1933 Gibson A-50 Archtop Mandolin

If you were thinking -- "that's not an A-50, that's a weird A-4!" -- I wouldn't be surprised. This is that strange transitional time for Gibson mandos and it appears this oval-hole, raised-fingerboard version of the "new" A-50 was only around for a year or so. It certainly doesn't look anything at all like the A-50s we know from their 25+ year production run. Granted, it sounds just as good as an A-4 and is, essentially, the same thing minus some bling and the awkward fretboard extension. It also has that cool 30s "yellowed rosette" thing going on.

The bad? This was in excruciatingly bad shape when it came to me for repair. The owner didn't want to put too much money into it, so I'd told her that I could fix the quite-exploded back seams and then attempt a fret level/dress and setup on it to keep the price down -- and thus avoid doing a neck reset despite the fact that the heel was pulling-out. The long of it, though? I had a feeling I'd end-up doing the neck reset because I knew something was screwy with it. I just can't let things go back to a customer if I don't know they'll hold together long-term.

The seam repairs all went smoothly (and quickly). The neck reset portion of it was painful. Someone had actually recut the dovetail very, very, very poorly and then shimmed the heck out of it. On top of that a weird glue was used which was not happy coming-off. I was simply thankful to get the neck back on and secure -- never mind a low angle on it... which it would've had if I hadn't done anything, anyhow.

The end result, however, is an instrument that plays perfectly, sounds delicious, and looks tidy.

I don't know about you guys, but I love the look of that 30s "redburst." There are no cracks anywhere on the instrument, by the way.

The fittings are all-original, too, save for the missing (disintegrated) pickguard and new ebony bridge topper/saddle.

The fretboard is ebony, has an elevated extension, and those small old-style Gibson frets.

The only bit that makes me frustrated is the shallow neck angle. I didn't want to fuss too much, however, as so much material had been mucked-about in the dovetail joint before my time. The original bridge had stress fractures in the little post-holder raised bits as well as the original "topper," so I removed the broken bits and then made a thinner version of the "topper" to go in its place.

At this point, the ad-copy in the Gibson catalog states maple rather than birch for the back and sides.

The original tuners lubed-up just fine.

The original chip case came along to the workshop with it.

No comments: