4/11/2014

c.1938 Gibson-made Kalamazoo KG-14 Guitar




Update 2016: Since selling this a couple years ago, the guitar has had a K&K Big Twin pickup installed (by myself) with an endpin jack. It also comes with a flight/foam-style lightweight "hard" case.

KG-14s don't come around too often as they're simply rarer than the more-often seen KG-11 model. They're also even more desirable as they're essentially a ladder-braced, non-truss rod variant of the coveted L-00 14 3/4" lower bout guitar shape. It's pretty obvious why, too, as they just have "that sound" that sits so nicely in folkie, blues, and old-time settings. These flatpick and fingerpick equally well and have that sort of darker, huskier, boxier Gibson sound when compared to a similarly-sized period Martin. It's sort of like "all the good" of the fun 30s Harmony/Kay/Regal flattop sounds but a step up in tone and many steps up in terms of durability, playability and structural integrity.

When I bought this one I knew I'd have a tug at the corners of my gear-obsession complex so I made sure not to play it more than a half hour after stringing it up Thursday morning. Unfortunately for said complex, my buddy Rick came in midday and picked for at least an hour or so on this while I was taking calls and I got to hear it from the audience perspective, too. Loud and proud, this'n.




This guy has solid spruce over solid mahogany back and sides. The neck is also mahogany and the board and bridge are both rosewood. Everything on this is original save the (new) bone saddle and (new) ebony bridge pins.

Work included cleating some hairline back cracks, a light bridge shave, aforementioned new saddle and pins, a fret level/dress, work to shore up an old puncture-wound on the upper bout bass shoulder, cleaning, and setup.

The top has (remarkably) only one tiny 1" hairline crack near the fretboard extension on the treble side and it's not even through the wood enough to detect on the underside to add a cleat. There's plenty of use-wear evident throughout the guitar with scuffs, dings, and light scratching all over that's complemented by the typical "Gibsoning" (lacquer checking) of the finish.


Cool, "Recording King" style headstock shape. Ebony nut. I misspoke, by the way... one of these ferrules on the tuners and one of the tuner shafts is also a replacement, though both are vintage parts.


The board is radiused and has a 1 3/4" nut and those nice, low-profile vintage Gibson frets that feel so good. The neck cut is the same medium-sized rounded-v shape as on the Gibson L-37 that just sold but minus a truss rod. It's perfectly straight and you wouldn't have any problem loading it with 12s. I have 11s on it right now as the top shows a typical amount of belly behind the bridge and I personally like the sound of these with lighter gauges (they have a more responsive top vs. x-bracing so as you "gauge up" the voice will get woofier vs. clear and singing).



The original bone saddle was glued in and had to come out as it wasn't set at correct height and had cracked, anyhow. This (original) bridge also got a very light shave so that in the event of action drifting at all, the new owner could lower (or raise, for that matter) action at the saddle easily. Just like on the old saddle, I kept the new one under-cut vs. the original saddle slot itself, though I didn't glue the new one in. My new saddle is also intonated correctly.

Note the curious "dot" in the middle of the bridge as well as the slightly-chewed-out D-string slot. The "dot" seems to have been there for a long time -- maybe some sort of locator hole for when the bridge was initially glued? It's strange. The chewed-out D-string string ramp slot is no worry. I'm just mentioning for completeness' sake.





I managed to un-bend a couple of these old Kluson tuner button shafts and thus make these machines useful again. They didn't even need WD-40 to get them turning smoothly. Note that the FON is stamped on the back of the headstock.


Good neck set. Note chip-out at the back edge, here. Nothing to worry about... looks like it got  bumped into something.


There's some "buckle rash" here and you can see the sort of glued-up old hairline cracks that appear in 4-5 places on the back: 1-2" length tight ones. I cleated any that needed it.




There are some small rond indentations in the wood here at the side next to the heel -- what the heck?

I know action looks like it might be high from this angle, but it's not. It's 1/16" treble at the 12th fret and 3/32" bass -- perfectly spot on and slinky.



This cancerous little "blub" on the upper bout bass side was caused by a puncture crack in the wood that was left to get disjointed/hastily repaired for the last 70 years or so. I cleaned up the edges, replaced missing mahogany, patched it on the rear with a rectangle of veneer stock, and then sealed it up. Good to go but not as pretty as it could be in an ideal world... but then again I didn't want to remove material. Someone with more skill at color-matching stains could get that to fade right in to the rest of the finish.



I used little mahogany cleats for the back hairlines.


...and an original endpin.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Don't suppose this one'll be coming up for sale anytime soon? Or has it sold already?