Steve’s Guitar Store featuring vintage “ladder-braced” instruments for sale.
Since my early experience working for luthier Michael Gurian in 1970-71, I have remained active building, repairing and restoring stringed instruments. After relocating to Seattle in 2014 and finding some good workshop space downtown, I’ve been devoting more time to some of the dozens of “projects” picked up in various places during my travels. Some need just a little attention to put them back in playing shape. Some want more; but I’ve always considered time devoted to the welfare of old guitars as well spent.
Several instruments are now ready to return to active musical life, and here is where you can have a look and a listen. Included along with photos and video “song-bites” are some basic dimensions and brief descriptions of what was done to each instrument. Unless otherwise noted, they’re set up with light gauge strings, standard “factory” playing action (3/32” string height above the crown of the 12th fret). Good intonation and no fret buzz, of course.
Some, as can be seen, are cosmetically pretty clean. Others have scars that show they’ve survived some tough times intact; and I left them that way as long as they were in good playing shape. Every old guitar has a story, and a little background info is included here for each piece. You can listen to me play a bit on each one by clicking the links under the pictures. The real story, of course, is told by the instruments themselves.
If you want more info email me. If you are in the Seattle area you can make an appointment to come play the instruments of your choice.
Enjoy your visit. SJ
(Note: All listed prices include free shipping in the continental U.S. The items offered on this page are used and sold “as is” with no warranty. Instruments purchased at and shipped from Steve’s on-line guitar store may be returned in good condition at the buyers’ expense within 48 hours of delivery for a full refund of purchase price less $50 handling charge.)
Featured this month are several vintage “ladder-braced” instruments. More to come!
First up we have a Kalamazoo Oriole Guitar and Mandolin
OFFERED AS A SET
Kalamazoo KGN-12 Guitar Oriole (ca. 1940)
scale; 24.9” width at nut: 1&11/16” width at lower bout: 14&5/8” overall length: 39.5”
Dark blonde, wide grain spruce face had a small chip at the edge of the lower treble bout. One piece, flat sawn cherry back showed a couple of hairline cracks. Rosewood bridge was coming up and the bridge patch was a mess. The frets were pretty worn and the tuners, nut, saddle and bridge pins were history. Fixed all that and, following a hunch, fitted a couple of support braces on either side of the sound hole to correct a slight warp there, common in ladder-braced guitars, which also appreciably improved the sound quality and volume. Yeah, it was a lot of work, but the bird got to me…and it was worth it. This is a very good guitar.
Offered as a set with the Oriole mando, each with new hard shell cases for $2,100.
Kalamazoo KMN-12 Mandolin (ca. ’40)
scale: 13&7/8” width at nut: 1.25” body width: 10.25” overall length: 26.5”
A twin to the guitar, not only in looks but in sound; it’s bright, balanced and loud. The original finish had been oversprayed and a fine crack at the bass f-hole repaired and backed with veneer when I found this pretty spruce and maple item at the old Folk Shop in Tucson. Along with some set-up, a new set of tuners and a rosewood spacer fitted between the head and foot of the adjustable bridge, I applied some colored epoxy resin to the original pick guard to stop decay from oxidation.
I’m offering these two as a set, each with new hard shell cases for $2,100.
Kay 1600 series K-2 Auditorium Guitar (ca. early ’60s) scale: 25.75” width at nut: 1&5/8” width at lower bout: 15.5” overall length: 41”
When I got it this Auditorium was clean but unplayable, bestowed on me by a friend who knew how I feel about this shade of orange. It needed a neck reset, and the original string-through bridge was badly chewed up. I have some period Kay pin bridges out of old music store stock and further improved the sound and playability of this guitar by installing one over the ample bridge patch. Bone nut, fret dress, strap button and -bingo- one very big sounding, extremely orange guitar. $650 with hard shell case.
Kay 1600 Series Jumbo Guitar (1950s)scale: 25.75” width at nut: 1&5/8” width at lower bout: 17’ overall length: 42”
This very large, very play-worn guitar was part of a pile of instruments I bought for $200 at a pawnshop in Bayard, New Mexico. It’ had hillbilly tracks aplenty, front and back and even a burn scar in the lacquer on the neck, but it was “all there” as we say…and so doggone huge! I reset the neck, reglued and profiled the bridge, repaired the bridge patch, dressed the frets, set it up and tuned it low. Jumbo, ladder-braced thunder. $750 with hard shell case.
Kay/Stromberg-Voisinet Guitar (early ’30s)
scale: 24.25” width at nut: 1&11/16” width at lower bout: 13.25” overall length: 37.25”
The dauphin shaped, semi-slot headstock, the “wing” bridge and petite scale and body size are characteristic of instruments by this Chicago company which was acquired by the newly formed Kay brand in 1931. This was another big “project” that wound up being worth the time and effort. The original bridge (painted poplar) was cracked through the pin holes, the fingerboard was split and missing a chip out of the end, and there was a fine crack in the back. I duplicated the bridge in ebony with an extra wide saddle to tighten up the intonation, repaired the bridge patch and fingerboard, fixed the crack, dressed up the frets, replaced the bone nut and set the guitar up with silk and bronze wound strings. It’s a bright, easy to play instrument with the right sound for vintage style fingerpicking. $800 with new hard shell case.