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Thread: Gibson?

  1. #1

    Default Gibson?

    Hey guys & gals,
    I am wanting a vintage Gibson A style mandolin (along with others). My question is how important is the truss rod? I researched to find it of the Loar improvements.
    Curious about a fixed bridge as well.
    The articles appear to state that after the 30's a decline in quality & that would make sense due to finances of the period.
    thanks in advance!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Gibson?

    I'm not an expert on this but I know the teens A's without a trussrod had the 12th fret joint with a very wide fingerboard and a substantial girth. Instead of an adjustable rod they inlayed a large V shaped piece of maple the full length of the neck. I think they have mostly held up very well. Real stout.
    Last edited by Jim Hilburn; Apr-11-2019 at 11:43am.

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  4. #3
    Henry Lawton hank's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson?

    The teen years had wider fretboards and larger bulkier necks in comparison to models built later with Truss Rods. The body's air volume is slightly larger on teen models requiring a larger tone guard size to fit correctly. Many teens can have excessive bass tubbiness in comparison to the more balanced refined Loar years with Maple bodies and backs. Your Question:How Important is the Truss Rod? The Answer: Not Very Important if you like larger wider necks anyway.
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    Default Re: Gibson?

    I recently acquired a teens A that needs a lot of work -- but neck work doesn't appear to be structurally necessary. Since I'm basically performing a full restoration (fixing other people's "repairs") I've considered inlaying a carbon non-adjustable rod, but I think I've decided against it as a preventive measure.

    In addition to the chunky neck, the fingerboard is substantially thicker than I see on most modern boards, which I'm sure helps the rigidity.

    I'm also not an expert, but my hunch is that if you start with a good piece of wood and keep it in relatively good condition,* adjustable truss rods may be helpful for those who know how to use them, but not <necessary> under most circumstances.

    *It looks like my particular instrument got "lucky" because the tailpiece end has some water damage but the neck is fine.

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    Default Re: Gibson?

    I have a '22, Loar improvements in sound, truss rod, but still the wide 1 1/4" fingerboard and paddle headstock. Wonderful sounding mandolin. At the time I wanted the wide fingerboard and chose this year. If you like those wider boards some of the later teens sound very good also. I am not a fan of the tubby sound, I like the deep clear sound of my A2 and it is quite loud and warm sounding. I have gone to playing an ff hole mandolin and need the extra neck length for leads so I don't play the A2 as much these days, but a great mandolin. I had an '18 that had a 1 1/8" fingerboard, there was a lot of variance in those years, good sound tho.
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    Default Re: Gibson?

    This is the cross section of the neck from the Artes print.
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  12. #7
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    Default Re: Gibson?

    I've worked on dozens of the pre-truss rod Gibsons.

    The necks can vary considerably in size and profile. Generally speaking, the A models have bigger necks than the F models, except in the very early teens.

    They hold up just fine as long as they haven't been neglected or over-strung.

    I don't recommend anything heavier than 11-14-25-40, but we do see them strung heavier. When they are strung heavier, sometimes they do fine, sometimes they don't.

    I have seen no evidence that Loar period mandolins are carved any differently than a 1914 instrument. If anything, the build gradually gets heavier [although not always] starting about 1924.

    By the time Sam Bush's "Hoss" was made circa 1938, many of the mandolins are very heavy indeed. "Hoss" has been re-graduated and re-braced. But oddly enough, some of the A-50's from the same period are, if anything, carved too thinly.

    An adjustable bridge does sound different than a one-piece. Not necessarily better or worse, just different. But bear in mind that 2 identical bridges may also sound different.

    I have a 1918 Gibson with a rather slim neck for the period that hasn't moved in the 30 years I've owned it. I string it 10 1/2-14-24-40.

    Some of the old Gibsons have intonation problems due to poorly located frets. The worst I've seen was a c. 1930 A-4. I had to replace the fingerboard on that one. Most of the teens models are fine. Starting about 1919 or 20, the fret placement can start to get sloppy, but it varies from instrument to instrument.
    Last edited by rcc56; Apr-11-2019 at 5:25pm.

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  14. #8

    Default Re: Gibson?

    Thanks for the input,

    Thinking I would like an Adjustable Bridge just because that is what I am used to.
    Guess that would include a Truss Rod as well but that doesn't hurt my feelings. This is a want item so I should have some time to to locate it because my daily driver is a Collings and mycampfire is an Eastman.
    May need to start a want in the classifieds

    Thanks for your help! it made this decision much easier.

    Steve

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    Default Re: Gibson?

    If possible, play several of the old A models. They can vary considerably in tone, projection, and neck shape. If you can play a few of them, you'll be more likely to find the one that will suit you best. I wouldn't worry too much about the model, year, presence of a truss rod, or the bridge type.

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  17. #10
    Cafe Linux Mommy danb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson?

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    If possible, play several of the old A models. They can vary considerably in tone, projection, and neck shape. If you can play a few of them, you'll be more likely to find the one that will suit you best. I wouldn't worry too much about the model, year, presence of a truss rod, or the bridge type.

    Good advice right here.

    The truss rod and adjustible saddles both let you fine-tune the set-up a bit more. I make little adjustments to mine when I travel, seasonal changes etc.

    Most importantly, get the one you like the most that sounds good when you play it.
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  19. #11

    Default Re: Gibson?

    I agree although the issue with trying something out is that here in So Cal not much to go see & play~~may need to make an educated guess. Unless of course there is something to look at but not much so far. May need to pay a bit more & get from a known seller.
    Guess the Land of Fruits & Nuts doesn't include Mandolins!

    thanks again guys & gals
    Last edited by prairieschooner; Apr-12-2019 at 4:01pm.

  20. #12
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    Default Re: Gibson?

    If you are able and so inclined, you might want to take a field trip.

    If you can budget an F-4 instead of an A model, there are 9 of them in Nashville right now, plus a couple of F-2's. We don't have many A models floating around this month.

    There does seem to be a shortage of oval hole Gibsons in California. I do see just a few in the S.F. bay area.
    You might want to check Gryphon, Player's Vintage Instruments, Steve Swan, and Schoenberg Guitars. They are established shops with good reputations.

    They don't show anything on their website, but you also might want to give McCabe's in Santa Monica a call. I see an A model at Norman's in Tarzana.
    Last edited by rcc56; Apr-13-2019 at 12:43am.

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  22. #13

    Default Re: Gibson?

    Thanks rcc56, I may need to cool my heels until I can go on the field trip.
    Great advice & resources.

  23. #14

    Default Re: Gibson?

    good luck on your quest,prairieschooner. it is always best,imho,to play before you buy;but,i have bought more than a few mandolins either on order from makers or online purchases. no regerts really. my next mandolin purchase i will defenitely play before i buy.

    thank you,jim hilburn. i have owned a few teens mandos and a mandola., i had no idea there was a maple v-shaped insert in the necks.

    and i thought i knew everything.

    ha. i know nothing.

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  25. #15

    Default Re: Gibson?

    I have the good fortune to have Gryphon in my backyard. I have tried a dozen or so Gibson As from as early as 1909 to the mid twenties. I liked them all. A Loar era paddlehead was slightly tighter and more focused than the teens. One man's tubby is another man's resonant. My favorite A is the A2Z, alas, beyond my pay grade. My 1913 A 1 sounds pretty much like any birch backed teens A I've played.

    I would not want one as my only mandolin, unless I was strictly old timey or celtic. But you have the modern f style covered, so one would be a nice addition to your collection. This is one instance I didn't mind paying top dollar from a dealer as they will be either over or approaching a hundred years old. If originality is important you will pay more. Many pick guards, along with the hardware are long gone. Many cases have fallen apart, tuners replaced, etc. Then there are shrunken backs, the dreaded sunken tops, and various cracks front and back.

    So, given my A1 as an example, I paid $1600 for it. It is exceptionally clean with all original hardware in exceptional condition. It is missing the original case. It was given a clean bill of health. You could maybe get one with a repaired crack or two, missing the pickguard, with replacement tuners and bridge for $900 or so, and have the exact same playing experience. So it is all in what you want in a vintage instrument.

    One thing is certain, there are many out there so finding one is easy. Bear in mind, if it's important to you, you will get the Gibson inlayed logo only on A 1 or higher models. Also keep in mind, Martin guitars did not have truss rods until the late eightys, just reinforcing bars. This is an instance I'd buy from a well known dealer. Peace of mind and all. You will realize you become a caretaker more than an owner. I have a paper trail to 1980, but boy would I love a history going back to 1913.
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  27. #16
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    Default Re: Gibson?

    Just as an historical observation, the venerated Martin Guitar, never real eager to jump on the latest bandwaon, waited six decades, to 1985, before making their trussrods adjustable. Hasn't at all hurt the sound, or the reputation, of their earlier instruments!
    - Ed

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  29. #17

    Default Re: Gibson?

    Bummer is the more we learn the more we know. Started looking for a lower end vintage Gibson but now not sure since I will most likely be buying online & may need to reconsider buying lower end.

    All of your guys help has been very welcome & educating~~that is what I was asking for.

    Starting to dig a black or snakehead.

  30. #18

    Default Re: Gibson?

    Snake heads are very cool instruments. I think Schoenberg has a Jr. for around $1800.Yes, when more people like something, the price goes up. But consider this, it will never be worth less. I'd love an A2Z for sure. With any of those old Gibsons, you know you are holding a quality instrument you bought less, at least for most paddle heads, than you could have a copy made for.
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  32. #19

    Default Re: Gibson?

    I'd take a chance in the A just listed in classifieds. NFI
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  34. #20

    Default Re: Gibson?

    Thanks for the heads up on the '13 A. I am leaning more towards a black top now. I only want one of these to be a caretaker for so I need to get something that lights my fire.

  35. #21

    Default Re: Gibson?

    You guys have been very helpful so I thought I may ask for more.
    Getting close on a Gibson Snakehead, archives show the serial number listed as 1924 with a ship date of 1925. He has reported that it has "replacement tuners". I would much rather have the original tuners but this black top is in very good condition except for this and worn frets (thanks to rcc56 for his advice on the frets).
    Curious how much the tuners would effect the overall condition and the value. If it looks like the original type can be installed at some point in the future.
    Thanks in advance
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  36. #22

    Default Re: Gibson?

    The original tuners may have been "arrow ended" like the replacements although there were other types used as well. Original "arrow ended" tuners are extremely rare- they may be around but it might take you years and plenty of cash to get them- and they might also be worn. Quite frankly, if the mandolin sounds good and plays well and is in good shape, then non-original tuners are not something to be concerned about. You might argue that the price of the instrument should be a bit lower if the tuners are not original, but that is for you to haggle about with the seller. My 1923 Snakehead has had its arrow ended tuners replaced by later 1920s Waverly tuners as seen on an A4 but I bought the mandolin for its tone. Maybe, if I run across those elusive tuners, I will get them- subject to the price.

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