7/26/2017

1911 Gibson A-3 Carved-Top Mandolin





Old Gibson mandolins seem to find a place to perch over here at the shop, that's for sure. This one came in via a customer for repair and it's a relatively rare A-3 model which means it's basically an A-2 plus a bit of pearl finery at the headstock. Its factory order number places it at 1911 and it has a pumpkin-colored spruce top over birch back and sides.

Work included a seam repair, replacement binding on the bass side of the fretboard and at the back, a fret level/dress, new adjustable bridge install, a new nut, and a setup with 34w-10 strings. The mission was to make this a functional instrument and, well, she's there. I think the low, original frets could use swapping-out in the future, but for now they're doing just fine. The neck is straight and it plays spot-on with hair-below 1/16" treble and 1/16" bass action at the 12th fret. The sound is robust and poppy with a direct, midsy voicing. It's not as warm and sweet as some old Gibsons but that's just fine by me, as that means the top isn't cut so thin it's in "danger-of-collapse" territory.


It's hard to beat the classic look of a Gibson A. This one appears to have been loved for a time and then relegated to a spare corner as it has small paint spotting on its back and sides and has lost its original nut, bridge, and tailpiece cover.


The headstock is a nice one, huh? I like the extra pearl up there. The new nut is bone.


My new binding does not match the color of the old stuff, but it's what I had on hand.



The new ebony bridge is a standard, Asian-import unit that I've cut-up a bit to fit the height range needed for this instrument. Since it's summer now, the wheels will be adjusting up in winter, and so I set the travel of the saddle bit just a little above the base/foot for a proper summer setup.


This, by the way, is how Gibson intended the string paths on their tails. Note the pad of leather I've got on there to mute the string-ends.





The tuners got a lube and are working swell.





One missing tuner ferrule got replaced. I like the way the posts on these old Waverly tuners have a bit of thinning-up in the middle. It keeps the strings nice and tidy compared to straight-post types.




A new endpin and replacement bottom screw fill-out the new hardware. You can see that this area of the mandolin had some scrtichy-scratch and trouble in the past.

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