Kalamazoo KM-22 Arch Top Mandolin (1939)

Kalamazoo  KM-22 Arch Top Mandolin  (1939)
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Item # 11643
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Kalamazoo KM-22 Model Arch Top Mandolin (1939), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, sunburst top, dark back and sides finish, laminated maple back and sides, spruce top, mahagony neck, black tolex hard shell case.

The KM-22 was the fancier of two arch top F-hole mandolin models Gibson offered their Depression-era customers under the budget-oriented Kalamazoo brand. This model looks more like a Gibson than many of these, bur still sold for the low, low price of low $21.50 in 1939 (plus $4 for the case) making it one of the least expensive instruments the company ever offered. For all that it is quite attractive and functional, a very playable F-hole, arched top mandolin more affordable than any Gibson-branded model.

This economy could be achieved because the KM-12's top and back are "Arco-Arched", Gibson's term for wood pressed into shape instead of carved. The solid spruce top is heavily X-braced and reinforced from the underside, while the mahogany back has one sturdy cross brace straight across the middle for support. The finish is dark mahogany with an attractive sunburst on the top, more Gibson-like in appearance than many Kalamazoos. The top and back edges are bound in ivory Celluloid, as is the fingerboard. The fittings are typical Gibson, with an elevated pickguard made of bound tortoise Celluloid, a rosewood adjustable bridge, generic "clamshell" tailpiece and surprisingly nice Kluson strip tuners.

This is an excellent playing mandolin and sounds quite good, with a tone surprisingly close to Gibson's own F-hole models of the period. While lacking a carved top or adjustable truss rod, it is still built to Gibson's quality standards out of the same materials as the full-line instruments. It may be one of the best bargains Gibson offered in a depression-era mandolin, and remains so today!
Overall length is 25 3/4 in. (65.4 cm.), 10 1/4 in. (26 cm.) wide, and 2 3/16 in. (5.6 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 14 in. (356 mm.). Width of nut is 1 1/4 in. (32 mm.).

This mandolin is in very nice original condition, complete and unaltered with some general wear overall. The original lacquer finish shows typical checking, scuffs, dings, and dents, with the majority of the scuffing and scratching on the back some of which has light touch up. There is a patched spot on treble side of the heel where it looks like a strap button was removed.

The top has a well repaired grain split just above the fingerboard extension, solidly sealed but visible, and a small split near the top edge over the kerfing. The center of the top shows a just a little bit of sinkage under the bass side of the bridge; many of these have a lot more deflection in this zone. We checked it over and the instrument is completely solid and actually a very good little player.

All the original hardware is intact including the Kluson strip tuners, original bridge, pickguard, and even the tailpiece cover, so often lost along the way. Overall this is a good-playing example of this 1930s Gibson-made instrument, the better grade of Kalamazoo and a good-sounding authentic pre-war mandolin that remains a bargain, just like it was 80+ years ago. Overall Very Good + Condition.