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Thread: Why did Gibson mess the A5-L up before they killed it off?

  1. #1
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    Default Why did Gibson mess the A5-L up before they killed it off?

    Well, mess it up only insofar as my personal aesthetic opinion goes. But the Griffith A5 and then the A5-Ls until (if what I read was correct) Charlie Derrington changed them, had rounded shoulders at the neck joint. Then they sloped them, same as the Collings.

    Why would this have been done?

    Anyone played both variants?

    My A5, the griddle-shaped older one that Ive had for 27 years, took a long time and a lot of messing with to get right. For years I thought it was never going to become much of a mando, but then it opened way up and now it's great.

    Pictures of old and new versions attacher. Round shoulders is mine, the other is purloined from another thread. I like the old design better. Why did Gibson mess with success? Anybody know?

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    Default Re: Why did Gibson mess the A5-L up before they killed it off?

    Because they're Gibson. Why did they mess up the best line of mandolins ever seen to the sorry MSO of the 70's? Why did they have the market sewed up on banjos and mandolins and give that away? Only reason I know is because their Gibson.

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    Default Re: Why did Gibson mess the A5-L up before they killed it off?

    Because people didn’t want to wait 27 years for their A5 to open up

    Just kidding, I prefer the Griffith Loar look as well. In many corporate environments, if you’re not adapting/“innovating,” you can be left behind by the rest of the industry. Also, sheer boredom can play a role. I know a few smaller shop builders who do nontraditional designs/colors/materials (Ratcliff, Sorensen, Kelly come to mind) occasionally, just to try new things out and shake things up in the shop a bit.

    Of course, I’m purely speculating. Maybe Big Joe will chime in with some actual information...
    Chuck

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    Default Re: Why did Gibson mess the A5-L up before they killed it off?

    I've got a '92 A5L (the older version) and it's a great mandolin,,I dont care for the newer version (which were quite expensive)..I think the change might have something to do with the change from the F5L to the Fern design,which is slightly different in body,and they kept the body changes then over to the A5L as well..

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    Default Re: Why did Gibson mess the A5-L up before they killed it off?

    There is an explanation in a message here someplace that I can't find right now. If I recall Charlie was trying to get the bridge placement the same as the F5. I'm sure there was more to it but I can't recall the entire story or find it yet. The Ms Griffith Loar was basically the old A style body with a long neck and F holes. Darryl pretty much showed that with a series of drawings in another post. Personally I like the Ms. Griffith aesthetics better as well.

    Added:

    There is some explanation in this thread.

    After reading that again I'm pretty sure the manufacturing process (tooling and such) probably contributed to the change as well.

    Darryl's explanation of the body shape is here.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Why did Gibson mess the A5-L up before they killed it off?

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian B View Post
    Well, mess it up only insofar as my personal aesthetic opinion goes.
    This coming from a man with a pineapple tailpiece cover... I presume Brian feels the company started going downhill in 1902 when Orville sold out... ;-)
    Last edited by BradKlein; May-08-2018 at 10:16am.
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    Default Re: Why did Gibson mess the A5-L up before they killed it off?

    I like the older Gibson mandolin and I like the recent Gibson mandolin and I like Brian and I like Brad.

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    Default Re: Why did Gibson mess the A5-L up before they killed it off?

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    There is an explanation in a message here someplace that I can't find right now. If I recall Charlie was trying to get the bridge placement the same as the F5. I'm sure there was more to it but I can't recall the entire story or find it yet. The Ms Griffith Loar was basically the old A style body with a long neck and F holes. Darryl pretty much showed that with a series of drawings in another post. Personally I like the Ms. Griffith aesthetics better as well.

    Added:

    There is some explanation in this thread.

    After reading that again I'm pretty sure the manufacturing process (tooling and such) probably contributed to the change as well.

    Darryl's explanation of the body shape is here.
    Thanks, Mike. These are more about the contemporaneous A5 and F5 designs, what I still can't figure out is why the neck joint shape was changed sometime towards the end of Gibson's latter-day A5 run.

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    Default Re: Why did Gibson mess the A5-L up before they killed it off?

    I do rather like my 90' A5L ..... I purchased it used in the OO'ties .... Always been glad to have that mandolin. It , she really, has a lovely tone and playability My son gave me explicit instructions about not trading her off..... R/
    I love hanging out with mandolin nerds . . . . . Thanks peeps ...

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    Default Re: Why did Gibson mess the A5-L up before they killed it off?

    Quote Originally Posted by BradKlein View Post
    This coming from a man with a pineapple tailpiece cover... I presume Brian feels the company started going downhill in 1902 when Orville sold out... ;-)
    C'mon, Brad! Don't you know anything about pre-Loar A5s? When Orville personally built mine, all he had on hand were those pineapple tailpieces.

    Or, wait — it could be that I took it off an early blacktop star-and-crescent A I have whose neck snapped in half one sad day. And all the gold on the A5-L as it came from the factory was too blingy for me, so I downgraded to nickel a couple of years ago and never looked back. At the same time I put on a set of Grover 309s, but the shiny nickel and the pearl buttons were still too much lipstick for me, and eventually, when the mandolin went to Bruce Weber for speednecking and re-profiling, he plugged a set of brushed nickel and ivoroid Rubners in for me, which are great.

    The only other changes to the mandolin are fatter frets put in when I had the floridectomy performed, and the pearl nut Bruce swapped out for bone, which really made a large tonal difference I prefer. If it weren't for the severe checking in parts of the finish, most of which I attribute to carrying the mandolin around in a small suitcase strapped to the back fender on a 6000-mile motorcycle trek through India, from sea-level to 18,360 feet, 116 degrees to I don't know how cold, but pretty cold, and the beating it took living in a 17-foot camper over this previous brutal winter, it'd be as good as new.

    On the other hand, it could be that all that punishment is what got the mandolin to sound and play as good as it does now. Out of the box it was a dog and stayed one for years. It might be ugly — but at least I'm insured against ever having to pawn it because no pawnbroker would ever give me enough for it to spring a dog from the local pokey.

    The last, and final improvement was Mapes strings. Mmm-mmmm! Their custom bronzes are the best strings i ever played.

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    Default Re: Why did Gibson mess the A5-L up before they killed it off?

    Quote Originally Posted by atsunrise View Post
    I like the older Gibson mandolin and I like the recent Gibson mandolin and I like Brian and I like Brad.
    Merçi bien!

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    Default Re: Why did Gibson mess the A5-L up before they killed it off?

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian B View Post
    Thanks, Mike. These are more about the contemporaneous A5 and F5 designs, what I still can't figure out is why the neck joint shape was changed sometime towards the end of Gibson's latter-day A5 run.
    There 's some discussion of the neck joint of the Ms. Griffith in Darryl's thread about the shape. Beyond that, no idea.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Why did Gibson mess the A5-L up before they killed it off?

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian B View Post
    what I still can't figure out is why the neck joint shape was changed sometime towards the end of Gibson's latter-day A5 run.
    Could it have been part of a series of moves designed to situate the bridge further back and directly over the peak of the top arch?
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    Default Re: Why did Gibson mess the A5-L up before they killed it off?

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    Could it have been part of a series of moves designed to situate the bridge further back and directly over the peak of the top arch?
    Eyeballing mine, the bridge seems to be right at the peak of the arch. That much Gibson changed right away with their later A5-Ls, discarding that element of the Griffiths design, which has the bridge foreward of the peak.

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    Default Re: Why did Gibson mess the A5-L up before they killed it off?

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian B View Post
    Eyeballing mine, the bridge seems to be right at the peak of the arch. That much Gibson changed right away with their later A5-Ls, discarding that element of the Griffiths design, which has the bridge foreward of the peak.
    When the bridge moved the F holes did as well.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Why did Gibson mess the A5-L up before they killed it off?

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian B View Post
    Eyeballing mine, the bridge seems to be right at the peak of the arch. That much Gibson changed right away with their later A5-Ls, discarding that element of the Griffiths design, which has the bridge foreward of the peak.
    Maybe it's an illusion, but the bridge seems to be farther forward on the earlier A5L than the later one.

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian B View Post
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    Registered User Mike Snyder's Avatar
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    Default Re: Why did Gibson mess the A5-L up before they killed it off?

    The slope of the sides coming up to the neck in the newer A’s just hurts my eyes. Many modern builders use this form, which is OK. Mike Black does it the old-time way, which is much more OK by me.
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    Default Re: Why did Gibson mess the A5-L up before they killed it off?

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    Maybe it's an illusion, but the bridge seems to be farther forward on the earlier A5L than the later one.
    It's not an illusion. The bridge position on the Ms. Griffith (and the earlier A5L) was further forward.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Why did Gibson mess the A5-L up before they killed it off?

    If it was a good sounding mandolion,i wouldn't really care re.the shoulder style,but,i do prefer the old style - the one that Tom Ellis & many other top builders use,as well as the excellent Kentucky KM900,which was styled after the Griffiths Loar,& by all accounts a superb mandolin by any standard,
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    Default Re: Why did Gibson mess the A5-L up before they killed it off?

    It may be that you like it because it's not as common as the modern A shape. The Ellis shape truncates the neck joint a bit so that the bridge sits near the center of the top. The Griffith shape is based on the oval hole A models of that period, which were 12 frets at the neck to body joint. Loar never addressed that issue when they attached an F5 neck to it. It was a bit of experimental but they should have shortened the headblock to compensate as Ellis does and others.

    I personally like the modern A style as it matches the shape of the F style more closely along the upper bout. There is nothing inherently difficult about one shape over the other, and I've built both styles.

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    Default Re: Why did Gibson mess the A5-L up before they killed it off?

    The change from A5L to modern came with change of tooling. They used the same pre-carved plates for A as for F during the Derrington era, they just CUT AWAY already carved scroll and points. I will try to find picture where it is visible.
    The A-5L had slightly different arch.
    The original Griffit A-5 is slightly larger and longer making the area behind the bridge even larger.
    Adrian

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    Default Re: Why did Gibson mess the A5-L up before they killed it off?

    Quote Originally Posted by HoGo View Post
    The change from A5L to modern came with change of tooling. They used the same pre-carved plates for A as for F during the Derrington era, they just CUT AWAY already carved scroll and points. I will try to find picture where it is visible.
    The A-5L had slightly different arch.
    The original Griffit A-5 is slightly larger and longer making the area behind the bridge even larger.
    From a manufacturing point of view that makes perfect sense.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Why did Gibson mess the A5-L up before they killed it off?

    Like Ivan said, If you want one with the correct shape try a KM-900 series from Kentucky, great sounding mandolins, the 950 and 956 have radius fingerboards and larger frets than the original KM-900.....If it was a "tooling" problem then how come Kentucky is able to copy it so well at a lot less expensive cost? Maybe Gibson should outsource the A-5 to Kentucky...

    Willie

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    Default Re: Why did Gibson mess the A5-L up before they killed it off?

    Nobody said it was a tooling problem. Basically if you are manufacturing something and you figure out how to use the same parts for two different products it's considered a win. What one company chooses to do to make or save money vs what another company does isn't really relevant. Obviously Gibson was making them before. They just chose to streamline their process and they did.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  36. #25
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Why did Gibson mess the A5-L up before they killed it off?

    Here is one pic (courtesy of Frank Ford of frets.com), you can see where the point was cut off...
    Derrington retooled the whole assembly line with new fixtures for cutting dovetails gluing bodies etc. and making the body shape of an A compatible with F style allowed them use them for all mandolins.
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