1910s Gibson Style A Carved-Top Mandolin

1911 Style A Gibson Mandolin

What's fascinating about this instrument is not that it's another pumpkin-top, ruddy back-sides Gibson A from the teens (those are all nice, though). It's that someone yanked the original bracing and put a star-shaped pattern in it, instead. It was then left with the back off for a good number of years so that when it came time to put it back together (here), the sides and back mismatched like crazy.

What's funny is that the tone isn't dramatically different from a normal Gibson A. I know the fact that I don't have a video clip of this ruins that description (update: the owner shared a quick cell video with me that gives an idea, see above) -- but if I didn't know it was changed inside, I wouldn't necessarily have thought anything of it. It sounds like a Gibson A but with a little more balance and "clean" and a little less of that husky lower-mids sound.

Here's what it looked like inside when it came here and then after I sanded the bracing down (it'd been cut way too heavy)...

After repairs, which included working on getting that back joined-up decently and then glorified setup work (fret level/dress, setup), this mando's playing spot-on and has a quick, easy feel. I strung it up with stainess steel light-gauge strings (36w-10) and action's at a hair below 1/16" at the 12th fret.

It's mostly-original but does have a few period-correct Gibson replacement parts and some not-correct but period-correct tuners (which, unfortunately, turn backwards).

Scale length: 13 7/8"
Nut width: 1 3/16"
String spacing at nut: 1"
String spacing at bridge: 1 5/8"
Body length: 13 1/2"
Body width: 10"
Side depth at endpin: 1 7/8" + arching
Top: carved solid spruce
Back/sides: solid birch
Fretboard: ebony, new bone nut
Bridge: ebony
Neck feel: medium V-shape, flat board
Neck wood: mahogany w/center strip

I'm not super-happy with my refitting of the back to the sides (they had to be trimmed a lot as everything was mismatched), but it's definitely "good enough." At a glance it's not obvious -- it just looks like it's had an old reglue job. One has to keep in mind that a modified Gibson A is perhaps not the best instrument to invest wads of cash into...