10/18/2015

1936 Gibson-made Kalamazoo KG-14 Flattop Guitar




The second '36 KG-14 in a month is a bit of a rare thing, though this one is just as good as the other one currently in-shop. This one has that same forward, punchy, bluesy flatpicking sound coupled with a sustained, clear fingerpicking sound. That's what Gibson-style ladder-bracing tends to do. They're perfect old-time and blues guitars because of that -- and they look it, too, with that L-00 body shape and folksy sunburst finish. I'm not as much of a fan of these for straight-up chordal strumming, but crosspicking and stuff like that is excellent as your notes don't get mushy.

This one came by way of a consignor and has had a fresh fret level/dress, a pickguard crack (previously repaired) cleated, a light bridge and saddle shave (and bridge respray), new ebony bridge pins, a general cleaning, and good setup. Playability is right where it should be -- 1/16" at the 12th fret on all strings save the low E which is 3/32" -- and the guitar is good to go.



The instrument is all-original except for the replacement pins, saddle, and nut. I'm also fairly certain that the back has been oversprayed (well done and with nitro) and perhaps the back of the neck as well. The rest of the guitar is for-sure original finish. It all shows that old-age weather-check and fine lacquer-cracking that you'd expect to see on one of these old Ka'zoos. There's use-wear here and there but not a huge amount of scratching or nicking.


The nut width is just a hair under 1 3/4" and the nut is a replacement bone one (not mine, but a good job). This has a medium-sized V-neck profile, so I wouldn't suggest this to someone who's after, say, that soft/mellow 30s Martin C/V shape that plays like a modern guitar. This will be bigger, but not "Kay" big.

The strings are 50w-11 John Pearse 80/20s and that's what I suggest on these guitars -- with maybe the high B&E strings jacked-up to 16 and 12 if the player does a lot of flatpicked leads.


Pearl dots in a radiused, Brazilian rosewood board... good-looking Brazilian, too.


There's a hairline crack (old repair, and not perfectly even at the soundhole edge) to the "left" of the pickguard. I've cleated it where it needed it but the old repair to it was good to go, anyhow.


Because the top has a little belly/dome (like most Kalamazoos), I took the bridge top down just a little, then polished-up and resprayed it with nitro like it was to begin with. The effect is good.

The bone saddle isn't my own but someone radiused and compensated it well so I left it and just adjusted for height slightly. Like the original Kalamazoo saddles, it doesn't fit the whole width of the through-slot, but if this were a deal-killer I'd make a new one from scratch.



The top is solid spruce while the back, sides, and neck are solid mahogany.




The heel looks like it's had a strap button hole filled on its bottom.






This endpin is older but not original.


The picture doesn't make it obvious, but there's a bit of bellying/swell to the top. Bellying implies that the lift is all behind the bridge, but I tend to find that Ka'zoos lift in a sort-of domed-effect on-center with the bridge.

I expect this on these guys and it's stable. The setup hasn't budged since I dialed it in.


 An old chip case comes with the guitar.

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