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Thread: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white — get it?

  1. #51
    Fingertips of leather Bill McCall's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white — get it?

    Nice.

    So, JB, add a truss rod cover to the new peghead, paint it black and you'd have one anomalous instrument. Not to mention rare.
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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white — get it?

    Quote Originally Posted by jim simpson View Post
    Not the best picture but here's the A3 that I picked up years ago as a project. It had a headstock repair and the top was stripped. I decided to have some fun with it and make it a black face plus I altered the headstock to a snakehead shape. I added the white celluloid binding to the soundhole.
    Jim, does it say A3 on the label? I’ve yet to see an A3 snakehead and thought that the A2-z’s replaced them in the product line.
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  3. #53
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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white — get it?

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    Jim, does it say A3 on the label? I’ve yet to see an A3 snakehead and thought that the A2-z’s replaced them in the product line.

    I no longer own it but it had the familiar headstock inlay used on the A3, it's hard to see in the photo. Since this mando was a project when I got it, I had the idea of changing it to the snakehead shape. The headstock break was repaired prior to my owning it, I later learned from my friend and luthier, Corey Eller, that the neck repair later failed. He returned the instrument to it's previous paddle head shape as he made a new partial neck and headstock, then scarf joined it. It was quite a solid and creative repair.
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  5. #54
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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white — get it?

    Quote Originally Posted by MarkELynch View Post
    JB, can you share the evidence that your luthier found that indicate that your A3 was originally golden orange?
    Against my druthers - I don't want to pester the guy - I have sent a query, to which I have not yet received a reply. I think he covered this already in a previous quote, though he did not go into detail. But to assuage everyone's curiosity on the matter, I've gone ahead, regardless. I admit, I'm curious, too.


    Does anyone want to do a forensic exercise with their Ivory A3 to examine the strata below?
    OMG! Please don't do this! Don't risk damaging a fine instrument to assuage your curiosity. When I hear from him I'll share the info. Be patient!

    Please share pictures of the final result.
    But of course! As if I wouldn't ...

    PS: Sorry for the delays in my responses. I am experiencing some £^’₭ing hellacious computer issues, which are necessitating traipsing to the library in order to communicate via interweb. Thus it will be until a new charger arrives, hopefully Wednesday - hopefully Tuesday, if I get lucky (I usually don't ). So here I is for another hour or so, till tomorrow. Otherwise, only if necessary, as my battery is at <40%. And never on Sunday.
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    Professional Dreamer journeybear's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white — get it?

    Quote Originally Posted by pheffernan View Post
    Jim, does it say A3 on the label? I’ve yet to see an A3 snakehead and thought that the A2-z’s replaced them in the product line.
    Hmmm? I thought he made it clear it was a custom alteration.
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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white — get it?

    Aha. So saith my luthier:

    "First, at the time this mandolin was made, there were no hard and fast rules with regard to every single design detail … especially during a time of factory transition. Sure, the ivory white finish got its start in 1918. But, let’s not forget that these instrument bodies were built in batches, all having the same fon number and were drawn off the racks for completion over time dependent upon orders. In the original ledgers I’ve seen head block numbers and factory issue dates that were quite a few months apart, like during the depression era. No doubt orders for golden orange finished A-3 mandolins were still being filled while ivory top instruments were being issued.

    "As to the evidence of what this particular piece started out as, there are a number of dings in the sanded top filled with unoriginal white paint. Obviously the ding came before the paint. If you look at these dings under magnification and lift out the white paint you will find layered remnants of the original golden orange varnish and shellac attached to raw wood. It’s just a matter of simple archaeology as to what came first. There are also little traces of this earlier finish elsewhere around the sanded top. That this added white paint was not a factory finish is evident in how it was smeared up under the tailpiece base and along the fingerboard binding and bridge bottom. Yes, it was brushed on while the mandolin was strung up! I had thought that perhaps this was some white touch up to an original ivory finish and that what I was seeing under it all was a shellac sealer coat. But, no, both shellac and varnish are in evidence with only one unoriginal white material present."

    He doesn’t say anything about the double binding, which I believe was used for ivory finish models, but perhaps not exclusively. There’s no reason to believe it was never used for golden orange ones. As my luthier says, there would have been some overlap. Who knows what shape that might take. At any rate, I'm not going to bother him anymore about this. He's got better things to do. Like fix the blessed thing!
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  8. #57
    two t's and one hyphen fatt-dad's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white — get it?

    Hi JB!

    Exciting mandolin news! I saw the original post and checked the link. Looked like an interesting purchase to me also! Wasn't a bidder. So glad you found it and it's becoming a fun story!

    I'm a fan! I'm the second owner of my 1920 white-face, paddle-head, non-truss rod, fixed bridge A3! I love it too! I've owned snake-heads from A2 to A2Z and kept my A3.

    For your story, I'd agree to the blank-canvass approach also. I'm my case, I like the white finish. No matter the choice, I'm certain you'll have fun driving it!

    Can't wait to see the outcome photo(s)!

    f-d

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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white — get it?

    Yes, this instrument has certainly generated an enormous amount of interest. I don't know how people will be able to maintain this for half a year until I pick it up in the spring. That's the plan, barring the appearance of a tsunami, which would put coastal CT underwater, including my luthier's shop.

    As much as my luthier advises against pumpkin - his plan for filling in the dings precludes applying that kind of finish - that would be my preference. That would go for cherry, too. But black is the plan, and that's fine with me. I've no interest in ivory, but I'll tell you what. Next time you visit, bring yours, and we'll take a photo for the ages. Better yet, you wear black, I'll wear white, to emphasize the chiaroscuro.
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  10. #59
    Registered User Geno's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white — get it?

    This interesting A-3, from the Mandolin Archive, SN-72967 (so shipped in 1923), seems to show that there is some type of golden orange undercoat, at least on this particular instrument. No mention that Elderly suspected that the ivory finish had not been applied by Gibson. Note that the rosette is different from earlier pumpkin A-3's, more like other ivory A-3's and many of the soon-to-come A2-Z snakeheads. Click image for larger version. 

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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white — get it?

    Verrry interesting. It's up on the Archive, with more photos and a detailed description, which leads with "well-played." "Much-played" might be more apt.

    Also interesting is the next previous A-3 there, 72911, which also looks like it has some golden orange peeking through. Curiouser and curiouser ...
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    Martin Stillion mrmando's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white — get it?

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    "As to the evidence of what this particular piece started out as, there are a number of dings in the sanded top filled with unoriginal white paint. Obviously the ding came before the paint. If you look at these dings under magnification and lift out the white paint you will find layered remnants of the original golden orange varnish and shellac attached to raw wood. It’s just a matter of simple archaeology as to what came first. There are also little traces of this earlier finish elsewhere around the sanded top. That this added white paint was not a factory finish is evident in how it was smeared up under the tailpiece base and along the fingerboard binding and bridge bottom. Yes, it was brushed on while the mandolin was strung up! I had thought that perhaps this was some white touch up to an original ivory finish and that what I was seeing under it all was a shellac sealer coat. But, no, both shellac and varnish are in evidence with only one unoriginal white material present."
    The cool thing is that your luthier's examination lends credence to the eBay seller's story that the mandolin had been painted white to match the mariachi band's other instruments, and hence the person who took off the white paint was not removing an original finish after all!
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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white — get it?

    Quote Originally Posted by mrmando View Post
    The cool thing is that your luthier's examination lends credence to the eBay seller's story that the mandolin had been painted white to match the mariachi band's other instruments, and hence the person who took off the white paint was not removing an original finish after all!
    Yeah, right, and maybe it wasn't that good of a paint job, either. That's why the former owner took it off, saving you the expense of having to do so.

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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white — get it?

    Quote Originally Posted by mrmando View Post
    The cool thing is that your luthier's examination lends credence to the eBay seller's story that the mandolin had been painted white to match the mariachi band's other instruments, and hence the person who took off the white paint was not removing an original finish after all!
    Well-l-l-l ... He did remove the original finish; he just didn't think he was to begin with. I guess. We're all guessing here. We don't know if it was painted white or finished white, or indeed what the original color finish was, now that it's down to the white. Dang! I wish my seller would write me!

    Quote Originally Posted by Sue Rieter View Post
    Yeah, right, and maybe it wasn't that good of a paint job, either. That's why the former owner took it off, saving you the expense of having to do so.
    Well-l-l-l ... If he hadn't taken it off, and if it actually were the original (well, factory-done) finish, it would have commanded a much higher selling price, and I would never have bid on it. And when you factor in my indifference concerning white finish, it really wouldn't have crossed my mind. BUT since whatever happened to it happened, and it's already down to the white and ready to be finished however I'd like, in a sense that was kind of a favor.
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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white — get it?

    Applaud your intention to have it after-marketed into something resembling an authentic vintage instrument; whether there were or were not many black A-3's, at least it'll be period-defensible with a '20's Gibsonian finish.

    Had I purchased it -- and there was no likelihood I would -- I'd have been tempted to have it finished in chartreuse or magenta, perhaps tiger-striped charcoal gray and pink to salute 1958, or even better, tie-dyed!

    Commendable restraint, j-bear.
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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white — get it?

    I agree with Ά#1 and Ά#3, and aver that Ά#2 is meant to be amusingly nonsensical, and I appreciate it on that level.

    But you know what might be cool? To repeat the rosette pattern all the way to the edges of the top, concentric ovals of that charming design.

    Nah. Happy to maintain the Gibson approach of elegant simplicity. In A models, anyway.
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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white — get it?

    Natural is great, but only if you can get good results.
    Sometimes it is possible to steam up dents if they are not too bad.
    If there are any doubts, dark or opaque finishes can hid a multitude of sins.

    Or you could paint the Mona Lisa on it.
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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white — get it?

    Well if natural is what you want, leave whatever doesn't steam out and call it character. It is old after all and should have some character.
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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white — get it?

    Some of our own dents steam out pretty well.

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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white — get it?

    I like sitting in the hot tub for that

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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white — get it?

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    Natural is great, but only if you can get good results.
    Sometimes it is possible to steam up dents if they are not too bad.
    If there are any doubts, dark or opaque finishes can hide a multitude of sins.
    I would prefer the golden orange/pumpkin look. My luthier's plan for fixing the dings is to build them up with little slivers of wood. Matching them with the grain on the rest of the top would be nearly impossible, and if not, time-consuming, thus expensive. I'm trying to keep costs from getting out of hand, so I'm going with black. Besides, black is cool.

    I truly believe the best approach is to maintain the simple, elegant, classic monotone manner. That way, it would not distract from the music, which is the main point. It also would allow listeners to let their imaginations run free; a distinct image fixes one's perceptions, lessening their flexibility.

    Or you could paint the Mona Lisa on it.
    "Why is this girl smiling?"
    Then again ... Perhaps this:

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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white — get it?

    Quote Originally Posted by journeybear View Post
    I agree with Ά#1 and Ά#3, and aver that Ά#2 is meant to be amusingly nonsensical, and I appreciate it on that level.

    But you know what might be cool? To repeat the rosette pattern all the way to the edges of the top, concentric ovals of that charming design.

    Nah. Happy to maintain the Gibson approach of elegant simplicity. In A models, anyway.

    This also would be a non-period defensible Gibson finish!

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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white — get it?

    Why? Why, oh why?

    That said, it is true that, by and large, electrics seem to be allowed more latitude than acoustics, and guitars more than mandolins. Not going anywhere near there, nor even to my multiple-rosette suggestion, which was entirely facetious. But one can let one's fancy flow freely. As the wise man once said, "dreams are free" ...

    And ... I'm back! The broken charger port has been fixed, and the new charger has arrived in the mail. No more having to traipse down to the library to hang with all y'all, only until 5 PM. Now I can go back to 3 AM postings. Fun fun fun! I hope you enjoyed your week off, because ... I'm back!!!
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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white — get it?

    Just heard from the seller, finally. She says:

    I apologize for the late response. The only information on the mandolin is what was stated in the description. It was in New Mexico, and it was from a mariachi band. The man that I got it from did say he was a teenager, 15? when he bought it, hoping to restore it eventually, but never got the chance. He said it sat in a closet all these years. I believe he was approximately 60 years old, and he was moving back east, and needed to lighten his load for moving day.
    I am sorry that I don't have more info.


    I replied:

    Thanks for getting back to me. That actually is a big help, establishing the order of events and chain of custody (been bingeing "Dexter") - that is, who had it and when. I'm guessing either the mariachi guy had painted it white, or it had the original white finish (customary with this model), and the guy you got it from didn't realize it and did what he did. Either way, here we are now. My luthier saw some indications that it was actually golden orange finish (what we call "pumpkin") at first, then white - which may have been applied at the factory or later, no way to tell. He also says there are several dings in the top, and the restoration of them would show through the pumpkin finish, being transparent. So we're going with a black finish, which will look really cool - and also was sometimes used on these back then, so it's historically accurate, as far as that goes.

    Side notes: The numbers indicate it was ordered in 1918, probably began to be built that year, and shipped in 1919. My luthier is getting a kick over it starting out during one pandemic and showing up here and now during another. As for myself, I'm getting a kick out of it coming from Tehachapi. There's that line in "Willin'" by Little Feat, one of my favorite songs (and bands) - "I've been from Tucson to Tucumcari, Tehachapi to Tonopah." It's about life on the road as told by a trucker, driving around the Southwest. Never thought I'd have anything in my life that related to that. Now I do.

    - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + -

    So although we don't know how the mariachi guy acquired it, we do know there have been only two owners since then. That helps to establish the sequence of events in its history. Whether the person she got it from removed a factory white finish or after-market paint job is immaterial (more or less), as whatever was there is gone now. It's a blank canvas, waiting to be written upon.
    But that's just my opinion. I could be wrong. - Dennis Miller

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  28. #74
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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white — get it?

    That's great info, JB. You've got alot more on your A than I do on my F. I have to use my imagination
    Now you've got to wonder how long the mariachi band had it for. Do you know where the previous owner grew up? You might be able to track down the mariachi band from that.

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    Default Re: A Gibson A3 in the white. In the white — get it?

    It doesn't really add up to all that much. Seems the guy she got it from bought it around 1975-1980. It was around a long time before then, over fifty years. I don't know the name of the mariachi band nor where they were based nor when they acquired it nor how long they had it nor who had it before nor where it was during all that time. And it's not clear if my seller or her seller was in NM. She's in Tehachapi CA, outside of Bakersfield.

    The mystery remains ... the persistence of mystery ...

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