View Full Version : K1 Mandocello... factory spliced neck?

Dec-10-2020, 4:48pm
I have in for some work a teens K1 mandocello. Can't verify year of manufacture as the label has been previously removed for a back splicing strap and it appears the neck block has also been sanded, leaving no trace of a serial number. I'm guessing it is a mid to late teens, what do you think?

The neck is two pieces, a long scarf joint from the first fret down to the neck heel and I can only assume, on into the dovetail. The back has obviously been off at some point to install the back strap at the center seem, so I can't rule this out as a repair but the neck and body finish all appears matching and rather old. The added back strap doesn't look as aged as the neck finish either and I believe it to be relatively recent. Anyone see anything like this that either left the Gibson factory this way when new, or as a factory repair? As a repair, this seems very unusual to me as the splice is on one side of the neck. The length has not been broken anywhere. I can only suppose that it ended up in a seconds pile at the factory but was then utilized at some point and sent out the door.

Dec-10-2020, 6:55pm
Hard to tell what happened there. If it's a later repair, I.E. done by a shop outside of Gibson, they did a great job of matching the contour and finish. If it was done at the factory before it left, that is an unusual thing to see. Obviously you can tell more about it than I can since I'm only looking at internet pictures and there is really no reason for me to be posting this other than it's an excuse to post this picture:
It's an old Knutsen harp guitar that was in the shop.

Dec-11-2020, 11:28am
The well done mandocello neck splice is a head scratcher for sure. Seems as though a trauma that would give rise to this repair would have damaged the body as well, but maybe that is also why the serial number stamp is also missing from the (replaced?) neck block.

Interesting repair on the Knutsen, looks like it has remained quite solid. I that the remains of painted or incised decoration on the heel?

Jim Garber
Dec-11-2020, 11:46am
Is that the correct re-positioning for the bridge? It looks like it was a good bit higher (~1/2"). For some odd reason—maybe better tone?—that the owner preferred to lengthen the scale a bit? Seems like a lot of work for a little length. Truly mysterious.

Dec-11-2020, 2:06pm
Jim, the bridge pictured is close by measurement. It's 12 3/8" to the 12th fret, 24 7/8" to the saddle at the treble string set. I have not yet done any work to the instrument and it needs some structural stuff fixed before I re-string it to pitch and deal with action settings. Not surprising though to see the foot print of a long time misplaced bridge. Most players have no idea how to go about placing it correctly. What I do find odd though is the Ebony infill in the pick guard where it is relieved to fit around the bridge. I'll get a better look at it when I take it off to do the other work.

Dec-11-2020, 2:08pm
...I that the remains of painted or incised decoration on the heel?
Some kind of plugs concealing some kind of hardware, looks like. My guess is screws.
Yes, it is pretty solid. Sometimes it amazes me what people can get away with for repairs.

Dec-11-2020, 2:35pm
Most likely an after-market repair.

Or I suppose it could have been thrown together by an employee, "one piece at a time, and it didn't cost me a dime . . ."

Dec-11-2020, 3:29pm
Ah, the decorations I am seeing on the Knutsen are penned on to try and disguise the plugs.

"Or I suppose it could have been thrown together by an employee, "one piece at a time, and it didn't cost me a dime"

That would explain no serial number stamp on the neck block, can't rule that out.

Dec-11-2020, 8:13pm
For the record, the last oval hole Gibson I worked on had no visible factory order number. The serial number placed it at 1920. The instrument was in nice original condition, and there were no signs that the F.O.N. had been removed.

Dec-12-2020, 3:21am
Yes, I see Gibsons with no FONs every once in a while. On rare occasions the FON is somewhere besides the neck block ... i've seen one way over on a rib.

Dec-12-2020, 10:04am
Yes, I've seen FON in unusual places too. Sometimes diligence with a good light and a mirror is in order.

Dec-12-2020, 11:53am
Thanks for the input. I did a pretty thorough interior examination when I took it in but double checked, no stamp.

Dec-12-2020, 12:04pm
Looking at this picture...
... it looks like that wood has "always" been there. The finish looks original and it looks continuous across the neck-to-rim joint and the neck-to-back joint. That is not an easy thing to achieve when replacing wood or parts on a finished instrument. Of course, age helps hide things and "cover our tracks" on repairs, but if someone did that as a repair on the finished instrument, it was an excellent job. If it was done before the instrument was finished it would not be surprising for it to look like it does. Also, if it was repaired and refinished later in it's life, the finish restoration work was top notch in terms of matching the original.
To me, those things point to the added wedge of wood being done before it left the factory, but of course I'm only speculating.

Dec-12-2020, 12:46pm
Can you give us a straight-on shot of the back of the neck and one of the back of the peghead?

Dec-12-2020, 2:07pm
OK, more images. The head stock is not involved with the spliced wood but does look correct to me.

Dec-12-2020, 6:10pm
Hmmm. Does look like factory work. A head-scratcher for sure. Factory second or sales sample never meant to be shipped?

In some ways, it reminds me of one of Pete Seeger's early attempts to extend a banjo neck, although that doesn't appear to have been the purpose here.

j. condino
Dec-18-2020, 10:45pm
Did you look at it with a black light? That will give you much more detail than regular lighting. Any old finish or combinations of finish layers will stand out.

Dec-21-2020, 10:32am
If nothing else, it would be a good excuse to replace the black light I don't have anymore. Thanks for suggesting this.

Dec-30-2020, 10:26am
I bought a Black light and checked out the finish on the Mandocello. There was no evidence of previous finish work revealed by the UV light. I also posted this over at Frets.ning to solicit a response from Frank Ford, who stated that he has not run across anything like the (factory?) neck splice before and could only guess how it came to be. It will remain a mystery.

j. condino
Dec-30-2020, 5:44pm
That style of splice is common in the double bass and cello world. I'd guess that long ago it was worked on by a very skilled person.

The other thing I noticed was the cross grain spruce across the back seam. I don't believe I have seen one like that in an old Gibson mandocello.

The more important questions: Howzit sound? Is it fun to play?

Dec-31-2020, 4:54pm
The new looking cross grain Spruce in there is new, or at least recent. It is obvious that the back has been off at some point not too long ago, I suspect the current owner bought that way. I have it to get it cleaned up and back into playable condition. The tailpiece is pulling out so it is de-tuned until I get the project on my bench and get the work done. I have played it before several years ago and it sounds great, like you would expect.