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Thread: 1909 A4 Gibson Factory Revamped

  1. #1

    Default 1909 A4 Gibson Factory Revamped

    This A4 appears to have received major surgery by Gibson- a refinish that includes a truss rod. Once upon a time, this was probably par for the course but is viewed now with regret although it may have prolonged this instrument's active life- if to the detriment of its originality. Original case.

    https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Gibson-Ma....c100010.m2109

  2. #2
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1909 A4 Gibson Factory Revamped

    Looks like a Gibson factory repair. Probably renecked in the 60's under warranty. I'm surprised at the worm over Handel tuners.

    I had a 32 F2 come through that had received the same treatment in the 60's.
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  3. #3
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1909 A4 Gibson Factory Revamped

    Not necessarily a refinish -- there are plenty of blackface A4s from this period. In fact I don't think the sunburst A4 was introduced until 1914. It's nice that the Handels were reused. The renecking job could be from the '50s. At any rate, it's a little more conservative approach to factory restoration than your typical '60s butchery.
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    Registered User Timbofood's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1909 A4 Gibson Factory Revamped

    Why is the seller calling it a “parts” instrument in the header? It’s just had some of the old Kalamazoo factory “restoration” looks decent to me, yea there are things that are odd but it looks pretty much playable.
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  6. #5
    acoustically inert F-2 Dave's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1909 A4 Gibson Factory Revamped

    Just noticed, the serial number (9043)is just two away from mine (9041). Kinda cool.
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    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1909 A4 Gibson Factory Revamped

    Not a bad job. Wonder if it was like my old 1910 where the pear wood center strip of the neck rotted away. Looks like someone drilled through the headstock for the tuner screws though. Oops.

    I've seen things like "parts or not working" on other good instruments. Makes me wonder if they are not checking the correct box, or if they see a few scratches and dings and are trying to over compensate for that.
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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1909 A4 Gibson Factory Revamped

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Platt View Post
    I've seen things like "parts or not working" on other good instruments. Makes me wonder if they are not checking the correct box, or if they see a few scratches and dings and are trying to over compensate for that.
    I've asked this seller about that ... he lists all instruments that way to prevent people from returning items with a Substantially Not As Described claim.
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  10. #8
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1909 A4 Gibson Factory Revamped

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Platt View Post
    Looks like someone drilled through the headstock for the tuner screws though. Oops.
    Good eye — yes, on the treble side of the headstock, between the second and third tuners, looks like someone had to fill a screw hole.
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  11. #9

    Default Re: 1909 A4 Gibson Factory Revamped

    You can see that every screw- even on the tailpiece, has been replaced by Phillips screws while Gibson upgraded the instrument. That tallies with the instrument being totally stripped back and refinished. It probably plays well and sounds pretty good. I suppose if you wanted a vintage instrument to gig with but did not want to take out an old Gibson that was in good original condition, this would be a good compromise choice.

  12. #10
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1909 A4 Gibson Factory Revamped

    I'm surprised they kept the tailpiece cover. The one I had had the newer cover with the newer logo.
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  13. #11
    Registered User Bob Clark's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1909 A4 Gibson Factory Revamped

    If I was looking for one, I'd sure be interested in this one. Wouldn't have to worry about it as much as an one in original condition. Could put a pickup in it without feeling guilty about it. Plus, looks kinda cool. Almost wish I was looking for one (almost).
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  14. #12
    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1909 A4 Gibson Factory Revamped

    Not seeing anything in the photos that screams "refinish." The colors are correct for an A4 of this vintage.
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  15. #13

    Default Re: 1909 A4 Gibson Factory Revamped

    It looks to me that it had a pickguard until fairly recently. I would expect to see a difference in the finish in the area protected by the guard if the finish was original. I suppose the seller could be asked about finish checking and some very close up photos of the finish which might clarify things. Some have suggested the whole neck and board may be a replacement although I think the neck and headstock are original. I don't know other than that neck shows zero wear which is a bit odd. I assume that bridge is not original.

  16. #14
    Registered User slimt's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1909 A4 Gibson Factory Revamped

    The Seller got a bunch of mandolins from a inheritants .. he has some idea of what he has,, but hes not sure on originality.. Im betting its a good Mandolin regardless of the neck replacement. the brightside is it has a trussrod too..

  17. #15
    Registered User Peter K's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1909 A4 Gibson Factory Revamped

    I do not see how an old Gibson mandolin could maintain such a near-perfect glossy finish after some 100 or so years. Even when new, I believe their finish was more satiny than glossy.
    From the standpoint of originality and resale, not having the original pickguard is a significant issue. I suppose the trussrod is even more of an issue, however, the functional benefit of it kinda mitigates the departure from originality.

  18. #16

    Default Re: 1909 A4 Gibson Factory Revamped

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter K View Post
    I do not see how an old Gibson mandolin could maintain such a near-perfect glossy finish after some 100 or so years. Even when new, I believe their finish was more satiny than glossy.
    From the standpoint of originality and resale, not having the original pickguard is a significant issue. I suppose the trussrod is even more of an issue, however, the functional benefit of it kinda mitigates the departure from originality.
    french polish

  19. #17
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    Default Re: 1909 A4 Gibson Factory Revamped

    Or lacquer overspray and/or heavy buffing, and Gibson has been known to do that. More than once.

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  21. #18
    Registered User Peter K's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1909 A4 Gibson Factory Revamped

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    Or lacquer overspray and/or heavy buffing, and Gibson has been known to do that. More than once.
    I tend to agree with that. I do not believe there is a consensus on what kind of finishing materials/methods Gibson used on their vintage mandolins. However. I doubt very much that a large scale fabricator such as Gibson would have used French polishing. A couple of my 1920s Gibsons I sold recently did not look French polished at all. Furthermore, that mandolin in the OP doesn't look French polished to me either.

  22. #19
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1909 A4 Gibson Factory Revamped

    Would the truss-rod neck cross section profile from a '50s / '60s redo be the same as the original without a truss rod? Or perhaps a tad more slender?

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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1909 A4 Gibson Factory Revamped

    Quote Originally Posted by NickR View Post
    It looks to me that it had a pickguard until fairly recently.
    Hard to say. There's a little spot of some kind of gunk on the treble side of the soundhole, which could indicate that this was kept in the case for a long time and the pickguard outgassed and fell apart, leaving the typical residue behind, and that said residue was cleaned up before the French polish/overspray, except for that one spot on the rosette. How long ago that happened is anyone's guess.

    If you were refinishing an instrument after the pickguard was removed, you'd fill the pinhole left behind by said pickguard and finish over it, wouldn't you? That didn't happen here.

    I would expect to see a difference in the finish in the area protected by the guard if the finish was original.
    Not typical of old Gibsons, no matter what color the finish is.

    Some have suggested the whole neck and board may be a replacement although I think the neck and headstock are original.
    Somebody could have put a new headplate, truss rod and fretboard onto an old neck. Certainly the top profile of the headstock looks like an original. But then there are the tuner holes, which are out of alignment top to bottom by at least an eighth of an inch. Anybody seen that on an original headstock? I'd assume there was some kind of drilling template to keep that from happening, and such a template wasn't used when these holes were drilled.

    I assume that bridge is not original.
    Not an assumption, just basic reasoning: Two-piece adjustable bridges did not exist when this mandolin was made; ergo, this bridge is not original.
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  24. #21
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    Default Re: 1909 A4 Gibson Factory Revamped

    To answer Mick's question about the neck profile, the replacement is probably more slender than an original. Gibson necks from around 1910 tend to be rather hefty, although they vary. In the mid teens they tend to be slimmer, and after truss rods come in, they tend to slim down even more.

    The one piece neck with fairly sharp peghead "points" resembles early '30's production. An original 1910 neck would have had a center stripe, and the points and curves on the peghead would have been a bit softer in contour.

    The pearl logo with the open b and open o, a lower "link" between o and n, and the dot not connected to the G [see Gruhn's Guide] is the style that was used between 1951 and 1968.

    It is likely that when the mandolin was repaired, a peghead overlay and rosewood fingerboard from then-current stock were installed to an old stock neck blank from the early 1930's. It can be surmised that the repair was executed during the '50's or '60's. The fretting style, with flattish fret tops and binding "nibs" is also consistent with that period.

    After a careful look at the pictures, it is my opinion that the whole top received a fresh coat of black lacquer to cover pick rash between the treble side of the sound hole and the rim, and also to cover general wear and tear; and the rest of the mandolin oversprayed.

    I would think that a pickguard was probably added at or after the time the instrument was repaired, and removed later. Observe the indentation in the finish around the screw hole. And we do see many post war Gibson instruments with pickguards screwed to the top. The original pickguard on this mandolin would not have been screwed to the top.

    And yes, if you wanted to install a pickup to an oval hole Gibson and gig with it, this one would be a good candidate, if it sounds good. It's already had its originality compromised, and is nevertheless a good looking instrument. If it were me, I'd put a pickguard on it and maybe install a good ebony bridge.
    Last edited by rcc56; Jan-15-2020 at 12:17am.

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  26. #22
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1909 A4 Gibson Factory Revamped

    I agree with rcc56. I think the body was refinished. I guess no one wants to post any photos from the auction, so I will. It looks like there was extensive pickwear on the top (see first photo below) when the pickguard was removed. I also think that the restoration included a pickguard, hence the mounting hole left there.
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  28. #23
    Registered User jim simpson's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1909 A4 Gibson Factory Revamped

    It's weird seeing that logo and tuner buttons together!
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  29. #24
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1909 A4 Gibson Factory Revamped

    I don’t know when this mandolin was “restored” but I have a friend who bought an 1930s L-00 guitar that was refinished cherry sunburst in the 1960s. Weird looking but it sounded pretty good.
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    Default Re: 1909 A4 Gibson Factory Revamped

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    I don’t know when this mandolin was “restored” but I have a friend who bought an 1930s L-00 guitar that was refinished cherry sunburst in the 1960s. Weird looking but it sounded pretty good.
    Atomic burst. Some actually look good.

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