 12th. 1.71 nut. Players love my necks!
Fingerboard: Choice of Rosewoods, either
Pre-Cites, legal, Madagasgar or Brazilian rosewood. I roll the edges of the fingerboard to give a smooth, warn-in feel. The fingerboard radius is 12 inch with matching nut and bridge. 
Inlays: Fingerboard inlays of cellulose nitrate in dots or McKay designed Racing track blocks. Peghead shield and McKay Logo of Mother of pearl or Abalone.
Bindings: Ivory colored ABS top and back and fingerboard. Choice of unbound fingerboard.
Pehead: Holly veneer overlay.
Frets: StewMac wide high #154. This wire is high quality and measures 0.1 wide and 0.5 high.
Glue: I use different glues for different parts of the guitar. Plates are laminated with "radio-glue" or UF as it is known. Linings are glued with high grade white glue which dries hard, fingerboard and neck joints are glued with hot hide glue. binding with Duco cement (acetone based).
Contour brace: The brace between the laminated plate underside and the centerblock is filled with a specially shaped brace called a contour brace. For this I believe it is important to use high quality, straight grained spruce.
Pickguard: 5-ply plastic with wide white line and wide bevel. Custom shaped to look "right" on each model.
Hardware: Nickel plated hardware is standard on Sunrise guitars, Gold plated no the Duoflo. Kluson tuners, lightweight aluminum stop tailpiece with long studs and steel bushings, ABR1 bridge, and standard is my proprietary aging process that imparts a naturally aged patina.
Finish: Nitrocellulos lacquer sanding sealer is sprayed over oil based pore filler on the mahogany neck and on the bare wood on the rest of the guitar. This is sanded flat for a perfect substrate to be tinted, bursted, cherried or left blonde. Then an aging toner is evenly sprayed or oversprayed to emphasize the normal wear patterns. Finally a few coats of pure nitrocellulose lacquer is sprayed, rubbed out and buffed. My finish looks aged but never is it distressed. This is my "stylized" way of finishing a guitar that looks old but smells, feels and protects like new.
Label:   My lebel is inserted through the F hole with my hadwritten signature.
Each guitar is placed in a plwood shell case and well packed for shipping.
Electronics:  These guitars are made to have a loud "couch" resonance but of course are electric guitars. I believe the electronics "hear" the guitar and the guitar responds to the electronics. There is a feedback "loop" and everything matters. Too much resonance in certain frequencies can cause a guitar to sound boxy or cheap and when amplified can cause excessive feedback. Too little and it can sound too "high-fi" or stiff. I chose pickus that are un-potted to give the player the ability to have that beautiful microphonic resonance available.  The semi-hollow design takes advantage of the control of the musical spectrum.A bright guitar can always be "toned" down by dialing down the tone but a dull one can not be made brighter. I strive for a nice midrange hump supported by full "airy" lower resonance and a crisp high end. I offer a range of pickups but recommend Seymour Duncan Antiquity PAF style humbuckers or Throbak (made in Michigan) PAF. If you have a preference though I have used almost all of the boutique winders. I use Orange drop caps, CTS 550K Pots match to within 5% and Switchcraft swith and plug. The harness is handwired by my friend and engineer, Jim Barley.   

See how I built the Sunrise 16 _ thread on "the Gear Page"

Available in these choice of nitrocellulos lacquer finishes. (and custom colors)
 Blonde              Classic burst                      New Cherry            Antiqued Cherry

Thanks Angelo for showing her off!
Angelo Meli

Now accepting orders
Email kenmckay@hotmail.com
Cliff at Destroy All Guitars