8/02/2013

c.1935 Gibson-made Cromwell KG-21 Archtop Guitar



So, I have a love for old Kalamazoo/Cromwell products made by the Gibson factory. They're solid, dependable, sturdy, feel great to play and sound great. Their archtop models in particular lean more towards the velvety "mwah" and crunch of a fully-carved jazz guitar rather than the twangy "plank" of most pressed-top archtop guitars. The KG-21 models in particular are very interesting and make great lead, open-tuning, or chord-chomping guitars.

Part of the peculiarity of this model is its deep body (4 1/4" plus top and back arching) and small width (14 5/8"), which gives is a superb roundness but a lot of mid-range focus. This is ideal for folk and blues styles as well as swing jazz. Add to that the shorter (24 3/4") Gibson scale and a radiused board and you have an instrument that feels a bit ahead of its time (though the medium v-neck will push you right back to a 30s mentality).


This shares the "Nick Lucas" L-00 body shape that its Gibson-branded, carved-top L-30 brethren had as well. The bracing is tone-bar style and judging by the nicer-quality hardware used on this example I'm guessing it dates between 1935 and 1939. The later KG-21 style guitars used simpler tailpieces and pickguard brackets and many started sporting the 40s c-shaped Gibson necks rather than the 30s v-shape like on this guy.


Everything is original on this guitar, including the tuners and ebony nut. Note that the D string tuner has a bent shaft but all the tuners turn pretty smoothly and hold just fine.


Pearl dots in a radiused rosewood board. The frets are low and smaller per Gibson standards at the time but they feel great and have a lot of life left. The neck itself is straight with only the tiniest relief (under 1/64").


The rosewood adjustable bridge is original but the topper has been cut down some. I intonated the B string, by the way.


Yeah, she's a pretty one! I love that the original firestripe pickguard is in such good shape. These are usually toast by these years!

Note the chip-out at the treble f-hole -- there's a tiny hairline crack that I cleated there. Nothing to write home about. There's also another (cleated-up) hairline near the tailpiece that I'll show a pic of below.



The back and sides are solid mahogany and the neck is as well. The top is solid spruce and both the top and bottom edges are bound in cream celluloid.


The black-buttoned tuners work just fine.


There's that 30s Gibson heel shape (it's set nicely).


On the lower bout rear there are several hairline cracks, one of which was reglued slightly off but stable. I reglued about 6" of the back/side seam in this area and about 3" of the seam on the other side of the endpin. In this area there's a bit of discoloration like moisture was trapped against it (maybe from a sweaty player or a soggy case?). Any crack that wasn't stable, I stabilized and/or filled.

There are a few scuff marks and general light scratching and playwear throughout, but this guy gleams a bit more than most of these 2nd line Gibsons.



There's a tiny (glued-up) hairline crack in the waist side on this side.



 Ah, I forgot -- I installed this ebony endpin (the original white one was broken).


Here's the Cromwell-brand retailer label inside the bass f-hole. This is not the same Gretsch as the guitar maker. This is a retail outfit.


That hairline crack to the treble side of the tailpiece is all cleated up and good to go. I love that these earlier Cromwell/Kalamazoo models still received the same Gibson hardware that the Gibson-branded guitars got. Later on it was cheaper stuff.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

just bought one and put it on layway.. can't wait to play.