1936 Gibson-made KG-14-style Carson Robison Flattop Guitar

Update July 2017: This guitar settled-in over the last few months and I needed to set it up for a "summer height" (ie, lower) saddle just recently. While doing so I converted the bridge to a drop-in saddle slot (using the original saddle, which was previously glued-in), lightly shaved its wedge-shaped design into a flat design (like on a 50s Gibson) to allow for more saddle adjustment on the bass side, and then refinished the bridge top to achieve the same vintage look as the original sprayed-on nitro finish. Otherwise, the guitar remains the same as the below description (I've updated it where it needs to be). I've also updated the photos with current shots of the guitar.

This model was sold by Montgomery Ward as the "Recording King Carson Robison 1281," but in actuality it's a rebadged Kalamazoo KG-14. A Gibson factory order number stamped at the neck block pegs it at '36 and after work it's a loud, sweeter-than-average (for a KG-14), breathy sort-of guitar and absolutely ideal for fingerpicking.

This one came in with better-than-average health conditions. My work was simple -- I reglued a couple of braces (one top brace had split, but glued-up fine), added a "popsicle" brace under the fretboard extension to shore-up hairline cracks right next to it, and cleated a couple of hairlines directly above the soundhole that terminate at the fretboard. After that I gave it a fret level/dress, cleaned it up, fit new ebony pins all-around, modded the bridge and original saddle for better compensation and action height.

The neck is straight and action is set at 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE at the 12th fret. It plays slick and easy and I have it strung with 52w, 40w, 30w, 22w, 16, 12 strings. The nut width is 1 3/4" and the board has a 12" radius with a medium, V-shaped neck below it. Aside from the hairline cracks mentioned near the fretboard extension, the only other crack I found on the guitar is a 1" one that's over kerfing directly to the right of the pickguard at its lowest point. It's good to go.

These KG-14-style guitars make excellent country-blues fingerpickers as they have a forward, snappy, woody, bright, projecting tone that suits the pads of fingers or mellow fingerpicks. With a flatpick they're definitely snappy and can be heard in a mix -- meaning for playing against a chording guitar they'll stand out, but have a midsy, spanky voice for strummed chords. Depending on your playing habits and pick choice, however, your mileage will certainly vary!

This one has the cool "roof" headstock and the rarer bone nut. I'm surprised that the original tuners are extant, too, and in good shape.

The frets didn't need much of a level/dress at all -- there was only minor wear.

Since originally posting this, I needed to adjust the action down for "summer height" and so changed the glued-in saddle setup to a drop-in saddle setup by cutting a deeper slot... it can now be taken-out and swapped for other saddles or shimmed-up/down to personal height preference. I re-used the original bone saddle, but properly compensated it.

At the same time I shaved the bridge's top just a little -- and mostly on the bass side. These were originally made with quite sloping/wedge-shaped bridges and when you take the saddle down a little you remove back-angle and saddle-allowance on the bass side very fast. I cut this one to the depth of the average 50s Gibson drop-in saddle bridge and then refinished the top and "vintaged" it to look just like it did before, with the original Gibson nitro spray on the bridge.

You can see that there's plenty of saddle adjustment room. The bellies on these Kalamazoo-style Gibsons tend to dome-up, and this one deflected about 1/32" over time and has settled-in there after 2 months of being strung-up.

The tuners are in great shape!

The endpin, like the bridge pins, is new and ebony. I find that these are a closer approximation of the look of the old Gibson celluloid pins than any new repro-style plastic ones I've found.


phogue said…
That is a sweet-sounder. Hm.
Alex said…
That records so nicely Jake. Thanks as always