made by Gibson in Kalamazoo
SEE PHOTO GALLERY
John Greven asked me for some of
the specifications on the ladder braced versions of the 1930s Gibsons. I
thought I'd do one better and document it here where others can enjoy these
photos and explore this wonderful blues guitar. This was Gibson's
budget version of the L-00 that helped them make it through the great
depression. The guitar is identical to an L-00 in many respects but is a
different animal in others. It has no truss rod, less trim, ladder bracing
instead of x-bracing and small cost cutters like an ebony wooden nut,
plastic bridge pins and cheaper Stella like tuning machines and a tapered
peghead (see photos). Oh and don't
forget the spray painted logo on the peghead. This was without a doubt the
model guitar that Robert Johnson played and it makes not only a great
blues fingerpicker but an incredible slide guitar. This is one of my number
one live stage guitars with a Sunrise pickup in the sound hole. It's light
as air, very responsive and has a rich midrange, strong treble notes, Gibsonesque thuddy bass and not a whole lot of sustain. I call this guitar
"My Kazoo". It's a cross between an L-00 and a Stella in my opinion.
The 14 fret access makes it ideal when I backup other blues musicians
because I can capo on the 2nd fret and still have 12 frets exposed and more
of the lead notes are reachable for me to play chords high on the neck. The
neck profile on this one is slightly more manageable than some other K'zoo
guitars I've owned but it has a vintage V shape. It's actually very
comfortable to play and has a very loud pure acoustic sound.
These are the specs and photos of the
bracing and other detailed information. I've made this page to help a
luthier that is reproducing one of these for a client. Mine is probably the
best example of a KG-14 that I've ever seen. Hope you enjoy the photos and
An important guitar to mention is the
sister model the KG-11 since so many people
these two confused. The KG-11 shown here has slightly more focused shoulders
and a smaller overall size. It still has 14
frets exposed and all the capabilities of the KG-14 but typically sells for
a little less. It is NOT the guitar shown in the Robert Johnson dime store
photos where he's holding a cigarette in his mouth. The KG-11 that I owned
actually sounded fantastic and seemed to have a little more of a balanced
yet thumpy bass. Not quite as thuddy as the KG-14 but very dry and airy. I
sold my KG-14 to blues performer Bill Sheffield and he uses it every night
on stage now with a Sunrise pickup in the sound hole. He had it refretted
and the neck reset and it plays like butter. Probably better than a new
Gibson. I've seen these sell anywhere from 600-1100 dollars and if you are
looking for something with a much more bluesy tone than anything new this
might be a nice choice. I still prefer the size and shape of the KG-14
although these guitars are almost equivalent in every way.
To the right is another beauty owned by
a fellow player Adam Townsend from Nova Scotia, Canada. This is a KG-14 with
a little different shaped headstock and originally came with a maple
some of them. Adam had this one restored and a rosewood fretboard installed.
He says it's the best playing and sounding guitar ever. I'm not 100% sure if
this variation was produced in the late 1930s or very early 1930s. The maple
fretboard might be a clue of the production getting close to the WWII years
when wood rationing limited builders from mahogany, rosewood, steel and
other materials. The sunburst on Adam's KG-14 is a little lighter and very
beautiful. I believe these are more rare and harder to find. The headstock
has a slight point and curved sides. I believe some models of the recording
king had this same headstock shape.
Below: Use the right side of each letter for the exact point of measurement.
Below: back bracing looking in the sound hole from the nut
end toward the butt.
Below is the brace closest to the bridge plate and you can
see they just taper to nothing before they reach the liner and have a square
top and tapered sides.
Below is the same brace but wider shot showing the bridge
plate also which is the full width of the guitar. I love this much better
than the little small bridge plate that comes on many older Stellas. This is
a stronger design and battles the belly much better IMO. You can see the saw
marks in the braces but they are really quite cleanly made and installed.
Below is the brace next to the bridge and you can see how tall it is and the
shape. In reference to the diagram this is G and H
Below is one last shot of the main brace next to the bridge that shows a
little more about the shape.
Below is the brace labeled "I" in the reference drawing. It's the first one
inside the sound whole and appears to be a good 3/4" high and pretty beefy
and stiff. You can see a crack repair there too but just ignore that piece.
another shot of brace "I" shape and how it meets the liner.
the neck block and what most people would call the popcicle brace in Martin