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1989 Gibson F-5L, Master Model Label
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Serial#: 9193028, Master Model label, hand signed by head luthier Steve Carlson, February 6, 1989
Materials: Solid bookmatched handcarved Sitka spruce top; handcarved figured curly maple back, sides and neck; solid ebony fingerboard; pearl headstock logo; 3-ply body binding; solid pearl nut.
Hardware: Bound swirl tortoise finger rest and pickguard bracket, compensated adjustable ebony bridge, script engraved silver tailpiece, engraved nickel gear-over tuners with pearl buttons.
Notes: In 1978 Gibson decided to revive the quality of their mandolin line, which had been languishing since at least the end of WWII. Realizing that a small team of dedicated young builders were now building a better Gibson than Gibson, Kalamazoo executives did the reasonable thing: they bought them lock, stock and barrel. And so the Flatiron Mandolin Co. of Bozeman, Montana (population 21,645) no longer had to copy Gibson's F-5 mandolin: they were now building the legendary instrument themselves.
Under the direction of head luthier Steve Carlson, Gibson Montana made the firm's first concerted effort to recapture the quality of the fabled Master Model mandolins of the 1920's. With hand-graduated, tap-tuned sound chambers and tone bars, vintage correct Cremona sunburst nitro lacquer finishes, and faithful cosmetic touches like solid pearl tuning keys and nuts, the F-5L was both a faithful look back at the company's heritage, and a dramatic leap forward in build quality and tonal response.
This lovely example was completed in February of 1989, and shipped for sale the following year. At just 2lb 6oz, it is happily light in weight; with tonewood aged for close to three decades, it has a wonderfully clear, open voice, with powerful attack and projection. The highly figured tiger maple body has stain hand rubbed into the grain before the lacquer was applied, for an authentic 20's style appearance. Well maintained by its original owner, the instrument is in excellent condition: with no cracks, repairs or finish work, it shows only a few scattered nicks on the top for its long career. The custom truss rod cover is solid ebony, and otherwise the hardware and fittings are all original as well.
The Loar era 'flower vase' peghead has not been available on this model for many years, and is meticulously inlaid in abalone and pearl. A special bonus are some original early issues of Mandolin World News (including Volume 1 #1) and a collection of mandolin method books by David Grisman, Jethro Burns, Sam Bush and others, along with some '80s issues of Bluegrass Unlimited (Grisman, Rice, O'Brien etc.) and a copy of Siminoff's Mandolin Construction book (none sold separately, sorry.) With its traditional V profile neck, and a fresh high-precision setup, this handsome instrument has smooth low action, and is good to go for the next gig or jam. One only, call now.
Case: Premium Bobelock oblong mandolin case with hygrometer and Cordura case cover.