Kalamazoo KM-11 Flat Top Mandolin (1933)

Kalamazoo  KM-11 Flat Top Mandolin  (1933)
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Item # 7769
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Kalamazoo KM-11 Model Flat Top Mandolin (1933), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 581, sunburst top, dark back and sides finish, mahogany back, sides and neck; spruce top, rosewood fingerboard, original brown chipboard case.

This is a well-worn but good-playing example of this early 1930s Gibson-made instrument, the more basic of two mandolins offered in their budget Kalamazoo line. The KM-11 has a flat top finished in dark sunburst with a glued on pickguard, flat back and flat-cut peghead with simple strip tuners. It is a direct descendant of the 1910's "Army-Navy" model, re-worked somewhat for the depression era with a more heavily braced top and contemporary looking finish. The mahogany neck has no truss rod but a re-inforcing maple center strip, a trick Gibson employed copiously in the 1910's.

This early first year example has a "Made by Gibson, Inc." stamp on the back of the headstock, which is rarely seen on Kalamazoos. At $12.50 retail (plus $3.00 for the no.99 case) this was one of the least expensive instruments Gibson ever offered, at a time when sales of higher end mandolins had practically evaporated. This is a very simple instrument but a handsome one nonetheless; it was and remains a good value in a solid wood pre-war mandolin.
 
Overall length is 25 1/2 in. (64.8 cm.), 10 1/8 in. (25.7 cm.) wide, and 2 in. (5.1 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 14 in. (356 mm.). Width of nut is 1 3/16 in. (30 mm.).

This mandolin has seen some obvious use and the top in particular shows a decent amount of play wear, with pick marks down to the wood and numerous small dings, dents and scrapes overall. The only notable repair is a long grain crack to the back nearer the bass side. On the plus side there is only minimal sinkage to the X-braced top, which is hard to find on these! The instrument is all original and complete with no alterations, still in the original chipboard case.

The neck is solid, the original frets show some wear but still play well. Overall not the cleanest but one of the nicer sounding KM-11's we have had with a sweeter tone than many vintage (or modern!) budget mandolins. This is a nice and very attractive little Depression-era package, with a lot of history played into it though we don't know when or where. Very Good + Condition.