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Thread: Gibson Tenor Lute

  1. #1

    Default Gibson Tenor Lute

    NFI,

    https://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Gib...53.m1438.l2649

    I'll be honest. I had no idea what this was at first. I've read plenty about them here on the Cafe. I guess I had never actually seen one. Spent way too much time last night reading about them in the archives. (Bluegrasser78, I think you were looking for one back in march.)
    Looks a little rough but nothing insurmountable. Also Does not look like the seller knows what they have. ( Though at least two of the bidders so far look to be professionals.)
    My other concern is that it is the only item out of 567 for sale by this seller that does not have a shipping price. seemed strange.
    If someone here does get it please post updates. I do have a soft spot for these odder critter of the Loar Era

  2. #2

    Default Re: Gibson Tenor Lute

    I follow this seller fairly closely since they're located close to me, haven't bought anything from them yet but they do seem to have a steady stream of interesting instruments for sale. They might have just not configured this particular listing correctly.

  3. #3
    Registered User bluegrasser78's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson Tenor Lute

    This one would be a perfect candidate for a mandola conversion since the back is hammered and the whole is in rough shape! That's what these were pry going to be if Loar wasn't fired and the mando craze was long over and the banjo craze was in full swing! That's pry why they have a banjo type tenor neck. The body I was told is the same interior dimensions as the Loar H-5 Mandola. Loar's personal what 10 string had the same body and mandola neck! So it'll be interesting to see how much this one goes for. I didn't see a MM label in this one and at first glance it looks as though it was refinished? Or just seriously dark from sitting out or something. Notice they didn't have a pix of the WHOLE back? That's kind of sketchy-It may be real hammered?

  4. #4

    Default Re: Gibson Tenor Lute

    Oh I believe they are a legit estate sales site. It's just that the shipping costs of their other 3 instruments for sale seem pretty random. 3 guitars, one has shipping at $9.14, another is $68.05, and the third is $123.37. The tenor lute listing simply tells me my area code is not valid. Not implying anything shady. Just suggesting you confirm shipping cost before bidding. An extra $100 or so in shipping cost would certainly dampen my mood a bit.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Gibson Tenor Lute

    Quote Originally Posted by bluegrasser78 View Post
    This one would be a perfect candidate for a mandola conversion --snip--
    Possible, but slapping a neck with a Gibson logo onto one does not make it valuable, rare or particularly interesting, except in the mind of one seller who will never be peddling his misrepresented wares on the Cafe again. And you haven't indicated that so we're not suggesting you are. Charging any more than $2-3K max for such a Frankenstein contraption is Brooklyn Bridge for sale territory. The mandolin community has never been and is not going to turn into the banjo world where folks routinely snap a few vintage parts on and suddenly have a $40K banjo.

    Personally, I'd like to see it restored as is instead of parting it out. There are plenty of pieced together instruments in the market but not many of this model that left the factory so long ago.

    YMMV.

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  7. #6
    Registered User bluegrasser78's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson Tenor Lute

    I think if someone wanted an old mandola with the vintage sound and couldn't afford an H-5 this one would be perfect because of all the issues this one has, That is what I'm suggesting, I'm a believer in old wood and this would have the correct "power" with a neck job, just always save the original neck. This would be for someone's personal instrument I'd think to really play, I'd love one but wouldn't pay a whole lot for one completed. I have an undocumented TL with the rare maple back and sides and I wouldn't convert that one, its too nice. I've had F-7's converted to F-5's just by doing the neck cause I couldn't afford a vintage F-5 at the time, and I wanted the old wood sound, I of course saved the original necks in case someone eventually wanted to put it back to original but after playing one why would you want to? I know there's the camp that say keep it all original but if there in terrible/bad shape and some mods can be done to make em better I say go for it if there is enough originals around. Just my opinion.

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Gibson Tenor Lute

    I can agree with that.

    What I don't agree with is that construction of such a mix and match of parts results in something worth more than an H-4 styled period Gibson mandola on an A styled Frankenstein body and that it's the missing link Loar intended during his tenure with Gibson. If only... but now by the magic of hype and parts, viola! Pure b.s. as evidenced by the statement below on one that was for sale at one time.

    "What we have is the mandola that Loar certainly would have made, if he had not been terminated in 1924..."

    P.T. Barnum would be proud. The creativity one can render when they're looking for a sucker is limitless.
    Last edited by Mandolin Cafe; Dec-03-2017 at 5:56pm.

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson Tenor Lute

    I bought one, in better shape than this but far from mint. It had its original case.

    I paid about $1K for it, mainly for rarity -- Lloyd Loar's less-than-great idea -- and I enjoy its sweet sound tuned CGDA like a tenor banjo. I don't play it much.

    Whoever buys this one, I hope keeps it as a tenor lute, and doesn't transmogrify it into a mandola or a canoe paddle. Never gonna be a major instrument in the world of mandolin-esque instruments, but it is what it is, and I hope stays what it is.
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  11. #9

    Default Re: Gibson Tenor Lute

    I have one, converted it to double strings. It's the same neck, but I felt that single strings are not giving it enough power. I read that some of these were made with 8 strings, and I think this is still keeping it quite original. This is my main instrument now, tuned CGDA, very sweet sound, I play it everyday.

    If I didn't have one already I'd definitely bid on this one, I think it should cost at least $1K (probably more, but I'm not an expert).

    For those who interested about the sound - I have a few short clips recorded, you can see it here - https://www.instagram.com/romanpekar. It's not a live sound, but I think it's not too far from it.

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    FIDDLES with STRADOLINS your_diamond's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson Tenor Lute

    From his other auction descriptions, clearly, he does not know instruments. He lists a 1980's Dobro as made "made by Gibson" when Gibson Guitar Corporation acquired OMI in 1993, along with the Dobro name. Also, he has a Gretsch (miss-spelled) Chet Atkins Country Gentleman with binding problems, that he lists as having some breakage on the neck (sounds awful). Legitimate ??? What's your definition?
    Dylan -- I know my song well before I start singing. Me -- sometimes

  14. #11

    Default Re: Gibson Tenor Lute

    Maybe I spend too much time on shopgoodwill. ( Or maybe I just remember the early days of ebay a little too fondly.) I think some times you want the seller to know a lot about an instrument and some times it's better if the seller does NOT know lots and lots.

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  16. #12

    Default Re: Gibson Tenor Lute

    Windsong Estate Services is a large operation here in the Houston area, they probably have some employee that just enters in items with a basic description. In college I worked for the local PBS station and my job was to enter into eBay all donated items to raise money for the station, I definitely was no expert on the items I was entering. When the seller doesn't know much about what they're selling, sometimes you can get a great deal, sometimes not so much. It's part of the fun I suppose.

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  18. #13
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson Tenor Lute

    Quote Originally Posted by bluegrasser78 View Post
    I didn't see a MM label in this one
    I think you can see remnants of the MM label in this lightened version of the soundhole photo:

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Default Re: Gibson Tenor Lute

    While the Cafe (Scott) is against these conversions others see it as making it an instrument that would be more enjoyed and played by a greater number of people. This is the same idea in the guitar community in converting Hawaiian guitars from 30’s and 40’s to standard Spanish style. GIbson Roy Smecks for instance become amazing instruments when converted as do some Martins.

    Check out Frank Ford’s thoughts on the Tenor Lute in the description section here:
    http://www.mandolinarchive.com/gibson/serial/77282


    Phil

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  21. #15
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    Default Re: Gibson Tenor Lute

    I'm not against converting an instrument if it's the right thing to do. For the purpose of music making, fine. I'm against converting and permanently altering vintage instruments for the pure sake of profiteering, and more specifically when it involves price gouging and bogus descriptions.

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    Default Re: Gibson Tenor Lute

    I have spent some time playing a tenor lute converted to a mandola. It was a passable instrument, but not in any way amazing. It might have been a little crisper than some H-1's. It did not blow any windows out. Ignoring attempts to establish a special mystical collector's value because of the presence of a master model label, and evaluating it only on its tone and projection, I would not consider it to be any more valuable than an H-1. And that would only be for an uncracked instrument with nice original finish, not a cobbled up old wreck.

    If I was going to pay a high price for a mandola, I would rather have a nice H-4 rather than a converted TL.

    The ebay instrument in question looks like it needs several hundred dollars worth of work to restore correctly, and that's not counting the cost of installing a conversion neck.

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  25. #17
    Registered User bluegrasser78's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson Tenor Lute

    Yes and a new neck by some respected luthiers is just south of 3G! Loar era H-4's cost what 7-10G I believe, well for really nice ones if you can find one.

  26. #18

    Default Re: Gibson Tenor Lute

    I'm glad to hear reference to the cost of a conversion. I just didn't see it as a cost effective endeavor. I would probably be tempted to go to 8 strings though. As Romans videos support, I suspect that body was designed to be driven by more than 4 strings anyway. ( That was cool to be able to hear the difference before and after the 8 string conversion. Thank you Roman.)
    Alas... maybe some day...

  27. #19
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    Default Re: Gibson Tenor Lute

    If you want an old Gibson mandola, you can find a good H-1 in playable condition for $2k, perhaps less if you're watchful and patient. You might find that the sustain of an oval hole mandola can be quite desirable.

    Or have you ever considered just buying an octave mandolin? Lots of choices out there these days, starting at about $700 or $800 new. Or you could resurrect an Octofone.

  28. #20
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    Default Re: Gibson Tenor Lute

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandolin Cafe View Post
    I'm not against converting an instrument if it's the right thing to do. For the purpose of music making, fine. I'm against converting and permanently altering vintage instruments for the pure sake of profiteering, and more specifically when it involves price gouging and bogus descriptions.
    Who said anything about profiteering and bogus descriptions, etc? No other repliers brought this person up. The instrument in question is a very rough example of the Gibson tenor lute (which says Gibson on the headstock, so I don't know why you wouldn't put it on a newly made repro neck). Don't know of any tenor guitar players that prefer the Gibson lute shape, which is another good reason to convert, as it would be better suited to a mando family instrument. I agree if it's a pristine example, keep it as it. This is a project. If you want Gilchrist to make you a new mandola you'd be over 25k. So I think getting a great builder to put a dola neck on this instrument, would resurrect a virtually unusable instrument into a very nice playing and sounding one, for a lot less money than a Gil, and with some vintage mojo. Just my 2 cents, just didn't understand where this tone was coming from. And as far a profiteering, I haven't seen where any of the conversions in question have actually sold!

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  30. #21
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    Default Re: Gibson Tenor Lute

    I am in agreement with Troy above.

    Phil

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    Default Re: Gibson Tenor Lute

    The cost of purchasing, correctly repairing, and [if desired] converting this particular instrument might exceed the market value of the instrument when the repairs are completed.

    This instrument is best suited for someone who is capable of doing the work themselves.

    I view its primary value as being an interesting piece of Gibson history.

  32. #23

    Default Re: Gibson Tenor Lute

    they are nice to play as is. a friend had one, admittedly in better shape, and he used to to accompany a whistle and flute player and they sounded great. i have no idea what they are worth. it's not your daily mando.

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    Default Re: Gibson Tenor Lute

    Would I convert one......no. Do I understand why someone would.......yes.

    Phil

  34. #25
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    Default Re: Gibson Tenor Lute

    Some of the "convert" arguments assume that the resultant mandola will be a "very nice playing and sounding one," and that the tenor lute is "virtually unusable." I would question both assumptions. Until you replace the neck, you have no idea what the outcome would be; would it be a super-sounding H-1, or not? And there are uses for the tenor lute; I use mine, albeit infrequently, and it has a nice, sweet sound, though not a lot of volume.

    You don't have to be a collector to appreciate a rare, vintage instrument, even one that was not a commercial success. I am perfectly cool with conversions; my main guitar was once a 1940 Martin 00-28G classical, which was converted to a 00-42 steel-string with a new top and neck, well before I bought it. I am perfectly willing to concede that the guitar I have is better as a player's instrument than the original 00-28G probably was, though its value to a collector is substantially less. I also have a GB-3 Gibson Mastertone guitar-banjo that's been converted to a five-string with a replica neck -- though I kept the original six-string neck in case a future owner might want to put it back into its original form. Banjo conversions are, of course, a different animal, since they're often reversible, which taking the neck off a tenor lute wouldn't easily be.

    The situation with the potential tenor lute conversion, is that you're getting rid of a fairly rare and unique instrument, on the chance that you'll end up with a better player's instrument -- and for a price that would buy a decent mandola while keeping the TL intact. If I ran across a TL/H-1 conversion that had already been accomplished, and found the result to be a superior mandola, I might consider purchasing it. However, I wouldn't initiate the conversion process myself; I'll keep my tenor lute, and its next owner can do what he/she likes with it.

    I think of the number of F-2's and F-4's that were converted to F-5 copies by replacing their tops and installing longer raised necks, and I feel that, in a way, we'd be better off with the F-2's and F-4's as they were, and manufacturers and luthiers building new F-5's. A certain amount of history was lost in the process, although perhaps the F-5 copies that resulted got played more -- I dunno.
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