2/04/2016

1930s Gibson-made Kel Kroydon KK-1 Flattop Guitar




Update August 2016: I've updated the photos with new shots and replaced the (replaced, but period) tuners with old ones that work better.

Basically, the KK-1 is a Gibson L-00 with slightly different styling and no truss rod. This one doesn't have the cool parrot stencils on the lower bout but it is a fantastic guitar. These were made from 1930-1932, though the lack of a serial or factory order number means I can't date it exactly. Just as you'd expect from a 12-fret early-30s L-00, the build is extremely lightweight along the lines of 12-fret late-20s/early-30s Martins, the bracing is knife-edge thin and light, and the sound is full, gutsy, and rich. It can pound out flatpicked backing-chords or intimate fingerpicking passages or raunchy country-blues all the same and equally well. There's a reason folks hunt for these!

This came to me in a somewhat-repaired but dilapidated state. It'd been refretted, rebridged (really poorly), and the neck was supposedly reset, but it needed extra work. I gave it a fresh neck reset, reglued the top of the neckblock/side seam area, installed a replacement Brazilian rosewood bridge (late 50s Gibson), and installed correct vintage tuners (it was wearing Kluson repros that looked weird on it). I also cleated some already-splinted cracks on the top.


As far as I can tell, aside from my new bridge, ebony pins, saddle, and tuners, everything else is original equipment. The whole guitar, however, has been hit with a coat of finish at some point in its past. It's not a refinish job -- just an overspray -- but it means the mahogany bits on the guitar appear a little milkier. It's not a thick job -- it just looks like someone was trying to gloss it up after the old repairs.

Just like an L-00 from this time, the back and sides are solid mahogany (as is the neck) and the top is solid spruce. It's very lightly x-braced, has a 24 3/4" scale length, 1 3/4" nut width, and a shallow flattened-C neck profile. It's a very quick player and feels an awful lot like a modern fingerpicking-influenced guitar.


The original ebony nut remains (1 3/4" width). I've strung this with 11s-comparable balanced-tension strings in gauges 50w, 38w, 28w, 20w, 16, 12. That's about as heavy as I'd string this with and it absolutely does not need more tension. The neck is dead straight, too.


The Brazilian rosewood fretboard has a 16" radius and faux-pearl dots for most of the positions. It looks like one or two have been replaced with pearl (probably the originals fell out).

The board has been entirely refretted (someone else's job) with modern, "regular" size frets. The job wasn't perfect, however, so I needed to drop-glue a few slots to seat the frets better and then I gave them all a fret level/dress to get them evened-out. The result is a guitar that plays like a brand new instrument.


The extension dips slightly down after the 12th fret, though the action is spot-on at 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE at the 12th fret. Note the small chip-out around the 12th fret due to some old board-finagling.




Considering that this is definitely in the territory of "player's guitar," I decided to use one of my new-old-stock rosewood bridges with a drop-in saddle to replace the very-crappy replacement that was on here when this came in. This makes setup a lot easier for the average player as saddles of different sizes can be swapped in or out easily to change the action height depending on seasonal shifts or player preference.

Collector types might frown at this use but, personally, I don't care. Anyone who actually plays their guitars will appreciate the ease of use and close-enough-ness of styling. The pearl dots are over the original Gibson predrilled holes for the bolts intended to be installed on 40s-70s instruments.


An update, here: there's a very shallow hairline sort of along the pinholes on the bridge. It doesn't go deeper than the very surface, but it's there.





Overall the top is in good shape. It shows the deflection I'm used to seeing on these old 12-frets (and also apparent on this L-0) where the top before the bridge gets a little concave while the area above the soundhole pushes a little "up." It's no worry and is completely stable -- it's just the natural effect of tension and time on a very light build. Update, here: this has been going strong and without change since I posted in February.

The other important bits: bracing and bridge plate -- are all original and in good health. One of the ladder braces above the soundhole had an old split/reglue job on it and I, myself, reglued the other side of it. When I installed the new bridge I filled the old pin-holes before gluing and the new pinholes are slightly more to the rear of the plate. It's all nice and tidy inside with the ball-ends snug on the plate.




These tuners aren't original but they work just fine. I had a set of right-type tuners from the parts-bin on here but they were very fussy, so I replaced them with these old 50s ones that look close enough.







The back and sides are finished in a murky grey-brown color and show plenty of scritchy-scratch and blemish.


New ebony endpin... and also note the filled holes from a trapeze tailpiece installed at some point.


OK, let's talk condition issues. Whoever reset the neck in the past did a sloppy job getting it off -- note the lines (from where tape or something else?) effected the surface. Then note the "finish-matching" black next to the joint.


Inside is the telltale sign of someone having used a bolt to pop the neck back on in the past...


...and also the telltale sign (two hairline cracks in the lower heel) of someone over-tightening that bolt!

This was all glued-up nice and pat in the past, however. I just needed to pop the neck off, shim its joint nice and tight, and reglue. Update, here: again, this has been perfectly stable since the original February posting.


The back has several hairline cracks and chip-out at the edges. This is pretty common with mahogany as thin as the stuff used on the back. They've all previously been glued-up and finished-over and are stable.



I imagine this little chunk was popped-out and then reglued during the last neck reset? All the same, it's good to go as well.




On the top, someone splinted a long hairline crack that goes from the side of the fretboard extension to the endblock. They didn't cleat it, however -- so I did. It's good to go.



Two breaks in the top binding here...


...and one here.


The guitar comes with an old Guild 00-size hard, arched case. It serves well!

3 comments:

bonnybroome said...

For sale?
It looks nice.

Jake Wildwood said...

Yup, will be listing soon. It IS nice.

Art 'Dreco said...

Too bad it doesn't have the Parrots painted on it. That would put it over the top!