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.
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 15 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.
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)