K & F Student Lap Steel Electric Guitar (1945)

K & F  Student Lap Steel Electric Guitar  (1945)

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Item # 8249
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K & F Student Model Lap Steel Electric Guitar (1945), made in Fullerton, California, natural finish, pinewood body, grey chipboard case.

This plain and unassuming steel is an example of Leo Fender's first commercially produced stringed instrument, a seed from which the entire Fender legend would grow. It carries the "K & F" brand, the "F" standing for "Fender", and the "K" for Clayton Orr "Doc" Kauffman, Leo's first partner and the person who talked him into building guitars in the first place.

These lap steels were only available locally in California for a very limited period between November 1945 and mid-1946, and are extremely rare. 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 natural-finished guitar mounts Leo Fender's first "direct string" pickup, with the strings passing through a block with a magnet on either side and the coil wrapped around it. The chrome top cover of the unit is screwed directly down to a baseplate carrying the tailpiece string notches, a jack on the back end and individual volume and tone controls with Bakelite radio knobs. The body is carved with an attractive stepped ledge, finished in natural wood with the fingerboard markings rather crudely stenciled on.

Doc Kauffman himself personally assembled and tested most of these early steels, in a shed in back of Fender's radio shop. Supposedly every time Leo heard "Lady Of Spain" coming from the shed he knew another instrument had been completed. 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. Fender would of course go on to much greater creative feats, but the K&F steel guitars show he was on the right track from the very beginning.
Overall length is 28 3/4 in. (73 cm.), 5 7/8 in. (14.9 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 1 3/4 in. (4.4 cm.) deep. Scale length is 22 1/2 in. (572 mm.). Width of nut is 2 in. (51 mm.).

This guitar has some wear but overall remains in good playing condition. As with most of these, the pickup has been rewound; the early coil form surrounding the strings often collapses in on itself. This one was done perfectly by noted pickup guru Tom Brantley to the original specs, and sounds fantastic. The other electronics appear original with the large and fairly crude-looking pots typical of the era.

The chrome-plated metal work has some scuffing, but all components are intact including the riveted wartime Kluson tuners with plastic buttons and a nice example of the colorful riveted-on K&F nameplate. The finish on the wood body is somewhat worn and the stenciled fingerboard is partially worn away, with added position numbers in grease pencil on the treble side. A nice example of this crude but historic guitar, in what looks like a slightly later Fender-made chipboard case. Excellent - Condition.