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Thread: Tuners and frets Gibson A-Mandolin

  1. #1

    Default Tuners and frets Gibson A-Mandolin

    Hi all,
    Newbie here to both forum and and the mandolin world.
    I always loved the sound of Gibson a mandolins and I just managed to get my hands on one.
    There are a few things that need to be addressed that I will probably post separately in due time. The most pressing one at the moment is replacing the non original tuners it has and add bushings. They don't keep the tuning and have a lot of play. I was looking for something that is a straight drop. I see that Stewmac has golden age tuners that supposedly have the right dimension for early Gibson A mandolins but the reviews here are mixed.
    Does anyone have any suggestions? I'm based in EU so if there was something this side of the pond it would be better, but I can order from the US also. Please keep in mind that I paid 700 for the mandolin so I wouldn't really put a set of $400 Waverly

    Regarding the frets, the fretwire that was put on in some of the frets is bigger than the original, the slots on the fretboard were enlarged. The frets are new and work fine but they don't look pretty (I'll post a pic later). Do you think it would be worth to fill the fretboard and put in smaller fretwire? Where can you get it?

    And finally, does any of the European fellow here know of some good luthier to carry out repair jobs on these instruments? Ireland/UK/France and Spain are game.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Tuners and frets Gibson A-Mandolin

    The Stew-mac #2505 or 2505-N Golden Age restoration tuners are your best bet if the mandolin was made in the teens or early 20's. They are indeed the only tuners on the market that will work with mandolins that were made in these years. Later mandolins had a different string post spacing and can use a variety of tuners made by Grover, Schaller, Gotoh, etc.

    The Stew-mac tuners will work fine if they are the correct spacing for the mandolin. Any new tuners should be lubricated before installation. This will eliminate most of the problems people have when replacing tuners.

    The original small frets on Gibson A's were not very comfortable to play on. I would stick with what you have, unless they are unreasonably huge. A direct replacement for the original wire is not currently available. Most of the modern wires will fit the enlarged slots well if the work was done correctly.

  3. #3
    Registered User George R. Lane's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuners and frets Gibson A-Mandolin

    Look for a set of Rubners, but make sure you measure the posts from center to center.
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    I maybe wrong, but it is highly doubtful.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuners and frets Gibson A-Mandolin

    Before I'd fill in the fret slots I'd make sure it's playable and even then I'd probably have the fretboard replaced. You're not talking about an original mandolin anyway. As far as the tuners go, we seem to have a love affair going with Rubner but they aren't the answer to everything. Early Gibson mandolins had a different post spacing than the modern Rubner tuners have. They unfortunately aren't the answer to everything. Post the FON. It's stamped inside on the neck block of the mandolin and a picture so we can make sure you get the right tuners for the mandolin.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Tuners and frets Gibson A-Mandolin

    A lot of people don't like the Golden Age tuners, decades ago I replaced the tuners in my old Gibson. Any tuner can be used. Mike is correct that the spacing is not the same as modern tuners. I didn't want to change my vintage mandolin, but I could care less about changing my new tuners. I cut the base in the center of each hole for the mounting screws which allowed the tuners to fit the spacing and the screws still held the tuners in place. That was decades ago and they are still on there and working fine.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Tuners and frets Gibson A-Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    Before I'd fill in the fret slots I'd make sure it's playable and even then I'd probably have the fretboard replaced.
    ??? Why would you be inclined to replace a fretboard, unless it is rotten or has intonation problems???

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    To the original poster: Standard post spacing before the mid 1920's was 15/16", or 23.6 mm. After that, standard post spacing was changed to 29/32", or 23 mm., which remains the standard on modern instruments.

    Sometimes, modern tuners will work well on mandolins with the early spacing, sometimes not. Sometimes they will bind, or the plates won't mount flat, making tuning difficult.

    If you have the old spacing, the Golden Age restoration tuners are the only tuners that I know of that are specifically designed to fit the spacing on the old instruments. I have installed several sets of them on old Gibsons with no problems.

    If you feel that you must have narrower frets, the Stew-mac #0764 will work well on the old Gibsons. It is only slightly wider than the original wire, and it is a quite a bit higher. As a result, it looks a lot like the original wire, but has enough height to make it play easier than the original wire. If the previous frets were installed correctly, there should be no need to fill the slots to install the Stew-mac wire.
    Last edited by rcc56; Sep-13-2018 at 1:13am.

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    Default Re: Tuners and frets Gibson A-Mandolin

    I have experience of both the Golden Age and the GA "Restoration" tuners. The straight "Golden Age" experience is not one I would ever repeat but the "Restoration" tuners are fine. I think Stew.Mac. have/have had some quality control issues with the former and, whilst they seem quite prepared to make things good with the buyer, it's more trouble than it's worth from this side of the Atlantic.

    As rcc56 has said, if your mandolin has the old spacing, the Restoration tuners are all you will find, off the shelf, as a straight drop in and, even then, you're likely to have to drill new screw holes.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuners and frets Gibson A-Mandolin

    the Restoration tuners are all you will find, off the shelf, as a straight drop in
    Or you can service the old tuners or look for a set of original tuners. I'd go for the GoldenAge myself but there are those other options as well.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuners and frets Gibson A-Mandolin

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    ??? Why would you be inclined to replace a fretboard, unless it is rotten or has intonation problems???
    I'm pretty sure I said I'd make sure it was playable first. If it's playable and the only reason the OP is concerned about it it is how it looks (their words, not mine) then I'd probably try to make it look like it was new. That's what I would do. What you would do is what you would do. I don't see an issue here. If there is a problem with my suggestion then they know who to be mad at. My name is up there.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  10. #10

    Default Re: Tuners and frets Gibson A-Mandolin

    Hi all,

    Thanks for all your replies. I measured the spacing and the golden age restoration seem to be the a straight drop while the rubner have wider spacing.
    With regards to the fretboard. It plays fine, no buzzes, no intonation issues it seems, but some of the frets are the old ones (kind 12th fret upward) so smaller and whoever installed the fret enlarged the slots and went too deep. I'll post a photo from my phone in a while.
    Mike you suggested I "Post the FON. It's stamped inside on the neck block of the mandolin and a picture so we can make sure you get the right tuners for the mandolin."
    What is the FON?
    The neck had some issues and was repaired and badly painted, I have to sand it and make sure the work was well done (I'll post another thread in the future on that).

    One more question, the mandolin has a rosewood adjustable bridge and I was thinking of replacing it with one of these.
    https://www.stewmac.com/Hardware_and...in_Bridge.html

    These are kind of universal, are they? I see the string spacing is slightly larger than the one that is currently installed.
    Apologies if this is obvious to many of you but I am new to this world and learning on the go.
    Thanks!

  11. #11

    Default Re: Tuners and frets Gibson A-Mandolin

    PS: one more question, what's a good bone nut you can advise?

    are these decent? https://www.stewmac.com/Materials_an...ide_Nuts.html#

    and do they need much adjustment?

    or something like this is better.

    https://www.stewmac.com/Materials_an...Bone_Nuts.html
    (Shaped 1-45/64" x 21/64" x 3/16" (43.26mm x 8.33mm x 4.76mm) 12" (304.8mm) top radius)

    I'm looking at stewmac mainly cause I'm going to place an order and it might be easier to get everything there, but I'm open to suggestions.
    Thanks

  12. #12

    Default Re: Tuners and frets Gibson A-Mandolin

    Here the photos,
    I hope I uploaded them correctly.

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  13. #13
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuners and frets Gibson A-Mandolin

    The FON is the Factory Order Number. If you look inside the sound hole towards the neck it should be stamped there. That is a more accurate way to date the instrument.

    Are you planning on doing the nut yourself? The Zero Glide nut is more of a zero fret type thing. If you're worried about it looking original you don't want to go there. The Stewmac bone nut blanks are fine.

    Did they change all the frets that aren't over the body or just some of them?
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Tuners and frets Gibson A-Mandolin

    As long as the mandolin plays well and the neck is not bowed, the somewhat deep slots are a cosmetic problem only. If the appearance bothers you, a good luthier can hide the gaps with French polish or a shellac stick without removing the frets, but then the finish will look newer in that area.

    Personally, I would leave it alone.

    Cutting a mandolin nut from scratch is not an easy job, and requires special files to cut the slots accurately. If you do it yourself, buy a least one spare nut blank in case you mess one up.

    Any replacement bridge will have to be fitted to the mandolin. That is also a difficult job for a beginner.

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  16. #15

    Default Re: Tuners and frets Gibson A-Mandolin

    Hi, yes the mandolin plays well, the fret job wasn't done in the cleanest way, so yes my worry was just about cosmetics but also procedure. I was wondering what people do in cases like these with old, narrower fretwire, if there is a way to source the old stuff or if it is usually changed with modern wire as it happened here. I'd rather leave it be, it plays well and at the end it is what matters.
    The FON is 19865. According to the mandolin archive it should date back to 1914.
    Thanks

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    Default Re: Tuners and frets Gibson A-Mandolin

    I've seen plenty of modern, new, unbound necks with visible fret slots under the frets. If that paint is not sticky I might would leave that too for now.

    Consider what the the whole repair back to an original look would take. Scraping and refinishing the neck, a refret with larger wire than original, filling the side slots. Perhaps a new fretboard, Nut and bridge and tuners. Ask yourself is it worth it.

    I have an old A model that perhaps had more problems than yours. I had a fingerboard planing to correct neck angle, frets and a bridge. The repair cost about as much as the whole mandolin is worth. But now, I just play it and marvel that it still plays and sounds good in spite of its problems. Good luck with yours. I have enjoyed my old A model.

  18. #17
    mandolin slinger Steve Ostrander's Avatar
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    Default Re: Tuners and frets Gibson A-Mandolin

    As long as it plays OK, I'd play it until it needs a ref-ret and worry about it then.
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