Gilchrist Model 5 Carved Top Mandolin (2016)

Gilchrist  Model 5 Carved Top Mandolin  (2016)
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Item # 11661
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Gilchrist Model 5 Model Carved Top Mandolin (2016), made in Lake Gnotuk, Australia, serial # 750-16, Cremona Brown Sunburst finish, flame maple back, sides and neck; red spruce top, ebony fingerboard, Calton road case.

Although we do love the "clean ones" there is a magic to instruments that have had serious play time put into them, even recent ones. This top-notch mandolin has been played quite a bit, and the already fantastic sound is really blossoming now! Stephen Gilchrist is widely considered the finest builder of traditionally-styled mandolins in the world, his instruments sought after by the most discerning players. He hand builds only a couple of small batches every year in rural Australia, using traditional methods. Over the past few decades Gilchrist has secured a reputation second to none, and there is a considerable waiting list for his newly made instruments.

This mandolin is a fine example of his Model 5, only about 7 years old but played enough to have really opened up the sound. 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 surprisingly recent Gilchrist is already well seasoned, about as fine as a "modern" mandolin gets.

This Model 5 bears serial number 750-16 and belongs to Gilchrist's batch #48 started in March 2016 and finished in October that year. The two-piece flame maple back and neck show a dramatic figure, almost ridiculously pronounced on the maple sides. Internally there is a major difference from vintage Gibson spec, an X-braced top instead of the traditional twin parallel braces. Unlike some this one has a flat radiused fingerboard, as used on vintage Gibsons. The elegant scrolled headstock bears Gilchrist's logo and the elaborate 1920s Gibson-derived Fern motif. The fingerboard is scalloped at the treble end for easier picking.

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 splendid mandolin is exquisitely built in the tradition of pre-war instruments with musical response and tonal excellence as the overriding considerations; It has rapidly matured sonically and will only get better with more play time.
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 1/16 in. (27 mm.).

This beautiful mandolin shows some considerable play time and one minor repair; a small crack running forward off lower ball of bass side F-hole has been neatly sealed with minimal touch up. The finish shows some wear with scuffs, dents and dings mostly to the top and peghead, but nothing too severe. The varnish on the back edge of top above and below the tailpiece shows some micro-checking from moisture running up to the upper F-hole area. The very thin varnish along much of the back of the neck is worn mostly down to the wood giving this instrument a feel seemingly decades older than it actually is.

The instrument remains original as built, certainly played in but well cared for. The original frets have been crowned lower but retain plenty of meat and show no subsequent wear. This mandolin plays and sounds exactly like what it is; one of the finest 8-string instruments available today regardless of age or pedigree. It happily resides in a well-traveled road case with many sticker applications documenting its musical adventures so far. Overall Excellent - Condition.