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Thread: Was Lloyd Loar involved in building A model mandolins?

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    Default Was Lloyd Loar involved in building A model mandolins?

    Does the marketing of 1923-24ish era Gibson A models have any validity?
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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Was Lloyd Loar involved in building A model mandolins?

    Lloyd Loar wasn't involved in building mandolins of any kind at Gibson as far as anyone knows. He may have contributed ideas for some of the changes that took place while he was there.

    Snakehead A-styles built during the Loar period happen to be very good mandolins. But that may be just a coincidence. The three innovations that characterize the era are [a] the truss rod; [b] the adjustable bridge; [c] the tapered headstock. But [a] and [b] happened before Loar came on board as "acoustical engineer," and I don't know of any credible evidence that he had anything to do with [c].

    If you see someone alleging that Loar "built" this or that Gibson mandolin, that person is just blowing smoke. He might have had more of a direct hand in the building of his pair of 10-string "mando-violas," but we should not assume he did any actual luthiery on any production instrument at Gibson.
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    Default Re: Was Lloyd Loar involved in building A model mandolins?

    So far as I know, Mr. Loar did not build any instruments for Gibson production. He may have been partly involved in the construction of the prototypes for the F-5, H-5, K-5, L-5, and the A-5 that he supposedly kept for himself.

    It is likely that very little prototyping was done on the A models in the engineering shop. The change to the snakehead, for example, was probably executed right on the production floor as soon as the new peghead template had been fabricated.

    I'm not sure that the average snakehead or any '23-'24 model is any better or worse than the models that came directly before or after. Some, but not all of the mandolins made after 1920 or so seem to be built heavier than earlier models.

    The general quality of Gibson's mandolins suffers a decline in the '30's due to heavier build and heavier finishes, but some very good instruments still appear from time to time until WWII.

    I have owned A-4's from the teens, and also one of the very last A-4's from about 1931. The biggest differences between the later mandolin and the earlier ones were the truss rod, narrower neck and fingerboard, lacquer finish, and original adjustable bridge. The frets were also poorly located on the '31 and it was necessary to replace the fingerboard so the instrument could be played in tune. It turned out to be quite a good mandolin after the intonation problems were straightened out. The body of the '31 was nearly identical to the teens instruments.

    Out of all the A model mandolins that I have played, the two that personally impressed me the most were made in 1914 and 1917, followed closely by one made about 1919.

    Folks have a way of judging instruments by their labels, model number, or date of manufacture rather than by their sound and playability.

    Sam Bush's famous mandolin was regraduated by Norman Blake; then Norman's work refined and the whole instrument refinished by Randy Wood before Sam acquired the instrument. Old Hoss is very different from when it left the factory.

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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Was Lloyd Loar involved in building A model mandolins?

    It's true that there are individual paddleheads with tone and playability equal to or better than many snakeheads, but I'd argue that snakeheads are more consistently good than paddleheads. Of course, snakeheads were made right on through 1928 after Loar left, and even among snakehead fans I don't think you'll find many who maintain that '23–'24s are superior to '25–'28s.
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    Default Re: Was Lloyd Loar involved in building A model mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by mrmando View Post
    Snakehead A-styles built during the Loar period happen to be very good mandolins. But that may be just a coincidence. The three innovations that characterize the era are [a] the truss rod; [b] the adjustable bridge; [c] the tapered headstock. But [a] and [b] happened before Loar came on board as "acoustical engineer," and I don't know of any credible evidence that he had anything to do with [c].
    The only thing I'd add is that [d] the top graduations seem to have changed as well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mrmando View Post
    It's true that there are individual paddleheads with tone and playability equal to or better than many snakeheads, but I'd argue that snakeheads are more consistently good than paddleheads. Of course, snakeheads were made right on through 1928 after Loar left, and even among snakehead fans I don't think you'll find many who maintain that '23–'24s are superior to '25–'28s.
    I don't know about "superior," but they do seem to have their fans. Some, such as Dan Beimborn if I recall correctly, prefer the early varnished ones. Others, like Darryl Wolfe if I'm not mistaken, favor the later lacquered ones. Mine is right on the edge. Maybe old Lloyd walked by it on his way out of the Christmas party.
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    Default Re: Was Lloyd Loar involved in building A model mandolins?

    The people that built those Loar signed F5's built the rest of the mandolins being sold by Gibson.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Was Lloyd Loar involved in building A model mandolins?

    To clarify, we are speaking about the normal production which he had precious little (nothing) to do with. The “Griffith” was the ONLY Loar signed A-5, his personal A style was the ten string model. Correct me if that is wrong.
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    Default Re: Was Lloyd Loar involved in building A model mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by Timbofood View Post
    The “Loar Era” mystique is possibly one of the greatest marketing campaigns ever!
    Not for the first twenty years of its existence...
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    Default Re: Was Lloyd Loar involved in building A model mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by Timbofood View Post
    The “Loar Era” mystique is possibly one of the greatest marketing campaigns ever!
    Absolutely! And those Loar-signed F5s are only popular, because Monroe used one, and they generally don't sound any better than the 1980s Kentuckys.

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    Default Re: Was Lloyd Loar involved in building A model mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by Henry Eagle View Post
    Absolutely! And those Loar-signed F5s are only popular, because Monroe used one, and they generally don't sound any better than the 1980s Kentuckys.
    LOL! Sarcasm above ....... I hope!
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    Default Re: Was Lloyd Loar involved in building A model mandolins?

    I’m not saying that the F-5 is a brilliant design, we all know the power and majesty of them.
    The “Loar Era” marketing of anything in the plant at the time is what I refer too, especially with respect to the A models of the period. Sorry I wasn’t clear on that.
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    Default Re: Was Lloyd Loar involved in building A model mandolins?

    This is really interesting stuff!… I learned some new stuff today.
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    Default Re: Was Lloyd Loar involved in building A model mandolins?

    What everyone said above is true, Loar didn't build, he may of had a few ideas but the craftsmen in the shop did the builds. It's really all personal preference on what sounds good, If I had a buck for every time I heard someone say my Loar F-5 is the best one out there! I could pry buy one! It's really all personal choice! Some people love the varnish sound of the Loar period while others love the brighter toned sound of the post Loar mandolins! I know I do, that's my choice. I love my nitro post Loar stuff. Other players better than myself also do, Like the late Great John Duffey. I'm sure others, Bush was mentioned but his F-5 was heavily modified. The adjustable rod, bridge and slim necks of the "Loar" period make them stand out.
    I highly doubt Loar played every instrument that bore his name and said well the top or back graduations are wrong in this spot, take it apart and redo it! I don't think so, They had a certain blueprint and went by that for all of em. Ok I may have got off subject but hey.

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    Default Re: Was Lloyd Loar involved in building A model mandolins?

    You can call it "marketing" after the fact, used by vintage dealers, but all factors being equal, wouldn't you rather have a '23 than a '27? Sure, a claim of "my old Gibson is the same year that Bill Monroe played!" would be inaccurate and somewhat uneducated (when discussing a snakehead), but it does have a "coolness factor" and gives some bragging rights, however unwarranted. I think the term, "Loar Era" ruffles feathers here, because of the low-key nature of most mandolin players, in general. Guitarists and guitar dealers have no problem marketing "Beatles era" guitars or describing a Stratocaster as the "same year as Hendrix played!" Heck, I've even seen white Stratocasters marketed as "same color as Jimi's!" Sure, it's a stretch, but a selling point, all the same. But, as mrmando pointed out "Loar era" does indicate truss rod, snakehead, & adjustable bridge -- all of which are good things, IMHO.

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    Default Re: Was Lloyd Loar involved in building A model mandolins?

    I fear I have muddied the waters, that was not my intent I was simply making a point about marketing strategy in TODAY’S advertising. Heck, I have a 1916 “Emeralite” lamp which may or may not have graced the desk of Mr. Loar in his home office (it didn’t) but, it was in the city when he was. I’m willing to part with that should anyone care. It’s the use of “Loar Era” which has been bandied about by sales people whether it was well founded or not.
    But, this have gone way too far from the OP so, I will fold my tent on this one, for the moment.
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    Default Re: Was Lloyd Loar involved in building A model mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Mando View Post
    ... all factors being equal, wouldn't you rather have a '23 than a '27?...but it does have a "coolness factor" and gives some bragging rights, however unwarranted...IMHO.
    Aren't we talking more about actual design, materials and construction, rather than what the market price might be? "Loar era" can be taken as a shorthand for a period in the early 1920's when Gibson quality is generally thought to have been at a high point. The actual involvement of Mr. Loar in that higher quality can be discussed and disputed.

    Doubt you'll find Lloyd Loar's fingerprints on any part of those mandolins, other than the labels he signed. Did he send back instruments that didn't meet his standards, and thus influence Gibson's overall quality? Maybe; we don't know, and speculation about that is just that.
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    Default Re: Was Lloyd Loar involved in building A model mandolins?

    He was involved in these two at least.
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    '02 Gibson master model #70327 02-01-02
    '25 Gibson A-4 Snakehead #82626
    '06 Hicks #1 and #2 F-5 still not done

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    Default Re: Was Lloyd Loar involved in building A model mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by Timbofood View Post
    I fear I have muddied the waters, that was not my intent I was simply making a point about marketing strategy in TODAY’S advertising.
    I don't think you muddied the waters at all Timothy. No need to retire to your corner. The title of this thread, followed by the OP's question leaves some room for interpretation.

    To me, it sounds like EvanElk is wondering whether TODAY's advertising claims (Loar era etc in ads for A models) have any validity, or whether it's a lot of hooey.

    In any case, should I ever decide to put my '84 Kentucky up for sale, I'm linking directly to Henry Eagle's post:

    Quote Originally Posted by Henry Eagle View Post
    Absolutely! And those Loar-signed F5s are only popular, because Monroe used one, and they generally don't sound any better than the 1980s Kentuckys.


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    Default Re: Was Lloyd Loar involved in building A model mandolins?

    There is no way that we can tell if the same workers that built the F-5`s also built the A models of that era, it seems that a different assembly line would be needed for the different styles, a different shape, different neck length and peghead design, oval holes compared to the FF holes...

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    Default Re: Was Lloyd Loar involved in building A model mandolins?

    Gibson was an assembly line operation even then. Necks built in department 1, sides bent in dept. 2, plates carved in the carving dept., bodies assembled over to the left, finishing upstairs. They'd run parts for one model early in the week and for another model late in the week.

    Somebody produced an old factory document a while back for the parts list to assemble F-5's. It read something like this:
    F-4 sides
    F-4 back
    Special top [this would indicate a top with F-holes and tone bars]
    Special neck [long neck with extra long extension]

    Folks who have worked in manufacturing know that products are manufactured by the order. This explains the Gibson factory order number system. One order would be for 30 A4's, the next for 50 A-1's, another for 20 F-4's, etc. Each department would then make the parts for each order, and then go on to the next order. The F-5's were manufactured by the same process and by the same people. There may or may not have been one or two people whose job was to tune tops and backs.

    I don't personally believe that there were six elves with long beards and spectacles who exclusively built the Master Model instruments.

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    Fatally Flawed willkamm's Avatar
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    Default Re: Was Lloyd Loar involved in building A model mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post

    I don't personally believe that there were six elves with long beards and spectacles who exclusively built the Master Model instruments.
    Takes me back to when I found out there wasn't a Santa.
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    Default Re: Was Lloyd Loar involved in building A model mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by Willie Poole View Post
    There is no way that we can tell if the same workers that built the F-5`s also built the A models of that era, it seems that a different assembly line would be needed for the different styles, a different shape, different neck length and peghead design, oval holes compared to the FF holes...

    Willie
    There's no way that Gibson created a special department to build those instruments when they were already losing favor with the buying public. Loar didn't sign labels every day he signed them as batches were done. It was an assembly line. You can bet the ranch that the same guys that were doing the work on one were doing the work on the others. You don't make money that way, not then not now.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Was Lloyd Loar involved in building A model mandolins?

    Nope, I’ve said about all I can say. I was going to start but, brevity will win this post.
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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: Was Lloyd Loar involved in building A model mandolins?

    Quote Originally Posted by carleshicks View Post
    He was involved in these two at least.
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    He's holding one of his mando-violas, SN 70321, and there are a couple of mandolins and a banjo on the workbench, along with some Virzi Tone Producers, a mandola bridge and a smattering of parts. We don't know for certain that this is Loar's own workbench, and even if it is, does it indicate that he was building instruments, or merely testing the effects of the Virzis?
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    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Was Lloyd Loar involved in building A model mandolins?

    What this really shows it there was a promotional opportunity for a photo shoot nothing more, nothing less.
    What’s on that bench means very little, the instrument in his hands is his personal 10 string.
    Photography of the period did not allow for super high speed shutters, it was still a “hold it” kind of photograhy. The merit of this picture comes up so often it makes me smile. He was much more likely to have spent his time at a desk or drawing table than in a shop coat at someone’s bench.
    Now, I’m going to go stare at my Weber kettle in anticipation of the mahogany colored turkey pearl which will be carved with as much precision as I will be able to muster after the Lions losing and another adult beverage or two!
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