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Thread: When did Gibson stop using Handel tuners?

  1. #1
    Registered User Dave Hicks's Avatar
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    Default When did Gibson stop using Handel tuners?

    I saw an F4 for sale the other day, which was described as a 1925. Did Gibson use Handel tuners that late? Did they use other tuners with inlaid buttons?

    It also had the truss rod cover that went through the bottom of the inlay.

    (My wife was with me, so I knew better than to admire the mando too avidly.)

    Thanks!

    D.H.

  2. #2
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: When did Gibson stop using Handel tuners?

    Truss rod is compatible with 1925 manufacture, Handels aren't. Usual date given for their discontinuance is 1918.

    Look inside for serial or factory order number (label for the first, stamp on the neck block for the second); best way to get a good date for the instrument.

    And, after all, we're talking Gibson here, where anomalies are quite common. Truss rod coulda been installed later, by the factory repair shop; an old set of Handels coulda been discovered behind some used coffee cups in 1925, and stuck on an F-4 being made. Numbers would definitely help.
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  4. #3
    Registered User Dave Hicks's Avatar
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    Default Re: When did Gibson stop using Handel tuners?

    Thanks, I thought that was a peculiar combination. My interest was casual, didn't get close enough to read any #s. (The same guy, Vernon McIntyre, also had some nice Martin 12-fret guitars that intrigued me, too.)

    D.H.
    Last edited by Dave Hicks; Sep-06-2021 at 2:28pm.

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    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: When did Gibson stop using Handel tuners?

    I recently acquired a 1922 F-4 which is drop-dead gorgeous in all respects except she has those plain tuners, not Handels. So that is consistent with that assessment. Too bad. She's so lovely, she deserves all the finery. Oh, and she has a truss rod.

    I'll bet a little time poking around the Mandolin Archive will turn up all kinds of pertinent info.
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    Mandolingerer Bazz Jass's Avatar
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    Default Re: When did Gibson stop using Handel tuners?

    Given the keys and long headstock inlay, I's guess it's a teen model retrofitted with a truss rod by Gibson in the 20s.

    Just a guess mind you! Can't find photos on Vernon's site.

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  9. #6
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    Default Re: When did Gibson stop using Handel tuners?

    A Gibson built in 1925 would most likely have had the wrong hole spacing for a set of Handels.

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  11. #7
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    Default Re: When did Gibson stop using Handel tuners?

    Didn't WW1 have something to do with why they couldn't be imported?

  12. #8

    Default Re: When did Gibson stop using Handel tuners?

    I seem to remember the definitive book by Walter Carter on Gibson mandolins saying that, contrary to years of speculation about Handel buttons being imported from Germany, they were actually made in USA. A company in St Louis comes to mind.

    I have seen the odd early 1920s F4 with Handels so I suspect they kept back a few sets but yes the spacings changed in 1924 I think.

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  14. #9
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: When did Gibson stop using Handel tuners?

    I still am proud of my detective work on this thread: https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...-Handel-Tuners It is nice to clear up at least the most erroneous info. I spent quite a lot of time emailing with quite a few prominent folks and none could corroborate that the tuner buttons were imported but we mostly concluded that it was pretty likely they were supplied by Louis Handel Co. who supplied inlays to many makers.

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  16. #10
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    Default Re: When did Gibson stop using Handel tuners?

    My own research into F-4's, based on personal observation of the instruments and study of photographed instruments in the Mandolin Archive, produces the following information:

    1. Handel inlaid tuners are last used as standard issue on F-4 mandolins in 1918.
    2. Truss rods first appear on some, but not all F-4's in 1921, and become standard in 1922. On some early examples, the truss rod covers the area over the base of the inlay. Soon afterward, the inlay was re-designed to eliminate any interference with the truss rod cavity and cover.

    The mandolin that the original poster saw had most likely been mis-dated. The truss rod cover obscuring the inlay would suggest either an instrument made in 1918 or earlier that had the truss rod added later, or an instrument made circa 1921 or 1922 which had the Handel tuners added later.
    I have personally seen Handel inlaid tuner buttons on mandolins made by Vega, on a Martin style E built in 1919, and on a Martin 00-45 guitar built circa 1920.

    I'm going to suggest that the tuning machines that we see on c. 1906 to 1918 Gibson mandolins were indeed made by Waverly, and that the buttons were inlaid by Louis Handel. If there is any connection with WWI and Germany, I will suggest that Handel might have purchased the raw pre-cut pearl inlay material from a German supplier. Other possible reasons for the discontinuation of inlaid buttons might have included cost cutting measures, marketing decisions, or some sort of problems with a supplier.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Despite the cited date of establishment of the Waverly Company in NY in 1918 that Jim linked to above, further research into the Waverly name indicates that the Waverly Musical Products Company of Long Island City, NY, was previously named the Waverly Novelty Company.

    A name change of a NY company bearing the name Waverly Novelty Company to Waverly Musical Products occurred in 1922, and is documented on page 18 of Music Trades Magazine, volume 64. I do not know when Waverly originally started making instrument parts, but the hooks and nuts with the unusual 8-26 threads that are generally attributed to them were in use on Fairbanks/Vega banjos at least as early as 1906, possibly much earlier.

    A company with that name was already operating in Pittsburgh, PA by 1917. That company's existence is cited in the "Automobile Dealer and Repairer" trade journal, volume 24, page 72, in reference to Waverly Novelty's purchase of Stewart Warner's clock business. Whether or not this was the same company or not, I do not know.

    To complicate matters, what may be yet another company, also named Waverly Novelty Company, was making fabric items in 1904 in NY city in 1904. "Our" Waverly's name change may very well have been precipitated to avoid a name conflict with the fabric company[???]

    I suppose that the moral of this exercise is to be careful with internet research. Unless someone else has already done the work, it would be necessary to pore through city archives in NY City, Long Island City, and Pittsburgh to unravel the history of the musical parts supplier; or to peruse any surviving banjo journals from the 1890's and 1900's to see if any references to Waverly exist that far back.

    I'm not going to take the time to go deeper into research about Waverly, at least not right now. If anyone wants to contact banjo researcher Jim Bollman about Waverly, he may be able to provide more detailed and accurate information.
    Last edited by rcc56; Sep-08-2021 at 2:02am.

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  18. #11
    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: When did Gibson stop using Handel tuners?

    In my humble opinion, the overarching story concerning the mysteries surrounding the origin and conclusion of the production of these delightfully decorated tuner buttons is fascinating, more so than the questions posited in the original post. The research regarding efforts to solve these questions is impressive, including those presented in the thread referenced by Jim in Post #9. Somewhat overlooked in all of this are the original post's questions about this F-4's details. Is there any way the serial number can be found, thus helping determine whether the production date provided for it was accurate, or perhaps more likely, inaccurate? Is there a link available to the listing?
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  20. #12
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: When did Gibson stop using Handel tuners?

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    ...Somewhat overlooked in all of this are the original post's questions about this F-4's details. Is there any way the serial number can be found, thus helping determine whether the production date provided for it was accurate, or perhaps more likely, inaccurate? Is there a link available to the listing?
    Dave Hicks wrote in Post #3, "My interest was casual, didn't get close enough to read any #s." Apparently he was at Vernon McIntyre's Famous Old-Time Music Company checking out the inventory.

    I don't see that McIntyre has an on-line inventory page, so couldn't find a direct link to the mandolin in question. Contacting him directly, one might be able to get serial or FON to clarify the question of the F-4's manufacture date. Not a task I'm undertaking, though.
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  22. #13
    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: When did Gibson stop using Handel tuners?

    Ha ha ha! Yes, sir, that is as far as I got in my online investigations as well. I did not say as much, though, as it seemed incumbent on the OP to have provided all, including casual, observers with such rudimentary information, which I was hoping to effectuate by employing a subtle, gentle prodding. You have let the cat out of the bag, sir, in using a more direct, informative approach. Perhaps by utilizing this bifurcate approach, success will be achieved at last.

    PS: I am not undertaking such a task, either.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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  24. #14
    Registered User Dave Hicks's Avatar
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    Default Re: When did Gibson stop using Handel tuners?

    My interest was very casual - just appreciating the endorphin release from looking at a nice old mandolin, increased by noticing a discrepancy.

    I'm #3 for not undertaking the task, but thanks to all of your confirming my sense of an anomaly.

    D.H.

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