10/10/2012

c.1937 Gibson-made Kalamazoo Oriole Lap Steel




This is a Gibson-made Kalamazoo lap steel and the serial on the back of the headstock dates it to 1937 production. It's a great steel as it's almost identical in specifications to a Gibson EH-125 except that it doesn't have the wrist-rest coverplate.

The body appears to be one solid hunk of either birch or maple and it has fantastic sustain. Compared to the all-mahogany EH-125 I linked to above, the tone is very similar but slightly brighter and less creamy (more bite). This seems pretty obvious considering the wood differences.

My work included installing an entirely new wiring harness (both tone & vol pots, new jack, capacitor, etc.) to solve some bad crackle and skip on the pots. The resulting instrument plays and functions perfectly and the tone has improved with the bad pots removed.


The brown-burst crackle finish looks really cool...


...as do the bakelite radio-style knobs! The pickup and housing are Chicago-built and Gibson utilized this component for most of their standard line of lap steels. The fancier models used a Gibson-specific pickup. That said, they all sound great, just different! I think of this pickup as the ideal, 30s/40s-sounding sweet & bell-like tone. It's very pure.


The fretboard is stenciled-on rosewood.


Nice Kalamazoo stencil with "Oriole" decal. The nut is a big old metal one. Non-original components on the headstock include: new tuner ferrules and new buttons for the original tuners.






The crackle finish is so cool!


I managed to rescue these original Kluson tuners with new buttons.



New jack on the old jack plate.


And one of the coolest bits? Original hard, Geib case, arched and plush-lined. Fantastic!


This thing is really cool in and of itself.


The bottom side has some separation but it's still super-functional.


The remaining components of the original harness will be included as well.

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