Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 25 of 49

Thread: 1970's F5'S

  1. #1

    Default 1970's F5'S

    Who was in charge of making the mandolins at this time. It seems the tops were too thick. Does any one know where I can find the serial #s for mid 1970's Gibson F5.
    I think they were made in Michigan at this time?

  2. #2
    Registered User f5loar's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Location
    Salisbury,NC
    Posts
    6,368

    Default Re: 1970's F5'S

    During these "dark ages" from 1970 to 1978 at Gibson in Kalamazoo, MI when they were owned by Norlin Music of Illinois it would be hard to say who was in charge. Roger Sminoff named a few of the officials during this time in his saga about the beginning of the '78 F5L. During this time starting in 1970 the entire line got an extreme makeover with the F5 receiving a really extreme makeover. If I didn't know better they were all made in Japan and shipped to Kalamazoo to only recieve the final spray finish. The change in quality was that drastic. I think that was the problem, too many in charge of nothing! Since the F5 and F12 were the only instruments that carried a signed label during this time I can say the majority of the F5s were signed by then President Stan Rendell. Tops too thick was the least of the problems. At least they didn't have many return with caved in tops. To go into the flaws and failures of the 70s's F5s would be rather intense. Bad materials used was a problem. Pickguards and binding would crumble in less then a decade. Varnish too thick another serious problem to name a few.
    As far as serial nos. they used 5 different methods of numbering the instruments of which only a few made any sense of what they did to narrow down a date. The mandolins shared the numbers with the rest of production. To figure out a date on a 70's Gibson is tough at best but at least the F5 and F12 did carry an actual date along with that signature so they are quite easy to figure out.
    The best place I've found to figure out the serial no. mess of the 70s is in Gruhn's Guide to Vintage Instruments. But beware, they used some numbers that were also used in the mid to late 60's hence the problem of amature buyers thinking they have a vintage 60's Gibson when it is only a mid 70's dark era Gibson. You see this a lot on ebay from sellers that don't have a clue.
    Last edited by f5loar; May-25-2010 at 9:52pm. Reason: word usage

  3. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to f5loar For This Useful Post:


  4. #3

    Default Re: 1970's F5'S

    Quote Originally Posted by f5loar View Post
    During these "dark ages" from 1970 to 1978 at Gibson in Kalamazoo, MI when they were owned by Norlin Music of Illinois it would be hard to say who was in charge. Roger Sminoff named a few of the officials during this time in his saga about the beginning of the '78 F5L. During this time starting in 1970 the entire line got an extreme makeover with the F5 receiving a really extreme makeover. If I didn't know better they were all made in Japan and shipped to Kalamazoo to only recieve the final spray finish. The change in quality was that drastic. I think that was the problem, too many in charge of nothing! Since the F5 and F12 were the only instruments that carried a signed label during this time I can say the majority of the F5s were signed by then President Stan Rendell. Tops too thick was the least of the problems. At least they didn't have many return with caved in tops. To go into the flaws and failures of the 70s's F5s would be rather intense. Bad materials used was a problem. Pickguards and binding would crumble in less then a decade. Varnish too thick another serious problem to name a few.
    As far as serial nos. they used 5 different methods of numbering the instruments of which only a few made any sense of what they did to narrow down a date. The mandolins shared the numbers with the rest of production. To figure out a date on a 70's Gibson is tough at best but at least the F5 and F12 did carry an actual date along with that signature so they are quite easy to figure out.
    The best place I've found to figure out the serial no. mess of the 70s is in Gruhn's Guide to Vintage Instruments. But beware, they used some numbers that were also used in the mid to late 60's hence the problem of amature buyers thinking they have a vintage 60's Gibson when it is only a mid 70's dark era Gibson. You see this a lot on ebay from sellers that don't have a clue.
    Thank you for that valuable information. I have seen a couple of these. You can also see the difference in the years to follow, of the changes in style and sound of the mandolin.
    Thanks.

  5. #4
    Spencer Sorenson Spencer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    Lyngby, Denmark
    Posts
    534

    Default Re: 1970's F5'S

    Quote Originally Posted by f5loar View Post
    If I didn't know better they were all made in Japan and shipped to Kalamazoo to only recieve the final spray finish.
    Sorry, but I'm not quite sure what you mean here. Do you mean that they were built in Japan or just that they looked like it?

    Spencer

  6. #5
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Nashville
    Posts
    4,920

    Default Re: 1970's F5'S

    They were NOT built in Japan. Just not the best years for the big G's mandolins. There have been some surprises, but by and large they are not the most revered of the Gibson mandolins. Lots of problems over the years and can take lots of work to get them to play right.
    Have a Great Day!
    Joe Vest

  7. #6
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    40.191N -74.2W
    Posts
    22,485

    Default Re: 1970's F5'S

    Quote Originally Posted by Spencer View Post
    Sorry, but I'm not quite sure what you mean here. Do you mean that they were built in Japan or just that they looked like it?
    That was an observation on what the product looked like couched in a little sarcasm. Oddly though, if you look at the Epiphone products that were made in Japan in the very early 70's they do look much the same.

  8. #7
    Registered User f5loar's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
    Location
    Salisbury,NC
    Posts
    6,368

    Default Re: 1970's F5'S

    That's right..... they sure looked like they were made in Japan but were not. How they could change things that much from what the original 20's looked like is beyond me. But like I said they changed the entire line. The guitars like the Dove, J200 and J50 looked different yet carried the same model name. Banjos went from 1 pc. flange back to the 2 pc. flange which is what banjo pickers did not want. What were they thinking? They must not have studied the market desires when they made all those changes.
    I remember Gibson set up a promotional booth at a Charlotte Bluegrass Festival in late 1970 and had all the new stuff laying out for everyone to admire. It was a big deal then as if Gibson was showing the world they are back stronger then ever. And one strum of a banjo, mandolin or guitar off their display was enough to make buyers seek out Martin, Fender and others for their bluegrass instruments. Unfortunetly mandolin pickers had no commerical maker to turn to and went to the independant builder for their F5 copies many with "The Gibson" inlay in the original old style at the top.
    I guess the changes did not effect the electric market as much and they survived that dark decade.

  9. The following members say thank you to f5loar for this post:


  10. #8
    Registered User Andy Alexander's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Lodi NY
    Posts
    296

    Default Re: 1970's F5'S

    Quote Originally Posted by f5loar View Post
    Banjos went from 1 pc. flange back to the 2 pc. flange which is what banjo pickers did not want. What were they thinking? They must not have studied the market desires when they made all those changes.
    .
    I've heard some older Gibson banjos with "tube and plate" flanges that sounded good. (not '70s) Worse than the two piece flange was the "multi Ply" rim. There is a lot of glue between all those maple plys.

  11. #9

    Default Re: 1970's F5'S

    I always wondered if the Gibson serial number maze was to somehow make the production numbers secret. Pre- internet it would be difficult for a buyer in a particular locale to know whether something that seemed to be a limited production model was in fact limited. There could be one in Chicago and they could flood the market in Japan or California for that matter and you would be hard pressed to know.

  12. #10
    Registered User Knucklehead's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Location
    Tarantula Trace Trail, AZ
    Posts
    119

    Default Re: 1970's F5'S

    I've read that Norlin was a very large diverse company based out of South America, along with Gibson instruments they supposedly owned a brewery.

  13. #11
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    40.191N -74.2W
    Posts
    22,485

    Default Re: 1970's F5'S

    I thought Norlin was based in the mid-west but I could be wrong. Norlin also owned the L.D. Heater company, a musical supply distributor based in the metropolitan area of Portland, Oregon. I'm sure they were a diverse company.

  14. #12
    Registered User Charley wild's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Traverse City, Michigan
    Posts
    806

    Default Re: 1970's F5'S

    Quote Originally Posted by f5loar View Post
    That's right..... they sure looked like they were made in Japan but were not. How they could change things that much from what the original 20's looked like is beyond me. But like I said they changed the entire line. The guitars like the Dove, J200 and J50 looked different yet carried the same model name. Banjos went from 1 pc. flange back to the 2 pc. flange which is what banjo pickers did not want. What were they thinking? They must not have studied the market desires when they made all those changes.
    I remember Gibson set up a promotional booth at a Charlotte Bluegrass Festival in late 1970 and had all the new stuff laying out for everyone to admire. It was a big deal then as if Gibson was showing the world they are back stronger then ever. And one strum of a banjo, mandolin or guitar off their display was enough to make buyers seek out Martin, Fender and others for their bluegrass instruments. Unfortunetly mandolin pickers had no commerical maker to turn to and went to the independant builder for their F5 copies many with "The Gibson" inlay in the original old style at the top.
    I guess the changes did not effect the electric market as much and they survived that dark decade.

    Their electric guitars may not have suffered as much quality wise but the quality was sure lacking. I had a 70's ES335 that had finish problems, a split in the fingerboard, and the frets weren't dressed well so the binding on each side wavered up and down all along the neck. I got it used for a good price but it wasn't the guitar my 60's 335 was by any means! When I went to buy an F5 I ended up buying a Alvarez because it sounded better than any F5 Gibson I played. I also play some real bad Fender electrics back then also. It was a dark decade for both companys.

  15. #13
    Certified! Bernie Daniel's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
    Posts
    8,158
    Blog Entries
    4

    Default Re: 1970's F5'S

    Quote Originally Posted by Knucklehead View Post
    I've read that Norlin was a very large diverse company based out of South America, along with Gibson instruments they supposedly owned a brewery.
    Hmmm me thinks that booze and fine wood working are an questionable mix!

    I have commented on this before but it would be really worth knowing what Gibson's reasons were for essentially abandoning the Loar F-5 designe when mandolin production resumed in 1948 (after WWII). This would have been long before Norlin?

    The first (re-introduced) F-5's and F-12's (in 1948 to 1951) had essentially F2/F-4 neck joints with the fingerboard laying on the top plate.

    Then in 1951 the changed the design and the fingerboard was again raised off the top plate. But the clearance between the top plate and the bottom of the fingerboard was significantly less (like 1/8" rather than 1/4") than the Loar design.

    It took the F-5L project encouraged by Roger Siminoff to get back to the Loar design. Anyone know the details and/or the reason for this "intermediate" version (1971 to 1978) of the F-5 (F-12) neck joint and fingerboard?
    Bernie
    ____
    Due to current budgetary restrictions the light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off -- sorry about the inconvenience.

  16. #14
    Registered User Mark Gibbs's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    Brookings, OR
    Posts
    161

    Default Re: 1970's F5'S

    Almost bought a Dark Ages Gibson

    The year was 1976 and i was new to mandolins and wanted to buy an F-5. Naturally i wanted a Gibson because Bill played one so they must be the best. The day came when the looking was over and it was time to buy. The salesman took me by the hand and lead me away from the Gibsons and over to a brand of mandolins that were a bit cheaper than the Gibsons an told me to play one of these for a while before i made my purchase. Well i thought they sounded better than the Gibsons so i bought one. Turned out to be a good one. It is 35 years old now and has never needed any structural work. Just an occasional fret dressing and then the inevitable re-fret that i had Larry Brown (RIP) do several years ago.

    As the years went buy I came to realize that Bob Givens built a fine mandolin and i was the proud owner of one. I still have it and would never sell it. How many Givens F-5 mandolins are around for sale?...... None

  17. #15
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    40.191N -74.2W
    Posts
    22,485

    Default Re: 1970's F5'S

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gibbs View Post
    The year was 1976 and i was new to mandolins and wanted to buy an F-5...As the years went buy I came to realize that Bob Givens built a fine mandolin and i was the proud owner of one. I still have it and would never sell it. How many Givens F-5 mandolins are around for sale?...... None...
    Where did you buy it?

  18. #16
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Rochester NY 14610
    Posts
    15,792

    Default Re: 1970's F5'S

    Quote Originally Posted by Charley wild View Post
    It was a dark decade for both companies.
    The curse of absentee non-music ownership: Norlin for Gibson, CBS for Fender.
    Allen Hopkins
    Gibsn: '54 F5 3pt F2 A-N Custm K1 m'cello
    Natl Triolian Dobro mando
    Victoria b-back Merrill alumnm b-back
    H-O mandolinetto
    Stradolin Vega banjolin
    Sobell'dola Washburn b-back'dola
    Eastmn: 615'dola 805 m'cello
    Flatiron 3K OM

  19. #17
    Registered User Mark Gibbs's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    Brookings, OR
    Posts
    161

    Default Re: 1970's F5'S

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    Where did you buy it?
    Thanks for asking Mike. I bought it at McCabes Guitar shop in Santa Monica, Ca. for $900.00 with a rectangular case and those where 1976 dollars.

  20. #18
    Certified! Bernie Daniel's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
    Posts
    8,158
    Blog Entries
    4

    Default Re: 1970's F5'S

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gibbs View Post
    Thanks for asking Mike. I bought it at McCabes Guitar shop in Santa Monica, Ca. for $900.00 with a rectangular case and those where 1976 dollars.
    One of the stories I always heard about Givens is that while he worked very quickly at the bench but still could maintain a high level of workmanship in his building. Apparently he had very true instincts as to the correct path to the best sound. As a result he was able to produce a large number of mandolins (for an individual).

    My impression was that most of his production was A- and Two-pointer models and these you do see changing hands from time to time.

    Like every thing else where production stops the Givens mandolins are becoming vintage and rare. He died in nearly two decades ago now. I assume many have seen this but here is an article about R.L. Givens

    As a luthier he was obviously outstanding -- other aspects of his life were not so much.
    Bernie
    ____
    Due to current budgetary restrictions the light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off -- sorry about the inconvenience.

  21. #19
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    40.191N -74.2W
    Posts
    22,485

    Default Re: 1970's F5'S

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Gibbs View Post
    Thanks for asking Mike. I bought it at McCabes Guitar shop in Santa Monica, Ca. for $900.00 with a rectangular case and those where 1976 dollars.
    I figured it wasn't around Brookings . I grew up in Oregon and don't recall ever seeing one in a music store.

  22. #20
    Certified! Bernie Daniel's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
    Posts
    8,158
    Blog Entries
    4

    Default Re: 1970's F5'S

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    I figured it wasn't around Brookings . I grew up in Oregon and don't recall ever seeing one in a music store.
    Interesting as his shop was in Idaho right?
    You know it is kind of interesting that he was able to make such a good mandolin since he really had no internship in a name shop or with a name luthier -- he just took a Loar apart (that's kind of "interesting" right there) studied it -- and then started building mandolins. Be interesting hear opinions on how good they really were (are) in light of today's top end mandos.
    Bernie
    ____
    Due to current budgetary restrictions the light at the end of the tunnel has been turned off -- sorry about the inconvenience.

  23. #21

    Default Re: 1970's F5'S

    I bought a Givens F5 in 1978 from the old Guitars Friend in Sandpoint Idaho. It was #120, I traded it in 2003 to Greg Boyd for a Collings MF5 and Chad Fadely had it for awhile. To my surprise it was in the classifieds here last summer or fall and was owned by a fellow in Florida. I don't recall ever seeing any Givens F's from that era for sale anywhere.

  24. #22
    Registered User Mark Gibbs's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    Brookings, OR
    Posts
    161

    Default Re: 1970's F5'S

    Quote Originally Posted by Bernie Daniel View Post
    Interesting as his shop was in Idaho right?
    You know it is kind of interesting that he was able to make such a good mandolin since he really had no internship in a name shop or with a name luthier -- he just took a Loar apart (that's kind of "interesting" right there) studied it -- and then started building mandolins. Be interesting hear opinions on how good they really were (are) in light of today's top end mandos.
    A word of caution. Play one and you will have to have one.

  25. #23
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    40.191N -74.2W
    Posts
    22,485

    Default Re: 1970's F5'S

    Quote Originally Posted by Bernie Daniel View Post
    Interesting as his shop was in Idaho right?
    You know it is kind of interesting that he was able to make such a good mandolin since he really had no internship in a name shop or with a name luthier -- he just took a Loar apart (that's kind of "interesting" right there) studied it -- and then started building mandolins. Be interesting hear opinions on how good they really were (are) in light of today's top end mandos.
    I do beleive he was already building when the story about taking the Loar apart was said to have happened. There are luthiers here that have held that mandolin and say the back was never off it.

    Yup, one of a few of those posts is here.

    Just found the reference on Greg Boyd's website. It basically said that Bob Givens and Randy Wood were building modern mandolins when he had the opportunity to examine two Loars, and F and the only A ever made. It mentions that he partly disassembled each of them. Without ID'ing the F model you don't know how far the process went. Everyone assumes he removed the backs, maybe he didn't. Randy might know.
    Last edited by MikeEdgerton; May-27-2010 at 3:13pm.

  26. #24
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Location
    Colorado
    Posts
    4,097

    Default Re: 1970's F5'S

    Talk about resurrecting an oldy. I never saw this thread and was interested to see that F5 Loar had said it looked like they were made in Japan long before I had made that observation.
    I've done a bit of research on this since then and what I believe is that complete components, particularly the necks were imported. It's impossible to believe they were inlaying those fingerboards in Kalamazoo at the same time hundreds of Japanese mandolins had the same thing. So in review, the similarities are the Gotoh tuners, the volute, the pointy heel, the inlayed board and the mortised neck joint. Also, had anyone ever seen quilted maple backs on any Gibson till this era?

  27. The following members say thank you to Jim Hilburn for this post:


  28. #25
    Teacher, luthier
    Join Date
    Oct 2017
    Location
    Southeast Tennessee
    Posts
    1,095

    Default Re: 1970's F5'S

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Hilburn View Post
    Also, had anyone ever seen quilted maple backs on any Gibson till this era?
    Yes, I have occasionally seen quilted maple on earlier Gibson mandolins and guitars.
    One was a mid to late 30's F-4 with an elevated fingerboard extension and a quilted back finished in transparent brown.
    I have also seen it on high end archtop guitars.

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The "classic" F-5 design was out of production by the early '30's. F-5's made after 1932 or so are very different in build, graduation, and finish than earlier instruments.

    Part of the reason for this might be that Gibson was on the verge of going under because of the Depression. They had to cut production costs to keep the doors open. Joe Spann told me that they dismissed most of their highly skilled workers in 1932. Some were re-hired later. Gibson survived the Depression by getting into the production of low cost instruments under the Kalamazoo, Recording King, and Ward's labels. If you look at the factory order number lists in Spann's Guide, you will see that the greatest part of Gibson production during much of the 1930's were budget brand instruments.

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    And yes, it is a shame that many laminated Asian imports made in the '70's looked and sounded as good or better than Gibson acoustics.

    A few years ago, there was a rash of really cheaply made Gibson forgeries on the market, most likely Asian made. Many of the '70's Gibsons I have seen are not any better in appearance or quality of build than those cheap forgeries.

    And yet, every time an F-5 made in the '60's - '70's hits the market, there is a thread doubting the authenticity of those instruments because they don't "look right." While it is true that they don't "look right," every one I have seen does indeed appear to have been made by Gibson.

    If Norlin was importing parts from Asia, no official record of it has so far come to light, except for the "Nouveau by Gibson" line of instruments which were available from 1986 to 1989. Some were assembled in the US from Asian parts, others were completely built overseas. The line was introduced during the last days of Norlin's ownership, and lingered on for a couple of years after Henry J. and his partners acquired Gibson.

    I had a "Nouveau by Gibson" mandolin come across my workbench some years ago. While it was not a high grade instrument, it was a better mandolin than the '60's - '70's Gibsons I have seen.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •