"Hearts & Flowers"
Scan of actual H&F inlays under glass.
NOTE: Gibson USA takes a firm
and aggressive stance against all makers of counterfeit instruments and
their distribution channels, therefore I would caution anyone against making
a complete Mastertone aka Masterclone of their instrument using the Gibson
logo on the headstock although the early inlay patterns sans the Gibson logo
are subject to public domain.
Click on the above thumbnails for a larger view. For a full scale
printing, you might need to "tweak" the image size. The above patterns
were used for inlaying and cutting mother of pearl and were true to
scale when cut and printed. Xerox copy machines were about the best we had in the 1970's
long before the personal computer. The older machines did not
reproduce at a one to one ratio but were actually reproduced 2 percent
increase due to their design. I remember Frank Neat
supplying me with an excellent Xerox copy of a Florentine Special
fingerboard and peghead of
which I cut a master pattern from. Above patterns were offset printed
and far better than most of the inlay patterns used by individuals cutting
and selling mother of pearl reproduction inlays back in the late 1960's and
1970's. I hauled off reams of the above printed patterns to the
landfill about 20 years ago needing the extra room and do not have printed
patterns available. My original patterns that are mounted under glass are a
minute smaller in size than the above printed patterns due to the difficulty
of getting them scanned and offset printed with the ever present glare off
the scans. Not bad for older technology. I personally cut each
inlay above except for the small dots, slotted squares and shield inlays on
the Bella Voce pattern of which I cut the shield shapes on a pantograph type
machine for a master pattern only.
When reproducing the "Hearts and Flowers" inlay pattern, a
saw cut back into the heart near the shoulder is required, whereas on the
style 6 inlay pattern there is not a cut back into the inlay piece and it
looks like the traditional spade. There is a big difference between
the heart and the spade and many cut the hearts and they look like a spade
instead. They are two distinct pieces although Gibson at times have
switched the patterns and some of the pre-war pearl cutters omitted the saw
cut back into the heart because you have to cut into the heart a small
amount and then backed out and go back into the cut you just made with the
back of the jewelers saw blade bottoming out in the cut you just made and
then come out to finish cutting the design. My tracing of the inlay
pieces does not reveal the true cut back or back cutting detail but I knew
to make the cut back into the material. I used a single spade aka
heart cut piece of mother of pearl to trace the pattern from and used the
same spade aka heart to layout the pattern with also. As I have
mentioned elsewhere, I would have plenty of cut patterns on hand and able to
fit a piece into the hole cut out into the fingerboard and peghead with a
high degree of precision and not able to do so with a single pattern cut due
to the natural variations of the cutting. Pix of some style 6 inlays
that I cut and Jim Yarboro of Gun Barrel City, Texas inlaid back in the
late 1970s or early 1980s:
Jim hand made all the checkerboard binding for the style 6 neck above. Photos by Chris Cioffi.
Also, a large #6 jewelers saw blade was used on most of the Gibson pre-war
inlays although a #4 blade was used many times on the script Gibson logo.
The size #6 blade left a very visible and distinct blade width on the inlays
that required the saw blade cut back into the design. Post -war pearl
cutters used blades too small in width which allowed them to simply make a
turn in and out of the design without "back cutting" which is necessary to
capture the true detail and spirit of the design. Jewelers saw blades
today are not tempered as good as they were in the 1960s and 1970s and I
have cut as many as eleven (11) script Gibson names with a single Vigor
brand #4 blade, however that was the exception to the rule.
Anywhere between two to five script Gibson names could be cut with one
single blade which was about normal. I viewed some old time study
cards and my average cutting time for a script Gibson was five (5) minutes.
I doubt one script name would be possible with a single blade manufactured
today running at a high rate of speed!
When I have video capability, I will add a video clip of
Gibson's old style method of cutting and inlaying. That style of
inlaying doesn't work on my box calls since the actual inlaying part,
you can't cut through the sides or lid of a box call to effect the design
without ruining the part! On second thoughts, I doubt I will ever do
one simply because of other interests!
It should be noted that Gibson is a registered trademark and would
highly recommend using your own name on your instrument unless it is a
reproduction neck for an original Gibson instrument although the above inlay
patterns sans the Gibson name are now subject to public domain!
My original mother of pearl inlay pattern for the Style 3 "Leaves and
Bows" is mounted under glass and had very few calls for the style 3
anyway and did not print any master patterns for the style 3 but used
photocopies instead. The Hearts and Flowers and the Flying
Eagle or Reno pattern as some call it were the main patterns most were
building reproduction and/or 5 string necks for when I had my mail order
business. The early style 3 "Diamonds and Squares" were
hardly ever reproduced. Of course there many Wreath, Bella Voce and
Florentine Special patterns completed also with the BV and FS the lesser.
As I stated earlier in the Biography page, the new CNC machine cut inlays
emulating the pre-war Gibson patterns as far as the design itself is very
cheesy and imitation looking to me without the square saw blade cut backs into the
design. On a positive note, the CNC inlays are inlaid and cut with great
precision and that is how I feel and not alone by no means either!
I will be adding additional scans to this page as I have the time and
uncover misplaced documents/drawings, etc.
Bill aka Mickey Porter 09-26-09.
GIBSON PRE-WAR WOOD RIM BENDING MACHINE
The following are scans of a letter I received from George Hall on
05-11-76 who worked at the Gibson factory from 1927 through 1933 detailing
information concerning the method Gibson used for bending banjo 3-ply wood
rims. George didn't go into detail in this letter as to the exact
protocol or a step by step play of the process and the information about
cutting the wood pieces and the steaming prior to placing the
individual pieces on the bending wheels was verbally discussed only.
The wood pieces were soaked several hours in a vat of water prior to being
placed into a very large steam chamber and had to be quickly bent around the
forming wheel. I do have a copy of the factory cuts including the lap aka "scarf" taper for the one
piece flange three ply wood rim from Gibson but did not obtain the info direct from Gibson
and/or George Hall for the outer mortise and tongue for the two piece flange
wood rim which required the additional material for the radius portion of
the tube. Gibson cut the mortise groove into the three ply outer
lamination on a lathe. Having personally steam bent wood, one has to
work extremely fast before the wood cools down. Steamed wood in
combination with heated forming wheels/mold works much better. Their system was crude by today's technology but it was very effective when
properly executed whereas the main problem was controlling the ply thickness
and cutting the correct length and taper because if one is out of tolerance,
the rest get further out in the sequence as evidenced by many of their wood
rims . Also, you will notice that
George didn't sign the letter and he actually photocopied the letter that he
sent to me. George was very secretive for whatever reason or just
being somewhat loyal to Gibson, I can't recall. Click on the thumbnails pixs
for a larger screen view:
George has a very cool personal logo or trademark !
You need a large quantity of different size bending wheels to effect high
Below is another letter I received from George Hall dated June 4, 1973 which
I already have linked in the About Us page under
George Hall which gives some additional information on their form for
bending the wood rim components:
George knew the short comings of the 3-ply wood rim method of construction
since he was there and the
main reason for his jellyroll wood rim concept even though he did not
actually ever bend a jellyroll wood rim to my knowledge and whether or not
he conceived the idea before meeting Dave Kennedy, I do not know! To
my knowledge, Davis aka Dave Kennedy was the first person to manufacture the jellyroll
wood rim and supplied Gibson with 60 of his jellyroll wood rims in the early
to mid 1970s.
Bill aka Mickey Porter 09-27-09.
Above is a Neck Radius Gauge that was taken from a Gibson pre-war 5-string
neck that felt and played good and is typical of the Gibson pre-war shape.
The neck radius from the nut to the 5th fret has more of a D shape than from
the 6th to the 12th fret radius gauge which is more of a half round as
produced by a cutter. Many including myself like this type of
shape which can be modified to more of an egg, V or elliptical shape
to suit the individual preference which cannot normally be obtained on a
The Pre-War Gibson neck shape from the volute to the 5th fret looks similar
to this ellipse shape for sure.
RB18 SN 744-1 Notes taken on 05-07-76 of the tone ring and
The tone ring was out of round and there was at least .005 thousands
difference in the tone ring skirt also. This tone ring did not have
the prominent "bull nose" type radius cut on the inside as did some of the
RB75s. I believe that radius cut on this tone ring accounts for the
extra two (2) ounces of weight. This 50 oz. tone ring sounds good on
this banjo. The degree angles listed for the slope seems a bit
confusing and I guess depends on where the reference point was taken at the
The letter M in the above notes references the middle of the neck thickness
between that fret and the next one going up the scale; e.g., the M
12th measurement represents the middle between the 12th and the 13th fret if
memory is correct. This neck seems a little thin in thickness for a
curly maple neck and according to the owner does move around a little
depending on the humidity and is an excellent sounding pre-war instrument!
You might need a major in Egyptian Hieroglyphics to decode all
the scribbling I call notes.
Grin if you must!
Web posted on 11-21-11 by
Bill aka Mickey Porter.
Below scan of measurements taken from a "dental type" casting done by John
Monteleone on 03-19-76 of a TB7 tone ring that we horse traded some inlays
for his time. I don't have the serial number on file of that banjo but
the alloy composition was nearly 100 percent copper per an analysis done
which should be referenced in the About Us page under tone rings.
I kept the casting for years in my Kennedy machinists tool box but finally
threw it out with other "junk" that I didn't have a need for.
Grin if you must!
PRE-WAR COORDINATOR RODS
Above informal drawing of pre-war coordinator rods that I made. I had
very few calls for this type rods and mostly sold the later type that fit
the 10-32 tpi neck lag bolts without the long hex nut.
9550-38 NOTES TAKEN ON 09-14-73
Below scan of notes taken from banjo FON 9550-38 on 09-13-74 and the
instrument was purchased on May 1, 1930 at Salter Music Store in Wilmington,
Delaware....penciled inside of resonator. Don't remember what happened
to this instrument.
8836-50 NOTES TAKEN ON 01-06-73
9220-2 NOTES TAKEN
ONE PIECE FLANGE HEEL CUTTER DRAWING
Prior to this cutter, I used cutters that ran in a high speed drill press
that were were secured at the base of the cutter into a heavy bronze bushing
and a heavy steel rotating fixture at about 5.5 inch Radius moved the neck
blank into the cutter. Had excellent results with those drill press
cutters but you need a heavy duty drill press and solid fixturing for
TIME CHART FOR CUTTING SCRIPT GIBSON
The above card shows preparing 100 mother of pearl blanks to cut the script
Gibson. The cutting time for 20 units came out to 5.05 minutes each.
It took a little over 1 minute for each script Gibson to get to the cutting
stage. Not too bad for using a jewelers saw blade in a scroll saw and
back then cutting inlays was like second nature...you didn't think about
what you were doing, it just happened and came out excellent too.
TIME CHART FOR CUTTING VARIOUS PATTERNS; RB4, RB5, RB6, H&F, BELLA
VOCHE AND FLORENTINE SPECIAL
The above cutting time survey was taken over a five day period with 29
inlay patterns cut. Apparently there were others things to do in
between the actual cutting times listed. It doesn't take into account the sorting/grading
of the mother of pearl blanks, gluing them to substrate, cutting out the
paper cutting pattern and laying out the paper pattern onto the mother of
pearl. See this link for details:
Web posted on 11-22-11 by Bill aka Mickey Porter.
GIBSON 1970s 5-STRING BANJO NECK DISSECTED TO SHOW THE
LOCATION OF THE TRUSS ROD
Above is pix of a Gibson mahogany 5-string neck that I cut in half to see
the orientation of their truss rod. I "horse traded" for
a quantity of their mahogany neck blanks that were ready for the fingerboard
and peghead overlays. The carving was done on a spindle carver and I
am sure they contracted those necks out...don't know that for sure.
There was a good .125 plus curve in the rod near the center length of the
neck blank with each end positioned higher toward the fingerboard with the
majority of the rod below the centerline mass of the neck. I placed a
neck template on side profile of the neck blank and traced around it since
the neck was oversize for my usage to get a little better perspective of the
truss rod orientation. I never used one of their neck blanks but
traded and/or sold them off to whoever wanted one. There is an
alignment hole drilled in the fingerboard area near the 3rd fret placement
and the 20th fret for securing to their carving machine holding fixture and
could be used to align the fingerboard. Post war Gibson many times
contracted out their fingerboards and they were fretted and bound before
placing onto a neck blank as above. I believe the above neck
blank was for their reintroduced tube and plate flange by the way the neck
heel is "hogged" out.
BELLA VOCE NECK CANNIBALIZED
Above pix of a Bella Voce neck that was cannibalized. I think I
obtained it from Tom Morgan or Paul Tester back in the early 1970s.
Back then and earlier, cannibalization of tenor and plectrum necks were the
"norm" when 5-string replacement necks were needed.
Web posted on 12-04-11 by Bill aka Mickey Porter.
Above banjo adjustment instruction booklet was with a 1936 Gibson RB00
purchased by Len Stolz of Clarksville, TN. I personally do not adjust
the co-ordinator rods to change the action and IMHO doing so
can distort the wood rim which is not a good thing. I prefer to tweak
the banjo heel angle for as perfect a fit as possible with the desired
string action depending on the bridge height.
Web published by Bill aka Mickey Porter 01-01-12 with permission from Len
Stolz, Clarksville, TN.
Gibson peghead angle above about 20.4 degrees. The neck side
profile template I used back in the late 1960s and through out the 70s was
19.5 degrees. 20 degrees is typical of the majority of pre-war
Web published by Bill aka Mickey Porter 01-14-12.
Holographic Universe Slide Show
GIBSON G-BB FLATHEAD TONE RING - REDUCED FACTORY
DRAWING FROM THE 1970S
This tone ring weighed around 2.4 lbs. and coupled with the 11 ply wood rim
from Jasper Wood Products rendered a horrible sounding banjo. This ring had
an excellent tin bronze alloy composition but did not have enough
mass. I am not sure if Riverside Foundry & Galvanizing Company or
Kulesh manufactured this ring but thinking it was Kulesh.
I believe Frank Schoepf of Hampstead, Maryland emailed me this drawing which