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Thread: Gibson Mandolin Banjo Trapdoor

  1. #1

    Default Gibson Mandolin Banjo Trapdoor

    New Mandolin Day! or is it a New Banjo Day~~~or is it both?
    Sold to me as a 1922 Gibson Mandolin Banjo, from catalogs shared to me by members it looks to be a MB-1 Trapdoor with FON 11628-19. It came complete with Finger Rest, Arm Rest, Trapdoor and Case but it is missing the Tailpiece Cover (need to try and find one)
    I repaired the Trapdoor yesterday and it now functions well. Need to learn more about the Banjo part of it but started to tighten the skin yesterday. Will try and tune it up later and see how crazy it sounds.

    Cool old instrument if we can ever get to a jam Session again.
    Steve
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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Gibson Mandolin Banjo Trapdoor

    I have a nearly identical tenor, 11802. It's a lot of fun. I tune it GDAE.
    I do get dirty looks when I bring it to a jam session, but I can't help it if they don't have a sense of humor.

    Of course now that people have re-discovered that you can play tunes on a tenor, the same folks might now think that it's cool.

    Buy your old trap-door or Vega Tubaphone tenor now before prices go up. They will.

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  5. #3
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson Mandolin Banjo Trapdoor

    Looks like the other MB-1's listed on-line have a "cloud" tailpiece cover, so that might be what yours came with.
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  7. #4
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    Default Re: Gibson Mandolin Banjo Trapdoor

    Congrats on your MB Steve.

    The Waverly “Cloud” tailpiece as used on Vega, Martin and many other instruments is similar but is not what would usually be found on a 1922 Gibson.
    The Gibson cover would look more like this one, they are much more difficult to find but you might get lucky.

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    Mark
    Mark Lynch

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  9. #5

    Default Re: Gibson Mandolin Banjo Trapdoor

    I am now on the hunt! For now it would be good to find something that would fit

  10. #6

    Default Re: Gibson Mandolin Banjo Trapdoor

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    I have a nearly identical tenor, 11802. It's a lot of fun. I tune it GDAE.
    I do get dirty looks when I bring it to a jam session, but I can't help it if they don't have a sense of humor.
    That is what I was thinking!

  11. #7
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    Default Re: Gibson Mandolin Banjo Trapdoor

    I use two sets of tenor banjo strings on my banjo mandolin. Still plenty loud, but not so harsh. Also much less tension, it is a banjo after all. The G string is only a 28 wound. That is the biggest I like to use. Most 5 string banjos don't have heavy strings and have plenty of depth, not different here. Enjoy nice find.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  12. #8

    Default Re: Gibson Mandolin Banjo Trapdoor

    pops1 ...can you send a link?

  13. #9
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson Mandolin Banjo Trapdoor

    I wonder if anyone has a catalog page that shows all the cover designs for that tailpiece? That's the fourth cover I've seen that fits the same base. That one engraved looks a whole lot better than the few cloud style engraved Gibson covers I've seen. Nice.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  14. #10
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    Default Re: Gibson Mandolin Banjo Trapdoor

    I have a Gibson trapdoor tenor with the same tailpiece cover as pictured above.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  15. #11
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    Default Re: Gibson Mandolin Banjo Trapdoor

    I thought there was a catalog page in the Vintage ads Social Group that had some of these. It turns out it was one of mine. I think this one has one more bump. I have one with four bumps on my Uncle's old Regal.
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    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  16. #12
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    Default Re: Gibson Mandolin Banjo Trapdoor

    Here are some pages from the 1923 Gibson catalog picturing the MB-3 and MB-4 thanks to our friends at Guitar Compare. The tailpiece cover is that same shape as the photo I posted earlier but it isn’t clear if it is smbossed with The Gibson or simply has an embossed or engraved pattern of lines. It has always seemed odd to me that Gibson did not see fit to use a compensated bridge on their MB’s when they were so proud of the compensated bridge on their mandolin and guitar family instruments. Notably The Vega Company was ahead in banjo development at the time and always installed compensated bridges on their mandolin banjos. The short strings used on MB’s are terribly out of tune otherwise! Do any of you have theories on why Gibson may have neglected this point? You can’t just angle the bridge on a mandolin banjo to fix the intonation like you can on other types of banjos any more than you can on a mandolin.

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    Mark
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  17. #13

    Default Re: Gibson Mandolin Banjo Trapdoor

    Guess the question is what tailpiece did the MB-1 come with (thanks Mark for the '23 catalog). Here is a copy of a '20 catalog that Jim Garber sent me. It shows the MB-1 without engraving, but then it was 1920! and the not one of the higher models

    Well it took the MB-1 nearly a hundred years to get to this point in time, I feel fortunate that it is in the overall condition that it is!

    Steve
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Gibson-1920-Banjo-Catalog-1.pdf  
    Last edited by prairieschooner; Jul-26-2020 at 10:04am.

  18. #14
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    Default Re: Gibson Mandolin Banjo Trapdoor

    Jim and Steve, thanks for locating and posting the earlier banjo catalog! It does look like the basic MB-1 uses a “Cloud” style tailpiece cover, not the fancier nickel silver cover used on the higher models, thanks for the correction. The good news for you, Steve, is that the “Cloud” (modern collector designation) will be relatively easy to find. Please keep us posted on your progress.

    One last thing, can you give us a dimension from your instrument across the place where the cover attaches? We can verify if it matches the dimensions of a known Cloud cover.

    Mark
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  20. #15
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson Mandolin Banjo Trapdoor

    I'm sure it came with that tailpiece. My question is how many different covers did they make for that same base? I honestly never paid attention to that cover.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  22. #16

    Default Re: Gibson Mandolin Banjo Trapdoor

    It looks to be 1 5/16" wide, I will give a more exact dimension a little later when I can get some calipers in hand.
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  23. #17
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    Default Re: Gibson Mandolin Banjo Trapdoor

    Steve, thanks for the photo and the dimensions. It appears that your Gibson does not use the common Waverly type Cloud tailpiece cover, your base is much narrower.
    Attached is a photo of the Waverly.

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    Mark Lynch

  24. #18

    Default Re: Gibson Mandolin Banjo Trapdoor

    Thanks Mark,
    My guess would be that the usual cover is for a Mandolin and might need to look at Banjo Covers? anyway if I need to have one made for the 100 year birthday then so be it

  25. #19
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    Default Re: Gibson Mandolin Banjo Trapdoor

    The Cloud tailpiece changed in dimensions over the years but not by that much. The bigger tell all there is the string tabs. Totally different than the Waverly. Now I have to go pull the other one I have here to see if that is the same. The Waverly I have here is actually wider than your cloud.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  26. #20
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    Default Re: Gibson Mandolin Banjo Trapdoor

    The tailpiece on my trapdoor is also not flat on top, but curved. It goes over the pot in a rounded shape then flattens out lower. If that makes any sense.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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  28. #21
    Pataphysician Joe Bartl's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson Mandolin Banjo Trapdoor

    pops1, Looks like mine?

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  29. #22
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    Default Re: Gibson Mandolin Banjo Trapdoor

    Same shape, but different engraving. oops upside down.

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    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  30. #23
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    Default Re: Gibson Mandolin Banjo Trapdoor

    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Bartl View Post
    pops1, Looks like mine?

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    Does your cover have the Loar style engraving "The Gibson" on the end rather than the face?

  31. #24
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    Default Re: Gibson Mandolin Banjo Trapdoor

    Interesting! The 1920 Gibson Banjo catalog that Jim found and Steve posting in #13 above shows a five lobe tailpiece cover on the MB-1 and a three lobe cover on the others. It is altogether possible that there is some variation.

    Here is a great article about early Gibson banjos some of you might find interesting.

    https://www.hangoutstorage.com/banjo...5916362017.pdf

    Mark
    Mark Lynch

  32. #25
    Pataphysician Joe Bartl's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson Mandolin Banjo Trapdoor

    William Smith, Yes, the engraving is on the end:

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    Mark, thanks! I look forward to reading this.

    BTW, the FON on mine is 11989-10. I assume this means it dates to 1923-1924?
    Last edited by Joe Bartl; Jul-27-2020 at 8:57pm.

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