12/06/2013

c.1935 Kalamazoo KG-21 Archtop Guitar



Heart, be still. I'm always a sucker for Gibson-made Kalamazoos and I've owned several KG-21 models like this (being a deeper-bodied, 14 3/4" lower bout L-00 size instrument) and have loved each one. Then this guy comes out of left field -- with its eye-catching "iced tea" sunburst finish -- and starts in on the lust center of my brain. Ohhh well.

Work on this was light: I leveled and dressed the frets, installed a parts-bin almost-right tailpiece, new tuners, cleaned it up, and set it up. It's in good condition overall with the usual finish checking all over but no cracks save a tight, 2" filled-in hairline on the back near the heel. It plays beautifully now and has that mid-30s mid-size v-shaped neck I associate with proper Gibson models rather than the typically heftier-necked Kalamazoo v-necks (this makes it a bit more of a breeze to play lead and closed chords past the 7th fret).

The tone on this guitar is just what I like to hear out of them: punchy, loud, and gutsy with a good creamy warmth to its focused, mid-heavy tone. These make great backing-chord instruments in smaller swing and jazz groups but also fit the bill for early country, "hillbilly," and blues groups. I've got it setup with a set of regular lights and it feels great.




This guy has a solid spruce top (press-arched) over solid mahogany back and sides (the back is press-arched, too). The neck is also mahogany while the bridge and radiused board are Brazilian rosewood. 

Don't you love the color of that top? It's rare to find these guitars in this lighter-treatment finish.


The "Recording King" style headstock bears the stenciled Kalamazoo label and plenty of flaked-off finish. The ebony nut is in good order, as are the original tuner ferrules.


Pearl dots in the face and also side dots. The scale on this guy is the typical 24 3/4" Gibson scale.


The adjustable bridge is in good order, too.

The tailpiece is an older (50s) West German tailpiece but it looks in place on the guitar far more than a shiny, modern one.




Despite all the finish checking and finish cracking, the guitar still gleams nicely. I'm glad the sun finally peeked out from the past few days' gloom so I could get some good shots of this guy.


The back and sides are all finished in a clear coat that's yellowed and darkened with UV. It gives a nice contrast to the iced-tea sunburst top.


The Kluson-style repro tuners replaced some junky cheap Chinese tuners that had been installed. The original tuners would have been open-backed Klusons but I didn't have something 100% right on hand. These work well and look believable enough.


The neck is set perfectly (as expected).



The endpin is a replacement ebony type.

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