Kalamazoo KK-31 Mandocello (1937)

Kalamazoo  KK-31 Mandocello  (1937)
This item has been sold.
Item # 10151
Prices subject to change without notice.
Kalamazoo KK-31 Model Mandocello (1937), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, sunburst lacquer finish, mahogany back, sides and neck, spruce top, rosewood fingerboard, black hard shell case.

This is a very unusual and interesting instrument, a Kalamazoo KK-31 mandocello marked with and sold under the parent Gibson brand. This up-branding is something Gibson rarely did, but in this case it was likely necessitated by an overseas order otherwise difficult to fill. Gibson was making very few mandocellos by the mid/late 1930s, and those that do appear in the traditional Gibson style appear to have been made up mostly of leftover 1920s parts. The Kalamazoo branded KK-31 and KK-32 were a simple solution to the occasional random order; they were built on production Kalamazoo archtop guitar bodies and could be sold at a much lower price, listed retail in the US at $27.50.

This Kalamazoo mandocello is a stock piece except for the Gibson logo, but it remains in unusually fine condition. It is stamped "Made in the U.S.A." on the back of the headstock, indicating that the instrument was marked at the factory for export. There is also a "Made in USA by Gibson Inc. Kalamazoo MI." under the soundhole. The Kalamazoo logo on the headstock is covered by a thin metal plate pinned to the face with Gibson engraved and painted in white script letters.

The spruce top and mahogany back are single bound. The top and back are "arco-arched" in Gibson parlance, not carved but pressed into shape and braced to retain it. This one has a fairly heavy X-brace and has held its shape very well over nearly 85 years.

The mahogany neck is fairly slim with a "V" profile, but lacks the sharp spine found on many Kalamazoos. The rosewood fingerboard is bound and dot inlaid. The neck is also in excellent shape, almost perfectly straight even without the Gibson adjustable truss rod installed. The rosewood adjustable bridge, single bound firestripe pickguard, nickel plated trapeze tailpiece and very early Kluson strip tuners are all original to the instrument.

This is a splendid and most unusual example of this rare Gibson-made mandocello, which is a fairly unique instrument in itself. Nearly all earlier Gibson mandocellos have smaller birch bodies, heavy carved spruce tops and oval soundholes. This 16" wide guitar-shaped mahogany instrument with a thin f-hole spruce top has a completely different and very lively sound, quite unlike most other specimens. While designed as a budget piece the KK-31 is actually a very fine playing and sounding instrument that is more responsive than many mandocellos; it even fingerpicks very well. If you can't find an original Loar-era Gibson K-5, as far as vintage instruments go this is the next closest thing!
Overall length is 41 in. (104.1 cm.), 16 1/8 in. (41 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 3 1/4 in. (8.3 cm.) deep. Scale length is 24 3/4 in. (629 mm.). Width of nut is 1 1/2 in. (38 mm.).

Overall this is a very clean instrument showing signs of use but no heavy wear. The top shows only some very minor pickwear and light crazing, remaining in unusually clean condition for its age. The mahogany back, sides and neck are also similarly clean with only a few scrapes, dings and dents throughout. There is an area of thumb wear at the second fret on the neck but otherwise it is very clean. There are no cracks or other visible repairs.

The neck shows only minimal relief and plays very well up and down the fretboard. The fretboard has recently received an expert refret with slightly larger fretwire than the original specification. The headstock retains its original four-to-a-side white button Kluson tuners that still function smoothly. This is a superb example overall, complete in an old European HSC.

Excellent Condition.