Gibson F-4 Carved Top Mandolin (1913)

Gibson  F-4 Carved Top Mandolin  (1913)
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Item # 8914
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Gibson F-4 Model Carved Top Mandolin (1913), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 19577, red sunburst varnish finish, maple back and sides, spruce top; mahogany neck with ebony fingerboard, original black hard shell case.

This is a very well-worn but great-sounding early two-point F-4, Gibson's top of the line mandolin and company flagship instrument in the 1910s. By this point the scroll-body F-4 had recently been fully perfected from its earlier 3-point body form and was an utterly distinctive creation, by almost any standard the finest mandolin in the world in 1913. With a sharper neck angle 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.

The binding on the body, neck and headstock is lovely grained ivoroid. With the double-flowerpot pearl and abalone inlay on the headstock and the inlaid Handel tuned buttons the F-4 exudes a particular Art Nouveau grace and class. The 2-piece maple back has pronounced flame figure as do the sides. The mahogany neck is fairly slim with a pronounced "V" profile. This instrument would have been the top choice for any virtuoso mandolinist in the just pre-WWI era, and today is still an iconic creation. This one has many scars from well over a century of use but 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 is a VERY heavily played and worn-in F-4; nonetheless it still a beautiful-sounding mandolin with wear and repair over the last century but a lovely relic instrument nonetheless. The finish overall shows numerous dings, dents, and scrapes nearly everywhere. There is a large area of pickwear down into the wood under the strings showing why Gibson originally put on a pickguard, which has obviously been missing for many decades. There is also pickwear above the sound hole and a deep ding at the base of the scroll. There are no cracks to the top, back, or sides, as is typical some of the back/side seams show signs of re-gluing long ago. All finish is original; there are clouded areas, mostly on the back, but no visible overfinish work.

The back of the neck is worn down to the wood over much of its surface, and there is a small piece of ebony inset into the spine of the neck where there was likely a chip or crack long ago. This slightly odd very old repair is solid but can be felt; it could be taken down and the area smoothed out if desired. The mandolin has refretted with correct style wire; the binding on the edges of the fingerboard has many small cracks off the fret ends from shrinkage but is not chipping away.

The instrument is fitted with a more modern style adjustable bridge, but the hardware is otherwise original and complete including the tuners and noted the pickguard and bracket are long gone. This is a very sweet and enjoyable mandolin to play with a sparkling sound and a most comfortable action. Orville Gibson himself would have likely been pleased with the way this one has weathered the century; it really does feel like a centuries old played-in violin. Very Good Condition.