1910s Gibson K-1 Mandocello

The last time I saw this instrument was 10 years ago. It's remained stable in service, though we've needed to shim the (earlier) bridge up and down a few times as the seasons changed and the top moved up and down with moisture swell.

It's lightweight and sounds very full and welcoming. Clearly I'm enjoying it because I played it so long in the demo video...!

This one has a top that's cut really thin and so you can't use the heavier standard mandocello gauges (something ridiculous like 74w to 24w low to high) and instead I have it strung with a custom set of guitar gauges (56w, 40w, 28w, 18w) for standard tuning. It's much more reasonable, sounds great on this box, and plays a lot faster.

It's had a lot of things done to it in the past. The owner told me that before he got it that it'd already been refinished to what's seen now (a sunburst with a glossy finish and murky red/brown on the back and sides) and had a wonky pickguard on it in the past. The Gibson tailpiece was long gone (and replaced with this Waverly one) and the tuners are '60s or '70s units of the type seen on Harmony mandolins.

At some point the top sunk a bunch and so the original ladder brace inside was bulwarked by the addition of really shallow-angle x-bracing just below it. This still leaves most of the top free to resonate as Gibson intended but it means that it's no longer at structural failure risk. It's been the same for 10 years without maintenance and I'm not worried about it in the long term.

Just recently I swapped-out the non-adjustable bridge for a modified, adjustable archtop bridge for the owner. This means it's easy to setup on the fly if the action changes due to weather cycling. Now that it's here for sale, I also went ahead and cleaned it up a bit, restrung it, and gave it a fresh fret level/dress as well. It's ready to go.

For those not used to vintage Gibson mandocellos, you'll have to get used to a beefy neck, flat fretboard, and wider nut width than modern interpretations. It means you really have to slow-down your left-hand technique a bit to think about stretches you might normally do on a tenor-length instrument in fifths tuning. Once you put it "in your mind," though, it becomes second-nature pretty quickly.

So, in short: it's been around the block but it plays and sounds excellent.

Repairs included: (recently) a fret level/dress, replacement adjustable bridge, cleaning, and setup.


Top wood: solid spruce (carved)

Back & sides wood: solid birch (carved back)

Bracing type: ladder plus newer x-bracing

Bridge: rosewood

Fretboard: ebony

Neck wood: mahogany


Action height at 12th fret: 3/32” bass 1/16” treble (fast, spot-on)
String gauges: 56w, 40w, 28w, 18w low to high (CGDA)

Neck shape: big soft V

Board radius: flat

Neck relief: straight

Fret style: small and low


Scale length: 24 3/4"

Nut width: 1 5/8"

Body width: 14 1/8"

Body depth: 3 3/8" +arching

Weight: 3 lbs 10 oz


Condition notes: hoo, boy. First-off, it's been refinished. The top has a bit of a sloppy sunburst and the whole thing is refinished in a gloss spray that's not too thick but definitely looks like 1970s and not 1910s! Next-up the bracing has been added-to with x-bracing supports just below the main "ladder" brace at the soundhole. There are multiple repaired cracks on the back and one or two on the sides. The finish is a little murky-brown on the back and sides with some discoloration. It's not obvious from a little distance but the player will notice all of that. There are a couple of tiny screwholes that were patched near the soundhole and fretboard extension. The tuners are replaced. The tailpiece and bridge are replaced. The nut is replaced. The tuners are a bit stiff and annoying to use but once at pitch hold decently. If it were mine, I'd swap them out for StewMac repros if I was playing it regularly. Still, I don't want to talk it down -- despite all of the modifications, it remains a lovely, gorgeous-sounding instrument.


It comes with: its original hard case in decent shape. It has no handle in the pictures but I did whip-up an impromptu one for average use.
















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