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Thread: 75 Gibson F-5

  1. #1
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    Default 75 Gibson F-5

    I posted awhile back about this mandolin. I know it is from the "Dark Period" but it belonged to a dear friend of mine who bought it new (still have original paperwork and case). He was retired and played it most everyday until his illness and passing in 1999. Afterwards the family got it and kept it in their house in a closet untouched until this past week. I had contacted them about buying it. No other family members are interested in the mandolin. Anyway long story short is I was given the mandolin by a family member. They said he would want his pickin buddy to have it. We played quite a lot together back in the 80's and early 90's. I care nothing about selling it I just want to clean the gunk off and set it up to play but not sure what type of finish was used on this one and what I could use to give it a good cleaning. The finish looks to have an orange hue to it. Is that normal or did this occur because of being in the case all these years? Any help on the proper cleaning would be appreciated.

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: 75 Gibson F-5

    The finish is most likely some form of nitrocellulose lacquer, though I wouldn't be surprised if Gibson was monkeying with the exact formula to reduce drying time or cut cost. I've seen yellow, amber, and orange overtones during this period. They were using "aging toners", and using too much to start with; so when true age kicks in, they develop an "over-done" look.

    At any rate, you can use naphtha, followed by a good quality instrument polish. I prefer a white polish available from a violin supply house, but you don't need to be that picky. If the instrument is really filthy, go to frets.com and read their article on cleaning.

  3. #3
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: 75 Gibson F-5

    Most likely it's a lacquer finish. If it was me I'd use a damp (not dripping wet) soft cloth. Has the binding started to deteriorate?
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: 75 Gibson F-5

    No, the binding seems very solid but the pickguard crumbled.

  5. #5
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: 75 Gibson F-5

    That's probably good as the pickguard is a whole lot easier to replace than binding.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  7. #6

    Default Re: 75 Gibson F-5

    I hope I am not giving you a glimpse into the future regarding the binding but here is a picture of what my 70's era head stock looked like when I first acquired this mandolin about 18 years ago. This 70's era neck is a F-5 Gibson replacement on a 1956 F-12.

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    And here's what it looks like today.

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    The body binding is 50's era Gibson and is holding up pretty well, but if you can recommend a good repair person for the head stock, I'd be most appreciative.

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL

  8. #7
    Registered User f5loar's Avatar
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    Default Re: 75 Gibson F-5

    The 70's F5 used a quick dry varnish. The cremona shading was all over the place in terms of color from amber orange to amber yellow sunburst.

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    Default Re: 75 Gibson F-5

    I have noticed the varnish seems very thick. Would it be advantageous to sand down the finish some and re buff? If yes, dry or wet sand? Starting at ???? grit and then progress to 1500 to 2000 grit. How much would this affect the tone? I checked on having it revoiced and was told it was expensive and may or may not make a distinguishable difference. The tone seems to sound subdued almost like coming from a small area in the center of the mandolin. I would like to make it sound better but if spending a lot of money and its still a gamble, I would rather put that money toward another mandolin. Thanks for any advise.

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  10. #9

    Default Re: 75 Gibson F-5

    Quote Originally Posted by Hook2010 View Post
    I would like to make it sound better but if spending a lot of money and its still a gamble, I would rather put that money toward another mandolin. Thanks for any advise.
    No one can know for sure how successful (or unsuccessful) a revoicing would be, even by someone who knows their stuff like Randy Wood. Also... no one can tell you what's best for you.

    If it were my mandolin, one I'd been given by the family of a dear departed friend, I'd just keep it the way it is as something to remember him by. I'd put that hypothetical money toward another mandolin before trying to make a silk purse...
    "I play BG so that's what I can talk intelligently about." A line I loved and pirated from Mandoplumb

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  12. #10

    Default Re: 75 Gibson F-5

    I have a '75 F5 which I purchased over 30 years ago. It had a dull sound with no projection, regardless of what strings I used, or how hard
    I played. But it was structurally sound, and attractive in a '70s sort of way. And it was comfortable to play.I had talked to my luthier friend about a total redo-revoice, refinish,new tuners, new fretboard and new carbon fiber augmented tone bars-for years. Finally he tackled it about 3 years ago. (Roger Siminoff was very helpful in supplying parts and giving advice in accomplishing the project.) It was not cheap, but the transformation was remarkable. Instead of firewood, I now have, and someone who follows me will have, a very attractive, competent instrument that is solid as well as sonorous, with good volume and projection.
    I look at it as a rescue project that will pay someone dividends for many years to come.

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  14. #11

    Default Re: 75 Gibson F-5

    hook2010
    I may have misplayed the personal message activity. Unfortunately my luthier friend is leaving town for a rural spot and not taking on such projects.
    Sorry if I unnecessarily got your hopes up.

  15. #12

    Default Re: 75 Gibson F-5

    What would a revoicing cost? There are reasons, sentiment being one of them, to spend money on an instrument beyond what it’s value would be. I’d say if it was going to linger in a closet because you would not play it, have the work done. Since it is likely never to be collectible, even a refin would be on the table. But I’d have a frank conversation with someone who has done this before deciding. If you could end up with a good sounding mandolin for two or three grand, why not?
    Silverangel A
    Arches F style kit
    1913 Gibson A-1

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  17. #13

    Default Re: 75 Gibson F-5

    Consider the re-voicing alone rather than adding in the cost of a refinish. It can be far less expensive than the 2 or 3 grand Brick mentions above. I sent my '56 F-12 to Randy Wood back in 2008. It was rather subdued with a pretty but quiet voice, unable to be heard in a jam when I first got it. I fitted a new Cumberland Acoustic bridge and replaced the Kluson tuners with lighter weight Gotoh tuners but the "improvements" were very modest at best. Randy did the re-voicing for about 20% of the high figure quoted above. He did ask if I wanted a complete varnish refinish which was considerably more expensive (about what Brick quotes above) and I balked but the revoicing alone was dramatically successful in opening up the voice and yielded great tone and volume. Two banjo players have complained to me about being too loud in jam sessions. That's proof enough for me that re-voicing alone was the right decision and money well spent.

    The sunburst finish on your F-5 is attractive (in a 70's kind of way) so that's of secondary importance compared to how it sounds. I'm an advocate of the revoicing process (re graduating the top and back) and definitely replacing the tone bars. You might try sticking a finger into the F holes and feeling the tone bars. Mine were about 3/8 inch thick and not rounded/shaped at all, just square "logs". They are now shaped nicely and about the size of a #2 pencil. I know you are still gathering information about what to do with this mandolin but imho letting it linger in a case in the closet for the rest of your life seems like a waste of a potentially great playing/sounding instrument.

    Len B.
    Clearwater, FL
    Last edited by lenf12; Jan-08-2020 at 12:21pm.

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  19. #14

    Default Re: 75 Gibson F-5

    I'd string that up and make it playable, and... just leave it at that.

    A remembrance of your friend.

    But I wouldn't put any money into it.

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