3/11/2018

1937 Gibson-made Grinnell KG-11 Flattop Guitar




Up to bat is this '37 Kalamazoo KG-11 with Grinnell branding. Gibson seems to have sold Kalamazoo-style guitars with this branding to the same-name Detroit-based retail chain beginning in '36, though they'd been Gibson distributors for some time before that. This is the first KG-11 version I've seen as I mostly see the name on the headstock of KG-14 models.

It's one of the cleaner KG-11 types I've had in a while and has no cracks. There's mild use-wear throughout but, overall, it's a looker. It's all-original save a new bone saddle and a lightly-sanded/buffed-up bridge, too. It's also very loud, fiery, and zippy with a lot of bark and cut -- a fingerpicker wanting some drive would do well with this guitar but it's "zip" would make it suitable for gypsy-jazz, swing-style snappy chording or lead work, or as a more lead guitar voice in a folksy setting where it'd be playing off of a "normal" flattop.

Work on this one included a neck reset, fret level/dress, side dot install, general cleaning, a new compensated bone saddle, and a good setup with 50w, 38w, 28w, 20w, 15, 11 strings. It plays on-the-dot with 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE action at the 12th fret. Like almost all Kalamazoos, the neck deflects a little under 1/32" overall when tuned to pitch. An aggressive lead player will want a slightly-taller saddle with these string gauges, as when I dug in hard I got more zip (think Django) than punch when going all-out. For normal playing, though, it's perfect.

It has pretty standard specs for a KG-11 -- 1 3/4" nut width with 1 9/16" string spacing at the nut and 2 3/8" at the bridge. The scale is 24 13/16" and the neck has a medium-to-big soft-V shape to its rear. The lower bout is 14 3/4" across and the depth is 4 1/16" at the endblock. The factory order number at the neck block appears to be 447C which suggests 1937 manufacture.


Many players prefer the small sunbursts on old KG-11s, but when the big yellow-orange ones like this are done as well as on this guy, I'm not going to complain. That's pretty tasty.

Materials-wise, this one's pretty standard, too -- solid mahogany for the back, sides, and neck and solid spruce (ladder-braced) for the top. The board and bridge are both rosewood and the nut is ebony.




The board has pearl dots inlaid. The frets are original and are the low, small Gibson-style standard for their day.



My new bone saddle is cut to fill the whole slot -- unlike the original saddles which were pretty undersized. It's also compensated and I added string ramps for best back-angle behind the saddle.


It's nice to see the original pins on this guitar.



There are some minor scuffs, scrapes, and handling evident on the guitar but it's mostly very well-kept.





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