Hope for my battered Kohno? (pics added)

Construction and repair of Classical Guitar and related instruments
Guitar Slim

Hope for my battered Kohno? (pics added)

Post by Guitar Slim » Thu Apr 13, 2006 11:50 am

I have a Kohno 10 that was made in the '70s and which I bought used in the early-80s. The top was pretty well scratched up by the previous owner, who either used a pick or was a real flamenco masher.

The guitar sat in a case during a 15-year hiatus from classical guitar, and was moved from Florida (very humid) to Colorado (exremely arid). During that time, it developed a gaping crack in the back (you can actually see daylight through it!) :oops: The back has also started to separate from the side at the point of the crack. :oops: :oops: Surprisingly, the top seems to be OK, no cracks, just the scratches I mentioned.

Is this instrument worth repairing? Is it even possible? How difficult is it to glue such a major crack, and how how much might it cost. And is it worth trying to re-finish the top? Any thoughts?
Last edited by Guitar Slim on Sat Apr 15, 2006 5:24 am, edited 1 time in total.


Post by Azalais » Thu Apr 13, 2006 2:49 pm

Hi Chris

Without seeing it, it's hard to say if it could be restored to "pristine condition" without a fair investment in time and labor (mostly in eventually redoing the finish which would probably be required.). As for returning it to stable playable condition, especially if it has sentimental value to you... and if it has/had a particularly great sound, I would say yes it probably can be repaired and or restored.

Given that undamaged playable Kohno 10s from that era are still being bought and sold for amounts in the $2000+ range, depending on their condition, and because Kohno has always had a bit of "cult" following, it has the basic criteria for what I (as a restorer/collector) might consider "artifact" credentials... (it would "get my attention" on an e - b a y page :roll:)

The first things I would want to know before even considering bidding on something like this in an auction would be the condition of the neck and the frets, (a more expensive undertakings to restore, and something I would definitely check for wear. If the top showed signs of heavy playing, chances are that the frets would be worn down too... It may sound perverse, but those signs would reassure me that the top probably has GREAT open sound!) I am guessing that this is one of the long scale (665mm) fairly high action models that were the gold standard in the '70s... If that is more of a struggle to play than you are willing to deal with, figure that aspect into your calculations...

If the action and neck set looked OK and the frets and fingerboard were OK, I would next check to see if the crack can be closed with pressure (pressing the sides together gently to see if the crack closes completely and could be re-glued and cleated successfully without gaps). The fact that the back separated near the crack is actually a very good sign... one of the advantages of hide glue is that it is designed to "pop" before damaging anything... if that joint had been stronger, the top might have cracked too. (You can probably thank Mr Kohno for that) If there were significant or uneven shrinkage, requiring a splice... I might have more serious reservations... not because they can't be "fixed", but because that would make me worry more about the intensity of the temperature and humidity stresses that might have caused them, and how they might have effected the rest of the instrument (future problems that have not yet materialized, like loosening of the braces and neck warp)...

In my case, there would also be the intangible "curiosity" and "educational" factor... (what could I learn from Mr Kohno during the repair process by seeing how he resolved construction details, etc.) I have read that he did modify the Spanish designs his are based on, so they would be easier to play for people whose hands were smaller than Segovia's!! :wink: I have seen lots of photographs of them, but have never played one. (I confess... yours has "gotten my attention"!)

Ultimately, it comes down to economics and intangibles... and how far you want to take the process. Would you be happier with a "new" guitar? Or do you want to "invest" in this one? You could start with a relatively simple stabilizing, damage-control repair (using reversible hide glue) and see if there is something really wonderful about the guitar... if you adore it, go ahead and consider having it fully restored. You might have a real gem. (I confess... yours has "gotten my attention", so let me know if you ever decide to sell it!) I would love to see some photographs.


Pepe Vergara

Post by Pepe Vergara » Thu Apr 13, 2006 2:51 pm

GS: You are in the LA area, I suggest you take it to GV Rubio for an evaluation. My personal believe is that IT can be fixed. Price? German would be able to tell. He does lots of those. I don't

Guitar Slim

Post by Guitar Slim » Thu Apr 13, 2006 3:28 pm

Wow, AZ, thanks for the detailed response. I am not at home right now, but when I get there I will check out some of the things you mention and maybe post a couple of pictures.

FYI, I do have another guitar I play now. But it’s been in my mind to fix up the Kohno to use as a second guitar for gigs, traveling, etc -- provided it's not too expensive. I wasn’t originally thinking of selling it, but old Kohnos seem to be a hot commodity these days, so that’s another possibility.

I don’t know how much the guitar was played by the original owner, but I played it for several years while in music school and as a gigging musician, so it got a lot of play during those years. I had a fret job done shortly after I bought it. It’s been a couple of years since I played it, but I don’t remember any serious fret or fretboard wear, and don’t recall any real problems with playability or intonation. The neck has shrunk, though, so the fretwire hangs over the edge of the neck and can put little hair-line scratches on the side of my index finger when I play!

BTW, if you're interested in hearing it, I posted this recording of Caprico Arabe several months ago that was made using the Kohno.


I made the recording a few years back, but it was long after the structural problems with the guitar appeared.


Post by johnquantran » Thu Apr 13, 2006 5:33 pm

Guitar Slim,
I also have a Kohno Special built in 1986 and sign by Mr Masaru Kohno.
The guitar is great and I think Kohno made a very good guitar.


Post by Azalais » Thu Apr 13, 2006 5:59 pm

Amazing sustain! Who knows... maybe adding some extra "ventilation" is a serendipitous after-market modification I should experiment with a bit more! :wink: I do have several old parlour guitars that had open daylight cracks and loose braces when I got them... and they all have unique sound qualities.

Could you measure the scale length for me? I'm really curious now... Is the binding intact?


Guitar Slim

Post by Guitar Slim » Thu Apr 13, 2006 8:29 pm

Azalais wrote:Amazing sustain! Who knows... maybe adding some extra "ventilation" is a serendipitous after-market modification I should experiment with a bit more! :wink:
:lol: :lol:
Actually, the sustain probably has more to do with the compression and reverb I slathered all over the recording.

I'm not sure I have a means of measuring the scale length, but I assume it's 665. As you say, I've always heard that the Kohnos (and most other "serious" guitars) from this era used the longer scale length. And I'm not sure what the "binding" is or if it is "intact".

Guitar Slim

Post by Guitar Slim » Thu Apr 13, 2006 8:48 pm

johnquantran wrote:Guitar Slim,
I also have a Kohno Special built in 1986 and sign by Mr Masaru Kohno.
The guitar is great and I think Kohno made a very good guitar.

Yours is probably much nicer than mine -- even if mine was not so beat up! The Kohno 10s from the 70s were the "entry level" Kohno. The Model 20s were the nice ones, which I think is comparable to the "Special"s from the '80s.

Anyway, I hope yours has been better cared for!


Post by Azalais » Thu Apr 13, 2006 10:28 pm

I wasn't going to be rude and ASK you about that... :wink: (actually, the few bits of string noise were a good enough "benchmark" to be able to figure out how far you had taken it)

Guitar Slim

Post by Guitar Slim » Sat Apr 15, 2006 6:34 am

My teacher found this guitar for me in 1985 for $500 (he knew I was broke). It looked like crap, but it played well and sounded nice -- more on that below. The damage to the top had already been done, and the wear below the sound hole goes deep into the grain I'm afraid. The crack in the back developed much later, as I explained above.

I can spot no major wear to the frets or the fretboard (had it re-fretted shortly before I quit playing). I can find no cracks in the top or the fretboard (amazing!) The neck appears to be in good shape to my inexpert eye. I don't have one of those telescpoing mirrors to really check out the bracing etc. on the inside.

I never really appreciated this guitar when I was in music school. A lot of the players I hung with owned concert-quality instruments, and I just assumed that this one was inferior. But when I started playing again in late 2003, I thought I would try to replace it with something new in the $500 range -- not a chance! I've played guitars selling for upwards of $2k that didn't have the clarity and balance of the Kohno. I eventually had to get a $6k luthier-built instrument to own one that sounded better. :lol:

But I'm not really trying to sell. I'd like to repair the crack and make some cosmetic repairs and use it as a second instrument, but not if the repairs cost more than what the guitar is worth. I'd like to use it for travel, casual gigs and studio. Also it's a cedar top, and my "good" guitar is spruce, and it would be nice to have one of each! :wink:
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