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Thread: Gibson History - Montana Division years

  1. #1
    Registered User Jesper's Avatar
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    Default Gibson History - Montana Division years

    As a Montana F5L owner, I would love to read more about the Gibson/Flatiron-Gibson/Mt Division years. I really hope Mary Weber will find the time to write an article about those days.
    Have a look:
    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/e...Gibson-History

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    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson History - Montana Division years

    It would be really nice to have a complete autobiography of Bruce Weber regarding his many incarnations as a mandolin buiilder. As a Weber owner,i've often wondered just 'How much Gibson'' is in the Weber mandolins,& 'How much Weber'' is in the Gibsons that he built. We'd maybe get a bit of insight regarding the thinking of the Gibson Co. at that time as well,
    Ivan
    Weber F-5 'Fern'.
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  5. #3

    Default Re: Gibson History - Montana Division years

    For Gibson to get Bill Monroe to sign 200 labels was no little feat.

    I love my Monroe model Gibson and not because it has a label that Bill signed. It's a great mandolin;and the only one out of...a good bunch of mandolins I have
    been fortunate enough to own that I,truly, hold dear.

    I admit buying it because of the Monroe label;but,it turned out to be much more mandolin than I expected. (I did have the fretboard radiused and abbreviated by the Gibson/Flatiron/Montana folks back in '93.) And silver Waverly's installed later.

    There is more Flatiron/Steve Carlson in the Montana Gibson F5's than "Gibson"or Weber imho.

    Hoping to be able to read more about this era from Mary,The Bruce,and any and all the other contibutors.
    Those were some exciting times for
    a budding mandolinista,as was I at that time.

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    Default Re: Gibson History - Montana Division years

    Quote Originally Posted by Ivan Kelsall View Post
    It would be really nice to have a complete autobiography of Bruce Weber regarding his many incarnations as a mandolin buiilder. As a Weber owner,i've often wondered just 'How much Gibson'' is in the Weber mandolins,& 'How much Weber'' is in the Gibsons that he built. We'd maybe get a bit of insight regarding the thinking of the Gibson Co. at that time as well,
    Ivan
    Ivan,
    I don't believe very much of Gibson is in Bruce's mandolins. I know his new builds (of which I am getting one) will have new bracing that is different from the Weber's. I know a little of his history, but not enough to accurately tell it. I have emailed Mary a link to this thread. I do know he has a great story to tell. We will just have to wait and see.

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  8. #5
    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson History - Montana Division years

    Hi George - Many thanks indeed. My thought's on Bruce Weber's mandolin building is that when he was building Gibson mandolins,then maybe he was building in a way that would produce the ''Gibson sound'' - obvious ?. However,in his own building,i'm sure that he'd have his own ideas regarding mandolin construction,so was he building simply to have a ''different sound'', or to ''have a better sound'' than the Gibsons ??.

    My own Weber "Fern",signed by Bruce,sounds very,very similar in tone to a friend's Dave Harvey Gibson 'Sam Bush' model mandolin. So is there some 'commonality' going on between Gibson 'specs.' & Bruce's building specs. ?,
    Ivan
    Weber F-5 'Fern'.
    Lebeda F-5 "Special".
    Stelling Bellflower BANJO
    Tokai - 'Tele-alike'.
    Ellis DeLuxe "A" style.

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    Default Re: Gibson History - Montana Division years

    A little off topic but still interesting is the origin story of Flatiron. A guy named Chuck Morrison thought he could make pancake mandolins and sell them in Boulder in the 70's which is where the Flatiron name came from. I'm a bit fuzzy on how he connected with Steve Carlson but I think he was looking for places to sell them when he partnered with Steve, but soon left the company to Steve and returned to Boulder.

  10. #7

    Default Re: Gibson History - Montana Division years

    When did the non-traditional/"bolt-on"neck-to-body construction begin on the F5-style mandos? Is that a feature of all Flatiron F5 mandolins?
    Was this a Carlson-created design?

    Who came up with the(Behlen?) varnish recipe for Montana made Gibsons?

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    Default Re: Gibson History - Montana Division years

    Just to be clear, the so called bolt on neck never existed in the mandolins Bruce built. They were screws that held the neck in place while the glue cured. The only bolt on necks I am aware of are the Fender electric guitars.

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  13. #9

    Default Re: Gibson History - Montana Division years

    Quote Originally Posted by George R. Lane View Post
    Just to be clear, the so called bolt on neck never existed in the mandolins Bruce built. They were screws that held the neck in place while the glue cured. The only bolt on necks I am aware of are the Fender electric guitars.
    And Rigels, at least.

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    Default Re: Gibson History - Montana Division years

    Quote Originally Posted by George R. Lane View Post
    The only bolt on necks I am aware of are the Fender electric guitars.
    and Taylor Guitars

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    Default Re: Gibson History - Montana Division years

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Wilson View Post
    and Taylor Guitars
    And Breedlove mandolins
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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    Default Re: Gibson History - Montana Division years

    Well, Now I know three more who use bolt on necks. Thanks.

  17. #13
    Loarcutus of MandoBorg DataNick's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson History - Montana Division years

    Quote Originally Posted by V70416 View Post
    For Gibson to get Bill Monroe to sign 200 labels was no little feat.

    I love my Monroe model Gibson and not because it has a label that Bill signed. It's a great mandolin;and the only one out of...a good bunch of mandolins I have
    been fortunate enough to own that I,truly, hold dear.

    I admit buying it because of the Monroe label;but,it turned out to be much more mandolin than I expected. (I did have the fretboard radiused and abbreviated by the Gibson/Flatiron/Montana folks back in '93.) And silver Waverly's installed later.

    There is more Flatiron/Steve Carlson in the Montana Gibson F5's than "Gibson"or Weber imho.

    Hoping to be able to read more about this era from Mary,The Bruce,and any and all the other contibutors.
    Those were some exciting times for
    a budding mandolinista,as was I at that time.

    OK, where do I begin?....

    I started this thread Montana Gibson Mandolin Specifications in 2014 around this time specifically to get as much info as possible on this era of Gibsons. Of particular attention should be posts 35, 37, and 38. Post 35 recounts the actual Montana F5L specs that our Café community determined from a previous post, and posts 37 & 38 give clarification and important details in how the Gibson staff in Bozeman built mandolins.

    In a nutshell, Gibson mandolins made in Bozeman, MT from 1987-Dec 1996 were made by Gibson factory/luthery staff who were Flatiron luthiers at first, but also built Gibson mandolins to Gibson spec, NOT Flatiron spec, and Bruce Weber and Steve Carlson both told me so.

    As far as the neck joint, Gibson had been using the mortise-tenon joint since the early 70s, it was incorporated in Roger Siminoffs F5L specs in 1978, was continued by Charlie Derrington and Jim Triggs from 1984-87, and then continued by Steve Carlson after the Flatiron acquisition. Charlie Derrington made several changes including the neck joint paradigm to the dovetail joint in 1997 when he returned to Gibson.

    After talking with both Bruce Weber and Steve Carlson, I would say that they both were striving to make the best Gibson mandolin in the Gibson mandolin spec tradition that they most possibly could; and that they also separately strived to make the best Flatiron mandolin possible; but never the twain shall meet, and as Bruce Weber told me, he was glad they kept them separate.

    I really encourage you to read that thread; a lot of good info from some of our resident Café Gibson experts, as well as the documentation of Carlson & Weber's recounting of that period.
    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!"
    "If you wanna get soul Baby, you gots to get the scroll..."
    "I would rather play music anyday for the beggar, the thief, and the fool!"
    "Perfection is not attainable; but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence" Vince Lombardi
    Playing Style: RockMonRoll Desperado Bluegrass Desperado YT Channel

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  19. #14
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    Default Re: Gibson History - Montana Division years

    Quote Originally Posted by V70416 View Post
    When did the non-traditional/"bolt-on"neck-to-body construction begin on the F5-style mandos? Is that a feature of all Flatiron F5 mandolins?
    Was this a Carlson-created design?

    Who came up with the(Behlen?) varnish recipe for Montana made Gibsons?
    1. I believe Flatiron mandolins used the mortise-tenon joint from the beginning. The screw (bolt) may have been a Carlson modification; I really don't know, but I suggest you call Steve and ask him. He's pretty good about sharing info on the phone.

    2. All mandolins made at the Gibson Bozeman plant were made with a lacquer finish with exceptions being some of the Monroe models, and special order Gibsons named F5V, you see some of them pop up in the classifieds from time to time. Also special one offs for important Nashville music clientele sometimes had a varnish finish. The varnish used was a spirit varnish. If your Monroe model has a varnish finish, I suggest you either call or email Bruce Weber, and he could fill you in on the details of its composition.
    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!"
    "If you wanna get soul Baby, you gots to get the scroll..."
    "I would rather play music anyday for the beggar, the thief, and the fool!"
    "Perfection is not attainable; but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence" Vince Lombardi
    Playing Style: RockMonRoll Desperado Bluegrass Desperado YT Channel

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  21. #15

    Default Re: Gibson History - Montana Division years

    Hey Nick,thanks for that link to the 2014 thread! Great info there on this specific subject. My ADD
    didn't help getting through it;but,I find the subject interesting and persevered. Especially since I like my Montana Gibson
    so much.

    Through the years I sold a couple Gilchrists,a Nugget,and one of two Red Diamonds all F5 style but the Monroe is the one I can
    play best/get around on due to the narrow nut and neck dimensions.("I have hands like a midget-boxer.") E.John.
    Arguably,some of those other mandolins
    sounded "better". My ears aren't very big anyway. If I can't get to the notes on time and cleanly then "tone"
    loses some of its priority.

    My personal experience with Montana-made Gibsons is confined to the Monroe model,#74.

    Let me preface my remarks here by admitting my ignorance and use of improper vernacular regarding
    neck-to-body joints and lacquer vs."varnish" finishing.

    Will try to give Mr.Carlson a call sometime to ask especially about the mortise-tenon/bolt joint. I
    have read that it is incorrect to call it a "bolt-on" neck. When I look inside #74 at the neck-block area
    there are two hex-headed(?) lag-screws(?) at 12 o'clock and 6 o'clock. These are set down into wider
    holes. There's a little rust on them after 25 years.

    So,it's not a bolt-on neck joint if it is also glued? Screw-on plus glued? Is the critical word here "bolt"
    as opposed to "screw?

    When I talked with Bruce Weber about the varnish finish on #74 pretty sure he mentioned "Behlen". Not
    sure how it was applied etc.
    They make more than one kind of varnish. Is is "spirit" varnish? I don't know. But it is sure a way different
    finish than on Gils.,Nuggets,Red Diamonds(which are more alike than the Monroe's). The Monroe's finish
    to me,looks a lot like nitrocellulose lacquer. Quite durable.

    When #74 was brand new it had a flat,full-Florida fretboard. After I had it a while some white-ish fingerprints
    started showing up very noticeably. Sent it back for refinishing(not sure exactly what they did)but after a while they started showing up again.
    Sent it back again for refinish or whatever. They could tell I was a little peeved and asked me what they could do to make
    me happy with the mandolin. I said that I would like a 24-fret,abbreviated and radiused fretboard and they complied.
    Finish still looks good. (Wondering if this varnish was "cured" in ultra-violet light or something?)

    Not to beat the horse when she is already dead,but #74 is my personal favorite mandolin
    that I have ever played. I feel lucky to have been its caretaker all this time.

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  23. #16
    Loarcutus of MandoBorg DataNick's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson History - Montana Division years

    Quote Originally Posted by V70416 View Post
    Hey Nick,thanks for that link to the 2014 thread! Great info there on this specific subject. My ADD
    didn't help getting through it;but,I find the subject interesting and persevered. Especially since I like my Montana Gibson so much.

    Through the years I sold a couple Gilchrists,a Nugget,and one of two Red Diamonds all F5 style but the Monroe is the one I can play best/get around on due to the narrow nut and neck dimensions.("I have hands like a midget-boxer.") E.John.
    Arguably,some of those other mandolins sounded "better". My ears aren't very big anyway. If I can't get to the notes on time and cleanly then "tone" loses some of its priority...

    Let me preface my remarks here by admitting my ignorance and use of improper vernacular regarding neck-to-body joints and lacquer vs."varnish" finishing.

    Will try to give Mr.Carlson a call sometime to ask especially about the mortise-tenon/bolt joint. I have read that it is incorrect to call it a "bolt-on" neck. When I look inside #74 at the neck-block area there are two hex-headed(?) lag-screws(?) at 12 o'clock and 6 o'clock. These are set down into wider holes. There's a little rust on them after 25 years.

    So, it's not a bolt-on neck joint if it is also glued? Screw-on plus glued? Is the critical word here "bolt" as opposed to "screw?

    When I talked with Bruce Weber about the varnish finish on #74 pretty sure he mentioned "Behlen". Not sure how it was applied etc.
    They make more than one kind of varnish. Is is "spirit" varnish? I don't know. But it is sure a way different finish than on Gils.,Nuggets,Red Diamonds(which are more alike than the Monroe's). The Monroe's finish to me, looks a lot like nitrocellulose lacquer. Quite durable.

    Not to beat the horse when she is already dead,but #74 is my personal favorite mandolin that I have ever played. I feel lucky to have been its caretaker all this time.
    V70416,

    Sounds like you got a good'un!

    1. Mortise-Tenon joint (Carlson modfication) : as I understand it, the joint is glued, and the screw(s) re-enforces the joint for stability purposes until the glue has dried completely.

    2. I'm 99% sure that the varnish applied at Gibson's Bozeman plant to mandolins was a spirit varnish. Behlen could be the trade name of a particular vintage; again Bruce Weber is the final authority on that.

    3. According to your handle, V70416, do you indeed own that Gibson Master Model mandolin? If so, how do you compare it to your Monroe Model?
    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!"
    "If you wanna get soul Baby, you gots to get the scroll..."
    "I would rather play music anyday for the beggar, the thief, and the fool!"
    "Perfection is not attainable; but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence" Vince Lombardi
    Playing Style: RockMonRoll Desperado Bluegrass Desperado YT Channel

  24. #17

    Default Re: Gibson History - Montana Division years

    Nick,I do own V70416. It's a great instrument;arguably "better" tone than the Monroe. The neck dimensions do not fit me as well as the
    Monroe. The Derrington-signed Gibson has got it all tone-wise. I almost traded it straight across for a Ellis F5;chickened out at the last minute.

    The Master Model has a more traditional looking varnish finish. It fingerprints easily,scratches easily. The Monroe is over a decade older but looks way newer than the
    MM.

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  26. #18
    Loarcutus of MandoBorg DataNick's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson History - Montana Division years

    Quote Originally Posted by V70416 View Post
    Nick,I do own V70416. It's a great instrument;arguably "better" tone than the Monroe. The neck dimensions do not fit me as well as the
    Monroe. The Derrington-signed Gibson has got it all tone-wise. I almost traded it straight across for a Ellis F5;chickened out at the last minute.

    The Master Model has a more traditional looking varnish finish. It fingerprints easily,scratches easily. The Monroe is over a decade older but looks way newer than the
    MM.
    Is the tone of MM V70416 really "better" than the Monroe model, or just different, as in more "Loarish"?

    If you're primarily a bluegrasser who values the Loar tone then the MM would probably be more along those lines than an Ellis, in my experience. But I'd love to have an Ellis, as I think it has more versatility in complementing different genres than the MM. You can play anything with either mandolin, but I'd love to have an Ellis for classical, concert hall music, R&R, jazz, etc. as I think the typical Ellis has more sustain, overtones, etc. than the typical Gibson; of course there are exceptions and YMMV.

    Interesting observations about the finish differences...
    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!"
    "If you wanna get soul Baby, you gots to get the scroll..."
    "I would rather play music anyday for the beggar, the thief, and the fool!"
    "Perfection is not attainable; but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence" Vince Lombardi
    Playing Style: RockMonRoll Desperado Bluegrass Desperado YT Channel

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