View Full Version : question about orvil

Aug-05-2005, 4:15pm
I was wondering if anyone could answer this for me.

Why do the Orvil label gibsons sound so thin and airy as apposed to the later models?

And are there any 20's-present F4s with the same 3 point body and ornate inlays?

If you have any orvil pics Id like to see'em, thanks

Jim Garber
Aug-05-2005, 4:54pm
3 point design ended somewhere in the early teens, I believe. Some on this board have more accurate info.

Check out the Mandolin Archive (http://www.mandolinarchive.com/) for as many as you can stand.


Jim Hilburn
Aug-05-2005, 6:46pm
I would think they just kept realizing that they didn't have to have all that wood in them to be structurally sound.

Michael Gowell
Aug-05-2005, 7:26pm
The 3-pointers weren't all fancy - I have one from 1909 and I refer to it as an F-1; it's an economy model with a gold silkscreened "The Gibson" instead of inlay and a plain fretboard without pearl dots or inlays. If you have Skip Gorman's 'The Old Style Mandolin Volume Two, Monroesque' CD with a cover photo of Skip kneeling with two mandos, the blonde on the left is the one.

Aug-05-2005, 8:20pm
Most all the "Orville" 3 pointers had zero neck angle necessitating a very low bridge, and consequently very shallow break angle to the tailpiece. That'll make for some low top loading. I suspect they were also rather beefy for such a light loading.That might account for the thin sound, although all I have seen have a #hollow sound and are brighter than F-4's #I have the last one made, a 1912 blackface F-4. It's a strange mix of what I believe to be a very early body (leftover in the shop nodoubt) married to an F-4 neck (cedar) of the period. It has the double flowerpot, and the peghead is bound like an F-4. It has zero neck angle.

Aug-05-2005, 10:22pm
I have a 1907 A (http://www.mandolinarchive.com/perl/show_mando.pl?2574): Orville label, low bridge, inlaid pickguard. #Maybe it sports a little "nasal" quality in tone, but with good volume and not remotely "thin." #Its volume is comparable to or better than most of the classic Gibsons I've come across (although, of course, it doesn't really have a convincing chop as an oval hole, but I'm not into playing that style anyhow). I am a great fan of early Gibsons, but in the old days, they seem a little prone to rather inconsistent tone from instrument to instrument.

Chris Burt
Aug-05-2005, 10:49pm
Orvil had some very idiosyncratic ideas on arching, which were built into the early Gibson mandos. The later models sported archings closer to that found in good violins.

Aug-06-2005, 2:36am
I think the 3-pointers have to be looked at almost individually. Some have a forward neck angle (the hollow neck ones).. those are typically quite fragile feeling. You'd certainly need to rethink stringing.. My f2 is early (sn 3263 = 1903 or 1904) and has a (we're pretty sure here) Mahogany back.

Tone-wise, yes- there's much more treble than bass going on there. It's quite full-sounding though, the tone has captivated me since I bought it. I strung it with medium gauge D'Addarios, that seems to bring out the most from it.

Hans has a very cool one- latest known serial for a 3-pointer, a couple thousand serials after 2-pointers were already being made. I played one maybe 10 serials off that one with the same setup- it's eerie, sounds like a "normal" f4, though still idiosyncratic.

My 3-pointer has some very nice "click" on it for playing Irish tunes/triplets. Check it out, here's

An Irish Jig (http://www.mandolinarchive.com/sound_clips/3263_first_october.mp3)

Compare to my '22 snakehead

Same Irish Jig (http://www.mandolinarchive.com/sound_clips/71261_first_october.mp3)

If I have time later this week I'll do the same tunes on the '17 & '22 F4s I have in the house for the moment

Chris Burt
Aug-06-2005, 1:15pm
Dan Beimborn's excellent image of the tops of a '03, '17, and '22, in his Aug. 05 2005 18:53 posting under the "Groupings" thread, illustrates the differences between the archings of very early Gibson mandos and archings found in teens and later Gibson mandos. Note the relatively extreme recurve of the '03 and how it rises quickly to a central area that is relatively flat. The other two exhibit gentler recurves that rise to central areas that are more rounded. The backs of the early instruments typically exhibit even more extreme rises from the sides to even flatter central areas.

Aug-06-2005, 5:50pm
Well spotted Chris. Just to nitpick a technicality, the recurve isn't extreme, but the curve is.. The recurve (if I have the term right) is where the top goes *down* from the side towards the middle of the body briefly, then up again to the arch in the middle. Imagine the instrument is flat on it's back, and you are looking from the endpin- you'd see a subtle dip in from the sides towards the middle of the box before it rises again to the arch in the middle where the bridge is. Supposedly that assists in vibration. It's easier to feel it with your fingers (sides thicker than the top/back just inside) than to see it most of the time.

Interestingly, my f2 is one of the first ones that does show recurve. The earier ones fit top to back like two mixing bowls pressed together, that recurve design doesn't show in them at all. You can see it on this old hollow-neck mandola:

#3063 (http://www.mandolinarchive.com/perl/show_image.pl?3179)

It's subtle- the edge goes in flat, then up.. sort of like this if my ascii art works..

<table border="0" align="center" width="95%" cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0"><tr><td>Code Sample </td></tr><tr><td id="CODE">

Aug-06-2005, 5:59pm
So basically.. something big happened in the factory right away.

Orville's design was two clamshell-like pieces meeting together to make the top & back with no blocks for the neck/body joint, or at the tailblock. 3 pieces from the side- the back, the *carved* sides (think carving a toilet seat cover out of mahogany, indcluding a bit of the neck heel!), then the top. The neck sat on the sides/heel, and was thick like the top. Not very strong under tension!

Sometime before #3063, they changed the design to use a thinner piece of wood for the top & back, recurve in the top & back carving.. bent sides instead of carved (the early ones had sides carved from an enormous thick block of wood, imagine the waste!), a block to attach the neck with a dovetail, and another at the endpin. 3063 also has a 3-piece neck (that stripe in the middle goes all the way through!)..

This was quite a radical shift. Looking at #3063, you see all the construction ideas that are still used today in their essence.

Big Joe
Aug-06-2005, 11:02pm
Remember Orville has little to do with Gibson after about 1902. He sold it by then and was used for "consulting" after that until he basically disappeared after 1908. Much of his influence began to dissapate shortly after he sold the company. He had some interesting ideas, but they were taken in other directions before long. The F style mandolin would progress through several different stages from its inception to the final designs in the early 20's. Even then there was continued alterations till the present day.

Ken Waltham
Aug-07-2005, 11:17am
To me, at least, the Orville labels are of little interest. I like them for historical purposes, but, as players, they hold little for me.
I find them thin, tubby, hollow sounding, with little tone.
3 pointers fit in this catagory for the most part, too, for me at least. Their body depth is different, resulting in a different air chamber volume, that, again to me, is far from optimal.Very shallow neck angle puts no pressure on the top, making a thin, weak sound to my ear.
As Joe states, once the investors got a hold of the company, and employed some engineers and design people, they took a pretty good starting point, and developed it into a fine, modern instrument by 1910 or so.
I really don't think those oval hole mandolins from the teens and twenties have ever been equalled, and, the F hole style 5's from the twenties are in the same catagory.
We all know that by the 30's, economic and stylistic musical changes greatly impacted the quality of Gibson mandolins, but, those from the teens through the late twenties are to die for.

Chris Baird
Aug-07-2005, 11:25am
Did the investors actually buy a company called Gibson? I thought they bought 3 patents from Orville and then started the company, of which Orville had no ownership but acted as a short lived consultant.