1925 Gibson H-1 Mandola

Gibson mandolas are simply not around every corner. You sort-of have to go looking if you want to find one. This came in for repair via a good customer of mine and, thankfully, it came-in in pretty good order. It has a serial number that dates it to 1927 and a factory order number that dates it to 1925. That means it sat around until someone wanted to buy it in '27, most likely! This happened a lot with Gibson mandolin instruments during that time.

Compared to the company's carved-top mandolins, the mandolas are pretty stoutly-carved and braced and because of that, they're the reason modern mandola string gauges are so extra-intense (as everyone tends to copy old Gibsons design-wise). While 40w-11 gauges might wake-up a flatback or bowlback mandola (with their correspondingly-longer 17" or so scale lengths) just fine, the owner of this instrument rocks it with 53w-15 gauges. The instrument's not complaining about it, however, and it sounds glorious with them on, so "fair enough."

Tone is woody and full with good volume and a clean, precise sound. 

Work included: a board plane and refret with medium-size stock, a reglue to the main brace below the soundhole, and a setup. It plays bang-on with 1/16" action at the 12th fret and a smooth, easy feel, with a straight neck and working truss-rod. I can't tell you how much of a difference bigger frets make to these old Gibson mando-family instruments -- the originals are so skinny, small, and low that they just feel pinchy and add fatigue.

Scale length: 15 7/8"
Nut width: 1 3/16"
String spacing at nut: 1 1/16"
String spacing at bridge: 1 9/16"
Body length: 14 3/4"
Lower bout width: 11 1/8"
Side depth at endpin: 2"
Top wood: solid spruce, carved
Back/sides wood: solid birch with figured spots
Neck wood: mahogany
Bracing type: ladder
Fretboard: ebony, pearl dots
Bridge: original ebony base, replacement rosewood top
Neck feel: medium-depth C/V, flat board

Condition notes: missing original pickguard, one replacement tuner button, new frets, replacement bridge top, and some flaking finish and weather-check to the finish, but otherwise pretty clean and original.