11/08/2012

c.1935 Gibson-made Kalamazoo KG-31 Archtop Guitar




There's no date stamp to peg the year down specifically on this fellow, but it roughly dates to around 1935. Blog readers know I have a soft spot for Kalamazoos, which is why they're so frequently featured in my inventory. This one is no exception and is a bit fancier than the more usual KG-22s as far as the Kalamazoo 16" archtops go... it has solid mahogany back and sides as opposed to maple and a bound tortoise-celluloid pickguard.

What I love best about Kalamazoos in general is that they tend to be loud and projecting but still with that Gibson-esque darker and creamier tonality. This is a very different sound from a typical-period Harmony, Kay or Regal instrument: it's more complex and serves many uses outside of choppy jazz chords and dirty blues (though it does these well, too). This individual instrument is also curious in that it has a 24 7/8" scale as opposed to the more usual 24 3/4" Gibson scale.

It'd had some work done on it in the past: the back braces are all reglued somewhat sloppily (but still functionally stable) and there are glued-up hairline cracks on the back as well as one small one on the side of the bass lower bout. My work included regluing the fretboard extension down pat and leveling and dressing the frets as well as the usual setup and cleaning. The neck came to me with an overall relief of about 1/32" though after fret leveling I coaxed it down to an overall relief of about 1/64" which is, for all intents and purposes, straight.

Action is quick and fast at 3/32" bass and 1/16" treble at the 12th fret.


This has a nice, two-tone sunburst that fades from a near-black into a light-brown center.


The finish is overall weather-checked and vintaged and shows use-wear especially on the back of the neck and on the sides where it came into contact with the player's body. The original ebony nut is still in good shape and the Kalamazoo stencil is nice and crisp. I also like the extra effort put in to sunburst the headstock front. These are usually just painted black.


Pearl dots in a rosewood, radiused board. These frets are original and in decent shape, though they're a little lower at the extension and at the nut. They've got plenty of life left in them, and personally, I think these old Gibson frets are my favorite type on guitars... they feel quite slinky and quick.

And string gauges? For long-term safety I string these standard with 52w-11s to relieve tension on the unreinforced necks. Regular 12s are probably just fine but the guitars don't even need them to belt it out and the 11s feel nicer, too.


The bound pickguard is a nice upgrade compared to the plainer-Jane versions I've seen outfitted on this same model. Gibson was always curious with its specifications year-to-year... in some years this model had binding on the neck as well but there are many that don't have it. Some have binding on the neck but a plain pickguard... and so on...


The adjustable rosewood bridge is original and in good shape. I cut some recesses in the saddle to allow more range of motion up or down depending on seasonal changes.

Oh... and bracing? Most of these Kalamazoos have a curious half-x mixed with a ladder-type bracing on the upper bout (similar to fan bracing), but this one has full x-bracing throughout, elongated in an almost bent-tonebar pattern.



...just an attractive guitar!







Original tuners work great.


Good neck join.




Bound top and back...




Non-original ebony endpin.


This guitar also comes with a nice, fitted,"flight-style" hard case that's in great condition.

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