Gilchrist Model 5 Carved Top Mandolin (2015)

Gilchrist  Model 5 Carved Top Mandolin  (2015)
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Item # 11493
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Gilchrist Model 5 Model Carved Top Mandolin (2015), made in Lake Gnotuk, Australia, serial # 72815, Cremona Brown Sunburst finish, flame maple back, sides and neck; red spruce top, ebony fingerboard, molded plastic hard shell case.

Stephen Gilchrist is widely considered the finest builder of traditionally-styled mandolins in the world today, and his instruments are sought after by the most discerning players. He hand builds them in small batches in rural Australia, eschewing most modern production techniques in favor of the traditional methods. Over the past few decades Gilchrist has secured a reputation second to none, and there is a considerable waiting list for a newly made instrument from him.

This mandolin is a fine example of his Model 5, played in just a bit. This is a subtly refined version of the Gibson Lloyd Loar era F-5 design which is the template for all Bluegrass mandolins. Many players have said Gilchrist's mandolins are the best that they've ever played, comparable even to the vintage Gibsons that inspired them. We would have to agree; this only 7 year old Gilchrist is about as fine as a "modern" mandolin gets. The instrument one serial number ahead of this one was made for Jeff Hanna of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

This model 5 bears serial number 72815 and belongs to Gilchrist's batch #47 started in April 2015 and finished in September that year. The primary distinguishing feature is the one-piece flame maple back and neck showing a dramatic figure, shared with the maple sides. The finely carved top is red spruce built with traditional twin parallel braces. The elegant scrolled headstock bears Gilchrist's logo and a pearl decoration he describes as "short fern" instead of the traditional flowerpot or more elaborate Gibson 1920s Fern motif. The nut is 1 1/8" wide, noted as "wide nut"; the fingerboard is scalloped at the treble end for easier picking and has a slight radius, something never used on vintage Gibsons.

The instrument is finished in a Loar-style Cremona Brown Sunburst, a shade or two lighter than most 1920s Gibsons and beautifully blended on all surfaces. Appointments include nickel plated hardware including an engraved tailpiece reminiscent of Gibson's pre-War style but refined by Gilchrist with a locking hinged cover. A lovely feature inherited from the 1920's F-5's is the pearl nut and mother of pearl buttons on the tuners. The elevated pickguard is made of triple bound Celluloid; even the securing clamp is the 1920s Celluloid design.

The design and craftsmanship on this mandolin are truly exemplary, as is the sound. The dynamic range is greater than many similar instruments regardless of age. It has a full, rich tone with the high-end power sought in an F-5 without ever edging into shrill, even on the highest notes. This is a splendid modern mandolin exquisitely built in the tradition of pre-war instruments but with musical response and tonal excellence as the overriding considerations.
Overall length is 27 1/4 in. (69.2 cm.), 10 in. (25.4 cm.) across at the widest point, and 1 3/4 in. (4.4 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 14 in. (356 mm.). Width of nut is 1 1/8 in. (29 mm.).

This beautiful mandolin shows some play time but no notable damage or repair. The finish shows some light wear with tiny scuffs, dents and dings and a bit of wear down to the wood along the spine of the neck. There are a couple of tiny finish lifts under the bridge and some scuff marks on the back of the peghead likely from a clip-on tuner. A 2-point contact pickup has been installed under the top wired to an endpin jack; this is functional if desired. The pickguard had been removed so a newer one sourced directly from Gilchrist has been installed. The instrument remains otherwise original as built.

The mandolin has been played in somewhat but well cared for; it shows hardly any fret wear and plays and sounds exactly like what it is; one of the finest 8-string instruments available regardless of age or pedigree. It happily resides in an Airfoam molded graphite case with some light sticker residue, very road worthy and ready for new musical adventures. Overall Excellent Condition.