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Thread: Gibson A50, odd neck

  1. #1
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    Default Gibson A50, odd neck

    Hi all, I am tempted by this Gibson, described as a 47-49 A50, which seems on the money to me. There is absolutely no visible serial number. I've even looked inside the top with a dental mirror, and nothing doing. There's a lot of glaze cracking, but the top seems sound. There's an immaculate original case (as immacualte as they come anyway). The neck makes me pause. The peghead clearly has a new piece of wood on the side, and a wiggly.crack in the centre of the glaze on both sides. Additionally there is a dark 'skunk stripe' running all the way from the top down to the heel. Is this ever normal, or has the neck had a lot of repair? The fingerboard binding is very white on top, suggesting recent work. The bridge doesn't look original and is set as low as it would go, but I'd probably raise the action slightly anyway. I don't know enough about machines to say if they're original or not.

    Tonally it's fascinating, mellower than your standard f hole with more sustain, but not as much as an oval hole. Kind of between the two.

    Price asked is £1200, about right for a shop bought instrument in the UK if all is well (I know ebay is cheaper, but this would come with a year's warranty). But that neck, what do folks think?
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  2. #2
    Registered User Tom C's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson A50, odd neck

    Leave it be.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Gibson A50, odd neck

    The neck with a center stripe does not bother me. But the signs of movement along the center joint do.

    It appears that the glue joints holding the neck together are deteriorating. It is not unlikely that the tone bars may also be coming loose.
    Multiple glue joint failure is so common in Gibsons from this period that I have dubbed this condition "Gibsonitis."

    I would pass.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Gibson A50, odd neck

    Quote Originally Posted by trickcyclist View Post
    Hi all, I am tempted by this Gibson, described as a 47-49 A50, which seems on the money to me. ...The peghead clearly has a new piece of wood on the side, and a wiggly.crack in the centre of the glaze on both sides. Additionally there is a dark 'skunk stripe' running all the way from the top down to the heel. ...

    Price asked is £1200, about right for a shop bought instrument in the UK if all is well (I know ebay is cheaper, but this would come with a year's warranty). But that neck, what do folks think?
    Headstock:
    What you describe is called "wings". The headstock is obviously not made out of a single piece of wood. This happens in (acoustic guitars, f.ex. Martin). Some hate them. But they are nothing to stay away from. It´s just the way the instrument is built. If there is no crack or failing glue (joint) then there´s nothing wrong.

    "wiggly thing/crack"
    If there is a noticable crack anywhere in the headstock, this would be a dealbreaker for me. A repair is pricey and a headstock crack devalues the instrument significantly. As the price is high, even for european standards a compromised headstock would devalue the instrument by half (to my mind). But i could not make anything out of your description (wiggly crack at the glaze and that sort of thing). If cou could describe again...

    "skunk stripe"
    The stripe could actually be an indicator that the instrument has a 3 piece neck, namely the two sides and the sandwiched black piece of wood. This is even found in highroller instruments (LLoyd Loar F- 5s, Gilchrist etc.). This is nothing to worry about.

    A replacement bridge would not bother me. The mellow sound is to be expected as I guess that the fretboard is glued to the top (as opposed to an elevated fretboard. These kind of mandolins are okay in a folk setting but tend to fall short in a louder (bluegrass) environment. It looks cool though.
    Olaf

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    Default Re: Gibson A50, odd neck

    Ah well. My default option was 'pass'. I was hoping to be persuaded the other way, but not to worry.
    Anyway, thanks for the advice, chaps. out of interest, are multiple piece necks like this common in older Gibsons?

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Gibson A50, odd neck

    Quote Originally Posted by trickcyclist View Post
    Ah well. My default option was 'pass'. I was hoping to be persuaded the other way, but not to worry.
    Anyway, thanks for the advice, chaps. out of interest, are multiple piece necks like this common in older Gibsons?
    Yes, see my post above. There´s the "Parrot Loar" for example: http://www.mandolinarchive.com/gibson/serial/71055
    Olaf

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    Default Re: Gibson A50, odd neck

    Quote Originally Posted by grassrootphilosopher View Post
    Headstock:

    "wiggly thing/crack"
    If there is a noticable crack anywhere in the headstock, this would be a dealbreaker for me. A repair is pricey and a headstock crack devalues the instrument significantly. As the price is high, even for european standards a compromised headstock would devalue the instrument by half (to my mind). But i could not make anything out of your description (wiggly crack at the glaze and that sort of thing). If cou could describe again...
    Hey Olaf, if you look in picture 9, of the front of the headstock, you see it running up from the screw of the truss rod cover to the v in the top. It's also there on the back and runs all the way down to the heel. It's quite hard to photograph clearly. It looks superficial, but I did wonder if it meant a joint was beginning to move.

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    Default Re: Gibson A50, odd neck

    The Parrot Loar is rather pretty...

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    Default Re: Gibson A50, odd neck

    I’d be interested to know where in the UK it’s being sold. It doesn’t look right to me and it’s clearly been “tarted up” as we say in these parts to within an inch of its life. It’s difficult to say exactly what’s wrong with it but I wouldn’t buy it (even if I did want one); there are better things available.

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    Default Re: Gibson A50, odd neck

    It's in Hobgoblin in Brum. I could have traded in a nice uke that I didn't want but got quite cheaply against it. I don't tend to buy vintage things from Hobgoblin, but the ability to trade in something quite different is sometimes helpful. I don't think they've done much to it, if anything. They tend to sell vintage instruments 'as seen' and leave it to the buyer to have any further work done.

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  13. #11
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    Default Re: Gibson A50, odd neck

    First things first. My Orthographie is letting me down. So... Sorry for that. The smartphone attempts at autocorrection wouldn‘t have helped neither. ...pathetic.

    I‘ve checked pic 9. It looks like either a crack or a seam seperation (failed glue in a 3 piece neck) to me. That does not look okey dokey to me. This would devalue the mando big time, at least for me.

    Parrot Loar...: I wish... it were mine. It‘s pretty plus.

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    Default Re: Gibson A50, odd neck

    Alas, I believe the parrot was removed from the Parrot Loar a few years ago. I've been looking for an artist that could reproduce that parrot on the back of my mandolin for years.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Gibson A50, odd neck

    Quote Originally Posted by trickcyclist View Post
    It's in Hobgoblin in Brum. I could have traded in a nice uke that I didn't want but got quite cheaply against it. I don't tend to buy vintage things from Hobgoblin, but the ability to trade in something quite different is sometimes helpful. I don't think they've done much to it, if anything. They tend to sell vintage instruments 'as seen' and leave it to the buyer to have any further work done.
    Thanks, its a bit far for me to have a casual look at. That neck and head look as if they’ve been refinished with “Ronseal”. ..... and those tuners! I have a set without visible screws but they were made by Mr Alessi.

    If it’s in Hobgoblin though, some poor soul will buy it.

  16. #14
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    Default Re: Gibson A50, odd neck

    Like others have said, three piece necks are not uncommon. Even on Gibson. Looks to my eye like a wartime neck. Tuners are definitely wartime era. Which could even be correct on a 1947.

    The problem is, if the glue is giving out (and it's not just lacquer cracks) that is a very expensive job to fix correctly. However, I wonder if it already has been fixed. One wing of the headstock appears to have been off and reglued. The light colored portion. It is possible the wing was taken off to dowel the headstock and fix the delamination problem. The only way to tell is by taking off the tuners on that side. If you see a dowel plug towards the center of the headstock in one or two tuner holes, then it was fixed.

    But it is also entirely possible it's just the glue on the neck giving way all around. Either way, I would pass on it. For a repaired instrument, the price is high. If not, even less of a deal.
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    Default Re: Gibson A50, odd neck

    I think on the 3 piece necks the skunk strip is often dyed pear wood. As it deteriorates the seam will come apart. Not the cause of failed glue, but the wood deteriorating.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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    Default Re: Gibson A50, odd neck

    Quote Originally Posted by Ray(T) View Post
    and those tuners! I have a set without visible screws but they were made by Mr Alessi.
    During WWII those tuners without screws started showing up. Most just had a blob of brass holding them together. In the later years apparently they cleaned them up a bit. I've always assumed they couldn't get the screws as the production had been diverted for the war effort.

    Kluson made tuners with no screw on the cog for decades after the war.
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    Last edited by MikeEdgerton; Oct-10-2019 at 9:42am.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Gibson A50, odd neck

    I have a number of instruments with this type of Kluson tuner that has no screws. The oldest date from 1942 and I have no complaints- they seem to work really well and hold tune with no trouble. A more troublesome thing with this type of tuner from that era is the buttons crumbling- and that has happened on some of my 1942 Kluson units.

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    Default Re: Gibson A50, odd neck

    Those buttons crumbled well into the 60's. I assume Kluson bought a bunch of them at the same time. Frank Ford has an article that talks a little about them (as well as replacing the buttons) on his site www.frets.com.

    http://www.frets.com/FretsPages/Luth...newbutton.html
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  22. #19
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    Default Re: Gibson A50, odd neck

    It looks similar to the one in this thread?
    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...-style-Gibson?

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    Default Re: Gibson A50, odd neck

    Quote Originally Posted by Cobalt View Post
    It looks similar to the one in this thread?
    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...-style-Gibson?
    It really does but they don't appear to be the same instrument. The pickguard tortoise pattern isn't the same and the scars on the top don't appear to be the same but it sure as heck is aging on the headstock and the neck the same. The fact that they are both in the UK is pretty amazing.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Gibson A50, odd neck

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    I think on the 3 piece necks the skunk strip is often dyed pear wood. As it deteriorates the seam will come apart. Not the cause of failed glue, but the wood deteriorating.
    Only on the early Gibsons, if I remember correctly. During WWII I think it was walnut with maple or mahogany. Some guitars had 2 stringers to make a 5 piece neck.
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    Default Re: Gibson A50, odd neck

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    Default Re: Gibson A50, odd neck

    OK, I think I've finally matched up one small feature that shows they might be the same instrument. The headstock wing can't be definitive because they could have used the same mismatched piece of wood on more than one neck but there is a tiny stained spot on that same mismatched wing that looks to be the same and that wouldn't repeat itself. The next thing is for Tony to say he did a quick refinish job on the one he had. That would explain the difference in the checking pattern.

    Generally it's a little easier to identify things like this because you can ID scars, checking, scratches, and there is usually a way to match those up. The OP's appears to have been finished over, it looks like it has more finish on it. If you look at the part of the light colored wing closest to the top of the headstock center there appears to be a small wedge shaped dark spot. It's more apparent on the OP's post than it is on Tony's. I think it's there and it would be hard for both of them to have that identical spot. Again, I could be wrong but they do look like they could be the same instrument. I wasn't able to match of the finish checking.
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  29. #24
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    Default Re: Gibson A50, odd neck

    Thank you Peter (Cobalt) for drawing my attention to this thread - I hadn't spotted it.

    I will do my best to satisfy everyone's curiosity, but first I must make it clear that I do have a financial interest as it's my instrument (until Hobgoblin sells it). I will try to keep a balance between helpful information and shameless self-promotion (don't want to get into trouble with the moderators).

    The mandolin is the same one discussed in the thread mentioned by Cobalt (post #19). There is a lot of information from MC members on that thread and also some before/after photos I posted myself.

    The main point is the neck. It looks to me like a 3-piece neck with a stained pearwood splice in the centre. I thought Gibson gave up doing that long before this one was made, but maybe not. Someone pointed out on the other thread that during and shortly after the war Gibson had to make do with whatever material they could get and it wasn't always ideal. Yes, there are signs that the splice is degrading. It may at some point need to be dowelled as described in post #14, but for the time being the neck and head seem stable. It is not my practice to do invasive repair work unless I'm sure it's completely necessary. How long will it be before it really needs doing? 10 years, 20, 50? Who knows? I don't. For the sake of appearance, I did need to do something to stabilize the finish where it was cracking on the splice so I used water-based acrylic to seal the cracks in the finish. You can call that 'tarting up' if you like, but I'm not that cynical. Apart from that, I did nothing to the finish other than clean it and give its shine back using Liberon Burnishing Cream. I don't know if you have that in America, but I believe it's similar to something called Maguiars. No Mike, I didn't do a quick refinish.

    The mis-matched 'ear' on the head is original, I believe. With the instrument in hand I could see no sign of the original finish having been disturbed. Gibson simply used a piece of wood that didn't match very well. Incidentally, in real life it doesn't show up nearly as much as it does in photos. The colour is quite similar, it just catches the light differently, which is why it shows up so much in photos.

    Moving on to the pickguard - the original was hopelessly crumbled, though the binding was still good. What were the options here? 1) leave the crumbled pickguard on it 2) throw it out and sell the mandolin on with no pickguard at all 3) buy a replacement 4) carefully remove all the crumbled tortoiseshell acetate from inside the binding, buy a new piece of tortoiseshell acrylic and painstakingly shape it to fit inside the orginal binding and glue it all together. I decided on this last option. I did have to do a bit of scraping to get the surfaces level, so the OP is right - there are signs of recent work. A lot of recent work. I also had the corroded screw and bracket replated, which entailed 2 trips to the platers, total 100 miles (plus the cost of the plating).

    I also gave it a complete refret which was 100% necessary, and replaced the missing cloud tailpiece cover with a reproduction one I made myself. A new bridge too, as the original was missing. If you look at the before/after photos on the other thread you will see that there was other work needed too.

    Anyone want to know what it sounds like? I posted a sound sample here https://youtu.be/vi99zVDA7Wk but it won't tell you a great deal because I'm not a good enough player to demonstrate an instrument properly. While you're looking at my YouTube channel though, please take a look at the other mandolins on there. Some of them are very interesting instruments and nearly all have been resurrected by me from a state of complete unplayability.

    Bottom line - I reckon that when this mandolin sells I will make about £200 on it. Does anyone here think I'm overcharging for my work? Please let me know what you would charge.

    One last point. I often see threads on the Cafe that start with something like, 'I've seen this old Gibson going cheap but it needs work done. Should I buy it?' There is always someone who says, 'It will cost loadsa money to get that fixed and all you'll have at the end is a repaired mandolin. Save your money for something that doesn't need fixing.' For people who think that way, I have a question. What should be done with Gibsons like that? Used as firelighters? Hung on the wall for people to weep over? Or should they be bought by some retired old codger who doesn't need to earn a living any more and has nothing better to do with his time than fix up hopeless cases? Other ideas?

    I was going to say a lot more, but I doubt if anyone is still reading me, so I'll leave it there for now. If anyone wants to continue the discussion they are welcome to PM me, or I'll even post it on here if you're sure you want it.

    Happy playing folks!

    PS. For anyone interested, here's a photo of my next project
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  31. #25
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    Default Re: Gibson A50, odd neck

    So, I couldn't keep quiet. I have to come back to that comment that this mandolin has clearly been tarted up to within an inch of its life. I really do consider that a slur on my workmanship. However, the comment came from someone who has never seen the actual instrument, never had it in his hands or played it and didn't see it as it was when I got it, so maybe I shouldn't take it too seriously. But I really wonder what exactly do I have to do to an instrument to get a pat on the back instead of this kind of insult?

    The follow-up comment that it looks as if it's been finished with Ronseal is not an insult to me, it's an insult to Gibson. It's their finish (and it's 70 years old).

    It's completely accurate to say (as the OP did) that Hobgoblin have done nothing to this mandolin. That doesn't mean of course that someone else didn't do a lot of careful work on it.

    I'll do my best to shut up now.
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    Mandolins: Bandolim by Antonio Pereira Cabral
    German flatback by unknown maker converted from a descant Waldzither

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