c.1940 Kalamazoo KG-21 Archtop Guitar by Gibson

UPDATE: Though I can't spy a factory order number on this guitar, by checking vs. other KG-21s and other Kalamazoos, the features on this guitar conform to about 1940 in build, not earlier as I thought, so please disregard any wrong-date-related info below.

This small-body (00 size), deep-body, sweet-sounding, gutsy archtop is the bee's knees!

It's long been known that the '30s Kalamazoo-branded Gibson instruments are a good way to get in on the Gibson action from the time, as they were the lower-end models of the Gibson spectrum (much like the 15 and 17 series of the same period made by Martin in terms of market base).

This one has a pressed solid spruce top with x-bracing, pressed mahogany (solid) back, and 'hog neck and sides. The neck is all Gibson -- smaller and very fast -- which I like on an archtop as I'm mostly going to be playing chordal backing with some fast runs from time to time.

A lot of folks love these as a blues guitar which they're excellent for, but I think with the creamier bottom end and good midrange these make excellent flatpickers or old-timey instruments.

This one is 100% original save that I borrowed the tuner buttons from some junker sets of really old tuners and put them on these as the original buttons were crumbled down to nothing. It's got tons of wear and tear but is, thankfully, crack free!

My work on this was mostly brace repair (back and top), cleaning, and setup. The frets are in good order.

Side dots are nice to have!

Gibson made their bridges on these very practical... the wide base gives the top a lot of support and also keeps the posts from shifting around too much. I think it also lends to a more balanced tone (vs. the Chicago-style thin bridges which punched out a heck of a lot of volume but end up sounding thin).

Funky old tailpiece works just fine and as a bonus has a big overlapping edge on its leading edge which gives me cover to put in some string-dampening foam to cut down on overtones or rattles.

I had the glue the pickguard back together from three pieces. I glued it all onto a thin strip of 1/8" thick walnut for strength and warp resistance in the future.

It's a handsome guitar and sits in the lap jut where I like it. As a lover of small guitars it's nice to play an archtop with all the right features -- narrow upper bout, mid-size lower bout, good deep sides, and a slimmer neck.

The finish is totally aged in but has a nice authentic feel, vs. a scummy one.

Definitely cruddy brass plates... but they hold tune and that's what matters!

...and it even has its end pin!


Anonymous said...

I've got a KG-21 that looks just like yours. I love it for backing up old time fiddlers (and they love it too). Punchy and creamy.

dave at lauderville.com

Mark E. Harvey, State Archivist of Michigan said...

That really looks like a KG-22 is it 16" across the top?

Antebellum Instruments said...

Nope, it's 14 3/4"

Mark E. Harvey, State Archivist of Michigan said...

Very nice. Still looking for one myself.

Antebellum Instruments said...

You know, these are getting pretty hard to find, and the prices keep going up and up. I guess the cat's out of the bag...!

Dewaine Rester said...

a friend of mine has one of these and is looking for the tailpiece and the bridge....where can i find these two parts?