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K & F Student Lap Steel Electric Guitar , c. 1945
K & F Student Model Lap Steel Electric Guitar, c. 1945, made in Fullerton, California, grey crinkle enamel finish, pine body.
This plain and unassuming lap steel may not look like much at first glance, but it is actually one of the very earliest of Fender-made instruments, and a major historic piece of American guitar history. The K & F line of simple lap steels and amps were Leo Fender's first commercially produced musical instruments and the seed from which the entire Fender legend would grow. These steel guitars were only available locally in southern California for a very limited period between late 1945 and mid-1946, and today are extremely rare. Leo's partner, Clayton Orr "Doc" Kauffman left the business in early 1946 but with typical Fender frugality the instruments still carried the "K&F" logo for several more months until the nameplates were used up.
This crinkle-finished guitar is the "student" model, the lowest grade os a 3-guitar line up. It has a crinkle-finished pine body with a double stepped ledge on the edges, and an angled-back headstock with no logo plate and the fingerboard markings stenciled on. Like all K & F steels, it carries the earliest version of the Fender "direct string" pickup, with the strings passing thru individual holes in a wooden block with the coil wrapped all around. The chrome top cover of the unit is stamped "Pat.Pend.", while the baseplate carries the string tailpiece notches, a jack on the back end and individual volume and tone controls with the small bakelite knobs. This simple and practical design actually sounds great-even at this earliest stage Leo's design instincts were excellent.
This particular guitar has two very unusual features we have never seen before: The headstock is not in the standard K & F angled shape, but has more sculpted and curvy lines with a point at each top corner. This fancifully elaborate styling is more typical of Doc Kauffman's personal instruments, and was almost certainly hand carved by him- it is even slightly astmmetrical! Every other K & F steel we have seen has the standard angled slab-sided headstock carried over into the early Fender line. Whether this is a one-off or a sample of a limited production variation is unsure, but it is exceptionally rare. The other oddity is the stenciled fingerdoard has double dots from the 7th fret up-the student model usually has only single dots.
Doc Kauffman himself personally assembled and tested most of these earliest steels (reportedly by playing a tune on each completed example) and this simple, practical and still great sounding lap guitar is a testament to the talent and creative drive shared by himself and Leo Fender during their short but historic collaboration. This guitar is not only a prime (and possibly unique) example of the 'one-celled" root of all Fender guitars, but an excellent player's instrument; a testament to the emerging brilliance of its creators.
Overall length is 29 1/8 in. (74 cm.), 5 3/4 in. (14.6 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 1 13/16 in. (4.6 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 22 1/2 in. (572 mm.). Width of nut is 2 in. (51 mm.). This guitar is in well played condition but appears all original except most likely the knobs, which are the same style small used by Valco in the 1950's (it is possible these are correct, but impossible to verify). The body has dings and scrapes to the very thin finish, mostly to the edges and the pickup cover is tarnished from contact with the player's hand. A lovely and functional example of this very rare steel. Excellent - Condition.
Item # 5674
This item has been sold.
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