Master Model Series

Lloyd Loar Master Model Series

Lloyd Loar’s most notable achievement while contracted to Gibson was the design and development of the ‘Master Model’ series of instruments, namely the F-5 mandolin, the H-5 mandola, the K-5 mando-cello, the L-5 guitar and the Mastertone banjo. In addition to the Master Model label (visible through the bass-side f-hole), all of these instruments had a signature label that was signed and dated by Lloyd Loar (visible through the treble-side f-hole). The signature label was discontinued following Loar’s departure at the end of 1924.

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The Gibson F-5 Mandolin

Introduced in 1922, the F-5 mandolin was available before the rest of Style 5 Master Models and represented a radical departure for Gibson. Though it retained the 13-15/16 inch scale length found on earlier Gibson mandolin models, it incorporated several new features including a longer neck with 12 frets clear of the body, violin style f-holes, a distinctive shaded ‘Cremona’ finish and a tap-tuned top, back and tone bars.

Between 1922 and 1924 (when Loar left Gibson), around 250 F-5 mandolins with a Loar signed label were shipped. According to Darryl Wolfe’s F-5 Journal (www.f5journal.com) 237 Gibson Loar signed F-5 mandolins have been accounted for.

Gibson Lloyd Loar F-5 Master Model Mandolin signed March 31, 1924

Above: Serial number 75846, Virzi Number 10002. Note: silver-plated hardware and engraved-plate tuners.

The Gibson H-5 Mandola

The Gibson H-5 mandola was introduced in 1923. It was 11 inches wide,  almost 30 inches long and had a 15-5/8 inch scale length. The H-5’s fingerboard joined the body at the 13th fret rather than at the 15th fret, as on the F-5. According to Darryl Wolfe’s F-5 Journal (www.f5journal.com) a total of 21 Loar signed Gibson H-5 mandolas have been accounted for.

Learn more about the history of the L-5

Gibson Lloyd Loar H-5 Master Model Mandola, signed March 31, 1924

Images courtesy of Stan and Alison Jay of Mandolin Brothers (mandoweb.com)

The truss rod cover of the example pictured above is a replacement . Note the ‘fern’ headstock inlay and silver-plated hardware. Serial number 76488.

The Gibson K-5 Mandocello

Introduced in 1924, the K-5 Mandocello had a regular 16-inch L-5 guitar body with a birch back. The fingerboard featured a treble side extension bringing the total number of frets to 24. By 1925 the back and sides were maple. The last K-5s were built in the late 1920s and the model was dropped from the catalogue in 1936. According to Darryl Wolfe’s F-5 Journal (f5journal.com), just six Loar signed K-5 mandocellos have been accounted for.

The example pictured here dates from 1929 by which time Lloyd Loar had left Gibson. Images courtesy of Laurence Wexer of Wexer Guitars (wexerguitars.com)

Gibson F-5 Mandolin from 1923 Catalog N. Image courtesy of Paul Fox (fox-guitars.com)
Gibson H-5 Mandola from Catalog O (issued in either late 1924 or early 1925). Image courtesy of Paul Fox (fox-guitars.com)
Gibson K-5 Mando-cello from Catalog O (issued in either late 1924 or early 1925). Image courtesy of Paul Fox (fox-guitars.com)

Learn more about the history of the L-5