9/09/2011

c.1920 Gibson K-1 Mandocello


Gibson mandocellos are lovely instruments -- somber, rich, and generally with a nice sustained voice. This is a plainer-Jane K-1 model from just about 1920 or so, judging by its features, label, and build style. At some point in its life it got a kind of less-than-great refinishing, however, hence the sunburst look plus swampy-looking back and sides.


This is a customer's instrument and the work needed was a light fret dress, brace reglue, and setup. Though originally these didn't have much in the way of bracing (being carved-top instruments), this one's top failed at some point and x-bracing was put in. Perhaps some too-heavy stringing popped one of the braces loose, as the owner noticed some sink and action change and sure enough, peeking and feeling around inside I noted the loose brace.

Because of the incredibly light build to the soundboard on this fellow, I've strung it with my own take on an XL mandocello set -- 50w Cs, 40w Gs, 30w Ds and plain 15 As. This takes a lot of tension off, yet still sounds nice and full enough for recording and playing in a 2 or 3 person group. Certainly not as loud as it was when it was strung with a heavier set (looked like about 58w to 22w) but this instrument is fragile, so why worry? If someone were to put D'Addario's "standard" set I'd be terribly afraid of this thing caving in like a popsicle stick.


Bone nut, replacement 70s Japanese tuners (they were installed upside-down, so I corrected that).


MOP dots, bound & side-dotted board.


Even though it's refinished it has a nice, almost c.1940s feel to it.


Original bridge, now twice shimmed up.


Tailpiece is not original but dates around c.1920-40 or so. I've muted the extra string length with some foam shoved under the cover.







After the work this turned out to be a nice-playing, comfortable ride. I'm enjoying it while it awaits its owner...!



Strap button was added here at some point.

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