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Thread: PreGibson Flatiron History

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    I'm doing a project in school and I picked the history of The Flatiron Mandolins, But I seem to be having trouble finding much info on them before the gibson era. About all I have found thus far is flatiron shop was a little red building Bozeman, Montana. Founded by Steve Carlson and thats about all i can find out about it. Other than he sold out to gibson in the late 80s , if anybody knows where i can find some more info or maybe someone has some info or their own I would be grateful. Thanks for your help!!

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    Registered User pickinNgrinnin's Avatar
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    Call Paula Jean Lewis at Sound to Earth (Weber) Mandolins -
    1.888.886.7598 She will likely know more on this subject than anyone.

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    A gentleman by the name of Will Harmon worked in the Flatiron shop in the 1980's. You can email him at wharmon@ixi.net . I also have a phone number for him.

    Here is what he said in a recent discussion of Flatiron mandolins:

    I was one of the original grunts making Flatiron mandolins in Bozeman, Montana, back in the early to mid 1980's. It was a small crew then-- about 5 or 6 of us--and we each tried our hands at every step of the production process. But we also specialized a bit. I did necks--laminating the stock, shaping the neck, applying the peghead veneer, fingerboard, frets, and inlays. I also shaped body sides, sanded, buffed the finish, and did final set up. Each instrument was basically handmade back then, with a minimum of relying on jigs and assembly line techniques.

    Although we took pride in the time and attention we put into each instrument, and used really high quality materials, I'm a little stunned to see all these recommendations for them. They are pretty simple mandolins--nothing fancy. If the action is set up right, they are easy to play and should ring out with decent tone and volume.

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    Registered User Steven Stone's Avatar
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    Another good source of pre-Gibson Flatiron history would be Ren Ferguson. He is the head luthier at Gibson's Montana division. He was the production manager at Flatiron before they were acquired by Gibson.

    He is a grat guy and one heck of a production luthier.

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    Those guys will know the details. Paula will help you with the rest. The rough outline is that Backporch Productions (Steve Carlson?) started making flat top mandos and banjos in the late 70's. By the early 80's they were making carved top mandos. In 87' they were purchased by Gibson and Bruce Weber started working there. In late '96 Gibson moved production from Belgrade (near Bozeman) to Nashville. The Flatiron brand hasn't been used in the last couple years as it competes too closely with the new Gibson A9 and F9. Bruce Weber decided to stay in Montana and with a couple others formed Sound to Earth - the maker of Weber mandolins.
    MWM

    Mark in West Michigan

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    I have an 87 F-5 Master Model signed by Dennis Balian, Does anyone know how he fits in the picture? My guess is the Gibson Transaction had already taken place when mine was built, and I seem to remember someone told me Steve Carlson was busy with the Gibson transistion and Dennis was signing labels. Does that sound right?

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    Thanks alot!! I didnt think I'd get this kind of responce so quick. Everything here is a great help. thanks again!!

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    I have a 1987 A5 Artist (also signed by Dennis). I purchased it several years ago from Elderly for around $750. Since then I have suffered from "Scroll Fever" a few times and have ordered an F-style to try with the idea of selling the Flatiron on consignment. Each time (after playing and comparing) I sent the F back and kept the A5. I have since gotten over my urge to replace it. Sometimes you do things right!

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    Registered User Ken Berner's Avatar
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    RIPPER, I understand how you feel about your Flatiron. I purchased a used '93 A5 Artist (Carlson, quilted, with an additional label signed by 15 other Flatiron folks) which is an absolute cannon. The scroll bug bit me hard later on, but instead of selling the A, I was fortunate enough to buy a '92 Flatiron F5 Artist (Weber) and wouldn't part with either one. A handfull of those older Flatiron employees are still at their trade building Weber mandolins, etc.

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    Yes it's true, the Flatiron is a great mandolin. Had mine out last night (1984 A5-1) and once again it (not my playing) impressed the hell out those around me. Just a great instrument!
    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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    Post Re: PreGibson Flatiron History

    Quote Originally Posted by MWM View Post
    Those guys will know the details. Paula will help you with the rest. The rough outline is that Backporch Productions (Steve Carlson?) started making flat top mandos and banjos in the late 70's. By the early 80's they were making carved top mandos. In 87' they were purchased by Gibson and Bruce Weber started working there. In late '96 Gibson moved production from Belgrade (near Bozeman) to Nashville. The Flatiron brand hasn't been used in the last couple years as it competes too closely with the new Gibson A9 and F9. Bruce Weber decided to stay in Montana and with a couple others formed Sound to Earth - the maker of Weber mandolins.
    From Ed-The String Shoppe
    I was a dealer for Backporch Productions/Flatiron Mandolins back in the late 1970s. The earliest price list I have is dated July 1,1979. There are only two models listed, No.1 and No.2. These were both flat top, Army-Navy Style. Prices $250.00 and $300.00.
    If anyone knows of any earlier price list please post.

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    Default Re: PreGibson Flatiron History

    There's a website Flatironarchives.com and also Steve Carlson has used this forum on occassions. I think he just joined couple of years ago.
    Jimmy
    UK

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    Default Re: PreGibson Flatiron History

    Quote Originally Posted by jimmy powells View Post
    There's a website Flatironarchives.com and also Steve Carlson has used this forum on occassions. I think he just joined couple of years ago.
    Jimmy
    UK
    Website is down...adding a bit to the story from what I've read online from the various players in this drama, Gibson apparently outsourced F5L production to Flatiron from roughly 84'-86' thereabouts. That is why the occasional F5L from that timeframe will pop up with a Carlson signature, but Nashville label. With the new regime change at Gibson in late 86', Steve Carlson approached Charlie D. at NAMM 87 in Jan of that year, asking to be introduced to Henry J. The rest as we say is history...
    1994 Gibson F5L made by Bruce Weber's team


    "Mandolin brands are a guide, not gospel! I don't drink koolaid and that Emperor is naked!"
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    Default Re: PreGibson Flatiron History

    Quote Originally Posted by ideal_repo_man View Post
    I'm doing a project in school and I picked the history of The Flatiron Mandolins, But I seem to be having trouble finding much info on them before the gibson era. About all I have found thus far is flatiron shop was a little red building Bozeman, Montana. Founded by Steve Carlson and thats about all i can find out about it. Other than he sold out to gibson in the late 80s , if anybody knows where i can find some more info or maybe someone has some info or their own I would be grateful. Thanks for your help!!
    Well I imagine you probably have your PhD a few times over by now, but I did run across what I believe is the old Flatiron place... maybe someone closer to company can confirm it.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Default Re: PreGibson Flatiron History

    Scott

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