View Full Version : '20's Gibson Mandola

Joe Dodson
Jan-09-2010, 9:01pm
Well, I just stuck my toe into the vintage market for the first time with a Gibson H-1 mandola. It's got some very obvious issues, but it sounds sweet and the price was low, so I took a chance on it. Most obviously, it's got a repaired crack on the top and has been refinished with a pretty awful sunburst, and has a hole drilled in the side to accommodate a pickup that came and went at some point during the instruments life.

It reminds me of Charlie Brown's little Christmas tree -- not much to look at, but I think it's got lots of possibilities with a little TLC. Here are some pictures.

Whoops. Not sure what's going on with the pictures. I'll try again.




Joe Dodson
Jan-09-2010, 9:02pm
OK, got it ...




Joe Dodson
Jan-09-2010, 9:09pm
Here's a picture of the crack on the top. It's been repaired at some point, but I'm keeping a close eye on it.


Curious to know whether anyone thinks these tuners are originals?


Joe Dodson
Jan-09-2010, 9:18pm
One other question. Give the prior refinish, what would be the impact on this instrument of refinishing it again at this point? I think it would look cool with a solid black face, particularly if the crack was fixed properly and filled. Since it can never be sold as a true collectible vintage mandola, the idea of at least fixing some of the cosmetic issues is kind of appealing to me. Does that make me a blasphemer?

barney 59
Jan-09-2010, 9:33pm
I guess it's pretty hard to tell how old the burst is. Since it was refinished before it probably wouldn't matter that much if it was refinished again. I guess it depends on how much sanding took place in the last refinish --you don't want to remove so much material that it could compromise the top. If it plays good and there are no other issues than looks you could just play it.

Jan-10-2010, 3:02pm
That thing looks much better, structurally, than I expected from what you said about it in the other thread, but that is one of the worst interpretations of a 'sunburst' I've ever seen! It's enough to make a fellow think about changing his name!!

Considering the current condition, I think a top refinish would not hurt the value, would give the 'dola back it's dignity, and would be a good idea in general. I think the value would even improve with a good, period correct burst and finish on the top. The back looks much closer to original, and may not a complete refin, I don't know, I'd have to see it.

Jan-10-2010, 3:28pm
[QUOTE=sunburst;753920]That thing looks much better, structurally, than I expected from what you said about it in the other thread, but that is one of the worst interpretations of a 'sunburst' I've ever seen! It's enough to make a fellow think about changing his name!!

:)):)):)) classic

Jan-11-2010, 5:00pm
I totally agree with John's assessment; a period correct top refin would be a great idea (maybe not a great investment as refins go) and would restore some of the dignity to this otherwise wonderful mandola. You may have to consider a red sunburst (the real thing from the 20's). The back/sides look fine to my eye. The tuners are correct for Gibson but I'm not sure if they are teens or '20s era.

Len B.
Clearwater, FL

Jan-11-2010, 5:06pm
I'd suggest a black finish- it will hide that burst nicely as well as looking period correct

Joe Dodson
Jan-11-2010, 5:16pm
Thanks guys. Any recommendations on people qualified to do a refinish along those lines (especially in Texas)? I'd also like to get those cracks looked at by a professional to make sure that it's really stable.

I'd suggest a black finish- it will hide that burst nicely as well as looking period correct

I kind of lean that way myself - would likely be cheaper and perhaps less destructive than what would be required to get rid of the refin as prep for a new sunburst. Still, there's a lot to be said for tradition.

Joe Dodson
Oct-10-2010, 7:35pm
I thought I'd post an update about this old mandola. I asked John Allison of Allison Guitars to give it some care, and I got to see the results yesterday. I think anyone would agree that John did a superb job on the photos alone, but his set-up has greatly improved the instrument's playability. We preserved the tuners and bridge, both of which are probably original. John's assistant stripped off the "sunburst," which he guesses was just Krylon spray paint or something similar. It took most of a day to get it off. John stabilized several cracks, and gave it a period-correct sunburst (albeit in matte finish, which probably looks more vintage than a new glossy finish would have appeared). We discussed going with a natural finish, but it was impossible to get all of the coloration from the old refinish off the top. I think the burst was the right idea, and I love the results.




Joe Dodson
Oct-10-2010, 7:43pm
A few more ...

Here's where he plugged a hole that had been drilled for a pickup. I thought he matched it well, though it's impossible to hide the outline...


A closeup of the soundhole ...


Nice shot of the grain. I assume these were topped with red spruce. It certainly looks like red spruce, but I don't qualify as an expert.


Anyhow, I certainly give John high marks for his work. He was great to work with, and the results certainly speak for themselves.

Oct-10-2010, 7:54pm
Looks awesome!

Oct-10-2010, 8:12pm
Good job; enjoy.....

F-2 Dave
Oct-10-2010, 8:24pm
Looks real nice. How does it sound?

Joe Dodson
Oct-10-2010, 8:37pm
I've never owned a mandola before, but it sounds great to my ears - very full and very folksy, with a beautiful woody tone. If I get a little time in the foreseeable future, I'll post a sound clip.

Oct-10-2010, 8:38pm
Great job! It looks fantastic! and yes, how's she sound?


Oct-10-2010, 9:43pm
First time I picked up one of these A-bodied mandolas, I was at a "mandolin tasting" and was listening to various mandolins. The scale length on these is not so much longer than a mandolin that I noticed until I strummed a few chords (yes, I'm not an experienced picker). It just jumped out at me as having loads of sustain and -loud- and full. That was when I decided I'd like to have a mandola. I hope yours lights your fire, too. Playing a mandola with any thought will brush you up on some music theory, too.

Rob Gerety
Oct-11-2010, 8:21am
Excellent. I want one.

Oct-11-2010, 8:40am
What a difference. It looks great now.


Bernie Daniel
Oct-11-2010, 9:27am
I think it looks like a real winner! Great choice of a top finish scheme and a beautiful execution all the way around as well! Most anyone would be pleased to have a mandola like that I would think! I think the back as side look just great as well.

You should be able to find a tailpiece cover --even a vintage one with not too much effort.

But finding the pick guard and clamp for a vintage Gibson mandola will be something else again. I had the original celluloid part for my 1912 H-1 and I was the case for years while I looked for a mandola clamp. After years of looking unsuccessfully I finally gave up and made one. I'll send you a pic of it if you are interested.

Wonder why someone decided to shorten the fingerboard extension? Curious.

uncle ken
Oct-11-2010, 1:38pm
You might consider buying a better bridge assembly. Cumberland Acoustics makes a nice ebony reproduction of an early 20s mandola bridge. I think you would hear a big improvement in tone by getting rid of the rosewood bridge with the giant brass adjusters. The refin looks very nice, he did a good job with it.

Joe Dodson
Oct-11-2010, 10:01pm
Thanks a bunch for the kind words. Interesting you mention the pickguard and tailpiece. I spent a little time on ebay looking for a vintage tailpiece that would be a match. Obviously I could get a new one from Stewmac, but having gone this far with it I'd like to get an older one, preferrably with patina and engraved with "The Gibson." I'm not going to hold my breath, but I've got my eye out. If any of y'all happen to know of one for sale, please PM me.

I do have the original pickguard, but I don't have the full bracket and, worse, it's got a chunk broken out of it. We talked about putting it back, but given the broken appearance (and the fact I don't really like playing with a pickguard anyway), we decided against it.

Thanks for the tip on the bridge as well. I had actually planned at one point to replace the bridge with a Cumberland. Decided against it because John said he could make the original work. I love the idea of keeping the original parts if possible, and certainly liked saving the money, so I didn't require much arm twisting.

Eddie - if you've got pics of yours I'd love to see it.

Wonder why someone decided to shorten the fingerboard extension? Curious.

Until you said that, I wasn't sure it had been done. At least in that case, they replaced the binding so it wasn't quite as bad a modification. I know some folks feel like the extension interferes with their playing. I assume that was it, but I guess I'll never know.