Gibson K-1 Carved Top Mandocello (1931)

Gibson  K-1 Carved Top Mandocello  (1931)
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Item # 9280
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Gibson K-1 Model Carved Top Mandocello (1931), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 87509, black top, dark back and sides finish, birch back and sides, mahogany neck with ebony fingerboard, original black hard shell case.

This rare instrument is late example of the Gibson K-1 Mandocello, shipped out of Kalamazoo at a time when the model was becoming practically extinct. The serial number on the label dates to 1931, a year when Gibson was shipping precious little of anything, especially large mandolin family instruments. The FON (Factory order number) indicates a build date of 1930, although the body itself appears identical to earlier 1920's versions. The silver script stenciled "The Gibson" headstock logo is typical of the late 1920's.

The 3-piece laminated mahogany neck is equipped with Gibson's adjustable truss rod and is quite a bit slimmer in profile than earlier models both in girth and depth. The body finish is a heavier black lacquer than would have been seen in the 1920's, with a natural finish neck shaded at the heel. The tuners are openback strips with plastic buttons typical of the period, the bridge still typical 1920's style and the pickguard the older style elevated celluloid with the later metal rod bracket.

In the depression era the 1930's Gibson catalogs still listed mandocellos as available, but the company rarely actually built any. This example would have been put together from whatever parts were around, new or old, when that precious order came in. From a player's point of view, the slimmer neck with a less prominent spine makes for a more comfortable feel than the traditional 1910's heavy deep "V", being both narrower and shallower.

This more elegant neck gives this K-1 a much more modern feel than the typical Gibson mandocello, and the instrument feels much more immediately friendly to the average player. The sound is extremely fine, with a very even response, excellent lows and highs and plenty of volume. We would rate this as one of the best K-1's we have had, both in feel and sound. Truss rod equipped, slimmer neck mandocellos like this one make up only a tiny proportion of extant survivors of these 8-string wonders making this a fantastic find, both as a historic and player's instrument.
Overall length is 38 1/4 in. (97.2 cm.), 14 3/8 in. (36.5 cm.) width, and 3 1/4 in. (8.2 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 24 3/4 in. (629 mm.). Width of nut is 1 3/8 in. (35 mm.).

This K-1 shows some wear and tear but overall remains a nicely preserved instrument. The finish shows checking, dings, dents and scrapes overall with a patch of buckle wear down to the wood on the back and some minor pick wear to the top. Some of the neck finish is worn down to the wood in the lower positions. The instrument is in excellent structural condition with no cracks or seam separations visible.

This mandocello remains original except for a reproduction top piece on the original ebony adjustable bridge. The top edge of the pickguard has a patched spot over the soundhole where it looks to have been notched for a pickup long ago, then restored. There is an old patched strap button hole over the heel on the body edge. The frets show some very minor wear in the lower positions but playability remains excellent, and the sound is sublime. The original case (which is very annoying to have to replace these days!) is fully intact with some general wear and a newer handle. Overall this is one of the best K-1's we have had, certainly about the best player. Excellent - Condition.