View Full Version : F4 fever

Mar-03-2006, 11:56pm
I for along time have been a fan of the F4 like alot of others,I havent compared the two eras in sound and playability as of yet. I was wondering if someone could tell me if there is a major difference in sound and tone due to the elavated fingerboard of the loar era instruments they seem harder to find and I have seen many of the teens f4s I love the look of just wondering if I work up the funds to purchase one someday which one might make me happier looking for guidance from players that know?

Mar-04-2006, 12:57am
An F-4 from the 'Loar-era' does not have a raised fingerboard. The fingerboard on all F-4s is attached on to the top.

Mar-04-2006, 2:30am
thank you from the big dummy I knew that was one of his inovations I just assumed it was used on f4s of the period.

Mar-04-2006, 2:41am
I guess the only difference is the truss rod?

Bob DeVellis
Mar-04-2006, 9:27am
Another difference is that the F-4 was king prior to the Loar era and arguably something of an afterthought once Lloyd began focusing his attentino on his pet project, the F-5. I think there are some sound differences, with the later F-4s perhaps sounding a bit crisper but less full. It's really a matter of personal preference. Aesthetically, I like the earlier ones with the Handel tuners and double flowerpot. I also like those tonally. But I'll never knock a Loar-era F-4. They're a bit different but I don't regard them in any way inferior. By the same token, I'm not persuaded by arguments that the earlier ones are inferior. Truss rod fans like having that steel in the neck. I've reminded people on several occasions that the patent application for the truss rod states that one of its advantages is that neck wood of a lesser grade can be used if a truss rod is installed. There are certainly a lot of early F-4s with very straight necks, so I don't think a truss rod is necessary, although except for its impact on peghead inlay, it's probably not a bad thing, either. The feel of the neck is another issue with different eras having somewhat different profiles. As someone who has multiple instruments, I find that I'm pretty tolerant of variations in neck shape. I've certainly never found a teens Gibson neck the least bit uncomfortable or awkward.

Bottom line for me: It's just a matter of personal preference. Both earlier and later F-4s are really nice instruments.

Mar-04-2006, 9:56am

I totally agree. I have never found a truss rod F-4 that I would trade for my '17. If "current market value" was the only factor - yes maybe, but as far as owning playing and looking at them, I prefer the earlier models. Strictly from persona' preference, the later the models get the "stiffer" they appear. I can't really give you a definition of "stiffer" other than to say that they just don't wrap their arms around you like the early ones!

Bob A
Mar-04-2006, 10:59am
I've seen one F4 with an elevated board. I doubt it was at all common. It was a long time ago, so I don't feel comfortable writing about the sound.

I'm foursquare in the corner of those who prefer the pre-Loar F4. There's absolutely no need for a trussrod for these instruments, the neck fits my hand better than any of the Loar-era mandolins, and of course they're less expensive without the Loar mojo. (The idea that old Lloyd may have laid magic hands on an oval-hole instrument is SO contrary to his mission that the concept that all Gibson instruments were improved by his very presence in Kalamazoo ought to be permanently laid to rest).

Mar-04-2006, 12:11pm
I don't think I have images of a raised fingerboard F4, but I've heard of them too. They sound like snakeheads to my ear (truss rod F4s), though I give the A models the nod for superior tone.. so far..

But saying that, I had a 1917 F4 that was just butter & honey, and had brief custody of an earlier one that had another tone color altogether, but I never have disliked a single one I played. Here are some generalizations from stuff I've played

1900-1910 F models: somewhat tinny or high-register focused. They have good percussive attack. Mahogany backed ones are very tinny, maple backed ones are less so but still not the same tone as a 2-point with maple back

1900-1910 A models: variable, nice sounding sometimes weak G. "Tubby" sound, lots of resonance and sustain

1911-1915 F models: develop bottom end, spectacular carving work on the scrolls. These are probably the most beautiful to look at, and have often very nice tone

1911-1915 A models: standard Gibson oval tone. Nothing to really complain about but not usually outstanding

1916-1922 F models: carving a little less detailed, tonally more variable.. some fantastic ones.

1915-1922 A models: variable quality (again because it was high volume time) usually very pretty colors in the finish, best of the red or redburst coloring

1923-1924 F models: Nice, truss rods, "snakehead" tone but slightly inferior in tone to the snakeheads

1923-1924 A models: killer as a rule, some duds, some off-the-scale ones. The worst snakeheads usually sound better than the best paddle-heads

1925-1930 A & F: VERY nice, bright and loud. The snakehead peghead vanishes on the As, but the tone is great. Faster response time.. F2/F4 from 25-30 are also punchier to my ear (the lacquer topcoat? no clue).

To me, the best truss F4 I've heard matches a good snakehead, but a great snakehead is the best oval-holed Gibson. Great snakeheads really are incredible sounding. A snakehead Ajr is a huge bargain right now, subject to change IMO.

The Ajrs are a special case- the paddle-head ones are usually bass-heavy, which is a very nice tone that is similar to modern instruments. The snakehead Ajrs are often more lively than the truss rod A/A1/A2/A2z/A4 snakes. Punchy.. some have birdseye maple backs.. Very nice instruments, and a fairly stealthy vintage piece to play out in sessions etc!

Mar-04-2006, 11:37pm
Some of the pre-1920's F4's are nothing less than playable works of art, amongst the most beautiful instruments ever made, and I don't even like round-hole mandolins...

Mar-05-2006, 2:03pm
Thank you so much all for your input I am studying on this subject to much greater detail your comments are very valuable in my considerations Mark Crowder

Mar-05-2006, 2:32pm
The truss-rod was introduced into the F-4 during the Loar era; maybe they wanted the guys on the production line to begin practice putting them into the now-deposed top of the line (i.e. - non 'Master Model') mandolins.
Some of the earliest truss-rodded F-4s still had the double flowerpot, soon to become the standard single flowerpot as featured on the '5' series instruments.

Mar-05-2006, 5:44pm
I love F4s and have quite a few examples. My two truss-rodded F4s from ca 1923 and 1924 are different. One has that "raised fingerboard" construct and the other is "flat" to the top like my 1924 F2. Their tones are mildly different but my vocabulary limits my descriptions of that difference. All play like butter and are in tune up the entire fretboard. My Sawchyn F4 also has a slightly raised board and is a delight to play. My Gil F4 is indescribable; it just feels perfect in your hands. My Rose F4 also is wonderful and is a real workhorse in all types of events. F4s are beautiful examples of elegance, fabulous design, and jaw-dropping sound. I may be prejudiced. Doug in Vermont

Mar-09-2006, 11:27am
When did Gibson stop making oval-hole F-models?

Bob A
Mar-09-2006, 11:34am
Gruhn says the F4 was discontinued in 1943, F2 in 1936. This is not to say that there were any made that late - I think it refers to being removed from the catalog.

Darryl Wolfe
Mar-09-2006, 3:25pm
I've seen two raised fingerboard F4's. They were both pre-Loar era which is somewhat curious. Our member Ken Waltham has or did have one and may wish to chime in.

BobD hit it on the nose with his nicely worded and astute post. The Loar era F4's are generally crisper, can usually be punched harder, but do seem to lack the big mellow bottom end that most F4 purists seek.

Ken Waltham
Mar-09-2006, 4:43pm
I had a 1927 model, which was the only "real" F4 I have seen like that. There are several examples from the late 30's around, but, for me, F4's drop in quality hugely after 1929, same as all Gibson mandolins.
I sold mine to a man to contributes here regularly.
It was a great F4, I jokingly called it a F4.5, because that's what it sounded like.
This particular F4 was made in the "Fern" era, and was beautifully made, nice wood, punchy sound, everything you'd expect from that time period. I always assumed it was a custom instrument, as it was even different from the ones that came later. Perhaps a Fern or Loar owner wanted an F4? Who knows?
Never have seen or heard of a pre Loar F4 with raised F/B, though.

Mar-09-2006, 8:29pm
Ken, You sold that F4.5 to me. I just got the date wrong on my post above. It is a great one and sounds very near to my Brentrup F4. Man-o-man those F4s are so nice with old time music--my fingers just love them. That oval hole acts like a speaker right to my ears. Doug in Vermont

Mar-09-2006, 11:32pm
It certainly sounds like you have quite the collection of F4 style mandolins. You don't have a family picture do you?


Mar-10-2006, 3:54pm
Shaun , I will post a picture soon. Doug

Mar-10-2006, 4:14pm


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Mar-10-2006, 4:17pm
That's 97448, currently for sale at Intermountain Guitar and Banjo (http://www.guitarandbanjo.com/)

Charles Johnson
Mar-21-2006, 12:11am
I have two elevated fretboard F4s, a 1939 and a 1940. The 39 has a F7 peghead inlay and short inlaid board. The 40 has a single flowerpot, dots and the extended board. Go figure.

Charles Johnson