4/03/2016

1938 Gibson-made Recording King Model K Flattop Guitar




Yessir, this is another KG-14 guitar under a different brand. In this case it's Montgomery Ward's "Recording King" name coupled to the Carson Robison endorsement. Still, it's a KG-14 through and through. It's an L-00 body shape with a ladder-braced top, solid spruce over solid mahogany, and sporting Gibson's 24 3/4" scale length and medium-big V-shaped neck profile familiar from other Kalamazoo-style guitars. These specs add up to a punchy, forward instrument that's perfectly suited to country-blues fingerpicking or choppy old-time flatpicking. These guitars have become so popular in the vintage market that Collings is making their own modern knock-offs.

Anyhow, this one came here in decent shape with a good neck angle and everything but the bridge pins all-original. I gave it a fret level/dress, cleated a bunch of small hairline cracks on the back (and one on the top), cleaned it up, compensated the (already recut) original saddle, and gave it a good setup. It plays great -- and is dialed-in to standard 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE action at the 12th fret. I have it strung with "11s" comparable strings but I'm going to setup it up to "12s" comparable as the neck would be perfectly happy with them.


The sunburst finish got wider and wider as these Kalamazoo-style guitars evolved away from the mid-30s. This one has a warmer look, too, so the "black" around the edges is actually more of a deep red-brown.


The black-painted pointy headstock shape has excellent stencils, no? Also note the original bone nut -- something usually only seen on fancier Gibson guitars. Kalamazoo-style instruments usually just had ebony. The nut hovers at just-over 1 11/16" rather than a full 1 3/4" size.


The board is Brazilian rosewood (like the bridge) and has a 12" radius and pearl dots. There's finger-divot wear in first position of the board but it wouldn't effect playability unless you're a die-hard string masher. The frets themselves are original and the usual smallish, lowish vintage stock, but they've been leveled/dressed and will be good for a long while.



Who doesn't like those original firestripe pickguards?


The original bridge is in good order. I added light string ramps and new ebony bridge pins to simulate the old black celluloid pins that were long-gone. The original saddle is extant but had been cut down in the past and radiused nicely. I just had to compensate the B-string and adjust it slightly for overall height.


This is the only top crack and I've both cleated and filled it so it's good to go.



The mahogany back and sides show tons of use-wear. There are 8 smaller hairline cracks on the back and all have been cleated and filled.


The original tuners are functional, though a couple of the shafts are a little bent. The factory order number at the headstock dates this to '38 (D = '38 and W = Wards).


The neck is mahogany, too, with lots of play-time on it.



The dramatic lighting pops these hairlines on the back out, but in person they're not too obvious.








Here are some of the mahogany cleats on the inside-back.


It comes with an ill-fitting, but functional, chip case.

No comments: