12/11/2011

c.1942 Gibson-made Kalamazoo Oriole KGN-32-ish Archtop Guitar





As a confessed fan of Kalamazoo guitars (these were Gibson's budget brand in the Depression era), I'm a huge fan of this guitar! The FON in the treble f-hole reads "668x 18" where the X looks like an upside-down L but maybe is just a dash? -- and the 18 is hand-written in red pencil. So, according to the hyphen-dates for factory order numbers this puts the guitar at 1942 (I think). The details of the guitar certainly conform to that year -- the book-style headstock, medium-size comfortable round neck, and various styling.

The coolest thing about this instrument is that it's got upgraded appointments compared to the nearest "factory" model -- the KGN-32 (Kalamazoo Guitar Natural) by the way of a stripe down the fretboard (often seen on Gibson-made Cromwell-branded instruments) and also binding around the fretboard and pickguard. So I suppose this could be called a "KGN-32+" or something like that.

My own personal everyday-use guitar is a Kalamazoo KG-21 (click here for blog post) from around the same time, so it was no question that I'd like the feel and sound of this instrument -- and I do! It's a bit louder and punchier than my KG-21 and has slightly less sustain (though, to be fair, the sustain is awesome on this) but otherwise is very similar in tone to the 21. The neck is slightly deeper feeling, though very much the same -- old round-neck Gibson style, which is very popular on the vintage market especially when it comes to the '40s flattops.

When this guitar came it was equipped with flatwounds and a bad setup -- and still sounded awesome. Now that I've given it a cleaning, fret dress, new John Pearse round-wounds, and a good setup, it plays like butter and sounds even better. It's also mostly original save for a newer bridge saddle -- the top bit -- which is compensated in the modern fashion -- and also a newer Tusq nut.


At one point this guitar was strung left-handed -- and has tiny screwholes in the expected places: on the waist side, by the side of the fretboard, and a very tiny hole to the bass side/top of the bridge. It also accounts for the unexpected pickwear on the bass side of the strings in the "sweet spot."


Cool book headstock sporting both the Kalamazoo brand name and also the Oriole decal!



Gorgeous giant MOP dots with a pair of smaller MOP dots at the 12th. This is a fancy-looking rig!

And I suppose I should be talking about woods, now: solid spruce (pressed) top with a sort of half-x, half-ladder fan bracing, solid flamed maple sides, mahogany one-piece neck with steel reinforcement, and a laminate flamed maple back. Board and bridge are both rosewood.


The foot is original to this bridge but the topper is a newer replacement in rosewood that's compensated for more accurate intonation.


Good-quality heavy-duty tailpiece.


Tortoise pickguard. The binding is also tortoise and is on the top and back edge.


Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this big blonde shows some playwear and usewear, but is stunningly pretty... and has zero cracks!




Who doesn't like flamed maple like that?




Plenty of play on this neck.





The original Kluson tuners are doing quite well and didn't even need to be lubed.


Someone had installed a strap button below the heel and later removed it. I could of course always pop one back in there -- but silly them -- it's so much better when it's in the side of the heel.




Original end-pin, too, shimmed up with that yucky old yellow tape... but period!


...and an original chip case, too! Not bad!

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