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Thread: Gibson inlays

  1. #1
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    Default Gibson inlays

    In the current issue of Vintage Guitar mag in the Q&A section with George Gruhn someone asks about the fingerboard inlays on a '34 L12 guitar. They are intricate scroll and flower style inlays in a picture frame or a rectangle of straight MOP pieces.
    George says these were leftovers originally for style 5 Mastertone banjo's. Then says the inlay was done at Aumann Brothers of Grand Rapids.
    Moving back in history from this I was wondering about the earliest inlay work at the company. I was under the impression that the inlays were imported from Germany until WW1 when imports were cut off and that was when the quality of "The Gibson" script went downhill like it is on the Loars as compared to sat an early teens oval.
    Anyone who knows more of the facts, I'd love to hear them.

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    Registered User William Smith's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson inlays

    Gibson inlays were all GREAT and well cut by the same company for years and then they changed to a different company in the late 30's and they were a tad thick and very crude! I don't know the exact name unless I look in the Spann book! But Gibson was very famous for using the same inlays on mandolins, guitars, and banjos with the same type model #! Some in the 30's had different inlays than say the catalog descriptions, like flowerpots on later A-50's and such!

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    Default Re: Gibson inlays

    According to Spann's Guide to Gibson, Aumann Brothers was " . . . their major supplier [of pearl work] from 1903 through 1930." -- page 58.

    Spann's lists only two other pearl vendors in the period before WWII-- Union Pearl Works beginning in 1930, and Howard W. Goff during the late 1930's.
    It is believed that the crudest pearl work that we see on some of the '30's instruments was done by Goff.

    I just looked at a couple of 'teens instruments and compared them to one made in 1923. The earlier work is indeed a bit lighter and more refined. Perhaps the change was partly due to the introduction of the shortened flowerpot design that was necessary to accommodate the truss rod and cover. A new template would have been made to cut the revised pattern.

    Also, Aumann Brothers was a family business. The father was aging, and subsequently passed later in the 1920's. I will suggest that as he aged, his sons were doing a greater amount of the work; and that might have had an effect on the general appearance of the workmanship during the '20's.
    Last edited by rcc56; Nov-27-2020 at 3:04pm.

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    Default Re: Gibson inlays

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Hilburn View Post
    Moving back in history from this I was wondering about the earliest inlay work at the company. I was under the impression that the inlays were imported from Germany until WW1 when imports were cut off and that was when the quality of "The Gibson" script went downhill like it is on the Loars as compared to sat an early teens oval.
    I think the German thing came from some misinformation about Handel tuners that was circulating some time ago.

    From the MC Glossary entry for Handel tuners:
    Although the prevailing theory is these were manufactured in Germany and their import discontinued as a result of World War I, definitive proof of this fact remains in question.
    We had this thread discussion on Handel tuners back in 2005. I canvassed quite a few experts out there and concluded (with some shadows of doubt) that the inlaid buttons were likely supplied by the Louis Handel Company in New York. There is not mention however in Spann's book of this company but it is also possible that the buttons were supplied from Handel to Waverly for their tuners and then sold as a unit to Gibson.

    It would be nice if Joe could comment on this.
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    Default Re: Gibson inlays

    Here's a couple of examples of what I was talking about, a 1914 and a 23 Loar. Those styles are pretty consistent from instrument to instrument in their respective eras.
    Looks like I was way off on the German thing.
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    Default Re: Gibson inlays

    Then a whole new look by the mid 30's.
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    Default Re: Gibson inlays

    Note that the inlays for both the logos and the flowerpots on the instruments from each period were cut using different patterns.

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    Default Re: Gibson inlays

    I don't think i ever notices that on the Loar all the inside cuts like inside the O or the G loop must have been drilled through and had the blade inserted through instead of cut through from the outside like on the F4. Looks like current Master Models aren't done that way.

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    Default Re: Gibson inlays

    Sooo... not all Loars are created equal.
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    Default Re: Gibson inlays

    I personally love the look of the Loar F-5's with the open rather than the closed G!

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    Default Re: Gibson inlays

    Goes to show it's worth going through the Mandolin Archive more often.

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    Default Re: Gibson inlays

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Hilburn View Post
    Goes to show it's worth going through the Mandolin Archive more often.
    I know Jim, I love being a Geek and before I know it hours have past-LoL! There really should be a Gibson banjo archive as the inlays for those are super neat and different! I've seen some great photos from my Uncle who has many old Gibson inlay pix! I've seen some neat inlays-some intricately carved from one piece of pearl and it must've been tough to do! I've even seen say the "Mastertone" inlay on the fret boards spelled wrong!

    I've said it before "I love all the inconsistencies in vintage Gibson's" within the same models!

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    Default Re: Gibson inlays

    What do we think of the inlays on this one which sold recently? https://www.bellmans.co.uk/sales/sus...view-lot/1270/ (Can’t post images easily - I’m working on an iPad) The poor inlays - look at the headstock - led me to suspect that there was something wrong with it.

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    Default Re: Gibson inlays

    Ray, I think that's actually a mid 30's F-12 and everything looks right to me. Apparently quite rare.

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    Default Re: Gibson inlays

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Hilburn View Post
    Ray, I think that's actually a mid 30's F-12 and everything looks right to me. Apparently quite rare.
    Apart from the inlay; particularly the strangely placed “Gibson”, it looked right to me too. We don’t see many high end vintage Gibsons for sale on this side of the pond. Wondering if it might turn up at TAMCO? (!!)

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    Default Re: Gibson inlays

    Here's the picture I found of an F-12.
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    Default Re: Gibson inlays

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Hilburn View Post
    Here's the picture I found of an F-12.
    I wonder if that’s the same one - look at the position of the “Gibson” inlay. I notice that the auction one is also being discussed here - https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/f...bout-Mandolins

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    Default Re: Gibson inlays

    Quote Originally Posted by Ray(T) View Post
    I wonder if that’s the same one - look at the position of the “Gibson” inlay. I notice that the auction one is also being discussed here - https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/f...bout-Mandolins
    - seems that it was previously auctioned in 2000.

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    Default Re: Gibson inlays

    Yeah, I saw that in the F12 thread. Maybe it's the only one.

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    Default Re: Gibson inlays

    My old 35 F-12 is on GBASE right now for sale! Its about mint but it has 1934 F-7 tuners I put on it as I kept the worm over gear gold plated engraved pearl button Waverly tuning machines as they are the same as say a 1929-30's F-5 tuners that are a very rare find as they've yet to make correct replacements! And they were mint/perfect condition!

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    Default Re: Gibson inlays

    Quote Originally Posted by Ray(T) View Post
    What do we think of the inlays on this one which sold recently? https://www.bellmans.co.uk/sales/sus...view-lot/1270/ (Can’t post images easily - I’m working on an iPad) The poor inlays - look at the headstock - led me to suspect that there was something wrong with it.
    Here's the headstock from that UK auction.

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    Default Re: Gibson inlays

    I went looking through the archive to find what year the inlay morphed into the more crude Loar era and came across these that are totally different than earlier or later, from 1921. It's like the closed loop in the earlier picture but with a shorter lower G
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    Default Re: Gibson inlays

    Not wanting to drop the subject, I decided to try to find where the transition between what I perceive as the elegant "The Gibson" inlays used throughout the teens and the more crude ones used during the Loar era took place.
    Using the Mandolin Archive I narrowed it down to these 2 images. 62722 is a 1920 F2 and 63138 is from 1921. So was it the model year when the change took place or is that just coincidental?
    And since there's evidence that Aumann was the supplier throughout, then was it a deliberate change in look? That would indicate the front office wanted the change.
    Also to my eye as they moved further into the 20's the inlay seemed to get more and more funky.
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    Default Re: Gibson inlays

    Jim, that F2 has the earlier Aumann inlay (where the "o" is open under the "n"-connection, if I may say so as a non-native speaker). That A4's inlay is a later than mid-'23 inlay (with the "o" opening above the "n"-connection. (There also was a "closed style" inlay from mid 1922 on, which was eventually faded out and used here and there until late '23 (FONs), but not in connection with a Fern inlay.)

    Interestingly, Gibson apparently reused older, pre-mid '22 inlays on a few late '20s instruments, such as on this F5 (86104): Click image for larger version. 

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    Default Re: Gibson inlays

    Well this is interesting, I have a '22 A2 and while they are similar inlays, mine has a dot above the i. None of these have the dot.
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