Gibson K-4 Carved Top Mandocello (1921)

Gibson  K-4 Carved Top Mandocello  (1921)

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Item # 8195
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Gibson K-4 Model Carved Top Mandocello (1921), made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, serial # 65944, sunburst varnish finish, maple back and sides, spruce top; mahogany neck with ebony fingerboard, original black hard shell case.

The Gibson Mandocello is one of the great under-appreciated instruments of the early 20th century. Originally designed for the 1910s mandolin orchestra, these imposing beasts never found another home in any other style of music despite being wonderful and unique-sounding instruments to play.

Double-strung and tuned in fifths starting with a C below the low E on the guitar, the mandocello has an imposing tone and deep resonance unlike any other fretted instrument. OK, we're starting to sound like an old Gibson catalog here, but we really like these instruments and are always happy to get one in stock!

This is also an exceptional piece, a just pre-Loar Style K-4, Gibson's then top-of-the-line mandocello. The instrument features the unique scroll-top maple body with an oval sound hole in the spruce top, echoing the far more common F-style mandolins it was built to accompany. This features a beautiful deep red-to-amber finish overall, celluloid binding on all edges, and half-herringbone rings around an ivoroid center sound hole rosette.

The laminated maple neck has a bound ebony fingerboard and the unique scrolled headstock has the older "The Gibson" pearl logo above the elaborate double flowerpot inlay. The tailpiece is the standard mandolin fitting and the bridge is a solid carved single piece of ebony with a compensating ridge on top.

The tone of this K-4 is surprisingly powerful; brighter with more high-mid character than many mandocellos we have had. This would make an exceptional recording instrument. We think the noble mandocello is due for a re-appraisal and return to its former glory...apparently many folks out there agree, as vintage mando-cellos appear to be becoming ever scarcer!

The K-4 was a very expensive instrument, made only in small numbers even during the heyday of the mandolin orchestra and examples this nice are quite rare today. This one remains in fine original condition; a fabulous-looking, excellent-playing mandocello and an exceptional find in an 8-string Art Nouveau showpiece.
 
Overall length is 39 in. (99.1 cm.), 14 3/16 in. (36 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 3 1/4 in. (8.3 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 24 3/4 in. (629 mm.). Width of nut is 1 5/8 in. (41 mm.).

This instrument has survived nearly 100 years in exceptionally fine condition, and is an excellent player. It has been expertly refretted with somewhat larger wire than the original and has had some light overfinish in the French polish mode. This was likely done some time ago, but the instrument shows no other alterations or repairs. There is very little play wear; in fact, the instrument does not appear to have seen a lot of use over the years.

There are small dings and dents overall but no notable play wear spots except some finish worn away in the neck heel area. All hardware remains original. As noted, there appears to be a light clear overfinish over much of the body, perhaps done just to punch up the shine factor long ago. We cannot detect any repairs and the original varnish finish appears intact underneath.

This is one of the best-playing mandocellos we have ever had and puts forth a remarkably clear sound, and still resides in a very well-preserved original hard case. Excellent - Condition.