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Thread: 1916 Pumpkin Top A1

  1. #1
    Registered User JoeD's Avatar
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    Default 1916 Pumpkin Top A1

    I brought home a 1916 Gibson A1 pumpkin top from Fiddler's Green in Austin this weekend. It's far from the fanciest mandolin, but it may be the sweetest, most playable mandolin I've ever owned or played. It's seen a lot of playing in its life, and I love it. I've attached a few pictures from Fiddler's Green's website below.

    The main reason for this post is to share my happiness at acquiring a really exquisite old mandolin. A secondary purpose is to ask whether y'all would recommend using light strings on an instrument of this age. It frets and plays so easily that I suspect that's what is on there now. Assuming so, I'd like to stick with what's working.

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  3. #2
    Registered User Zigeuner's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1916 Pumpkin Top A1

    Nice Mandolin! I have a 1917 A-3 and I use Martin M400's .010 -.034 or D'Addario EJ73 .010-.038. Both sets are phosphor bronze wound. They have plenty of punch for a 100 year old instrument.
    1917 Gibson A-3, '64 Martin A

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    Registered User JoeD's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1916 Pumpkin Top A1

    Thanks Zeiguner. Very helpful. I've always used mediums, and I've always found mandolins pretty difficult to fret compared with guitars. This might wind up being kind of a game changer for me.

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    Registered User Zigeuner's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1916 Pumpkin Top A1

    You are welcome.

    I really think that lighter strings are the best for these old mandolins. I got mine in 1982 or so and I've always used the lighter strings on it. The neck is still very straight too.

    These have a mahogany stringer in the center of the neck partly for decoration and partly for strength and it must work because the several I've seen and played all had good necks and sounded good, too!

    Enjoy your mandolin!
    Last edited by Zigeuner; Aug-06-2018 at 1:56pm.
    1917 Gibson A-3, '64 Martin A

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    Registered User spufman's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1916 Pumpkin Top A1

    I use lights on my ‘17 as a precaution. They play and sound nice.

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    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1916 Pumpkin Top A1

    I've had j-74 or equals on my 1920 paddlehead A3 for the last 33 years. The exception is a four or five year period when I used Thomastik heavies, which are smaller diameter than '74s. Not sure about the string tension; however as they are flatwound.

    I've never had problem with the neck of my A3, but for when I got it I paid John Schofield to straighten it out and refret it. It's been stable since.

    f-d
    ˇpapá gordo ain’t no madre flaca!

    '20 A3, '30 L-1, '97 914, 2012 Cohen A5, 2012 Muth A5, '14 OM28A

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    Default Re: 1916 Pumpkin Top A1

    I use 11-40 on my '22, have for, well a long long time. No problems, neck is flat and plays easy. Sounds great.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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  14. #8
    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1916 Pumpkin Top A1

    Lovely mandolin. You might want to check with Fiddler's Green and see if they know what was on there so there's no question ... my '23 uses eJ74s, but it also has a truss rod, so it's not as comparable as you'd think.
    --------------------------------
    1920 Lyon & Healy bowlback
    1923 Gibson A-1 snakehead
    1952 Strad-o-lin
    1983 Giannini ABSM1 bandolim
    2009 Giannini GBSM3 bandolim
    2011 Eastman MD305

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  16. #9
    Teacher, luthier
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    Default Re: 1916 Pumpkin Top A1

    The maximum I would put on these old Gibsons is 11-15-25-40. I usually use 10 1/2-14-24- 38 or 40.

    There are those who would say that these old mandolins can handle the heavy gauge strings that are gaining popularity. They apparently have not had to repair as many warped necks or deformed tops as I have.

    Invariably, when one of these mandolins comes in with a warped neck, I will measure the strings and find it has been strung with 11-16-26-41 or heavier.

    That's my story and I'm sticking to it. I've had many dozens of these mandolins come across my workbench.

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  18. #10
    Registered User JoeD's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1916 Pumpkin Top A1

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    The maximum I would put on these old Gibsons is 11-15-25-40. I usually use 10 1/2-14-24- 38 or 40.

    There are those who would say that these old mandolins can handle the heavy gauge strings that are gaining popularity. They apparently have not had to repair as many warped necks or deformed tops as I have.

    Invariably, when one of these mandolins comes in with a warped neck, I will measure the strings and find it has been strung with 11-16-26-41 or heavier.

    That's my story and I'm sticking to it. I've had many dozens of these mandolins come across my workbench.
    Thanks. I don't have your experience, but that's what my instinct says too. Not only that, but the strings on there now are a pleasure to play, with plenty of volume. As someone suggested, I'll check with the shop to see if they know what's on there now.

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