Bolero Opus 26 No 1
Raffaelle Calace, 1898

1929 Gibson F5 Fern Mandolin

The F-5s from the late 1920s are called "Ferns." But many of the design specs were done by Lloyd Loar.

Lloyd Allayre Loar (January 9, 1886 September 14, 1943) was a Gibson sound engineer and master luthier in the early part of the 20th century. He is most famous for his F5 model mandolin, L5 guitar, H5 mandola, K5 mandocello, and A5 mandolin.

Loar worked for Gibson from 1919 to 1924. His contributions include building the instrument top with F-shaped holes like a violin, introducing a longer neck, thus moving the bridge closer to the center of the body, and floating the fingerboard over the top - - a change from prior Gibson instruments that had fingerboards fused to the top. He also pioneered the use of the Virzi Tone Producer, a spruce disc suspended from the instrument top that acts as a supplemental soundboard.

When the popularity of the mandolin and mandolin orchestras diminished, sales at Gibson went down. Many of the late 1920 Ferns were made from parts left over from the Loar era. Some people call these Ferns a "poor man's Loar".

I traded, in part, my 1936 Gibson F-5 and a nice Charlie Derrington signed 2002 Master Model F-5 to Bobby Clark for this in 2012. Mandolinist and guitar builder Clark won the National Mandolin Championship in Winfield, Kansas, the Buck White International Mandolin Championship in Kerrville, Texas, and the World Mandolin Championship in Des Moines, Iowa. He had purchased the mandolin around 1972 and was his main axe for 40 years. Vince Gill owned it briefly, but Bobby bought it back. It's all original except for the pickguard. The late great Charlie Derrington (also in the Nashville Mandolin Ensemble) built the abbreviated pickguard for my 1937 F-5.


1924 Gibson K-2 Mando Cello

1980s Classical M. Horabe Model 35 Guitar

Unknown maker 1940s Upright Bass

Raffaele Calace (1863 1934) was an Italian mandolin player, composer and luthier.

He was born in Naples, Italy as the son of Antonio Calace, a successful instrument maker. Raffaele was initially trained to become a musician. At the same time, he discovered the possibilities of the mandolin and soon he became an unequaled mandolin virtuoso. After Raffaele Calace graduated with the highest honour at the Regio Conservatorio di Musica in Naples, his main intention was to give the mandolin a full and honourable place in music. To achieve this, he toured Europe and Japan giving countless concerts on the Neapolitan mandolin and the liuto cantabile. It is believed that this bass variant in the Mandolin family was initially created by the famous Neapolitan luthiers of the Vinaccia family in the last decade of the 19th century and that it was perfected by Raffaele Calace himself. Raffaele Calace made three long-playing records on which he is heard as one of the greatest mandolin virtuosos and an unequaled performer on the liuto cantabile.

Raffaele Calace wrote about 200 compositions that belong to the most beautiful and technically demanding works written for the mandolin. Either concert works for mandolin solo or compositions for mandolin in combination with other instruments like duets with piano; trio combinations with mandola and guitar; the Romantic Mandolin Quartet (mandolin 1 & 2, mandola, and guitar); quintets up to/and Concerts for mandolin solo with Orchestra etc.. Calace also wrote pedagogical works, among which are his highly praised mandolin method, Schule fr Mandoline, and the method for playing the liuto cantabile. The mandolin method was published in 1910 and elaborates on the 18th-century Italian mandolin tutors by Giovanni Battista Gervasio (c. 1725c. 1785), Gabriele Leone (c. 1725c. 1790) and others and it clearly shows the development of the traditional Italian playing style. The Calace school can also be seen as a bridge between other modern methods for mandolin as there are for instance those by Raffaele Calace's fellow countryman Silvio Ranieri (1882-1956), a Roman virtuoso who had settled in Brussels and the American-based Italian mandolinist Giuseppe Pettine (1874-1966).

Raffaele Calace and his brother Nicola Calace (1859-1923) were, besides their activities as musicians, also recognized as excellent makers of the instruments of the Neapolitan mandolin family. They introduced improvements in the building techniques and modernized the Neapolitan mandolin by, among other features, enlarging its sound box and - like the Roman master luthier Luigi Embergher - applying a fingerboard that extended over the sound hole to enlarge the range of the mandolin. When Nicola Calace emigrated to the U.S.A. in 1898, Raffaele continued the Calace workshop with his daughter Maria, a gifted mandolin player as well, and his son Giuseppe Calace. Today the Calace atelier is run by Calace's grandson Raffaele Jr.