View Full Version : joined the flatiron club

Nov-11-2008, 9:07pm
I recently made a trade for an '89 Flatiron F5 Artist. I think Gibson had acquired the company by then but it's still a Montana-built model. It's signed by Dennis Balian, not Bruce Weber.

It's actually in mint condition, which is nice but I know it won't stay that way. It's destined to be a workingman's instrument. I bought it because I wanted a strong bluegrass mandolin and I think I made the right choice.

I've played a few A models from this era and one F5 Artist belonging to a friend. His is louder and a bit more open-sounding, but I think this one will catch up with a few months of hard playing.

What do other Flatiron Artist owners think of their instruments? I've heard people can be quite loyal to them and the Montana made ones have a bit of a cult following.

Nov-11-2008, 9:14pm
some pics:

John Hill
Nov-11-2008, 9:50pm
I've played several Flatty's, both F & A's, and I've never heard a bad one. I'd really like to get my hands on a Flatiron F style.

Matt Hutchinson
Nov-12-2008, 11:06am
Welcome to the club :)

I got a 1988 Artist A signed by Dennis Balian a few months ago and absolutely love it. There's a real depth and complexity to the tone that makes it a joy to play, maybe due to the X-bracing.

I was in the studio on Monday recording songs for our new album, we started at noon and finished the final take of the 10th song at 12.30 am. Despite shredded fingertips and being exhausted I was still loving playing the instrument!


Nov-12-2008, 2:14pm
mandolirius , please excuse this personal question but is that your living room on the picture on the right ?

Nov-12-2008, 2:53pm
Not wishing to hi-jack the thread, for I too am a fan of the '87 (or so) Flatirons, but it just occured to me to wonder if anyone has ever encountered one with a 1 3/16" or wider nut? Yeah I know I can buy a new Weber (and I will as soon as I can), but "the one that got away" was an '87 and the neck was just too narrow d*mn her eyes (no offense intented)! db

Nov-12-2008, 3:17pm
How much ya want for that A-4 snakehead in the background?? ;)

Nov-12-2008, 3:44pm
Nice looking. Yep ...Every one I've played A's & F's sounded pretty darn decent. My friendly UPS man has an awesome F model. He wouldn't take anything for it and told me that he took it to Gibson in Nashville for some neck work and Gibson wanted to trade him a Gibson for it instead of the work but he turned them down. Had the work done and still has it. I think that people do get attached to them for sure. There's gotta be a reason for that.

Nov-12-2008, 3:44pm
Sorry folks, those pictures were taken by the person I got it from. My living room isn't nearly as interesting :-)

Ken Berner
Nov-12-2008, 3:48pm
Glad to have you join the Flatiron family! Mine is a 1992 F5 Artist that I will not part with. I did sell my '93 A5 Artist (quilted maple) which was an absolute cannon; marvelous instrument that put many "F" mandolins to shame.

Nov-12-2008, 8:52pm
I have always been a fan of the Steve Carlson, pre-Gibson Flatirons and have owned several "A's" and an outstanding "F" 1986 or older. Have not seen or heard a bad one, ever. When someone asks what mandolin to look for I have no hesitation suggesting looking for the Carlson ones. Good luck with your's Mike.

Mike Bunting
Nov-12-2008, 9:07pm
Isn't that the one that John Moore plays?

Nov-12-2008, 10:50pm
I have a '93 Montana made A-5 Artist, signed by Bruce Weber. Love it.

Nov-13-2008, 4:55am
Every time I've seen John Moore he was playing a Kentucky KM1500. There's a guy that could make anything sound good.

As for my Flatiron, I just got back from a three day jam camp. I left the strings that were on it and changed them when I got home. I have EXP77's on, the 80-20 bronze set. I tried a set of EXP74's on my previous mando and found them to be annoyingly bright at first but they settled in after about a week. With the heavy amount of playing and new strings, I think I can already hear a difference. Looking forward to see what happens over the next month or two. I'm expecting a twenty year old mandolin to break in a lot faster than a new one.

Nov-17-2008, 3:15am
It's only been about ten days or so but with a new set of strings and a steady pounding, I can really here this thing starting to open up. It's going to be a real cannon! It's not as focused or refined a sound as the mandolin I traded (Phoenix Ultra), it's just a louder and more powerful. It's got a great low end growl and the highs are good. It's the midrange that I think will develop some more.

The one thing I'm really missing are the Waverly tuners that were on the Phoenix. I know they're expensive and I've heard about possible problems doing a retrofit but man, no other tuners I've tried can compare. BTW, does anyone know what would have been stock on an '89 Flatiron? They look like Schallers, but I can't tell for sure.

Matt Hutchinson
Nov-17-2008, 3:21am
it's just a louder and more powerful. It's got a great low end growl and the highs are good. It's the midrange that I think will develop some more.

The midrange on mine is what really sets it apart, the D strings in particular are very full. I've got EXP75s on it at the moment and it sounds HUGE, I'm going to try D'Addario flat tops on it when I next change the strings as I love the feel of them. My guess is they will give a little less volume but it has more than enough of that already so shouldn't be too much of a compromise.


Mike Bunting
Nov-17-2008, 3:22am
Re: John Moore, yes that's it, I forgot! Once you have those Waverly's, it's hard to do without. Congrats on the new axe, hope it serves you well.

Nov-17-2008, 11:16pm
"does anyone know what would have been stock on an '89 Flatiron? They look like Schallers, but I can't tell for sure."

Schallers were stock on that particular vintage. Actually, I think they used Schallers on all of the carved top, Montana Flatirons.

Nov-18-2008, 4:43am
<Re: John Moore, yes that's it, I forgot!>

I'll tell you who did play a Flatiron, a really nice one at that was Taylor Armerding from "Northern Lights". I played that one a bit at Sorrento.

<Once you have those Waverly's, it's hard to do without.>

Yep. Guess I better start saving for them. Can anyone confirm what I've heard (i.e. that retrofitting Waverly's can be problematic)?

<Congrats on the new axe, hope it serves you well.>

Thanks Mike. I'm pretty happy already. This is definitely the loudest mandolin I've owned. It's great for bluegrass because I can chop it in all kinds of ways and I don't have to use full power all the time. It's like it's got something in reserve that you can kick in if you really want to.
I do miss the exquisite quality the Phoenix had but, you have to give up something to get something. My available cash is going in the oval hole fund.

Nov-18-2008, 10:25pm
Congrats on the Flat.
I have had my '83 A5-2... Carlson signed, for 18 years and wouldn't part with it for any money.........:grin:

Nov-18-2008, 10:29pm
Weighing in with my '84 Carlson A5-1. I'm keeping it! Sold (most) the others and keeping this one.


Ken Berner
Nov-19-2008, 11:29am
Just as a note of interest, there is a 1994 Flatiron Master Model for sale in our classified ads; these don't surface very often.

Bill Van Liere
Nov-19-2008, 12:19pm
Another owner for life here; 84 A5-Jr. and I am the original owner BTW

Nice to see a lot of you Flatheads are still around and big Welcome to Mandolirius.

Nov-22-2008, 11:20am
I have a 85 F5 SC signed and absolutely love it. It truly is a bluegrass Holitzer.
"Once you go Flat you never go back" ;)

Mike Bunting
Nov-22-2008, 11:52am
What's a Holitzer, btw.

Nov-22-2008, 6:27pm

Mike Bunting
Nov-22-2008, 10:48pm
Oh, a howitzer.

Nov-25-2008, 10:23am
1989 Flatiron Performer somewhere in Az. on the way home to CA.

Nov-25-2008, 10:39am
After a gig on Catalina Island, CA 89 Flatiron Performer....i forgot about this shot ...hope people like it...I actually swam out along the coastline to get the shot....its a miracle I didn't get anything wet.....