I saw a Silvertone acoustic on Craig's List a month or so ago. I invited the seller over to see my shop and some things I had for trade bait. The Silvertone was OK, just not what I wanted or thought I'd seen in the small pic on CL.
He said that he had another guitar for sale but that it was hammered and in need of alot of attention. What he pulled out of his car next was this. A mid-late 30s Kalamazoo archtop that someone had used paint stripper on the sides , back and neck AND a wood chisel to scrape the old finish off. The top had been spared this torture, however it had issues as well.
Sometime in the 40s someone had installed an early pickup. These were primitive P90 style units and used screw-on coaxial microphone cable to connect to the amplifier. There was a nasty 3/4" x 1" hole in the side of the guitar surrounded by four 1/4" holes spaced 2" apart to hold the jack plate on. The pickup rout on the top had been patched later as well as the volume pot hole. This appeared to be a nice patch job, however the wood and finish didn't match well enough to hide it in any way.
I made him a pitiful offer for it. He said it was old but probably no good to anyone so he took my money and I sat looking at this sorry piece of music history, thinking that I'd probably just thrown $100 out the window for a chunk of ugly wood that had undoubtedly been destined to be nailed to a wall in an Applebee's somewhere in LA, or worst yet, the firewood pile at someone's home here in the valley.
I did a little research on this piece and learned that it was made by Gibson in the 30s as an entry level instrument. $30 back then, with a case for an additional $15. The Gibson name version was $50. In excellent condition these Kzoo's sell for around $1000 now. The condition of this one still had me convinced that I had paid with my heart and not my brain (again). The new "stray" sat in the case for a week or so while I worked on some other pressing projects.
I knew that the chisel marks and other harsh gouges and dents were now part of this piece. I'm not a miracle worker with re-fin's like my old man was with antique furniture. I decided to stain it as close to what was left on the top and keep a relic feel about it. I would touch up the top as best I could, I was really limited in my ability to do much more. I figured at the very least it'd be a conversation wallhanger in my livingroom.
My buddy David at Stringwalker saved the fretboard. I will not mention here what his suggestion was for this piece of firewood. He was happy that I hadn't spent too much on it. Got a new rosewood adjustable height bridge for it, some Kluson 3 on a plate tuners, made a nut, and before patching the giant hole in the side of it, installed a small piezo pickup inside under the top and an endpin jack.
Did the re-stain with some interesting but top secret stain concoctions, gave it a good top coat or two of some satin nitrocellulose lacquer. Let it cure for a couple of days in the shop before restringing it and bringing it in the house to play.
It sounds great, the neck feels fantastic, the vibe is strong with this piece. It looks great on the wall and begs to be played as you pass it. It is no longer firewood. It is worth what your heart says when you look at it, hold it and play it. No price guide can pin this one down now. It 's not a collector's piece, rather a player's piece.