Up for sale, a 1917 The Gibson K-1 Mandocello in excellent condition and in perfect working order, complete with the original hardshell case. Immediately predating the Lloyd Loar era of Gibson production, this Mandocello was designed for usage in a mandolin orchestra, and is to mandolin what cello is to violin. It delivers a singularly rich, deep and resonant tone, described by Mandolin Brothers’ Stan Jay as “the voice of singing whales.”
Tonewoods include a carved spruce top, cherry-stained birch back and sides, mahogany neck, and ebony fingerboard. This “pumpkin top” Mandocello is warm and airy, with ample low end and broad midrange that translates to exceptional harmonic complexity, percussive chop, and a touch of growl when strummed hard. Weighing 4lbs 5oz, this Gibson has been professionally setup here at Mike & Mike’s Guitar Bar with fresh bronze strings, easy playing action, and accurate intonation.
The mahogany neck has a V-shaped profile carve, measuring 1.030” deep at the 1st fret and 1.510” at the 9th. The bound ebony fretboard features dot inlay and has been refretted with pristine slender fretwire that offers more meat and crown than Pre-War Gibson fretwire, while still providing plenty of room for easy fretboard navigation. The neck has been fitted with a carbon fiber truss rod to maintain neck straightness and stability, and this Mandocello plays cleanly in all registers. The scale length is 24 3/4“, and the bone nut measures 1 9/16” in width. The headstock has “The Gibson” script inlay and retains the stock open-gear tuning machines, which turn smoothly and hold pitch as they should.
On the body, the original ebony bridge sits flush with the spruce top on all edges, and the rosewood saddle is compensated for optimal intonation. The original nickel-plated Gibson-embossed tailpiece is present, as well as the exceedingly well-preserved raised translucent tortoise pickguard, molded tortoise bracket, and nickel-plated mount. The white oval Kalamazoo factory label is visible through the sound hole, with the original penciled serial and model details.
This Mandocello is crack-free and extremely well-kept, with just a few minor touch-ups on the original varnish finish. The semi-gloss varnish is framed on top by ambered body binding, with extensive subtle finish checking across the instrument as a whole. Cosmetic wear includes a number of minor dings and scratches on the body as a whole, consistent with light, careful use. The neck profile has palm wear down to the bare wood on the majority of the carve, with just a few shallow marks along the profile length that have no impact on playability.
The original hardshell case is included, with all original latches and handle functioning save for the central locking clasp. The case is branded for Hunleth Music House, in St. Louis, who were the original licensed distributor for the instrument.