View Full Version : My Old Gibson A
I have an old plain A model Gibson, from the teens, I think. #Just A, no logo on the headstock, just the inside label. #I bought it awhile back for $500. #Great sounding old mando. #I have since then put another $500 in necessary repairs and replacement parts. #A questionable #investment, perhaps, but I could never have sold it for much with the problems it had. #And now I have a pretty neat old mandolin...
....EXCEPT, now I'm considering a fret job and a bridge (and/or saddle) replacement. #Both of these things will improve it's tone and playability considerably, in my hopeful opinion.
I hope my estimate for these items of less than $300 is close. #
My question is, am I getting in too far with this thing? The mandolin has a very sweet, fat quality, but has gotten somewhat 'muddy' sounding, I think due to the worn frets and poorly cut saddle slots.
I will be disappointed and somewhat poorer if I have the work done and I can't #notice any improvement. #
I could sell this mando for a fairly good sum (it's quite playable as is) and get something else, but who knows what and for how much?
What's the best advice from you luthiers and vintage owners? #I could use some encouragment...
A good fret job and set-up will improve the sound and playability of the mandolin. You can decide whether or not to spend the money, but the chance of no improvement is not a factor in the decision.
Thanks, Sunburst! That is EXACTLY the kind of thing I was hoping to hear. I'm not experieced enough with luthery to know what exactly will affect what, so these decisions are always a gamble for me.
I hope I get another opinion or two, but as usual the Cafe comes through again!!
You might try the new bridge before you decide whether to refret or not. A new nut is an easy replacement as well. If you decide for the frets, you must also decide if you want small frets like the original had or larger frets like those on many of the higher grade custom mandolins being built today. Many players like the larger frets and find them easier to use. If you are trying to maintain this A-model as a vintage instrument, then small frets are the way to go.
Thanks, OTW. #That brings up another point with these old mandos, I guess: #maintain original or make 'em as playable as possible?#
I have already had to change the gears (as Frank Ford likes to call them), the tailpiece cover is not original, the pickguard is missing (I would have removed it, anyway, It think), and it may well have been refretted before. #It does have the old small frets, however, and I think I like them well enough, they just need to be higher. #
How would installing wider frets affect things, do you think?
(Thanks again for this input!)
Well, I should have asked this question in my first post. #I'm going to take Willie's advice and start with a bridge replacement. #The question is, where can I get one like this one? #
I've already mentioned that the instrument is not all original, but I'd like stay fairly close. #Having said that, this one has a rosewood bridge, BIG knurled adjustment nuts. #It's the kind where the posts are actually in the saddle, #I think , going down into the bridge. #Now, this seems like a ridiculous design to me (if you adjusted it low enough, the posts come out the bottom of the bridge!). #So, if there is a similar bridge available---rosewood, wide adjusters--where can I get one?
Wider frets are often prefered by guitar players because they are more familiar. They may make playing seem a little smoother, especially when sliding or moving up or down the neck. They can also make the neck feel bigger. ( I prefer smaller frets, but with a rounder, more domed profile that the original style. They're also a little bigger).
Your original bridge would have been a one piece ebony bridge. Some people prefer the sound of this type bridge, and others prefer an adjustable bridge. Either way, I think you'll be better off with ebony, especially if you get a new adjustable one.
These items don't really affect the originality of the instrument because they are wear points and are frequently replaced if the instrument is played. Also, they can always be changed back to the original style.
Ok, then. #I saw an ebony bridge for sale at Stew-Mac (I think) for about $18, right next to a Randy Wood model for about $50. #Worth the difference in price?
I'll hold off on the frets until I do the bridge.
(And, once again, THANK YOU! #This sort of advice is nearly impossible to get anywhere around here.)