Kalamazoo Conversion (with upgrades)



(click on the above to enlarge)


·      Original beveled top rim with no tone hoop or ring bracket – shoe construction converted to flat head one piece flange configuration by Arthur Hatfield

·      Mahogany neck with rosewood fingerboard

·      Original Mahogany flat back resonator

·      ‘Dots’ neck inlay and original ‘Kalamazoo’ inlay and shape

·      Gotoh tuners

·      Sullivan archtop to flathead comversion gold plated tone ring

·      Mid 1920s TB-1 grooved tension hoop and flat hooks

·      Recording King of Saga Presto style tail piece and arm rest

·      Recording King flange

·      Lakota Bison Leather strap


Description: This is a Kalamazoo conversion from tenor to 5-string configuration. A brief description of the Kalamazoo tenor is as detailed on Greg Earnest’s Prewar Gibson Mastertone Banjo website: http://www.earnestbanjo.com/

When the Gibson company's survival was threatened in the early 1930s with the onset of the Great Depression, it turned to the production of wooden toys to stay alive until the musical instrument market began to recuperate.  One of the toy lines was given the name of the Gibson company's home town in Michigan--Kalamazoo.   A couple of years later, this brand name was revived and applied to a line of low-priced instruments produced by Gibson beginning in 1932. The pot is the "hook and shoe" type with sixteen brackets and no flange.  There is no tone ring, but only a bead turned in the top of the rim, which measures 1/2" at the bottom.  This type of head bearing was also used in the least expensive Gibson-brand banjo, style 00. The sunburst finish on this banjo is also quite similar to the one found on style 00, although in the case of the Kalamazoo banjo the resonator back is flat rather than arched.  The maple resonator is single-bound on the back edge only.  (Please note this information came originally from, Spann's Guide To Gibson 1902-1941, Joe Spann, Centerstream Publishing, LLC, 2011.)

This particular tenor banjo was bought on Ebay around 2009 and forwarded to Arthur Hatfield of Hatfield Banjos in Glasgow, Kentucky for a conversion (with upgrades) in the fall of 2012. While some Kalamazoo banjos may have had factory order numbers or serial numbers, many (if not most), including this instrument, do not. Additional components supplied to Arthur included a Sullivan archtop to conversion tone ring, an old Weather King head, a grooved tension hoop and flat hooks from a 1920s Gibson tb2, and a tailpiece and armrest from Saga Music. Arthur provided the mahogany neck with the peg head profiled to the Kalamazoo shape, used a mother of pearl inlaid name (the original was silkscreened), provided a hand stop to increase the strength at the peg head (the original had none), and hand selected an unbound rosewood fingerboard. In addition, he added a Recording King flange, Gotoh tuners, and additional hardware (coordinator rods, resonator brackets and thumb screws) needed for the conversion. I took delivery of the banjo on May 15, 2013. The only change I made to the original setup was the adding of a Sullivan ‘roasted’ (Crowe height and spacing) bridge.  (We had tried several bridges and settled on an old Snuffy Smith bridge and since the new Sullivan sounded about as good to me, I decided to keep the older ‘Snuffy’ bridge for my collection.)


Click HERE to view individual high resolution photos or go to photobucket for easy navigation or slideshow of photos.


$ (Inquire for price) Please note this banjo is no longer available. It was donated to the Bluegrass, Old Time, Celtic, and Country Music Program of the Department of Appalachian Studies at East Tennessee State University.


*  *  *  *

(click on the above to enlarge)