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Thread: Larger frets for 1920 Gibson A-4

  1. #1

    Default Larger frets for 1920 Gibson A-4

    I recently secured a this A-4 in "excellent" condition from Carter Vintage. And it really is in amazingly pristine condition. Save for one thing. The original frets are quite small. It's still perfectly playable and the action quite low. But compared to my Martin Style 20, which has new banjo wire installed, there is a marked difference.

    My question is, should I go to banjo wire with the Gibbly, considering its excellent original condition? Will the modification have a negative or positive impact on value? I'd like some input, especially from dedicated A model lovers.

  2. #2
    Purveyor of Sunshine sgarrity's Avatar
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    Default Re: Larger frets for 1920 Gibson A-4

    Make it playable for you. Frets wear out.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Larger frets for 1920 Gibson A-4

    If you play classical mando in the upper registers, you may wish you had the old thin frets for more precise notation. A or F style

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  5. #4

    Default Re: Larger frets for 1920 Gibson A-4

    No classical. Celtic and old time, primarily in lower positions. My playing utilizes as many open strings and open chords as possible.

  6. #5
    Kelley Mandolins Skip Kelley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Larger frets for 1920 Gibson A-4

    George, I would go with the bigger frets. It won’t hurt a thing. I have a 1912 that I need to restore that will get bigger frets for playability.

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  8. #6
    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: Larger frets for 1920 Gibson A-4

    I had the A4's frets replaced, with similar , given 90 years on the original set..

    My Mix got Evo fretwire.. both got fingerboard leveling while the frets were off..
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  9. #7
    Registered User Jill McAuley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Larger frets for 1920 Gibson A-4

    Go for the bigger fretwire - that's what I did when I had my A-jr and it needed a refret, it made it much more comfortable to play.
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  10. #8
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    Default Re: Larger frets for 1920 Gibson A-4

    Agree. Make it comfortable for you. Shouldn’t affect the value, IMO.
    Chuck

  11. #9
    Registered User Eric Platt's Avatar
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    Default Re: Larger frets for 1920 Gibson A-4

    Yes, change them out if they make it more comfortable for you. Had that done on a 1910 A that I used to own. Made a world of difference.
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    Registered User Billy Packard's Avatar
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    Default Re: Larger frets for 1920 Gibson A-4

    I don't like the big frets after years of using them. The narrower frets feel fine and allow for more precise articulation everywhere on the fretboard. This is especially appreciated in the higher registers.

    I had Lou Stiver install Jescar #39040s frets on my 1923 A2 and they are wonderful. These are period correct size and shape frets, just like the original, but made of stainless steel which should never wear out.

    I am having Lou install these on my Stiver Fern as we speak & I am very excited to get it back.
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  13. #11

    Default Re: Larger frets for 1920 Gibson A-4

    0.080" wide bead is pretty much the standard on new mandolins now, including some very expensive ones, and it's what I put in my 3 personal instruments. It does produce a little bit meatier tone IMO which is fine for most genres. That small bead wire does wear fast and take on grooves pretty quickly, so heavier wire means a longer lifespan before refretting. The advent of EVO gold has made that a non-issue now though. If you play in the upper register much or like the slightly more delicate tone of the smaller frets, EVO gold comes in a small bead that's 0.050" wide.

  14. #12
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: Larger frets for 1920 Gibson A-4

    I changed mine out 30 years ago - 1920 A3. Kind of wished I had the narrow ones; however.

    I tend to play with a heavy hand and will push the notes sharp.

    f-d
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  15. #13
    Registered User lowtone2's Avatar
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    Default Re: Larger frets for 1920 Gibson A-4

    Another option would be to put on a new fingerboard with modern frets and keep the original with original frets. I think that's probably overkill for an '20 A-4, but it has been done.

  16. #14
    Joe B mandopops's Avatar
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    Default Re: Larger frets for 1920 Gibson A-4

    I got a ‘17 A4 back in the late ‘70s. I had bigger frets put on at the time. No regrets, I like it better. I’ve used it for Classical to Blues. I’ve acquired a couple more of the vintage Gibson ovals since. I’ve been tempted to have larger frets put on them, but have resisted altering them thus far.
    If you would like your A4 with bigger frets, do it. I don’t know how much it will alter the value, It’s already a 100 years old. Maybe you’ll play it for 10-20 more years, or pass it on, before you sell it. How much would you expect to get for it at that time anyway?
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  17. #15
    Registered User mandobassman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Larger frets for 1920 Gibson A-4

    I can't see where it would have any negative effect on value. All mandolins needs frets at some point. A 1920 mandolin probably has already had new frets at one time. I will never go back to small frets. The very first time I ever had to have a fret job done, it was on a 1984 Kentucky KM-850. I never realized how much easier larger frets were to play on until the luthier talked me into installing guitar frets. Unbelievable difference in ease of play. Every mandolin I've had since has large frets. I now have a beater 1909 Weymann Mandolute that was partially restored. I love the sound from it, but it has skinny frets and it is so difficult to play. I'm seriously thinking of having it re-fretted.
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  18. #16

    Default Re: Larger frets for 1920 Gibson A-4

    I've continued to play it with original wire and it sounds good and plays okay. Then I go to the refretted Style 20 and notice such a marked difference. But there's also a difference in scale length and neck shape. If I gig with the Gibby, I get used to it and do okay. I'll thick about it some more.

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