The teens and ’20s Gibson mandola came in four models: Styles H-1
and H-2 were teardrop-shaped, carved top, carved back, with the oval soundhole.
There was no such thing as a Style H-3, but the Style H-4 was essentially
a larger version of the famous and fancy F-4 mandolin, being 29” long if
you count most of the white celluloid tailpin and tuned to CGDA from low
to high, one-fifth lower than a mandolin. This truly outstanding
instrument measures 11” wide at the lower bout, having a scale length of
nominally 15 7/8” (a mandolin is, conversely, around 14” in scale), having
a nut width of something like 1 7/32” – meaning that it's slightly wider
than 1 3/16th” and slightly smaller than 1 4/16th”. The lordly
(and, consequently, almost never seen) Model H-5 was a completely different
creature, having twin f-holes, an elevated fingerboard and other Lloyd
Loar-inspired features that are unique to the that short period in the
1920s when the world of fretted instruments was turned on its ear.
This, then is a very large morphing of the famous Gibson F-4 mandolin – having the oval soundhole, bound in ivoroid and with a multi-ply soundhole rosette comprised of a ring of black and spruce parallelograms surrounded on each side by a black line, then an area of ivoroid, and then another ring of black and spruce parallelograms. The top and back are bound in ivoroid and so are the two body points and the body scroll in the upper bass side. The headstock is likewise bound in ivoroid and its ebony peghead overlay features “The Gibson” in script and a long mother of pearl torch and urn and base
The back is two pieces of bookmatched maple; the sides are likewise maple and show some attractive grain pattern.
It's in very sad shape but not bad shape.
Definitely worth some efforts on my part
A few small cracks on the top, fingerboard broken in half and missing binding, I could save it or replace it
Headstock butchered in feeble attempt to add rhinestones, Ill hide all that first so I do not have to look at it.
VG back and neck, I see no reason not to make this back into a good player.
I will fill the hideous holes first
I can see previous work on this peghead, the overlay is not complete and the neck is bulgy at the volute, we will see what was done.
Black dye and thick cyano
Now with all old finish off, you can see what's left of overlay
I suspect broke off at peghead and graft job
And I was right, scarf joint, well done
But it was also horizontally broken across the mid neck, all the way across
The dovetail "Dutchman" was inletted into a routed neck to span that
break, also well done.
So neck still may not be a total loss but its headed into "Basic player" mode for sure
That's bondo and epoxy, what else is under here...
White epoxy, black epoxy.
I see now
When they did the joinery, something slipped, that's a circular saw cut and they filled the "Gank" with the Epoxy.
All cleaned out, Ill kerf it then chisel out the wood to leave a clean key seat to add new mahogany, not filler
Ready to scab a scab, onto the scabbed scab!
Diamond recut to a closer dimension and bulge cut from it.
3 laminates glued in place, I'll level it and add full section going around the diamond
Drilled and ready to trim out scrolls and final sand that area for
a finish check
There is a big dip where they did the joinery on the mid neck, ill have to get that level and add a new laminate under the fingerboard
Looking OK, I can live with it now
After sealing all the cracks and binding on the back and sides, I have re-shot tint and will clean the bindings meticulously, then get onto the clear
That's a clear coat over cleaned binding.
When this dries I will clean the top binding and begin on the top
I have repaired the fingerboard and leveled it, I will rebind it then should be able re-use it
Filling the deepest divots with acrylic before radius leveling
Teflon dams on the ones right by a slot
And where wear is down the side
New backing glued on underside
Its between a 9 and 13 so I will do it a true 12"
Reslotting to depth
"EVO" fret wire and new binding
Heat gun softens the areas where you need it, gluing as I go
Ready to install frets
12" radius caul to hammer in the wire, keeping with the fingerboard profile
Wire is pre-bent and I am notching the ends to fret over the binding
All wire in and sealed
Leveled with the 12" block
Recrowning and dressing
Side markers and ready to install
Looks ok huh? BUT ITS NOT!
When they did the old repairs, they too too much off of the sides of the neck between mid neck and volute so I am shy that much wood
That where they had some of the bondo hid, so I will have to lay in 050 laminate mahogany and build up under the binding and re-profile..
I knew I would have to add something back but not epoxy bondo, yuck.
I will time compress and not photo this part or board installation, its the same laminate I used on peghead but for now move on to body again.
Top scuff and binding prepped
Cleaning the rosette of all old finish
Top tint sprayed
I will do minor tints with fine line in the usual areas and lay on
2 more topcoats of clear, we do not want too thick.
After staining and cleaning all inlay, one coat of sealer, that is
getting tolerable as well.
Since they took nearly all the headstock binding away in places when they scabbed on the overlay, I will take a white lacquer pen and outline it nicely before continuing with clear
Fine line paint pen to "Faux bind" the areas where they lost depth when they re-did the peghead overlay.
I will go round it all then yellow it with a tint wash to "Age it"
Ready for tint
Now everything ha a close match.
I will make the super large nut, then go ahead with clear coats while I await a tailpiece and tuners
Here is a good look with a whiter background
Neck finish complete
0000 steel wool and hand polish to take the sheen off and give it
a warmer older appeal
Reaming tuner bushing holes for install of new machines
Holes were not properly offset and this is causing E tuner to bind (Plating flakes)
I worked with the holes a few times but its not going to happen.
I will have to plug and redrill them all to match these modern strip tuners.
My guess is when the other luthier rebuilt the peghead they went with what was original and somehow got off 1/16, that's all it takes.
That, and modern tuners being made in the closest Metric equivalent doesn't help.
Plugging back to 1/4 hardwood
Here you can see the offset mismatch.
Same amount on both sides of the peghead.
Strip tuners allow very little room for error.
Now I will drill out, dye, and refinish the new holes before going ahead
New Tailpiece arrived
Promptly Satin'ed with fine wool
Everything has been wooled and polished and waxed several times now
Looking thru my Acoustic bridge Cache'
Will dial in this little adjustable, the feet are a close pattern to the original
Profiling to the radius of the top
Strung with Flats on the C and Bronze on the GD and Steel on the A's
These econo tuners work, but I'll never use them again on anything decent.
I do not have much hope they will have long life.
Thats how far out of scale the bridge was its whole life,
I see this quite often.
Nicked my new finish, ....First new Patina
Neck pulls up just a little more under full tension than I would have liked, and its right in the old repair area, not the heel.
No way to know such things until the pressure is on.
AND NOW I KNOW........so