9/01/2013

c.1915 Gibson H-1 Mandola


This all-black Gibson H-1 no longer has its soundhole label so its date can't be confirmed, but it sure does look like a mid-late teens model to me. At some point there was hack-ish work done which included cutting off the fretboard extension (at the 19th fret), some weird half-finished crack repairs, and a refinishing to a black finish (this was originally a pumpkin top with reddish back and sides, judging by the colors peeking through).

I worked on this for a customer and the work included regluing the main brace, cleating the already-filled hairline cracks, some seam repairs, bridge fitting, new nut, fret level/dress, and setup. I also inserted a new piece of ebony (from my scrap wood bin) to replace the weird painted-balsa-wood bit that was stuck next to the fretboard after the 18th fret. I used some (not-quite-matching) vintage ivoroid binding to give the end of the fretboard a similar look as the rest of it.


The main thing that makes this refinish look "off" is that it seems to have been sprayed black and then lightly sprayed with a sealer coat, but the overall effect is weird because the black has become a sort of satin looking part while the rest is glossier. It's unfortunate but at least from "here" it doesn't look too shabby.



I love those Gibson-style soundhole rosettes.

The top of this 'dola is super light and thin so I've kept the strings really light. The instrument protested (structurally) with regular wound-D mandola strings installed so I've got a mandolin-gauge set on here instead. The bridge is setup with alternate slotting arrangements for the D-course: one can either string it over unwound compensated-back slots or over wound-string compensated-forward slots. The set on here is a tad too light but I think a regular bluegrass-gauge mando set (40w, 26w, 16, 11) or similar would do the job pretty well on this particular instrument.




After a bit of WD-40, the tuners freed right up.



Even with the somewhat funky aspects of this 'dola, I'm still jealous of the owner: he picked this up for very little dough.

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