11/01/2015

1993 Flatiron A-5 Carved-top Mandolin




Update: See bottom of the post for a bit more extra information about this mandolin. And update #2 from a very, very helpful comment -- Mike says:

"My understanding is that the first two digits of a Flatiron's serial number indicate the year made. Here, the first two digits are "93", for 1993; Bruce Weber's signature would appear to corroborate since (according to the Flatiron Archive) Steve Carlson was signing Flatiron's mandolins in 1989 - Bruce wasn't doing so until 1993/94. That would mean this fella was made after the Flatiron Company was bought by Gibson back around 1987 and production was moved from Nashville to Bozeman (for a while)."

A consignor dropped this off for sale and -- when I opened the case -- I was shocked to find a tricked-out Flatiron. Think of it like a hot rod. This was obviously owned by a tone freak because it has a wrist rest, Brekke bridge, and upgraded tailpiece included with it -- that're all not original to the instrumen.

This was made in Bozeman, Montana and is signed by Bruce Weber (of Weber/Sound to Earth fame) who was chieftain at Flatiron at the time. It's crack-free, has a solid, carved spruce top and solid, carved maple back, maple sides, a flamed maple neck ("speed-necked," of course) and is "fit as a fiddle." I gave it a light fret level/dress and good setup before taking pics and recording the soundclip. Did I mention it also comes with a pickup installed? It sounds an awful lot like a K&K with maybe slightly more of that piezo fizz to the sound. I'm guessing it's a 90s pickup of some sort and I'd gig with it, for sure.

The tone is Alpha-Male, front and center, with lots of snap and pop but an overall darkish sort of sound that's really appealing.


With a 14" scale, standard A-5 body shape, and fretboard "scoop," this was definitely built with power and playing-purpose in mind. It's x-braced rather than tonebar-braced.


Pearl nut, pearl tuner buttons, and perfectly-functioning truss rod...


The lightly-radiused, ebony board has a bit of wear and tear but is still serving handsomely. It appears someone did the frets before me and left a bit of light gouging here and there right next to the frets. There's still tons of meat left on these, though.


The aftermarket "Brekke Bridge" is ebony and all-wood in construction (save the side-mounted set screws). It's a nifty contraption and certainly sounds good. It's also been expertly-fit to the top.


I'm not sure who made the tail but it's a nice one. Note the "afterlength mute" rubber grommets.


Check out those nice, clean f-holes.

There are a few wear marks in the finish but really not very much considering the amount of play this is likely to have had.




These are good-quality, smooth tuners.


The flamed-maple neck has been "speed-necked" by rubbing the finish off at some point. It was then buffed-up and sealed. If you haven't played a bare-feeling neck -- it's good stuff. If you're playing in Summer humidity you can forget that "sticky" feeling.







There are a couple of indents on the bass edg...


...from the maple armrest's brackets.


This mandolin comes with a good TKL hard, arched case.


Update 2016: This mandolin took a trip out to the West and was returned because a couple of finish cracks became slightly more obvious and the buyer was worried about them being actual, in-the-wood cracks. Here are some photos:


See the finish crack at a curve coming from near the neck block?


It's more easily seen, here. Just to make sure, I checked all of these out with a mirror and whatnot under the top and it's all good. Besides -- all three of these finish cracks run over grain rather than with it and seem to simply be old finish stress cracking.


Here's another, smaller one coming from the other side of the joint.


It's hard to see but the little white spot in the middle is a tiny ding and there's a finish crack extending (very small, really hard to see) from it "north" to the fretboard extension. This, too, is only in the finish and, if you look at it very closely, runs just slightly at an angle over the grain rather than with it.


Here's the Bruce Weber-signed label.


Here's a harsh-light closeup of the wear on the lower part of the board caused from an earlier fret level/dress job that wasn't quite "pro."

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

A lovely sounding mandolin........BUT; surely a bit more care could have been taken
with the finish removal on the neck. Sloppy.

Jake Wildwood said...

I agree -- I didn't do that part of it, though, so don't hold me to blame... :)

gwawd said...

What is the nut width on these? Thanks


P.S.: nice soundsample. cheers!

Jake Wildwood said...

Nut is standard 1 1/8"

gwawd said...

Thanks!

Mike said...

Hey Jake,

This A-5 looks like a beast. Although it's sure to be a fine instrument irrespective of when it was made, I am wondering how you arrived at a 1989 manufacture date?

My understanding is that the first two digits of a Flatiron's serial number indicate the year made. Here, the first two digist are "94", for 1994; Bruce Weber's signature would appear corroborate, since (according to the Flatiron Archive) Steve Carlson was signing Flatirons' mandolins in 1989 - Bruce wasn't doing so until 1993/94. That would mean this fella was made after the Flatiron Company was bought by Gibson back around 1987, and production was moved from Nashville to Bozeman (for a while).

Either way, $1700 shipped is a steal for this little beauty. If I had the dollars, I'd happily take this off your hands - whoever buys it is going to be one happy camper, I'm sure.

Jake Wildwood said...

Thanks for the help on that -- oh, man, I can't remember where I pinged the serial from, to be honest, but you certainly have your stuff down pat in this regard. I'll post your info up at the top of the entry and adjust the title to fix the error. I wish I were more up on my game with the history of these newer instruments. One can't be 100% on everything!

Mike said...

I've been lurking around your blog long enough to know you're 100% on more than enough, Jake. You're doing some real nice work here. Keep it up and take care!