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Vintage Guitars - Kalamazoo KG14 / Gibson LG1 and LG2

PostPosted: Fri Dec 07, 2012 2:57 pm
by yidakipaul
Hi All

I've been considering for some time now investing in a Vintage 30's or 40's acoustic (Vintage American guitars are rare and expensive in the UK)

I'm big into early delta blues, I currently thinking about the following models (Have not played either of them)

Kalamazoo KG14 - Largely for sentimental reasons as I feel it's the only model of guitar that we can be reasonably confident that Johnson actually played to any degree (I know he was photographed with a 12-fret flat top Gibson L1 by the hook bros in Memphis)

From the photo's I've seen they seem to have a thick V profiled neck (I assuming they don't have a truss)? Should I be concerned by this?

Gibson LG1 - Ladder braced - sell for a much lower price than the LG2

Gibson LG2 - X-braced

I'd be interested to know if anyone out there is playing Vintage guitars and has any comments regarding these models?
In particular is it worth spending the extra cash to get an LG2?

Is there anything in particular is there anything I should be cautious of with regards to purchasing these instruments?

Thanks in advance

Re: Vintage Guitars - Kalamazoo KG14 / Gibson LG1 and LG2

PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2012 1:11 pm
by slide496
I have been playing a bunch of ladder braced models from the 40's to 60's that I fixed up from ebay, some have neck sticks the others don't. All but one has a floating bridge and are medium to high in action. I am playing slide throughout on them and am real pleased with the sound but the ones I have I wasn't able to get intonation down the neck really - for standard chorded playing. They might need to go to a luthier if I every wanted them set up for that.

I haven't played a Kalamazoo or an LG but I have a 90's Gibson Nick Lucas Reissue with x-bracing and a neck stick for piedmont. I got the impression from the differences between the two types that when you play pressing down the strings the requirement for the stability, straightness of the neck and the accuracy of bridge placement per string was much stricter or perhaps different than just slide throughout witha few notes in first position. There's an online list on old blues players equipment here that might be of interest: http://www.earlyblues.com/Blues%20singers%202009.htm

Good luck on your search!

H

Re: Vintage Guitars - Kalamazoo KG14 / Gibson LG1 and LG2

PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2012 9:35 pm
by yidakipaul
Thanks for the info!

Re: Vintage Guitars - Kalamazoo KG14 / Gibson LG1 and LG2

PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2012 2:56 am
by Freeman
Altho I have played a few old Gibbies, I am not an expert on them, however I do fool around with old guitars (mostly repairing) and I build new ones based on old ones. I would give the following advice if you are thinking of buying a vintage guitar.

Do all the research you can. Learn to identify problems and what it costs to fix them. Decide if you want to own a guitar in "very good" or "excellent" condition (and what those terms mean) and what that costs - Elderly has some great info on their site. You may, however, be content with a "player" - again, learn to judge what makes it playable or not. Lastly, be very aware that the prices of vintage guitars has gone thru the roof and people are taking advantage of that.

In my opinion, having had a reset or refret only makes a vintage guitar more valuable, a refin does not. Replacing hardware (tuners, tailpiece, bridge) might make it less desirable to a collector, but a better player. I would never turn down a guitar that needs a reset if it was structurally sound - just know what it costs to have it done.

Some vintage guitars do have truss rods, they just aren't adjustable. Some don't have them at all. Learn how to measure relief and what values you feel are acceptable (I think that anything over 0.010 inch is too much unless it is only for slide). Guitars with no t/r or non-adjustable ones can be compression fretted or the frets can be pulled and the board can be planed - again, this would not be a deal breaker for me but I know how to do it (and I know the cost if I have to have it done). Also know how to evaluate cracks, loose or broken braces, bellied tops, and all the other problems that go along with an old guitar. Don't ever ever ever buy a vintage guitar without inspecting it unless it is from a very trusted source. In my opinion, evil bay is not a trusted source.

With respect to the neck profile, again, only you can decide based on your playing style and experience. I built a Stella clone following some profile cross sections from 1930 guitars and hated it - ended up doing some major surgery to reshape it to a more modern profile. Don't forget too that many old guitars intonate terribly - not a problem for slide but could be if you do mostly fretted playing.

That said, if you want to own a vintage guitar because RJ or someone else did (and you've got the money) - go for it. If it is really valuable you won't want to take it out to play, but owning a piece of history can be kind of cool. However if you want the sound and look of an old guitar in a modern package, check out the work of Todd Cambio or John Howe (or me) or several other people who are building ladder braced small bodied guitars in the style of the old Gibbies and Stellas, but with adjustable truss rods, good intonation, playable action, and reasonable prices. My winter project is an L-00 clone, all mahogany, built to fit may hands and my style of play. I'll post pictures in a few months when it is done.

Re: Vintage Guitars - Kalamazoo KG14 / Gibson LG1 and LG2

PostPosted: Sat Dec 15, 2012 4:37 am
by Lo-Fi
I have owned all three of those guitars and still have a 1946 LG-2.

The Kalamazoo KG-14 was the budget version of the GIbson L-00. These were really lightly built guitars. While this was good for sound it was not the best thing in terms of stability and you can run across more than a few in need of a neck reset. As you guessed, they also do not have an adjustable truss rod.

The LG-1 and LG-2. The easiest way to tell these apart is just look into the soundhole. The LG-2 will have a center strip running down the back, the LG-1 will not. The necks on the LGs are not all that scary. They were considered student models and I guess were designed to accomodate smaller hands. The necks on the Kay Krafts Stellas and what have you that I have owned - even my Harmony Sovereign - are far beefier . While the LGs seem to stand up well over time, you should still check the bridge plate and top braces.

The LG-1 is one of the best buys you will find in a vintage guitar. They are great fingerpickers. Like most ladder braced guitars they can sound a bit muddy or boxy but lots of folks feel that adds a bit of spice to their blues stew. They are also a lot louder than you might expect.

The LG-2 will have more of the Gibson/mahogany sound. They tend to have a quicker attack than the LG-1 and bit more of a percussive low end. They are also great fingerpickers and at their best with light or medium strumming. But if you think an LG-2 is going to sound like a mini-J45 or something - forget about it. There is also, of course, the LG-3 which is just a natural top version of the LG-2.

Here be my LG-2.

Image

Re: Vintage Guitars - Kalamazoo KG14 / Gibson LG1 and LG2

PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2012 7:44 pm
by yidakipaul
Thanks for the reply Freeman (Very useful)

In terms of the KG14 - if the there are problems with the neck, as there is no truss is there anything that can be done to adjust it?
From what I've seen the neck looks very chuncky on this guitar (almost V profiled) - does this mean they are less likely to move?

You LG2 looks awesome, having looked at the cost of LG1 V's LG2 I am thinking of looking at an LG1 as they are far easier on the pocket.

Is there any particular age you would look for / avoid?

Re: Vintage Guitars - Kalamazoo KG14 / Gibson LG1 and LG2

PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2012 12:34 am
by Lo-Fi
yidakipaul wrote:In terms of the KG14 - if the there are problems with the neck, as there is no truss is there anything that can be done to adjust it?
From what I've seen the neck looks very chuncky on this guitar (almost V profiled) - does this mean they are less likely to move?

You LG2 looks awesome, having looked at the cost of LG1 V's LG2 I am thinking of looking at an LG1 as they are far easier on the pocket.

Is there any particular age you would look for / avoid?



The number of pre-War Kays, Harmonys, Stellas and others out there needing or having had neck resets should tell you that a thick neck ain't got nuttin to do with it.

With Gibsons I tend to feel the older you go the better off you are. One of the main reasons I ended up with a 1946 LG-2 is that is the last year they were made with the 1 3/4" nut (since most Gibsons built in 1946 and 1947 did not have factory order numbers this is the one sure way to date them). Regular production of the LG-1 did not begin until 1946 (although there were a handful of X braced versions made in 1942). I prefer guitars made up through 1959 mainly because in 1960 Gibson went to a thinner neck which I just do not like although it is purely a personal quirk.

The early 1960s guitars can still be nice but you have to watch out for those with plastic bridges which show up in 1962. It is not that big of a deal to have these bridges replaced though and you will probably run across more than a few that have already been modified. I would avoid any Gibson made after 1965.

While I prefer guitars made before 1955 those made from 1955-1959 can be had at very reasonable prices - you should be able to find a late 1950s LG-1 for under $1K. The price obvioulsy goes up the further back you go in the Gibson catalog.

Good Luck

Re: Vintage Guitars - Kalamazoo KG14 / Gibson LG1 and LG2

PostPosted: Wed Jan 02, 2013 6:01 pm
by deejaid
I have a 1936 or 37 Kalamazoo KG-11. I love it. It is the guitar I always reach for first. Mine has had a neck reset and a refret. I looked for a while to find one that already had a neck reset and refret because after 75 years with no truss rod many do need neck resets and fret work and I didn't want a project. Personally, I don't think a neck reset or refret hurts the value at all. It should make it more valuable as I now have a fantastic playing vintage guitar with great action, not something that is "a great slide guitar".

As for the V neck, I suppose it's a love it or hate it thing. I love a neck with not a lot of shoulder. A V just feels great to me. I find myself even playing electric style licks on my KG-11. I'd love to add a DeArmond 210 to the soundhole and just play it exclusively.

Good luck in finding the right one that speaks to you. :)

DJ

Re: Vintage Guitars - Kalamazoo KG14 / Gibson LG1 and LG2

PostPosted: Thu Jan 03, 2013 6:39 am
by bottleneck
keep your eyes open for a kalamazoo oriole too.


www.shakeylee.com

Re: Vintage Guitars - Kalamazoo KG14 / Gibson LG1 and LG2

PostPosted: Mon Jan 07, 2013 3:12 am
by gatorblue
I've had a' 51 LG-1 for many years and it's a top notch blues guitar. Keb Mo played mine one night and really like it. It's not as loud as the LG-2, but neither guitar is that loud since they are smaller bodied guitars. If you mic it or use a sound hole pick-up, or other pick-up, it doesn't matter. In most performance situations, you will be enhancing the volume thru the PA one way or the other. It's a very good guitar--solid and lots of bluesy mojo.

If you want a full-size and don't want to break the bank, you should consider the Harmony Sovereign---also issued by Harmony under the Silvertone and Airline brands for Sears and M-Wards in the late 60s and early 70s. Harmony was the common man's acoustic back then and made decent, low priced guitars. They decided to go after Martin and Gibson full-sized (high quality) guitars with the Sovereign from about 68-72. They succeeded very well. They built a great guitar. The compromise was they set the neck at a higher setting than they should, but if you find one in good shape that's fairly cheap--you can get the neck reset by a good luthier had have a really nice guitar that is loud, clear and plays very well. Howlin Wolf and Mance Lipscombe played Sovereigns. As did Keith Richards, Pete Townsend and Jimmy Page who used his in the opening part of "Stairway to Heaven." One of the best acoustic bluesmen I've ever seen is Stan Hirsch from New Mexico who is really big in Europe and an outstanding blues finger-picker. He has 3 Sovereigns.

You can see both my LG-1 and my Sovereign on my band website at www.southsideblueskings.com

I hope this helps.

--Gator

Re: Vintage Guitars - Kalamazoo KG14 / Gibson LG1 and LG2

PostPosted: Fri Jan 11, 2013 1:34 am
by kiwiblues
You've got some nice sounds on your website, very clean and crisp. Love the guitars too.

It maybe my eyes but how didi you get that 3D effect on your homepage? :mrgreen:

Re: Vintage Guitars - Kalamazoo KG14 / Gibson LG1 and LG2

PostPosted: Fri Jan 11, 2013 3:45 am
by panhead201
Hj,man...I'm doing this in the dark,new kng/s doeyboard,can't find my glasses,apologize in a advance.I've had unbelievable repairs done by antique furniture,picture frame rest shops.A lot depends on the radius,finish,etc.They put my 1929 National Tri-cone resonator in a steam cabinet.I was so shook up I had to leave..They were laughing at me.It was a round neck and it came back to me perfect.And it was a whole lot cheaper than I thought it would be.Lately prices are way down on equip,and haacvintage cars,evertrhing thats a"hobby".If you get a chance to buy one,go for it.In the 60,s we went out for lunch at a big time studio,just to get some fresh air.The place was like 40 feet underground.When we came back I went to get my 59 gold top out and it was gone.Back then it wasn't a big deal.Just a ripped off guitar.Im lefty.I looked up the going rate for em now.The last one went for $194,000.I wish I hadn't looked it up.I've never bought anything for an investment,I bought it cause I liked the way it played.It fit.I'm sure you know what I'm trying to say.Otherwise my barbs would be full of AC cobra,s,Ferrari,s,Porsches,etc.Good Juck,they can fix anything if you find the right people.........panheag

Re: Vintage Guitars - Kalamazoo KG14 / Gibson LG1 and LG2

PostPosted: Fri Jan 11, 2013 3:52 am
by panhead201
Ha,thats twice Ive mis-spelled my own name..I ke the first one,pinheadil

Re: Vintage Guitars - Kalamazoo KG14 / Gibson LG1 and LG2

PostPosted: Tue Jan 22, 2013 10:00 pm
by Lo-Fi
gatorblue wrote:If you want a full-size and don't want to break the bank, you should consider the Harmony Sovereign---also issued by Harmony under the Silvertone and Airline brands for Sears and M-Wards in the late 60s and early 70s. Harmony was the common man's acoustic back then and made decent, low priced guitars. They decided to go after Martin and Gibson full-sized (high quality) guitars with the Sovereign from about 68-72.
I hope this helps.



Harmony came out with the Sovereigns in the late 1950s. They had aqdquired the name (along with the Stella moniker) from Oscar Schmidt in 1940. The Sovereigns made before 1963 are easy to recognize as they have the block letter Harmony logo. They are nice guitars - the key though is finding one without an inky neck. About the only ladder braced dread I have gotten my hands on that I thought sounded better than a Sovereign was a 1940s Vega Profundo.


Here is my Sovereign showing every mile out on it.

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