Gibson F-4 Carved Top Mandolin (1911)

Gibson  F-4 Carved Top Mandolin  (1911)
$6,750.00 + shipping
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Item # 11560
Prices subject to change without notice.
Gibson F-4 Model Carved Top Mandolin (1911), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 14487, natural top, cherry stained back and sides finish, maple back and sides, spruce top; mahogany neck with ebony fingerboard, original black hard shell case.

This instrument is a lovely early two-point Gibson F-4 with the unusual and rarely seen catalog option of a natural finish top. This model was Gibson's top of the line mandolin and company's flagship instrument in the 1910s. This one dates to late 1911, a very early example of the "new, improved" scroll-body F-4 recently evolved from its earlier 3-point body form. In either mode it is an utterly distinctive creation, by just about any standard the finest mandolin in the world in 1911. With a sharper neck angle and higher bridge the mandolins of this period offered a more powerful tone than earlier Gibsons, and with an aggressive sales policy the company was able dominate the market for mando-family instruments through the 1910s.

Although a high-end piece compared to the bowl-back mandolins it competed against the F-4 is not overly decorated with what Gibson called "flumadiddles". The company believed the instrument's inherent art nouveau elegance spoke for itself. The body, neck and headstock are bound in lovely grained ivoroid and finished in a very light varnish, ambered on the top and subtly sunbursted on the back and rims. The natural blonde top was briefly noted as available in the Gibson catalog around this time but in practice is rarely seen.

The double-flowerpot pearl and abalone inlay on the headstock and the inlaid Handel tuner buttons exude gilded age grace and class. The 2-piece maple back has a very subtle figure; there is more striping on the sides. The laminated mahogany neck is fairly slim for this period with a pronounced "V" profile. This instrument would have been the top choice for any virtuoso mandolinist in the just pre-WWI age, and today is still a superb mandolin and an iconic creation. This one have survived very nicely for well over a century of serious use and like a fine old violin is still a wonderful instrument to play.
Overall length is 26 in. (66 cm.), 10 in. (25.4 cm.) width, and 1 1/2 in. (3.8 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 14 in. (356 mm.). Width of nut is 1 1/4 in. (32 mm.).

This lovely F-4 shows some wear and minor repair but for a century and change along remains a beautiful mandolin and a fine player's instrument. The top finish shows some very fine checking, with one spot of concentrated pickwear lightly into the wood on the forward cutaway point. The thin varnish overall shows typical micro-checking and an assortment of minor dings, dents, and scrape. The back of the neck is worn to the wood over a decent amount of its surface, the headstock has numerous small dings and dents.

The only crack on the instrument is a typical grain split on the top just behind the scroll; it has been sealed but not finished over. The celluloid binding has shrunk just a bit but we see no signs of the typical back/side seams having separated and re-glued. The hardware is original and complete including the beautiful inlaid tuners, pickguard and very clean tailpiece; the bridge is original but the top has been neatly re-contoured, long ago by the look of it.

The mandolin has been refretted with correct style wire; the binding on the edges of the fingerboard has shrunk just a bit and has a couple of repaired splits but is solid. This is a very sweet and enjoyable mandolin to play, not as loud as later Gibsons but offering a sweet sparkling sound and a comfortable action. Orville Gibson himself would have likely been pleased with the way this one has weathered the years; it really does feel like a centuries old heavily played-in violin. The original early-pattern HSC is included, worn externally but generally in better condition than we might expect and still fully functional. Overall Excellent - Condition.