12/20/2014

1930s Gibson-made Kalamazoo KG-11 Flattop Guitar




These squashed-00-size instruments have become very popular of late. There's a reason, though: they're comfortable in the lap, lightweight, very loud and proud, and look cool as heck. For a country-blues player, fingerpicker, or old-time performer... this kind of instrument is just about perfect. If you're a restrained strummer, too, it can really put out in just the right way. There's no factory order number stamp inside so my best guess on date is from 1935-38.

This one is a consignor's instrument and the work received included one seam reglue, a fret level/dress, bridge and saddle shave, cleaning, and setup. It plays very well (3/32" bass and a hair over 1/16" treble) at the 12th fret with a set of 11s on it. I suppose one could run 12s if they're detuning to open G or open D but I wouldn't want 12s on this strung to concert pitch as it's already had a history of light bellying/top deformation over time and the 11s are screamingly-loud enough for my ears. You can practically play gypsy-jazz leads on it...



With a "Gibson" 24 3/4" scale, medium-v neck shape, and squat body this could be mistaken for a "parlor" guitar in the lap. As soon as you listen to it, though, you definitely hear the bigger 00-size body making itself known. True "parlor" instruments just cannot compete with what these ladder-braced Ka'zoos do.


Comsetically everything is in pretty dandy shape. The stenciled logo is crisp and clean on that headstock.

The nut is ebony and 1 3/4" in width.


The board is radiused and rosewood with pearl dots and that vintage-type smaller Gibson fretwire. From 1-16 the frets are almost entirely full-height but after that they get shallower as the fretboard extension sneaks up a little after the neck join and when leveling more material was removed there.

The neck adds just under 1/32" relief overall when tuned to pitch which is fairly typical for these guitars. It doesn't effect playability as most folks dial their truss-rods into about that much relief, anyhow (I know mine is).



The original bridge got a shave, for sure, as the top is bellied under it (rather than behind it). I've found this a curious trait of Gibson-style ladder bracing... the bellies go straight up with excess string tension rather than twisting the top. I'm pretty sure that's the much-recut original bone saddle, too, though I've compensated it a bit for better intonation.




There's not a single crack on this guitar...


...and the original tuners work well.





Both side-seams at the waist/back edge had some reglue/fill jobs in the past. They're stable and I figured: don't fix what's not broken. I cleaned them up a little by backfilling some glue/powdered mahogany in and sealing them up. It's hard to see them at a glance, now.



Here's that #2 old back/waist seam repair.


Original endpin...


Here you can see the belly effect and the shaved bridge (it had already had some modding on the front edge)...


...but you can also see you have plenty of string height over the body to pick at.


A 60s el-cheapo but perfectly-useful chipboard case comes along for the ride.

1 comment:

SJ said...

My guess is 1933 or '34 because of the small burst. Maybe '35, but probably not any later. A Kalamazoo/Gibson expert would know better than me. I do know for sure that it's a beautiful guitar and if I had the money, I'd be tempted.