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Thread: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    Thanx for the kind words. The "Lloyd Loar" name sure carries a lot of weight a century later. When Gibson upgraded its F-5's during the 1970's, they called them "F-5L," with the "L" standing for "Loar." And, as we know, there's a whole line of quality Asian-made mandolins and guitars labeled "The Loar."

    Probably he died without knowing that people would be using his name 75 years later. A real legacy...
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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    Thanks Allen, I always enjoy your posts, didn't mean to be so argumentative, sometimes I take the other side since no one else seems to be doing it. Have a good one. k
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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    When the F-5L was in its infancy I was in an amazingly interesting point in my life. I was working at a little shop here in Kalamazoo and was lucky enough to have Bill Halsey also involved in the place. The chat around there some nights after closing was pretty interesting, just knowing that the effort was being put into the project back then still makes me smile! I was priveliged to have met some pretty amazing people there, though I would be surprised if he remembered me, I met Roger Siminoff back then. That was nearing the end of the project or, should I say the beginning of the real improvement stage! I need to sit down with Bill one of these days and ask if he thought the project would have spurred so many of today's excellent builders. Thanks to all the talented artisans who perpetuate the pursuit of mandolin excellence begun so many years ago.
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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    When I look at my blueprints and hacklinger maps collected from 100s of vintage Gibson mandolins, I can see very clear differences during the Loar period mandolins. Everyone talks about the snakehead vs paddlehead shape and the neck profile, and the truss rod. If you look a bit deeper into the builds, the teen era As seem to have a particular voice for around 1914-1916 and the graduations are on the thicker side and some of the ribs tend to push about 0.110-120". Then the 1918-1921 period seems to have its own voice, By the '22-25 "Loar period", the snakehead rib thicknesses are down to almost .065" and the tops are down about a millimeter or more in thickness, much closer to the 5mm or less window. A millimeter here or there for us seems minimal, but in terms of beam strength, deflection, and voice it is HUGE. based on those considerations, I'd argue that the Loar period is not just marketing BS but an indicator of the build approach so it is a fine name.

    As much as I like the snakehead vibe, there is something about the 1914/ 15 period A models that packs a huge punch and much more cut that I find to be a more useful and versatile tool for making music with other people in the room. That is key- nobody else in the room and we gravitate towards the full and lush sound but when we play with other folks, the cut into the mix is tops. There is also a distinct builder's carving visible in the 1919 era F2-4s that seems to blow the doors off the rest for the detail and crispness of execution. Look at the back of the scroll and the hard line running up the button- they are instantly distinguishable from the ones from ten years later in the "fern" era where everything seems all rolled over and sanded out. Your mileage and results may vary and your hearing and playing is certainly different from mine.

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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    My teacher has two Gibson A's both from the teens, one has the headstock with no Gibson logo but I can't remember what year that makes it. They play have a great sound, but neither has a truss rod and they both suffer from a bowed neck that makes playing above the 7th fret very difficult, and travelling exacerbates the problem. So, that being said, if it was me, I'd look for one with a truss rod for sure.

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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    Thank you for your observation.
    I have a Gibson A from 1918 where it also gets harder to play up the neck. That is part of the reason why I am looking for a new one. Could someone with more experience let us know if the truss rod will reduce the problem?
    THanks.

    Quote Originally Posted by mrmando2015 View Post
    My teacher has two Gibson A's both from the teens, one has the headstock with no Gibson logo but I can't remember what year that makes it. They play have a great sound, but neither has a truss rod and they both suffer from a bowed neck that makes playing above the 7th fret very difficult, and travelling exacerbates the problem. So, that being said, if it was me, I'd look for one with a truss rod for sure.

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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    I have had some success refretting an instrument with a bowed neck with frets that have slightly larger tangs. The compression of the fret helps to straighten the neck. You could also remove and reglue the fingerboard. Sometimes a slight neck plane is in order, but sometimes just removing and regluing is enough.
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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    My experience, admittedly not comprehensive, is that in general vintage mandolins played today differ more due to their condition and how they have been cared for and how they have weathered the years, than the specific idiosyncrasies of the particular model originally built. So while a certain year in excellent condition compared to another certain year in excellent condition may have some validity, the mandolin you get of this year compared to any other year may not mean much. Play before you pay, to be sure the specific attributes you love have not been beaten out or dried away, or customized into oblivion.
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    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    Quote Originally Posted by SMSimon View Post
    I have a Gibson A from 1918 where it also gets harder to play up the neck. That is part of the reason why I am looking for a new one. Could someone with more experience let us know if the truss rod will reduce the problem?
    THanks.
    I have owned probably at least 6 or 8 vintage Gibson oval holes and have never had one with a bowed neck, truss rod or not. If you like the way your sounds and plays and like the slightly thicker neck of a non-truss one, it might be worth it to have work done on it. Figure it this way: if you want to sell it with a bowed neck you will probably lose money anyway. If you fix it you might fall in love with it again and it probably won't cost you a ton of money. You are not going to find a superb Gibson for the few hundred dollars it will probably cost you to get yours playable.

    BTW another downside to some of the Loar era mandolins is that some of them have inaccurate fretboards esp up the neck. I am not sure why that is but I had a '24 F4 and my luthier showed me how some of the frets were in the wrong place.
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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    I and someone else in town have A4's the intonation problem personified he needed a new fretboard

    Mine is just needing a refret by now
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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    I think the early 20s pre-Loar era Gibsons are the best-kept secret without the premium prices. I have yet to play a 1921 Gibson that I didn't love.
    As the proud owner of a late-1921 (or possibly early-1922) A-jr paddlehead, I'm pleased to hear that. I'm still not entirely sure if these early A-jr models had a non-adjustable truss rod like the later ones or not, but mine in any case has no neck problems and no intonation problems up the neck. Fairly chunky neck, which would suggest no truss rod. Mandolin Archive says (based on info submitted by a previous owner) that mine has replacement fretboard and tuners, and that may be the explanation. If they are non-original, then they are very well replaced as tuners and fretboard both look identical to the original ones. Except that it intonates correctly, of course...

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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    My '22 has a truss rod and had intonation problems, I think it was due to transition or jig wearing out. It was easily cured by placing a 1mm shim between the nut and the end of the fingerboard. Intonation is great now up and down the board and it sounds fantastic. I have found this same problem with several '22's. The unfortunate side is after playing it for many many years the larger neck, which I specifically wanted, is bothering my old hands so it has been sitting while I play a newer instrument with a smaller neck.
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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    Quote Originally Posted by grandcanyonminstrel View Post
    If you look a bit deeper into the builds, the teen era As seem to have a particular voice for around 1914-1916 and the graduations are on the thicker side and some of the ribs tend to push about 0.110-120". Then the 1918-1921 period seems to have its own voice, By the '22-25 "Loar period", the snakehead rib thicknesses are down to almost .065" and the tops are down about a millimeter or more in thickness, much closer to the 5mm or less window. A millimeter here or there for us seems minimal, but in terms of beam strength, deflection, and voice it is HUGE. based on those considerations, I'd argue that the Loar period is not just marketing BS but an indicator of the build approach so it is a fine name.

    As much as I like the snakehead vibe, there is something about the 1914/ 15 period A models that packs a huge punch and much more cut that I find to be a more useful and versatile tool for making music with other people in the room. That is key- nobody else in the room and we gravitate towards the full and lush sound but when we play with other folks, the cut into the mix is tops. There is also a distinct builder's carving visible in the 1919 era F2-4s that seems to blow the doors off the rest for the detail and crispness of execution. Look at the back of the scroll and the hard line running up the button- they are instantly distinguishable from the ones from ten years later in the "fern" era where everything seems all rolled over and sanded out. Your mileage and results may vary and your hearing and playing is certainly different from mine.

    j.
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    That is very interesting - but you omitted the '17 year. Where does that fall? (only because i have a 1917 A.)

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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    Quote Originally Posted by j. condino View Post
    ... By the '22-25 "Loar period", the snakehead rib thicknesses are down to almost .065" and the tops are down about a millimeter or more in thickness, much closer to the 5mm or less window. A millimeter here or there for us seems minimal, but in terms of beam strength, deflection, and voice it is HUGE. based on those considerations, I'd argue that the Loar period is not just marketing BS but an indicator of the build approach so it is a fine name.
    Sorry to dredge up an old thread but - So the paddleheads that were made during 22-25 - did they also have the skinnier rib thickness and thinner tops or was it just the snakeheads?
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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    Quote Originally Posted by liestman View Post
    Sorry to dredge up an old thread but - So the paddleheads that were made during 22-25 - did they also have the skinnier rib thickness and thinner tops or was it just the snakeheads?
    I couldn't tell you that, but my '22 paddle will compete with any snake in sound.
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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    As I offer below trying to string together a bunch of words to describe a sound ,

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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    There's also this guide, along with the one in Post #3: http://www.guitarhq.com/gibson8.html It addresses the physical characteristics of each model and their evolution over the years. For aesthetic considerations - that is, comparative analysis of their sonic qualities - you'll have to go elsewhere. I've seen people question the accuracy of some of the content, so keep that in mind. But I hope it helps.
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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    I don't think to my knowledge he actually made an F5, but they are called Loar's, where do we draw the line, because they were a signed label or made in the era.
    If you put a 1922 A-4 in the cafe classifieds and call it a "Loar A-4" there would be a rush to the keyboards to see who can be the first to post a scathing accusation of misrepresentation. We can argue about the accuracy and nuances of terminology, but by convention, I think everyone expects a "Loar" to have a signed label (except for the so-called unsigned Loar F-5s of early 1925). Anything else built from 1922-24 would be "Loar-period" (although the term is a bit erroneous, since he came to Gibson prior to 1922). Everything after 1924 is "post-Loar" and not a "Loar," regardless of which "Loar improvements" it may display.

    Also, regarding "Loar improvements," one of the most important delineating features between "pre-Loar" and Loar-and-after instruments is the adjustable truss rod. It's been mentioned twice in this thread as one of the "Loar improvements" when it is, more accurately, one of the improvements from Loar's time at Gibson. It was invented by Ted McHugh, not Loar.

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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    Walter, it is great to see you contributing to the conversation around here; keep up the good work and continue running the coolest music shop in the nation!

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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    Quote Originally Posted by j. condino View Post
    Walter, it is great to see you contributing to the conversation around here; keep up the good work and continue running the coolest music shop in the nation!
    Amen!
    Chuck

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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    Quote Originally Posted by liestman View Post
    So the paddleheads that were made during 22-25 - did they also have the skinnier rib thickness and thinner tops or was it just the snakeheads?
    Can anyone answer this specific question? Thanks to all either way.
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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    John,

    I just measured a '21 paddlehead on my workbench that is squeaky clean:

    - The ribs varied from 0.090"- 0.098"

    - Top was 4.2mm in the center of the arch, averaged 2.9 around the recurve, graduating up to 3.2 under the tailpiece.

    Loar mandolin nerdiness is all fine and good, but....I wanna hear more insider stories about him getting drunk at the office Christmas party with Mrs. _______ the week before he got fired!!!!!!

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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    So that means that that particular '21 paddlehead has a top graduated like a snakehead but the thicker ribs of the older models, if I interpret it correctly, right? Interesting! Thanks, Mr. Condino!
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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    Mr. Condino?

    Is my father is on the mandolincafe now or am I in trouble again?

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    Default Re: A Reference for The Differences in oval holed Gibson A's?

    Sorry, I will be less formal from now on, J-baby! ;-)
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