Darryl these are some pictures you wanted to see of the Unsigned Loar 1925, I purchased this in 2002.
Darryl these are some pictures you wanted to see of the Unsigned Loar 1925, I purchased this in 2002.
A bit surprised there has been such a lack of interest in this post.... has this particular instrument been hashed over in other threads in the past ?
How valid is this particular designation for this mandolin...?
I have seen and played that mandolin 3 or 4 times. It was always one of my favourites, a really nice early Fern. It had an interesting history, and was in really nice shape.
Today, I would like to compare it to my Fern Loar, as I did not have such a thing back when I knew that F5. It is possible that it may have been built while Loar was still at Gibson, but, it also has some features that are not Loar attributes.
I have never heard of Fern F5's being referred to as unsigned Loars, but, this one, and a couple of others I used to know, may qualify as such. Still, I think it may be best to be cautious with such designations.
Hi Guys, I have not been on the cafe in a day or two.
As Ken stated referring to it as "unsigned" may have been pre-mature without having the photos. I was speaking only from memory.
BUT.......NOW THAT I SEE THEM AGAIN...............absolutely no doubt. Classic March 31 1924 Fern Loar. The color is right, the binding is right and it even posses the figure of maple seen at that period in time.
Nearly identical to F5LOAR's 76549 In my opinion, this is an unsigned Fern Loar. Thanks for posting
That's what I see too. Unsigned in all aspects even if it did have a lacquer overspray and gold parts as many were done after Loar left. It would seem logic there was another batch of Ferns to come before Loar left in so much as the passage of time From March to December of 1924 would allow more to be made up. There are several early Ferns that fall into this category IMO. The Grisman Fern which is an early post Loar serial number had been refinished and new fingerboard put on it but it would likely have been like this one too maybe!
Fine photos of a terrific F-5, shylock3 -- thank you for those!
So then, ivoroid or white bindings on this instrument? (Spann puts FON 8231 prod. year at 1926, & a ship year of 1927 for s/n 81489.)
The last digit is hard to read, FON is 8225 or possibly 8223. Hope this helps.
By the way it doesn't seem to have had a Virzi.
Well, here is the problem that this FON introduces to the situation. (keep in mind this mandolin looks nothing like other fern mandos with FON 8231 and we have zero, 0, notta records of any F5 with 8223 or 8225))
Loar signed mandolins have the FON number under the "Loar" label. The only Loar FON we can determine from the period is 11985. The flowerpot "Unsigned Loars" have this FON
However, there is evidence that the 4-digit 8XXX FON may have existed concurrently with the 5 digit FON during later 1924 (or what we thought was later 1924)
In my book, we need to see that 82XX FON under the Loar label of a true signed Loar mandolin to know for sure.
The other thought provoking thing this situation brings is that how can a later FON number instrument possess the looks and features of what appears to be a much earlier mandolin, could they have possibly put the FON in later, in affect fulfilling a shop order with a built and varnished instrument that already should have an FON?? This is quite likely based on the way Gibson switched to adding a "A" suffix in 1925.
Quite possibly, the fallout from this discussion is that the signed Fern Loar mandolins have a 4-digit FON under the Loar label and actually could have been built a bit later than their signature date may lead us to believe. Fern Loar owner's do not shoot the messenger.
Uh-oh . . .
Joe? -- Help!
Well, I am a Fern Loar owner.... I think it is possible that the FON was put in later, I am not real solid on the whole FON thing in the book. It fits better for banjos, etc, than mandolins.
It is also very possible that this particular Fern was just finished with supplies that were left over from the "Loar Period". It is, obviously, a very early Fern, it has the colour and the look of a Loar Fern, I remember it quite well. Perhaps it could be as simple as they used some "left over" materials in the finishing process. A few years back, I knew where most of the Loars, Ferns, etc, resided, but never kept good notes.
I remember 2 more EARLY VARNISH Ferns that existed, but, never came into the public arena. Unfortunately, I do not remember where they were now. One.. someone had painted binding on the F holes, like a later L5 guitar.
Perhaps these ones had the same FON as this Fern we are discussing.
I don't know one Loar Fern owner that is willing to take out the Loar label to see what FON is under it. I too have seen early '25 Ferns with Loar like appearance and varnish. They are out there. That's why I've always said you should include some early Ferns as unsigned Loar Ferns and not Fern Ferns. Making only one batch of Loar Ferns way back in March of '24 which means they may have been started in late '23 makes no sense. There had to be a 2nd batch in the works because the change from flowerpots to ferns sure happened quickly after Loar left. We know from the first catalog appearance of the F5 that Loar wanted a Fern pattern.
There may be non-destructive ways to find the FON beneath the label. X-ray of the area with a "light" technique (low kVp, low mAs) might bring out the graphite penciling. Numerous art works have been x-rayed to reveal forgeries, or prior legitimate alterations. There must be literature in the art history community that would clarify how this is accomplished.
Just a thought.
I missed this thread last week because I was traveling, doing research for my next book. Thanks to Darryl for bringing it to my attention.
If the Factory Order Number (FON) on F-5 #81489 begins with the digits 82__, then it was constructed in the early part of 1926. Having said that, there is nothing to prohibit it from being constructed from older parts. The same Gibson employees who worked with Lloyd Loar in the period of 1922-1924 were still present in 1926. In my opinion it is naive to believe that Loar single-handedly constructed the Master Model instruments bearing his signature label. In order to produce the Master Model instruments in commercial quantity, the majority of the factory employees would had to have been involved along the way. Loar certainly must have taught them the finer points of building the Master Model instruments, and they certainly retained that knowledge after he left the company in December of 1924. Also, because Gibson was a factory, it seems very probable (in fact almost certain) that when a wood-working jig was set up to produce mandolin sides, backs, tops, necks, etc., that extras were created, and then stockpiled for future use.
We know for a certainty that some "unsigned" Loar F-5 mandolins exist because they exhibit the same FON as a proven Loar exemplar. This means that the parts which went into their construction were produced during Loar's tenure with Gibson.
Everything produced at Gibson had a Factory Order Number (FON). It was a neccessary part of the accounting process. Even the wooden toys produced in 1933 had FONs.
One only has to look at the early to mid thirties Gibson second line instruments to realize that Gibson manufactured extra parts and used them years later. Some of those instruments looked like they were sweeping the floors and finding things like bridges. In that case they were using what they had to make instruments they could sell cheap. I imagine they always produced the parts for the mandolins in batches and I would imagine they always produced more than they needed in the event of a problem with one part or another. That just makes logical business sense. When they closed the Kalamazoo plant years later a ton of components hit the market. Some are still popping up on eBay.
[QUOTE=Joe Spann;1048074] Having said that, there is nothing to prohibit it from being constructed from older parts. The same Gibson employees who worked with Lloyd Loar in the period of 1922-1924 were still present in 1926.
But then, how can we explain the presence of a finish and a coloring so similar to the the one used on instruments having been built in December 24? I can understand the fact that old parts (backs, tops, or even a fully constructed mandolin) where saved for a while, but I don't see how the employees could have reproduced the finishing techniques that were used several months (years) before.
I think it was a simple matter for the Gibson employees to produce the same type of finish in 1926 which they had used in 1922-24. The finishing department was located on the third floor of the factory. Fast-drying, sprayable nitro-cellulose lacquer was invented in 1923 and we begin to see Gibson using it by 1925. The change to nitro-cellulose finishes required the purchase and installation of air compressors, spraying guns (made by DeVilbiss), etc on the third floor. The hand-applied varnish finishes used by Gibson before 1925 required no such equipment, only time and attention to detail. Any Gibson employee who had been applying varnish finishes before 1925 could easily have done so afterwards because no complicated equipment was required, the only things needed were the varnish and the knowledge of how to do it. Gibson's main supplier of nitro-cellulous lacquer (Forbes Varnish Company) was also their main supplier of varnish. So obtaining the varnish was no problem.
To me, the main question is "why would a 1926 instrument have a varnish finish?" I think the answer is probably something I said in my previous post. Loar had trained the employees to build his Master Model instruments in a very exact way. Part of that method was the use of a varnish finish. After Loar's departure in December of 1924, the employees simply continued building the style 5 mandolins in the same way they had been taught.
Yeah. One day at the Gibson factory in 1926 the compressors went down and the spray guns wouldn't work.
Someone yelled back to the factory floor, "We got mandolins that need to go into finish!". Someone yelled back, "Well, get Clyde down there. He can brush on that goop we used when Lloyd was here."
85 years later, the great, late unsigned Loar mystery is born.
Well, I am still not fully on board with this. I pretty much agree with Joe's post and explanation, but I do not buy that 81489 was finished (as in stained and overcoated) a year or even two years after the majority of the March 31, 1924 signed Loar Ferns that it looks like. Some assumed slice in time needs to move forward or backward and it is appearing the the Fern Loars are the key.
Of specific interest to this conversation is this little known fact: Signed Fern Loar 76787 was special ordered by Eugene Claycomb with a red F4 finish. The mandolin was ordered in late 1926 and received in 1926, complete with it's March 31, 1924 signature date.
Hi, Captain Obvious here. Perhaps the mandolin(s) was/were finished in 1924 and sat on the shelf in that state waiting for a sales order and then got their serial number label. If they manufactured them in batches there's no reason they wouldn't finish them in batches.
It seems to me that Gibson had overproduced both mandolins and the parts to build them in comparison to demand. I believe like Tom, there was a suppose to be another batch of Fern Loars. The headstock binding on the early post Loar ferns looks the same but, the body binding isn't. Perhaps all these necks were made up while Loar was still there and it took years to use them up. As far as the rest of the parts, They could have had them in all stages, plates carved, Bodies half together,sides bent.Ect...
When Loar left the demand was low and there may have been no more need to produce any more parts for a while, Now that Loar was no longer pushing his production. If they needed to fill an order or Just build one, All the parts as well as half completed and fully assembled mandos. were ready to finish.
There were held over F-5s in previous batchs that didn't get finished til sometime later while Loar was still there. I can understand where the Eugene Claycomb Loar could have been either Refinished to fill a special order. If a Loar signed F-5 was just sitting around and it wasn't selling, It would be a lot faster to strip and refinish rather than build a whole new one. Or it could have just been laying around.
As far as the finishing, Once they are stained it could have been just a matter if they had time to spray it or someone had to use the varnish. It seems the big batch production for the F-5 was gone and was more one off type thing now.
So what would be an unsigned Loar? One built from all Loar parts or one fully assenbeled and finished while Loar was there?
The conversation has strayed away from the "main point and hard question". Mike and Chris's posts are both fully valid and make sense, BUT, The FON number is normaly assigned before they even start carving the pieces. This is how they track the parts and the labor hours associated with it. Any overproduced item would be marked with an FON of the build period.
The mandolin in question, according to both of the aforementioned posts, should have a Loar FON.
Now being that is has a 822x FON, explain how the mandolin can be clearly varnished, clearly have a two layer Loar pickguard, clearly have ivoroid point protectors, Loar period smaller diameter tuner bushings, wood figure and coloration of a March 31, 24 Loar, even a green lined case, the "florida" shape that only appears on mid '24 Loars. It also does not have the irregularity in the scroll that just post Loar ferns have.
I still submit that there is a high likelyhood that the 822x FON may include the real Fern Loars since this FON has not been seen before. Additionally, the 82xx FON's do intermingle with serial numbers associated with the Loar period.
For example FON 8229 is for a batch of straight A models bearing serial numbers around 79716. Loar signed mandolin 79835 bears FON 11985, just like the other known "unsigned Loars" which have serial numbers in the vicinity of the mandolin in question here.
Were the FONs assigned to each individual part or the instrument as a whole?