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Prophetsnake
Apr-07-2016, 9:08pm
Hello,

I'm new here, though a longtime lurker. I recently acquired a nice 1916 A1 at a very good price. It's a fantastic instrument - no cracks in the body and it's relatively unmarked.
The frets appear to be in good shape and it plays well all the way up the neck, but they're almost square on top. I'm guessing that the instrument wasn't built like this, and that somebody dressed the frets and didn't crown them afterwards. If they're supposed to be like this, though, I don't want to tamper with them, but my fingers would certainly benefit from a little rounding over.

Any thoughts?

sunburst
Apr-07-2016, 9:45pm
Gibson mandolin frets of the teens and 20 were very narrow and fairly tall. Even with a good crown on the tops, they can feel pretty "rough". If they have been milled lower and not crowned, they should be crowned.

Tobin
Apr-08-2016, 7:18am
Every vintage (teens) Gibson I've owned or played has had the same square frets. I doubt they were all dressed the same by people later, so I'd have to assume that the frets were square from the start. I love the tone of old Gibsons, but the frets make them a tad more difficult for me to play when compared to my modern mandolins.

Don't feel obligated to stay with the same frets just because that's how it was built. Frets are like brake pads on a car - they are meant to be replaced after they get worn down. They're not exactly essential for keeping an instrument all original (although replacing them with a similar style is usually preferred for purists). If your prime concern is playability, by all means replace them with a rounded fret with a decent crown.

pops1
Apr-08-2016, 8:35am
I would start by having them crowned. It would make sense that many people over the years have had a file to level and take out the dents, but didn't have a crowning file. Have them crowned, sounds like there is some height left, then if you still don't like them replace the frets.

Ken Waltham
Apr-08-2016, 6:17pm
I would start by having them crowned. It would make sense that many people over the years have had a file to level and take out the dents, but didn't have a crowning file. Have them crowned, sounds like there is some height left, then if you still don't like them replace the frets.

I agree. I have played vintage Gibsons' for years, and the frets should be very comfortable, and, IMHO far superior to larger frets.
They should never be "square".

Prophetsnake
Apr-09-2016, 10:17am
Thanks very much guys! Very helpful. I've been playing it a good bit and gtting used to it. This is the best sounding mandolin I've ever played by a long shot. It rings like nothing else. The square frets aren't bothering me as much, but I do catch my finger every now and again, so I'll crown them and report back.
The instrument needs a few other little jobs as well, but it's in surprisingly good shape for a 100 YO box. The tuners are badly gunged up, but don't appear to be too worn, and there is a small crack in the neck that needs gluing up as well. Also, it has a piezo bridge with a god-awful looking socket screwed onto the tailpiece, and that will all have to go, but no irreparable damage. I'd like to put a one piece bridge on, but don't see any blanks for sale anywhere. Did any early Gibsons use solid bridges?

sunburst
Apr-09-2016, 10:57am
...Did any early Gibsons use solid bridges?

They did until sometime in the early 20s when the adjustable bridge was introduced. It is no real problem to make a replica one piece bridge from a scrap of ebony, but of course I realize that non-luthier-types don't have a bunch of ebony scraps lying around like some of us do. Contact a local luthier and see what you can find.