Saturday, April 5, 2014

Old Kraftsman Arch Top Guitar

I just found these photos of this vintage Old Kraftsman arch top acoustic that I bought a year or so ago and thought I would go ahead and post it, even though there isn't too much of a story to go with it. I found this guitar in a thrift store in Escondido, CA, where I have been lucky enough to find more than one guitar over the years. In fact, it's exactly where I found a dirty, busted up old Yamaha acoustic that has turned out to be one of the best sounding guitars I have owned. You can read about it here. Usually this thrift store puts any guitar they have for sale back behind the counter, including Toys'R'Us quality instruments, thinking they are all valuable, and usually priced that way as well. But this one was pretty beat up and had some cracks and belt buckle scrapeage that would make any country musician worth his salt pretty proud. It was sitting out amongst the general population at the thrift store, mixed in with old used barbecues, vintage skis, weird appliances and some used, but still viable, tiki torches.

This Old Kraftsman arch top acoustic was never outfitted with a pickup. Strictly acoustic. And even though it was beat to within an inch of it's life, I knew I needed to rescue it from the possibility of ending up as a spray painted prop in a high school production of Bye Bye Birdie or as a wall hanger in an all-you-can-eat beef ribs restaurant. God forbid.

I'm oddly attracted to Old Kraftsman instruments, maybe because of this bass that I have featured on here in the past. Old Kraftsman was the house brand for the Spiegel Catalog company, and were made by the Kay Musical Instrument Co., who also made exactly the same guitars with other brand names on them like Airline, TrueTone, Penncrest, Silvertone, Kay and others. If you can find an Old Kraftsman model of a guitar, you can definitely find it's doppelganger with a Kay logo on it. The only thing I haven't seen a Kay clone of is an Old Kraftsman resonator guitar that was made by National, and are really rare and hard to find. I'm hoping to come across one of those in a thrift store someday, and you can bet it won't end up here on this website.

This particular guitar looked like it had been spray painted black on the front, possibly to hide the long cracks that ran all the way up to the f-holes. It was barely hanging on. It wasn't worth paying a luthier a ton of dough to repair, but I couldn't just let it fall apart either. The tuner peg buttons were missing, the bridge was missing, the tail piece was hanging on by a thread, the back was beat, and the fretboard was as dry as a London newspaper. (That's dry). Still, I figured I could mess around with it and see if I could get it to play. First thing I did, after some internet research for a cheap way to fix the cracks, was super glue them back together. Yes, not the way they do it at Stew-Mac, but you know what? Super glue is amazing! Not only did it hold this 75-year old guitar together, it stuck my fingers together for a short time too. Bonus.

Speaking of Stew-Mac, I ordered some vintage-style tuner buttons from them for a very inexpensive price, and I found a new but correct bridge on the Ebay for about $20. I put some very light strings on it to keep the arch top from cracking again, and, sure enough, it all held together. I won't say it sounded great, but it stayed relatively in tune and didn't sound too bad. I mean, I'm no fan of extra light strings on any acoustic, let alone a very old arch top from the Spiegel Catalog. So, when I say it sounded alright, I mean it was better than no guitar at all. And, it looked very cool.

I put it on Craigslist for cheap...maybe started it off at $150. I figured whatever I could get out of it would be fine, and at least someone who was interested in it would have it instead of ending up leaving the thrift store with some lady who's 4-year old would end up sitting on it while everyone laughs and laughs. Sure enough, I got an email from a guy who offered $75 and I said, "Come get it." I usually try to make some bucks on guitars that I flip on Craigslist, but sometimes you just need to rescue them from a horrible fate and pass them on to a life of love and usefulness.

I did actually make a few dollars after all was said and done, but not enough to justify my time and effort if you want to count those things. " Time is money!" Well, sometimes it's not. It's just time well spent.