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Thread: Kalamazoo Style Flat Top Plans

  1. #1
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    Default Kalamazoo Style Flat Top Plans

    Hey gang, I've been thinking about building a flat top with that Kalamazoo KM-11 shape, but I can't seem to find any plans available online. I know Kalamazoo was the 'affordable' off-brand of Gibson; is the Kalamazoo KM-11 just essentially a flat top version of the old Gibson A? ... essentially the same, only flat topped rather than carved? ... and round hole vs oval?
    aka: Spencer
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Kalamazoo Style Flat Top Plans

    More or less. The body shape is the same.
    I had one on the bench many years ago. The bracing is different, but I don't remember the details.

    I would certainly add a transverse brace under the edge of the fingerboard.
    I would also employ one or two braces acoss the back.

    I don't remember whether there was a single transverse brace behind the soundhole, or whether there was an additional transverse brace in front of or behind the bridge, or whether it was H-braced. Perhaps someone has a KM-11 on hand, can put a light and a mirror in it, and report on what they find.

    Ah-hah-- Jake Wildwood has an article about one. He describes it as "a bridged ladder bracing with some angled wings for structural support around the soundhole." You might contact him to see if he can give you further details.
    Last edited by rcc56; May-06-2023 at 12:19am.

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    Default Re: Kalamazoo Style Flat Top Plans

    I was considering X-bracing with an addition brace passing under the tip of the fingerboard which is how I do my A/N style flattops. Any objections to that? I was mostly was thinking about the body shape, and the head block shape as well as the neck joinery.
    aka: Spencer
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    Soliver Hand Crafted Mandolins and Mandolin Armrests
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    "You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage
    to lose sight of the shore, ...and also a boat with no holes in it. -anonymous

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    Default Re: Kalamazoo Style Flat Top Plans

    I would think that you can lay off the body shape from any old oval hole A model. You have some flexibility about the shape of the head block, and also the type of neck joint you employ. Just make sure there's enough wood there to ensure the instrument will be structurally sound, and that the joint will be solid enough to prevent it from slipping.

    I don't recall an X-braced flat top mandolin coming across my bench, but I know that folks use it.
    Graham McDonald might have some info on it.

    I did open up and reglue the X brace on an archtop Maybell that was built with thin plates that were pressed rather than carved.

    Consider using a slight radius in your top. Few so-called flat-top instruments are built with tops that are truly flat, except for bottom of the line stuff. KM-11's might have been flat. That might also be the reason so many of them have developed problems. Tops with even a slight radius are inherently stronger than tops that are flat.
    Last edited by rcc56; May-07-2023 at 2:23pm.

  5. #5

    Default Re: Kalamazoo Style Flat Top Plans

    Graham’s straightforward project book has his flat top with angled longitudinal braces, splayed outward from the tailblock, presumably to pick up the bridge loads, plus three parallel transverse ones, so not exactly a ladder.
    A flat top under bridge pressure puts the plate under tension versus any slight arch which creates compression (if the ribs are strong). So one would expect grain separations in the former case, and fewer in the latter. Not so much strength for loading, but attention to lack of cross grain strength in wood. Same idea with controlling shrinkage cracks.

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    Default Re: Kalamazoo Style Flat Top Plans

    I am in the process of building my 5th flat top A/N mando. For my first build, I followed Graham's book in conjunction with the Crystal Forrest Pancake mando plans with the H style bracing and a 10' radius induced arch on the top, but for all that I have built since, I have modified the plans by using X bracing with a 7' radius induced arch (under the guidance of a respected mando luthier). This is the bracing pattern for my current build:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    and here's an album of build photos for all my instruments:

    https://flic.kr/s/aHsmWpSvcz
    Last edited by soliver; May-07-2023 at 10:48pm.
    aka: Spencer
    Silverangel Econo A #429
    Soliver #001 & #002: A double stack of Pancakes.

    Soliver Hand Crafted Mandolins and Mandolin Armrests
    Armrests Here -- Mandolins Here

    "You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage
    to lose sight of the shore, ...and also a boat with no holes in it. -anonymous

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    Default Re: Kalamazoo Style Flat Top Plans

    In case anyone is interested, I've looked around to do a little comparison. It looks like the body shape is essentially the same, but the neck is joined at the 10th fret on the Gibson A-1 vs the 12th on the Kalamazoo:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    aka: Spencer
    Silverangel Econo A #429
    Soliver #001 & #002: A double stack of Pancakes.

    Soliver Hand Crafted Mandolins and Mandolin Armrests
    Armrests Here -- Mandolins Here

    "You can never cross the ocean unless you have the courage
    to lose sight of the shore, ...and also a boat with no holes in it. -anonymous

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    Default Re: Kalamazoo Style Flat Top Plans

    Quote Originally Posted by soliver View Post
    In case anyone is interested, I've looked around to do a little comparison. It looks like the body shape is essentially the same, but the neck is joined at the 10th fret on the Gibson A-1 vs the 12th on the Kalamazoo:

    Click image for larger version. 

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ID:	207491
    There were also two different headstock shapes on the KM-11 depending on the year. I had the same model as the one you pictured. It had the best neck I ever had on a mandolin.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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