Crawls Backward (When Alarmed)

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1919 Gibson A-4 Mandolin Crack Assessment

One of the things that seems to happen a lot around here is that one project will leapfrog others in the queue.  This is a case in point.  I was working on the Valco amp when suddenly, whoosh!, in sweeps something else that takes priority.

Hmmm.  This looks suspiciously like a old Gibson ukulele or tenor guitar case!

But it has a funny rounded shape.

What could it be?

Holy Kalamazoo!  It's an old Gibson mandolin!

It's a 1919 A-4 to be exact.

How cool is that?

It's in The Dungeon for some crack repairs and a general cleanup.

I need to take of the strings.  They're ancient and they need to come off for the repairs.

On these old Gibson tailpieces, the cover just slides off.  Lookit how tarnished that thing is.  Wonder if we can do something about it.

You can see how the ends of the strings loop around the clips on the tailpiece.

There's a crack on the top near the soundhole.

It actually doesn't look too bad, and it's so tight, I can't budge it with pressure on either side of it.

Here's the same crack viewed by a mirror on the inside.  Not bad at all, and since I can't open it up to put glue into it, I'm not bothering with it.  If it ever opens up I can fix it.

If you think guitars or ukuleles are hard to get lights and mirrors (and fingers) into, try a mandolin.  Tiny.

While I had the light in there, I figured I should get a picture of the label.

This is the classic Gibson mandolin label used from about 1910 through the 1920s.  On most of these I've seen the instrument type and style stamps are not readable.  They're really clear on this one.

Same for the serial number, which dates it to 1919.  The golden age for Gibson mandolins.

Here's another crack on the other side of the soundhole.  Even smaller, and again, not worth worrying about.

That finish, by the way, is the famous old Gibson shellac-varnish-what-is-it?  Lots of debate for decades about what it consists of.  Whatever it is, it's beautiful.  Probably applied with a pad.

Gibson didn't start using nitro lacquer until 1925; everything up to that point was varnish (or shellac).

I will work on this crack.  You can see that big old repaired patch.  Not a bad repair job.  It's visible but somehow the old finish is still intact, which is a plus in my book.

You can see the longer crack down near the bottom binding.  I'm going to see if I can close that up some.  I can't move it much by hand, but it is open so I think it's worth seeing if I can get some hide glue in there to at least stabilize it.

There's a kerf behind it, so it's pretty solid, even if I can't close it up all the way.

Next up:  I make a custom caul to clamp the thing together.


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