3/09/2014

c.1936 Gibson-made Old Kraftsman KG-31 Archtop Guitar




I don't see too many Gibson-made "Old Kraftsman" brand instruments (almost all of those were made by Kay), but they did make them for two years between 1936 and 1937. This is a 1936 model judging by the factory order number in the treble f-hole and when I first saw it I thought to myself "early Kalamazoo-style, around 1935" because most of the earlier "budget brand" Gibson makes still used the nicer Gibson-style hardware (like the better-quality tailpiece in evidence here). The "Old Kraftsman" brand was sold by Spiegel in Chicago through their big mail-order instrument business.

Anyhow, this is a big-sounding, lush guitar. As I've often written... the Kalamazoo-style archtops have a huge advantage over most Chicago-made archtops of the pressed-top variety as they sound more like a carved-top instrument: creamier and sweeter on the bottom end with that chordal compression that makes them so useful for backing chords used to keep a band together.



Work on this guy included a fret level/dress, slight mod to the bridge saddle and addition of some new thumbwheels, some seam reglues, and the biggest part of it: regluing the endblock which had split from an over-tight endpin installation.

The guitar is actually in pretty good shape minus the usual use-wear and Gibson finish crackle but its biggest detraction is that repaired endblock break and also a number of old (and freshly-made) repairs to longer hairline cracks on the sides.

Wood on the guitar is: solid-spruce (pressed) top with solid mahogany back, sides and neck. It's pretty much identical to a Kalamazoo KG-31 from the same time with its bigger 16" lower bout vs. a KG-21 and its 14 3/4" lower bout. This feels the same as a Gibson L-30 or L-50 on the lap and it's the same shape and dimensions.


This has the Kalamazoo-style "pointed roof" headstock shape and a simple Old Kraftsman stencil. The bone nut is a little fancier than the usual ebony, though.


There's the radiused rosewood fretboard with pearl dots and the low-style Gibson frets of the time (I love the feel of these). It's got a 1 3/4" nut and a 24 3/4" scale length (that's nudged to just a hair under 24 7/8" in reality). I've got a set of lights (54w-12) on here and it sounds perfect setup like this. The action is also spot-on at 1/16" treble and 3/32" bass, fully adjustable via the bridge.


The bound tortoise celluloid pickguard looks very upscale. Note the "full foot" Kalamazoo-style rosewood bridge. I've always liked that design. The thumbwheels are new as the originals were missing.


Being an earlier Kalamazoo-style instrument, the tailpiece is the same as was used typically on Gibson-label products from the time.


The top and back are both bound in cream celluloid. There are a couple of tiny hairline cracks on the back near the lower bout's widest parts on the edge but they actually don't go through the wood. I drop-filled them anyhow and they're stable.


Also, I noted when working on the guitar that the main back brace had 1/3 of its length reglued in the past. Still going strong.


The original tuners work just fine. These are the same types that I had on a 30s Gibson L-50 that I owned for a while. I replaced one of the set screws with an identical type from my parts bin.


The neck set is good and the neck is perfectly straight. Speaking of the neck... it has a bigger V shape comparable to Gibsons of the same time. It's quite comfy, though, and doesn't feel as bulky or awkward as a comparable Regal or Harmony of the same time.


Yeah, it's a classy-looking thing.




So, here's the endpin area. The pin is an older one from my parts bin as the one that came with it was pretty bright white and unoriginal. When I took the hardware off I found that the long hairline crack (which looked totally closed before) you see here was actually evidence of a split endblock that was hiding under the tailpiece. I "finished" the split, opened it all up, and glued it all back together. It's now good to go.

I see stuff like this all the time on Gibson mandolins that come through the shop. I think it either has to do with 1) the endpin being shoved too hard into the hole and thus splitting the block or 2) the guitar shrinking around an unshrinking endpin and then splitting.


Just like the endpin hairline split area... there are several longish repaired hairline cracks on the sides that go up to about the widest points of the lower bout. The older repairs are "cleated" with some canvas glued to their rear but all are stable.


...and here's that crack on the other side of the instrument. There are a couple of short "ding" hairline cracks that are repaired on this side, too... the sort of 1/2" or 1" types that happen when someone bumps a guitar into a wall or the like.


It comes with a decent hard case, too!

No comments: