View Full Version : My Kalamazoo arrived yesterday. Here is its story.

Oct-05-2006, 8:24am
My Kalamazoo arrived yesterday. Here is its story.

Having MAS in Canada can be an expensive proposition. I not only have to deal with currency conversions and shipping prices from abroad but for my latest purchase the wife had to pay $80 in customs fees to the postman before he'd let her take possession of it.

All that being said my Kalamazoo arrived yesterday and so far I am thrilled. I have never owned a Gibson mandolin before and, as I am on a budget, I decided to try to find a nice original Kalamazoo to get a taste for the good stuff (my interest in antiques also plays a factor here) before I can get the funds together to purchase a "Real" Gibson.

What I found was a Kalamazoo A style - I am not sure of the model number (maybe K12?) as there is nothing stamped on the back of the headstock (where I understand the model number is usually located) and no paper label inside (just the numbers 1362 ink stamped) but it is almost identical to a Gibson A40 but in tobacco burst. The headstock is unattractively shaped like a flat ended canoe paddle.

Anyways - so the story goes - this mandolin came from the original family in the US that first purchased it in the 1930s. It hasn't been played for many years (until now). Here's my impressions:

When I first opened the box (after work yesterday) and pulled it from the case I was immediately surprised by how light (in weight) it was. In fact it reminded me of holding a fiddle instead of a mandolin. The old strings were green with age and the inside of the instrument was a haven for cobwebs.

The finish shows its age (very nice patina) and the finger board from the 2nd to 5th frets is scalloped from years of playing (at least I know it's played in). The frets are in good shape. Nice, straight thick V'd neck.

After cutting off the old strings, oiling the original tuners, blowing out the dust and cobwebs with an air compressor and cleaning the entire instrument I was ready to string it up. I used J62s as I wanted to slowly bring the poor old girl back to life and I assume J62s will create less tension than J74s (no truss rod remember). After I play her with J62s for a bit I may switch to J74s.

After tuning, tuning and more tuning so more she was ready to play. I had to adjust the thumb wheels on the bridge a bit to eliminate string buzz and it was all set.

What a sound!

As I said before I have never played or owned a Gibson and was not really prepared for the tone and volume of this little beauty. It's much louder than my Washburn F style and the notes ring clear and crisp.

As mentioned the only numbers I've been able to find on the instrument are ink stamped on the inside of the body: 1362. Is it possible to date this Kalamazoo using these number?

I'll post some photos tonight once I clean and re-install the pick guard.

Thanks for letting me share.

Oct-05-2006, 10:49am
Great story, I appreciate the patience and detail in telling. (That's why this is a CAFE not a BLOG.) I am glad you are happy with your Kalamazoo. I thought NAFTA was supposed to make all this cross-border commerce easier? (Well I won't go there. I guess the big-eared guy was right....)

Maybe this will prove to be a real gem and you won't need that proper Gibson after all!


Oct-05-2006, 4:05pm
I didn't have a chance to re-install the pick guard yet (and I may not even bother) but here she is. Ay idea of model number or year?




Oct-05-2006, 8:50pm
You should be able to fight that $80 Custom fee. It was made in America not Canada. There should have been no custom fee involved. A simple proof to the custom's office should get you a refund. It was coming back into America where it was made. A letter from Gibson would varify it was made in America with American wood.

Oct-05-2006, 9:05pm
f5loar - the customs fees consisted mainly of domestic Goods and Service taxes based on the estimated value of an article entering the country as assessed by Canada Customs. #Not much fighting to be done on this front...

However I'm not too peeved, as I'd never find one of these in this condition at home. #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

Oct-05-2006, 9:16pm
That looks like an early Kalamazoo because of the flat headstock shape. 1938 ish. I would guess model KM-21, I think the flat top/flat backs were called KM-11. I had one just like that once and it had a great vibe! Keep an eye on the back brace as they often come unglued.Enjoy! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Oct-06-2006, 7:21am
Thanks MML - I am really happy with this instrument so far. I know it's comparing apples and oranges but while my Washburn F is muddy this is really loud and clear - and to think I used to think my Washburn F was loud and clear (before I had something else to compare it to).

Interesting also - If a string goes even a little bit out of tune the instrument tells me so (in a big way) - both satisfying and frustrating I guess. I still can get over the tone. I'm sure the honeymoon will wear off, but I play the thing loud and soft, slow and fast and have the huge grin on my face the whole time. The family think's I've lost it... http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif

I'll keep an eye on the back brace for sure. Thanks again for your feedback and encouragement.


Gan Ainm
Oct-06-2006, 8:17am
Cool 'zoo! I have a flat top round hole picked up for a song 20 years ago that ROARS for it's type. #Had to tweak and oil the tuners a lot, but now they are fine. The fretboard can use a bit of work, but it will be worth it to put a little $ into it. It's been my "loaner" but the more I play it compard to #other "cheapo's" the more possessive I feel! It has a nice tone that is more bark than I would have expected for a round hole.

Oct-06-2006, 8:21am

Glad the cheap "GreatLakesRim" import is working out. Any chance you could post a picture of the back?



Oct-06-2006, 8:54am

Glad the cheap "GreatLakesRim" import is working out. Any chance you could post a picture of the back?


Thanks Mick #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wink.gif

I'll get some additional photos up tonight after work.

regards #http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/smile.gif

Oct-06-2006, 5:36pm
Theee Customs fee may have been because a Courier was used. Is this the case? They levy "Customs Brokerage Fees" which are quite high.

The only actual charges should be a flat $5 handling fee and federal and provincial sales tax (14% in Nova Scotia) for items manufactured in the US or Mexico. If you import an instrument made in Asia, Europe etc. then full duty applies even if it is sold through an American or Mexican dealer.

I always get things sent from the US through US Postal Service. Then it goes through Canada Post and only the $5 fee plus HST is applied.

Oct-06-2006, 8:02pm
Yup,,, 8ch(pl) is correct. You have to watch those "Customs Brokerage" fees that the couriers charge.
Biggest extortion racket ever devised by man.
They make it look like a true Customs fee collected by the Government but in reality it is just a straight inflated extra shipping charge that goes straight into the couriers pocket.
All they do for it is to fill out a form.
In your case that form cost you $80,,, not bad work if you can get it!
They got me on it once and I will not let it happen again.

Oct-06-2006, 9:32pm
My daughter's choir was invited to sing as part of a 1,000 voice choir at Carnagie Hall. She told us about a T shirt in their gift shop that she wished she had purchased. My wife phoned and ordered one for $19.00 (About $30CDN at that time) shipped UPS it came to about $75CDN because of taxes and Brokerage Fees.

Jonathan Reinhardt
Oct-06-2006, 10:15pm
so nice to hear your enthusiastic report.
the thirties/(40-41) Kalamazoos and Gibsons are somewhat special. not for everyone, but something that many of us keep coming back to. much like the music of that era. a world apart from the 20's and the post WWII instruments.
maybe someday others will seek them out.
I need not tell you and y'all on the cafe of the price I paid to regain a lost A-50 from that era. fees are just part of the journey, and I hope you continue to enjoy your choice of a sweet mandolin.
Jonathan Reinhardt

Oct-07-2006, 12:23pm
Well here's some additional pics as requested. I'm not saying that this mandolin fights crime while not being played, but every day it becomes more special and it's sound becomes more interesting. This is certainly one of the better purchases I have made.