1940s Kalamazoo KMN-12 (Gibson-made) Archtop Mandolin

Well this is a pretty mandolin, no? While a lot of these were designated KMN-12, they're really more like a maple-bodied alteration of the KM-21 model that had been produced for years before these. A lot of these KMNs also feature an "Oriole" decal at the headstock, too. This particular one has gloriously-flamed solid maple on the back and sides, tortoise binding that looks slick as heck, and all of its original bits save tuners and bridge.

Post-repairs, it plays the biz (real fast) and sounds excellent -- punchy, woody, and loud. It's got really light strings on it at the moment (I'd run out of sets so was into my "bowlback" gauges) but would handle 10s with no issue, at which point it would only get warmer and fatter-sounding.

Just like the vast majority of the Kalamazoo archtop guitars, this series of archtop Kalamazoo mandolins have press-arched tops and backs rather than carved ones. The only thing you're missing compared to a good carved-top Gibson is a little more snap in the treble. Otherwise this thing sounds pretty-much the same as a good A-50 from the time and I've heard plenty of so-so A-50s as well, where this thing would blow them out of the water. It's a good old thing, yessir.

Repairs included: neck reset, fret level/dress, fitting of a new ebony adjustable bridge, replacement tuners install (not original but period), cleaning, and setup.

Top wood: solid spruce

Back & sides wood: solid flamed maple

Bracing type: tonebar

Bridge: ebony, adjustable

Fretboard: rosewood

Neck wood: mahogany

Action height at 12th fret:
hair-under 1/16" overall (fast)
String gauges: 32w-9 (though 10s would be great, too)

Neck shape: medium V

Board radius: flat

Neck relief: straight

Fret style: smaller/lower

Scale length: 13 7/8"

Nut width: 1 3/16"

Body width: 10 1/8"

Body depth: 2" + arching

Weight: 1 lb 14 oz

Condition notes: the bridge is new and the tuners are older replacements. They're slightly fussy but work alright. There's a little blem around the fretboard extension's bottom foot post-reset but it's not obvious at all. The frets are low/small per original stock but have life left in them, no worries. The original pickguard is in great shape. There's minor scratching, small nicks and dings, etc. throughout the finish but overall it looks excellent for its age. I can't date the instrument exactly as I can't find a legible factory order number inside (it's there but unreadable), though it's almost certainly a 1939 or 1940 model. There's some pockmarking finish blem to the headstock's face, too, and a non-original (but old) strap hanger at the tailpiece.

It comes with: a decent case too (not pictured).


Nick R said…
I bought one of these recently- it was featured in the Fretboard Journal in 2014 as "Catch of the Day." Mine sports a few tight cracks and a gouge under the bridge probably caused by the metal threaded post for the thumbwheel. The FON is just visible making it 1940- it has the earlier headstock not the "open book" style as per this example which are also from 1940. I have seen one of these with a Cromwell style board which makes me think- as with the pickguard on this one that Gibson was using up spare parts! Mine does sound great and I have the same weight of strings as used by Jake here- and the mandolin plays so much better than with the heavyweight strings it had on it when it arrived. Lovely mandolins and loud and bright and quite a comfortable neck but I concur regarding the frets but they are okay.