An interesting "downgrade"
1937 Gibson F-7

© Frank Ford, 2000; Photos by FF

Gibson's F-5 wasn't exactly the success its designer, Lloyd Loar had hoped when it was introduced in the mid 1920s. With our 20-20 hindsight, we know that's because the mandolin's popularity was declining seriously, and there was nothing Gibson could do about that.

In the early 1930s, with hard times everywhere, Gibson turned to making economy instruments under other trademarks, and invented all kinds of new things. The F-7 is one of those items. Taking the shorter neck length of the F-4 and sticking it on the F-5 style body caused the bridge to move downward toward the tailpiece so far that it really impaired the sound. One can only speculate on the reasoning here. Were they trying to make an "entry level" F-model, from which a player might move to the F-5? Was the design staff (or person) just "out to lunch?" It has a mahogany neck, maple back and sides, spruce top, and generally simple ornamentation.

My negative comments notwithstanding, this is a good sounding instrument. I only mean to say that it would be a lot stronger, and in fact it would be just the same as the equivalent vintage F-5 if the neck weren't so short. Clearly the production cost of the longer neck was not the issue. Back in the days "when we did that sort of thing," I converted one of these by making the F-5 neck and regraduating the top and back. The results were stunning - the instrument was transformed. Now, of course, the unconverted one is worth more money to collectors.

Please click the small image


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