Flatiron Mandolins 1985 Eye Candy

Posted by Bradley Laird

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There is an underground, cult-like flock of mandolin insiders who recognize the Bozeman Flatiron mandolins as probably the greatest revival of commercial mandolin quality since the Lloyd Loar period at Gibson. Steve Carlson is a mysterious figure in this story and very little can be found on the internet which sheds light on the story. In a previous article I told the story of how I came to become the curator and player of a 1985 Flatiron F5 Artist.

Recently, when digging through my accumulation of books and old catalogs I discovered the 1985 Flatiron Mandolins brochure which I picked up at Jackson's music before I got my mandolin. I am pretty sure it has to be from late 1984 or early 1985 because on page 5 Carlson states, "The majority of time from May of 1983 to June of 1984..." so we know we are past June 1984. Later in the next paragraph he states, "In 1986 we will present two new models..." which is future tense.

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Page 1 (Clicking on the image will bring you a larger version)

brad laird flatiron mandolin

Page 2

brad laird flatiron mandolin

Page 3

brad laird flatiron mandolin

Page 4

It is not specifically signed by Steve Carlson but, in context, it is clearly written by him because it is written in first person. For example, the opening sentence on page 5 states in part, "In the early part of 1981 I started working on our carved top project." In the lower right corner of that page is a black and white photo of a Steve Carlson signature shot through the bass side f-hole. I assume that was his way of signing the text.

brad laird flatiron mandolin steve carlson

Page 5

On the back of the brochure, on page 6, you see the address of the company and please note that there is no mention of Gibson. This is before Gibson acquired the company, probably recognizing that their F5s were being slaughtered in the market by this upstart. Some years later, Gibson began the downgrading and dismemberment of the Flatiron trademark. Probably that was smart corporate marketing strategy. Perhaps not. But, the Flatirons, pre-Gibson made in Bozeman, will never be forgotten! They were in a class all their own because of their amazing tonal qualities and craftsmanship. Play one someday, if you can pry it out of the hands of the owner, and you will know what I mean.

brad laird flatiron mandolin bozeman

Page 6

The brochure is a beautiful 6 page, full-color, offset printed single sheet which folds down to 8.5" x 11". I hope that this brochure and the first-hand historical information it presents, in the words of Steve Carlson, will clarify certain details regarding particulars of each model at the time. If nothing else, the photography is beautiful and even those "not in the know" about Bozeman Flatirons will have something to drool over.

While digging around I uncovered my original warranty card and the actual receipts from when I bought my mandolin.

flatiron mandolin

Wow! $1,575! Too bad I was so broke. It would have been a great investment to have bought a couple of them. Prices for quality mandolins have certainly gone up... thanks Greenspan and Bernanke!

Flatiron F5 Artist 85100109 is featured on the cover of my book The Mandolin Handbook. You might enjoy looking at that too.


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