1914 Gibson A-Style Carved-Top Mandolin

I've worked on a lot of nice old Gibson mandos and this one, like the rest, is a joy to play now that the work is done. It's a pumpkin-colored model with only "A-" on its label, meaning it's a base model of the type with binding only on the top edge and very plain appointments otherwise. The top is carved spruce and the back and sides are solid birch. The neck is mahogany and the fretboard is stained maple rather than ebony, though the bridge and headstock veneer are ebony.

This came in rather good shape, though the top is/was sunken on the treble side a bit, a seam was sprung on the back, and it had a mix of fret sizes on a warped neck which made it rather unplayable. I tidied all that up and the worst bit of it was doing the board level/refret as the stained-maple board was both mealy and very dry so it was very, very chip-prone. It all turned-out well, however, and I think the customer who owns this is going to be surprised at the dramatic difference with it now playing like a hot-rod with on-the-dot action and modern, comfortable frets.

Amazingly, the instrument is totally original except for the decal on the top and the new frets.

I actually prefer the look of the "paddle" headstock to the more-coveted "snakehead" shape. The nut is bone and original.

You can see a few areas on the board where it chipped-out during leveling and I've had to patch it up. Stained maple gets really wonky over time when it was "ebonized" when first-built. Despite doing a great job leveling/dressing the board, as soon as frets were squeezed in a small amount of mayhem occurred with the board wanting to chip from the pressure (yes, I enlarged the slots to avoid this).

The original celluloid pickguard has gotten a bit wobbly but still functions well.

The original bridge is non-adjustable but the saddles are actually drop-in so I was able to height-adjust a couple of them via shims to get them in better spec. Action is 1/16" overall and a hair under on the treble side.

A bit of foam mutes the string-end overtones under the nice old tail cover.

This one has a nice, one-piece back.

The original tuners were a bear to use before some lube cleaned them right up.

The original adjustable bracket is working strong after all these years...

1 comment:

Bruce Calder said...

What a sweety. Good for another 97 years!