Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Vintage & Rare guitar of the week: James Trussart Steelmaster

Unlike other James Trussart guitars this 2011 Trussart Steelmaster does not feature the hollow steel body for which his guitars are known. Instead, the body is of chambered pine with a steel cap recessed into the top. Seen front-on it has the appearance of a Trussart steel body guitar, while the distressed pine of the body is of a colour that compliments the metal. It makes for a very industrial-looking version of the Jazzmaster.

This guitar is currently for sale via Vintage & Rare, priced at €3185.

G L Wilson

© 2012, Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 10th year!

Monday, 30 January 2012

1968 vintage Tokai Humming Bird - cool Japanese-made rarity

Here's quite a glorious Tokai Humming Bird from the late 1960s way before Tokai had gotten into the swing of producing such accurate and well-made replicas of Fender and Gibson guitars that those companies became seriously worried by the Japanese competition.

The Humming Bird is a guitar of its age. It has the same generic pickups that we see on other Japanese guitars of the same era, plus a very basic sub-Bigsby vibrato arm. The body horns are quite pointed which again brings to mind various of its Japanese-made contemporaries (e.g. Yamaha's early solidbodies, the SG-2 and SG-3) and the body has some German carve contouring around the top edge. The front pickup is angled a la Mosrite guitars. (Mosrites were famously used by The Ventures, a band who were seriously BIG in Japan).

I admire the seller's honesty when he/she says that it is "not the best playing guitar ever made by far, but more of a desirable collectors item". There's no BS and no hyperbole, it's just telling it like it is, and I wish more eBayers would take a leaf out of this seller's book.

Likewise, the pricing is not out of this world. The starting price is £250 and the Buy It Now price is £375 (currently listed on eBay UK).

G L Wilson

© 2012, Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 10th year!

Tommy Emmanuel - 12 bar blues in the key of E


It's the start of a brand new week, so here's a video to put a smile on your face and help cure those Monday morning blues:

Frank from the Lampeter Fire Station Guitar Club, which I've been attending recently, sent me this link. His comment was that it was "something to work on". Whoah, you mean that's this week's homework?

G L Wilson

© 2012, Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 10th year!

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Walking cane tenor guitar/mandola - for those who like music on the move, now here's an instrument you can take hiking

Now this is clever. I'll let the seller/maker describe it:
A truly unique instrument, functions as a cane and a Tenor Guitar or 4 string Mandola at the same time. Tuned C-G-D-A, 19 inch scale, so it is a little long for a mandola, and on the short end of a tenor guitar scale, but in the cane design it is very ergonomic. The cane crook acts like a armrest, and it is very comfortable to play. Very light yet strong enough for support, the sound is not as full as a full-bodied instrument yet very sweet and clear. This is a fully acoustic Tenor Guitar, not a solid stick. It has a Spruce soundboard, Mahogany headstock lamination, Rosewood back and crook laminations. The body is hollow. The crook-cane handle is cross laminated for directional grain strength.
The seller also makes walking cane mandolins, ukuleles and dulcimers.

G L Wilson

© 2012, Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 10th year!

Carvin doubleneck - I wouldn't fancy tuning this up on a darkened stage

This Carvin doubleneck 12+6 guitar was, until very recently, the property of Guitarz reader Derek; he sold it on eBay just this last week. He comments:
This is a early 90s Carvin doubleneck. It is, as far as I know, the only 6/12 that has the tuners on the 12 string neck inline. It makes for a very weird looking headstock... it looks more like a shovel.

It appears to be the same as the guitar on this catalog page from 1990.

The 12 inline was a option, the 6+6 was standard. The microswitch is the neck selector.

It's very heavy. The neck feels like a cross between an Ibanez RG and a Jackson; it's very thin, flat and wide. It is very much in keeping with the Superstrat/shred guitar design (other than the lack of a Kahler or Floyd). It's well made just like any other Carvin I've run across, but offers little in the way of new ideas. It looks and feels very late 80s if that makes sense.
Thanks for showing us that beast, Derek. I can imagine I'd get into all sorts of tuning difficulties with a 12-string headstock like that. I often seem to go for the wrong tuner even on a regular 6-string 3+3 headstock. Still, in an on-stage situation, I guess that's what guitar techs are for.

G L Wilson

© 2012, Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 10th year!

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Gibson Moderne - "reissue" of a classic guitar that probably never existed in the first place

guitarz.blogspot.com - Guest blog by Steven Williams of www.dawsons.co.uk:

The Gibson Moderne is the closest guitar equivalent of the Bigfoot, in the sense that there is little evidence to prove its existence and there is yet to be solid proof of a real one anywhere on Earth. Guitar collectors consider the original Moderne the holy grail of Gibson collectable guitars. This is because the prototype designed in the late 50s as part of the ‘Futura’ range, along with the Flying V and the Explorer, failed to make it into production and simply vanished with no other prototypes appearing in pawnshops or even any trace of its existence until 1982 where it was released as part of the ‘Heritage Series’, and again later by Epiphone in Korea. Now decades later Gibson have released a new rendition of the fabled Moderne to start the hype, the mystery and the rumours all over again.

From what we know of this mystical creature, it appears to be almost identical to the original guitar. The very distinctive body, which looks like the cross-breed result of the Flying V and the Explorer, is made from mahogany along with its neck, which features a rosewood fingerboard and dot inlays. The Moderne is then finished off with a very cool forked headstock and to make sure it can replicate that vintage Gibson tone it has two ’57 Classic humbuckers.

The Gibson Moderne is going to pretty popular with collectors, as it’s the next best thing to the original, and people who simply like unique guitars. The guitar will be available in amber with a black scratchplate, or ebony with a tortoiseshell scratchplate. For more information on this guitar and its release date check out this site or sign up to the newsletter to be kept posted.

Steven Williams

© 2012, Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 10th year!

Friday, 27 January 2012

Gus G1 baritone guitar - carbon fibre, aluminium tube, flip flop paint, and 001 serial number

Those Guitarz readers who were savvy enough to buy a copy of our limited edition Guitarz 2012 Calendar may already have flipped through the pages to October 2012 and seen a particularly stunning photo of a Gus fretless bass. However, I don't think that we have ever looked at Gus guitars on the blog itself before.

This particular example is a Gus G1 Baritone guitar with the serial number G1/B 001. Built by Simon Farmer in the UK, each Gus guitar or bass is essentially a custom order, although some instruments will have more specific custom features than others. The construction is of cedar with a skin of carbon fibre. All hardware is fabricated in-house a the Gus workshop so these guitars are not going to carry all the same generic hardware that we see everywhere else. The body is basically a teardrop shape and - most notably - is mounted inside a chrome-plated aluminium tube (actually welded in 5 sections). This tube helps give the instrument a more recognisable guitar-like shape and provides the familiar body horns.

The G1 Baritone has a 30" scale length and is designed to be tuned down to B (a fourth below 'normal' guitar pitch). This example has been finished in "Plum Crazy" purple to green flip flop paint from House of Colors.

For more information please check out the Gus Guitars website.

Currently listed on eBay UK with a starting price of £2999.

Thanks to Dirk for suggesting we feature this guitar.

G L Wilson

© 2012, Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 10th year!

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Homemade one-string bass guitar with fretless aluminium fingerboard

According to the eBay seller, this is "Fender Jaguar inspired" and "a homemade 1 string bass guitar with Fender parts". Well, I can't see any Fender Jaguar influence, nor any genuine or even approximated Fender parts. The pickup looks like it came off an old Teisco or other contemporaneous Japanese 6-string guitar and the headstock shape looks as if its been modelled on a Peavey. Maybe the donor neck is from a Peavey bass? The fretless fingerboard (it's not a "fretboard", as the seller calls it, if it doesn't have any frets!) is made from a piece of aluminium.

Thanks to Jeremiah for bringing this auction to my attention. He comments that, with a starting bid of $9.99, at least the price is fair.

G L Wilson

© 2012, Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 10th year!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Guyatone LG-11W - another forgotten 1960s Japanese guitar

Joshua writes:
I recently saw your post about the JVC Balladeer and I was surprised to see that I have a Guyatone in this (I think) same body/headstock design. The major difference is the pickguard configuration and it is certainly of a lower level model with no tremolo system. The pickguard is still of metal construction, just a flat finish and the controls on top of the pickups, which is actually quite comfortable. I have looked and looked all over the web and I've yet to see any Kawai/Teisco/Guyatone Japanese guitars with this same exact body design.

It has model number of LG-11W, which falls in line with Guyatone model numbers and of course has a 'Made in Japan' sticker, but unfortunately it no longer has its headstock badge (just a sticky residue of where one used to live).

In fact, I'm in the middle of refurbishing the neck and fingerboard due to too much lovin'! This thing was played to death and I'm certain whoever attempted to refret the fingerboard was not a pro, as there where large chips in the dried out rosewood. I decided to refinish the black neck paint while I was at it, which showed large stress cracks through the finish. I'm by no means a "pro" luthier, but I am an inspiring luthier who has made his own guitars. And as some may think this is sacrilege, I've decided to turn this 24.5" scale into a 25.5" scale and move the bridge/tail back that extra inch. I liked the feel of 24.5" but it was way too narrow for my liking. If I had any intention of selling the guitar, I would have of course kept it to its original scale.

Here's a YouTube video of Joshua demoing the guitar. It just goes to show there's life in some of those old Japanese "pawn shop" guitars, although some of them might need some resuscitation.

We're always happy to see readers' guitars - the more interesting or unusual the model, the better - so please do keep sending in your photos and stories. Contrary to widely held belief, we at Guitarz can appreciate a nice Strat, Tele, Les Paul or SG the same as the next man, woman or dog; however, I think all our readers already know what they look like and what they can do, so we would prefer to see something just a little bit different from the run-of-the-mill guitars you see everywhere. Having said that, if you do have a Strat, Tele, Les Paul, SG, etc, with a particular story to tell, or an unusual variant or finish, then we wouldn't rule out including it on the blog.

G L Wilson

© 2012, Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 10th year!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Vintage & Rare guitar of the week: 1968 Rickenbacker 456 6/12 Convertible

Just over a year ago we looked at another Rickenbacker 366 featuring this cunning mechanism to switch between 6-string and 12-string playing. I've seen similarly equipped Rickenbackers before, but never before have I seen the same mechanism on this model of guitar, the above-pictured Rickenbacker 456 6/12 Convertible. I don't think the mechanism looks quite as awful on this model as it does on the 366, but still I can't help being reminded of a very pretty girl who has to wear corrective braces to allow her teeth to grow straight.

Looks aside, you have to wonder why a contraption such as this wasn't more successful and why it didn't spawn much imitation. It must surely be a much more convenient way of switching between 12-string and 6-string guitar than using an unwieldy and back-breaking doubleneck guitar. Maybe I have just answered my own implied question, as the Rickenbacker Convertible lacks the visual impact and sheer stage presence of a doubleneck. I guess that rock'n'roll isn't all about the most sensible way of doing something.

This particular Rickenbacker 456 6/12 Convertible is from 1968, is finished in "Mapleglo", and is currently available for sale via Vintage and Rare with a price of €2800.

G L Wilson

© 2012, Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 10th year!

One-off Breadwinner-inspired project guitar

Ergonomic guitars seen to have been a theme here on Guitarz lately. I'm not sure quite how well the above-pictured handmade Ovation Breadwinner-inspired guitar functions ergonomically, but it looks as if it has been designed along the lines of such an instrument. It would probably need the area beneath the right forearm area to be higher.

The seller doesn't tell us a great deal about it; the body is ash, the set neck is mahogany and it has a Strat-like singlecoil in the neck pickup position and an Epiphone humbucker at the bridge. Oh, and it was built by the seller's mate Tony from the Swamp Rats.

Currently listed on eBay UK with two days left to run on the auction and bidding currently at £41 at the time of writing.

G L Wilson

© 2012, Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 10th year!

Monday, 23 January 2012

R. Howells one-off metal bass guitar - one for the scrap heap, perhaps?

Part of me really wants to like this "one-off R. Howells handmade metal bass guitar" currently being offered for sale on eBay UK, as someone has gone to a lot of trouble to engineer this piece completely out of metal (which metal, we aren't told).

But another part of me wants to scream, "No no, it's all wrong!" The neck looks exceedingly long, but perhaps that's because the body is small. It may be my imagination, or else the angle of the photograph, but in the full length picture it looks as if the neck is wider up at the nut than it is at the body end. I suspect that it is actually parallel along its length, which would be unusual but not unusable. Of course, playability would all depend on how it intonates. Are the frets positioned correctly for the scale length? They may be, but the cynic in me thinks that this is unlikely.

Look at the engineering of the tuners which are integral to the headstock. I have to wonder if this perhaps was a project by maybe an apprentice metalworker. A certain R. Howells, most likely!

Down at the other end of the bass we find a very solid piece of hardware with adjustable retainers for each string. Quite what purpose these are supposed to serve, I do not know, for they are behind the bridge - which itself does not seem to have saddles of any kind. Maybe the tailpiece blocks are intended as fine tuners, but this does seem a weird inclusion where adjustable saddles would be considerably more useful.

The angled jack on the face of the bass is a nice touch, as are the hand-turned contol knobs, but this bass has not been wired up nor has it been finished having only a dummy pickup mounted in its aluminium pickguard. (And considering the detailed metalwork elsewhere, why does the pickguard look so crudely cut out? Was it finished in a hurry, perhaps?)

This would probably make a better sculpture than a working bass guitar. A lot of hard work has obviously gone into it, so it's only a pity that it resembles a child's drawing of an electric guitar.

Currently listed on eBay with a starting price of £100.

G L Wilson

© 2012, Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 10th year!

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Yamaha SA-20 semi-hollowbody 12-string electric guitar from 1968

Regular readers of Guitarz will know of my enthusiasm for certain early Yamaha solidbody electrics, but being a recent semi-hollowbody convertee I am wishing I had the chance to sample Yamaha's early semis. In May 2011 we looked at this particularly nice example of a Yamaha SA-30 semi and now Derek has sent us photos and a few words about his Yamaha SA-20 which is the 12-string version. I'll let him tell you about it:
Having shown the Yamaha SA-30, I thought you might be interested in this 1968 SA-20; it's the same guitar (minus vibrato) as a twelve string. The price in 1968 was $315 according to a catalog you can view here, making it the most expensive of the SA (semi acoustic) line at the time, about $2000 in today's dollars.

When I first got the guitar, I noticed that there's black plastic inside the F-holes; this, I learned from the catalog, is a baffle intended to suppress feedback (patent pending!). If you've both pickups selected the "mic balancer" lets you blend between the two; the pickups are the size of humbuckers but I think they are single coils. Either way, they're attractively fitted. The neck is very narrow, and the nut (which I don't believe to be original) makes it challenging to play; but overall the workmanship is superb.

In that same catalog is a very interesting amplifier, the TA-60; I'm including a picture of that as well. I'd really like to find one to compliment the guitar.

Best Regards,

Thank you, Derek, for sharing this with us. Perhaps one day I'll get my mitts on a similar guitar!

G L Wilson

© 2012, Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 10th year!

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Crimson Guitars Delta 1 - an ergonomically-designed bespoke guitar from the UK

For years now I have been an avid follower of the Crimson Guitars Workshop Diaries, religiously updated by luthier Ben Crowe of UK-based Crimson Guitars. Considering the incredible detailed hard work he puts in to each and every guitar, I am amazed he seems to be able to document everything he does. Previously on Guitarz, back in 2010, we looked at a Crimson 8-string fanned-fret guitar. I also included two of his guitars in the 500 Guitars book - alas the publisher only used a photo for one of them.

For anyone with even a passing interest in how a guitar is built, I cannot recommend the workshop diaries highly enough: they provide a fascinating - and never boring - blow-by-blow account of each and every aspect. They also show Ben Crowe to be a fastidious luthier; he really is a perfectionist and will insist on getting every last tiny detail absolutely right. As well as building complete guitars by hand from all manner of beautiful timbers - and occasionally he's carved guitars from acrylic too - Ben will also often create the hardware - bridges, tremolos, tuners, control knobs - by hand in the Crimson Guitars workshop rather than using generic off-the-shelf components. Ben is also a keen advocate of ergonomic guitars. Even his classic-looking Robert Fripp model single cutaway guitars (yes, Robert Fripp is an endorsee) have beautifully carved rear-sides, all in the name of comfort! You don't get that on a Les Paul!

The guitar pictured here, the Delta 1, is - as you may surmise from the shape - an ergonomic design. It was the brainchild of the customer, James Mitchell, who worked with Ben Crowe in the Crimson Guitars workshop upon his own design in the early stages of the guitar build, leaving Ben to complete and finish the instrument when he had to return home.

I asked James if he could tell me what his original brief for the Delta 1 was, and the general concept behind it.  James kindly replied, in detail, as follows:
I have always had a 70s Strat which I love and I had never really owned or played anything else. A work colleague, Kevin Deane, makes guitars just for himself for the look and the pleasure. So it got me thinking, why have another Strat or Les Paul? I had recently come into a few guitars which all had features I really liked but none had everything. So, as an architect, I couldn't resist but doodle. There is a tendency for custom guitars to be over-wrought or gilded lilies in my view. I wanted something purposeful, sleek and unique to me.
I overlaid pictures of guitars I enjoyed playing and made hand sketches combining the elements, from each marque, that felt best to me. I then started to read a bit about construction and tone. Around this time, I went to London for Chapman Stick lessons. Out of that, came a conversation with Paul Davies of Tollbooth Studios, who said there was this guy who would build anything. I had approached other builders and they kept re-interpreting the design back towards a known design and would put it together from stock parts. Now, even I can bolt bits together, so I was underwhelmed. The other path of a bespoke instrument prototype was looking very very costly.

The key features of my design where to keep it simple and incorporate:
  • A longer scale length for tone and I am 6'6'' so something at my scale. Les Pauls are mandolins to me and my chubby fingers have trouble above fret 15.
  • Through neck construction for tone transfer.
  • Tight radius fretboard at nut and 700mm radius at the intonation point, reflecting my strat but slightly flattened like a Parker.
  • A "D" neck profile.
  • Quite a bit of body beyond the bridge for my arm, balance and as a tone reservoir.
  • Flush neck and body with same radii.
  • Parkeresque slimness.
  • Full 24 fret access like a Stick.
  • A tone transfer bar reaching up to twelth fret, like a Skjold bass.
  • A headstock without fripperies, like a Seagull guitar but less shapely. I considered headless but it seemed counter intuitive to me.
I liked the tuners on a Japanese shamisen and thought something like that could be achieved. Ben turned bespoke parts for the Sperzels.

These disparate thoughts were worked through in sketches and 5 or 6 full size blanks from polystyrene and filler. I then made the final sketch, measured drawings and a 3D-rendered computer model and sent these to Ben as a brief.

We kicked the details around for three months exploring ideas for a full contact tremolo, woods, frets, pickups etc. In the end it worked out I could go meet Ben and stay for two weeks to develop the build with him. I don't think it could have been done remotely really because the dialogue between us was very dynamic and fruitful. I had a good grasp of what I wanted but Ben brought the reality and craftsmanship to examine, interpret and realise my thoughts, to create the final guitar. Working on the guitar with Ben also allowed me to see other possibilities. This was so successful I have asked Ben to make a semi-acoustic version. This time he knows where it's headed and I await something based on Delta 1 yet distinctly different.

Some have pointed out it is Teufell Tesla-esque, which I take as a compliment, considering it's my first design. It owes more to the Chapman Stick, Breadwinner and Parker/Strat. The controls have evolved since I have had the guitar to play. Andy at Wizard Pickups made 2 bespoke match P90s to work with Ben's stunning bespoke pickup covers and not produce hum. I have fitted 2 volume pots, 1 tone pot and a blender. The guitar produces a lot of rich tones and the blender allows me to exploit the all the gradients of tone between bridge and neck.

I would say that this is where Ben's unique selling point lies. With so much CNC'd or assembled from parts suppliers it's a precious thing to find someone who will start from scratch. Ben buys and selects timbers just for the instrument qualities you specify. The construction then is further informed by his knowledge and your aspirations. Start off with an idea, informed as best it can be from a player's perspective, then brought to reality through real craftsmanship. Exciting and the result is an instrument that is everything I wanted it to be and having other characteristics that couldn't be known. So now I have something to play and explore with.
I have been asking proper guitarists to try it out, mainly at my local music store, KnB Music Maynooth. So far, very positive results. Some are freaked by the shape or the flush neck and body. But once they have 5 minutes playing that all fades away and the balance, playability, comfort and the tone come through.

For even more details, check out these YouTube videos produced by Crimson Guitars:

I would like to thank both Ben Crowe of Crimson Guitars and James Mitchell for their cooperation and help in producing this blog post.

For more information, see Crimson Guitars - bookmark it and visit often!

G L Wilson

© 2012, Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 10th year!

Friday, 20 January 2012

JVC Nivico Balladeer Electric Guitar model #SG-16 - another Japanese oddity

It never ceases to amaze me how many vintage guitars from little known manufacturers and brand names there are to discover outside of the usual arena. Here's yet another 1960s Japanese guitar, the JVC Nivico Balladeer #SG-16 (its interesting but probably just coincidence that it has a Yamaha-like model number). I'm guessing that's the same JVC as are known for their domestic stereo equipment here in the West.

Here's how the seller describes the guitar:
Up for auction is a vintage JVC Nivico Balladeer Electric Guitar (model #SG-16) which appears to originally be intended only for Japanese distribution but has mysteriously been re-branded for US sales. Information on this guitar is conspicuously absent from the internet (a feat in itself) but in-depth research has shown that these guitars, along with a related deluxe model and electric amplifiers, were marketed alongside Japanese "eleki" beat groups (http://www.geocities.jp/a104gs/jvc.nivico.html). This, along side its extreme rarity, support the idea that this guitar was either not intended for distribution outside of Japan or is part of a very early attempt to market Japanese guitars in America. Despite the intial similarities one might find between this guitar and the dirge of Japanese guitars that were soon to flood the US market, such as a surplus of chrome and an overall amoeba-like shape, this guitar has appointments that one does not find on any other Japanese import. Not to mention it plays better than any other Japanese guitar from this era that I have ever laid hands on, weighs twice as much, and has an attention to detail that surpass as well.
It does have a Kawai/Guyatone look to it, but I can't find another guitar that is similar enough to make the comparison with more conviction. It's an interesting guitar for sure, if a bit of an ugly duckling.

This guitar is currently listed on eBay with a quite reasonable Buy It Now price of $400.

By the way, for those interested in Japanese "eleki" music and the development of rock music in Japan, I would heartily recommend the book Japrocksampler by Julian Cope.

G L Wilson

© 2012, Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 10th year!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Alray Cougar vintage stereo guitar - a Wurlitzer in all but name

Previously on Guitarz we have looked at a Wurlitzer Cougar stereo guitar, part of the Wild One series which also included the Wildcat and the Gemini. These guitars all share the same pickups and stereo circuitry which includes jazz/rock settings for each pickup - basically switching between different capacitors for to affect tonal change. Wurlitzer guitars were built alongside the now legendary LaBaye 2x4 guitar at the Holman-Woodell factory in Neodesha, Kansas in the mid to late 1960s.

However, if you look closely at the Cougar pictured above you'll notice one or two differences from the example we previously featured. The headstock design is quite different, and notice also that the vibrato base plate is missing its Wurlitzer "W" - in fact this vibrato unit looks identical to that employed on the LaBaye six stringer.

The reason behind this is that this particular Cougar is not a Wurlitzer - it instead carried the Alray brandname. From the information I have gathered, Wurlitzer offered the Wild One series guitars from 1965 to 1966. The seller of this Alray Cougar on eBay suggests that this guitar is circa 1967/68. Maybe this was assembled from left-over Wurlitzer stock after they had decided to abandon their guitar line?

This guitar is currently being offered for sale on eBay with a Buy It Now price of $1,200, which is in a similar price bracket to Wurlitzer-branded guitars (if and when they come up for sale).

G L Wilson

© 2012, Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 10th year!

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

1960s Silvertone "Phantom"-inspired guitar

We seem to be in a blue mood these last couple of days on Guitarz, and today's guitar is a 1960s Silvertone-branded "Phantom" which according to the seller is correctly designated as a EV3T. It's obviously inspired by the 1960s Vox guitars - as is further evidenced by the headstock shape - but the body shape is symmetrical as opposed to the offset lozenge of the Vox Phantom. If anything, it's somewhere between a Phantom and Vox's Mark series teardrop-shaped guitars.

As with anything stamped "Silvertone", you can guarantee this is another manufacturer's guitar, re-badged. It has a Domino look to it, although I don't think I've seen a Domino of quite the same design. The neck bolt plate confirms that this guitar is "Made in Japan".

This guitar is currently listed on eBay with what I'd call a slightly optimistic Buy It Now price of $975.

G L Wilson

© 2012, Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 10th year!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Rare 1967 Yamaha SG3C "Blue Banana" on eBay Australia

Our friend Greg Cadman (who sent us these photos of his Kapa guitar collection a while back) is interested in the Yamaha SG3C guitar as pictured above and asks:
"Does anyone out there have one of these they would be willing to make a full size tracing of the body for me?"
Which seems a fair enough request. Please respond via the comments below and I'll see to it that Greg gets your message.

The Yamaha SG3C is indeed a cool guitar, and was introduced a year after my own beloved Yamaha SG3 (similar model number, very different design), about which I have written plenty already. Both guitars have the same three singlecoil pickups arranged with one coil at the neck and two in the bridge position. However, the SG3C adopts a much simpler switching system than its slightly older sibling's Jazzmaster-like setup and functions only as a two pickup guitar with the two coils at the bridge being wired together in series. For those who are interested this video gives quite a nice little tour around the insides of the guitar.

This guitar is currently listed on eBay Australia, with five days left to run on the auction and bidding currently at just under AU$300 (Australian dollars) at the time of writing.

G L Wilson

© 2012, Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 10th year!

Monday, 16 January 2012

Vintage & Rare guitar of the week: Klein fretless ergonomic bass


We were discussing ergonomic guitars recently, and of course the name Klein came up.

Steve Klein mainly builds high-end acoustic guitars these days, but he is probably best known for his ergonomically designed headless guitars. We at Guitarz have  previously featured a rare left-handed example of the Klein BF-96. These guitars are no longer in production, but have inspired numerous luthier-built instruments and ergonomic self-build projects.

I had heard that Klein produced a bass, but had never seen an example before I was browsing Vintage and Rare this weekend. You'll notice that the body is slightly more elongated than the guitar model, and it also has an upper body horn, which no doubt helps achieve the correct balance of the bass on a strap.

The specifications are as follows:
  • 34" Scale
  • Fretless Moses Graphite Neck
  • Alder Body
  • Active EMG J-Pickups
  • Passive Electronics
  • Steinberger D-Tuner Bridge
  • Uses standard strings
  • Refinished Body (Nitro)
  • Volume - Volume - Tone
(I hope that it's equipped with proper round-wound strings and none of this "flatwounds on a fretless" nonsense. With a graphite neck there's absolutely no excuse for those tone killing strings.)

This very rare Klein fretless bass is currently available for sale via our good friends at Vintage & Rare and is priced at €6800.

G L Wilson

© 2012, Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 10th year!

The Association - Along Comes Mary (but what are the guitars?)


Via the Guitarz Facebook page our friend Jarma asks what are the guitars being played by The Association in this 1960s TV performance.

Well, the bass is easy: it's a Gibson EB-2 semi-hollowbody bass. Initially I wasn't too sure what the rhythm guitar was, so I moved onto the solidbody lead guitar as I was sure we had featured one very much like it here on Guitarz. Sure enough, it's a Hagström Impala, and that made me think that perhaps the rhythm guitar is a Hagström too - a twin-cutaway semi-hollowbody design with a Strat-like head?... it's a Hagström Viking, surely? (As used by Elvis in the '68 Comeback Special).

It's a great video clip, by the way. Thanks for that, Jarmo!

G L Wilson

© 2012, Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 10th year!

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Sanox Sound Creator S-type guitar - forgotten Japanese brand from the 1970s


In our previous blog post here on Guitarz we were looking at a Jolana Disco bass that had its body shape modified and cut down to size by a previous owner. That, in effect, is what has happened to the guitar we are looking at today, although in this instance the cutting down to size happened in the factory where it was built. Even with the modifications and the almost "monkey grip" body horns, there's little disguising the fact that this Sanox Sound Creator has been based on the world's most copied guitar, the Stratocaster.

If anyone out there can shed any light or has any concrete information on the Japanese brand "Sanox Sound Creator", please get in touch, as I would love to find out more and there is a dearth of information about this brand on the internet. In fact, most of the references you will find in a Google search will be about my own see-thru Sanox Sound Creator acrylic-bodied Strat that I purchased from an eBay seller in Germany back in 2005 (and that is all I know about it).

These guitars do not come up for sale very often which would imply that the brand was short-lived. The example seen here is currently listed on eBay UK with a Buy It Now price of £225 which, I think, may be a tad optimistic seeing as - from what I can make out in the photos - it doesn't appear to be in the best of condition. The nut is broken, the tone knobs are missing (possibly the pots themselves, it's hard to tell), one of the tuners is missing its rear cover, and as it is pictured without strings I have to wonder how long it has been stored like that and what condition the neck might be in now. It definitely would need a good setting up.

G L Wilson

© 2012, Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 10th year!

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Customised Jolana Disco Bass

As a postscript to yesterday's blog post, here is another Jolana Disco Bass belonging to Guitarz reader Philipp Kostov. The bass's previous owner has re-shaped the body and stripped it back to a natural finish - surprisingly it looks like it's made from some pretty nice timber. These old "Behind the Iron Curtain" guitars are getting increasingly collectable as more people discover their existence (and, often, their affordability) but this customisation is likely to incur the wrath of the collectors. Personally - and I know I've written a lot about how people should leave vintage guitars alone and take out their urge to modify on cheap modern-day Chinese-made guitars - I quite like the new shape and finish on this particular Disco Bass. I guess the point is that if you really HAVE to customise something, just make sure you do a first class job.

See here for more of Philipp's guitar collection (including more Jolana guitars and basses).

G L Wilson

© 2012, Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 10th year!

Friday, 13 January 2012

Jolana Disco Bass - another 1980s Czechoslovakian wonder

Seriously, if I had the means right now, I would buy this Jolana Disco Bass. The eBay listing has some particularly clear close-up photos and although it's quite apparent that this is a used instrument and shows signs of wear here and there, it is in exceedingly good condition.

Although quite obviously from the same stable, the Jolana Disco Bass has quite a different design to the Jolana Disco 6-string guitar; whilst the guitar looks to be a Burnsian interpretation of the SG, the bass has been styled after the Gibson RD Artist. They share the same giant-sized humbuckers although the bass has a pair of these against the guitar's single unit. Tuners and bridge are of the same design and even the pickguard follows the same design rules.

The controls are simple with no pickup selector, no tone controls, but just a volume for each pickup - which couldn't be further away from the instrument that the body shape is copying. I believe that the "1970s transistor-radio" style knobs on this example are not original, and that it would have originally have had the same chunky clear plastic knobs as used on the Disco guitar.

This particular Disco Bass is finished in a vibrant red; I really like how the colour is echoed by the dot inlays on the fingerboard.

Possibly, with a Buy It Now price of $400, this is a little over-priced, but having said that it is a particularly nice example.

G L Wilson

© 2012, Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 10th year!

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Can anyone identify this Hondo "Gumby" guitar?

If one particular budget guitar brand from the 1970s and 1980s has earned more scorn and derision than any other maker, then surely it must be Hondo. Hondo guitars were for the most part produced in Korea (you could even say that they were the original Made in Korea guitars), although a few of the high-end models were made in Japan. (See The Story of Hondo Guitars).

I personally couldn't comment on why they have such a bad reputation today, but have heard stories from many former owners and others about what dreadful instruments they were. Of course, there are those who still have their old Hondos and love them dearly, but such people seem to be in the minority. I have to wonder if much of the scorn comes from people who didn't actually ever own a Hondo, but are just repeating negative comments from someone else. They were cheap guitars - everyone knew that - and I guess they were one of the few options available to the budding guitarist on a tight budget, and possibly the butt of not entirely fairly-earned resentment.

Playability aside, Hondo certainly produced some interesting looking instruments. For example, this very pointy Hondo guitar - currently listed on eBay with a starting price of $0.99 - is very reminiscent of the Matsumoku-made Mako Exotec XP-4 we looked at back in November, and surely must come from the same designer. Here's what the eBay seller has to say about it:
Kind of a wacky Gumby looking body w/ 24 fret 6 bolt neck. This is a very interesting and nice playing & sounding old Hondo (not Hondo II). Hard to find much good info on this but it my understanding that the Hondo II Logo starts around 1973 so I am calling this a c. '72. Any inaccuracies are not intentional and if you have info,I'd love to know more about this strangely appealing old thing. !! Anyhow,very good condition,well preserved and ready to go. (Well it could use some fresh strings) Has a straight neck, good frets and everything works. Nice overall cosmetic condition. [...] just a great looking guitar that doesn't even have a lot of pick wear or other scratches. Features mahogany body, maple neck,and rosewood fingerboard with 24 frets. Both pick ups work great & sound clear and there is a 3 way select.
OK, first off I'd say forgot all that Hondo vs Hondo II rubbish. That is a total red herring. There is no way that this guitar is from the 1970s, let alone as early as 1972. I've already drawn the comparison with the Mako Exotec XP-4 which was available from 1984 to 1989. I'd expect this Hondo to be contemporary to the Mako. Furthermore the styling is NOT 1970s, and is very much consistent with the 1980s, the era of hair metal and very very pointy guitars. Note also in the link I've just given, the photos of the Hondo H-1 produced around the same time and almost certainly a sibling instrument to our Hondo Gumby here. Alas, I can find no database of Hondo guitars so as to make an identity. The closest I came to was this, which alas, has too many blanks to be filled in.

I also clearly remember that logo (pictured above) being used on Hondo guitars in the 1980s. I suspect that the Hondo II brand actually reverted back to being simply "Hondo" in the 1980s.

If anyone can fill in the blanks anywhere in the story here, then please comment below. They may not have been the most salubrious instruments in the history of the guitar, but Hondo guitars are a very relevant part of the bigger picture.

G L Wilson

EDIT: MartinF tells us that it's a Hondo H-2 "Metal Master" (see comments below). I note now that the auction has been taken down. Did someone tell the seller what the guitar was? Maybe he'll re-list it.

© 2012, Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 10th year!

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Teisco EP-93T hollowbody archtop 3-pickup electric with slider controls

Something about this Teisco EP-93T hollowbody electric guitar makes me think it would play like an absolute dog. I'd imagine it would be boxy-sounding and the cheap hardware would make it rattle and buzz, and sure, there's three pickups, but did you ever try those pickups? They were hardly the best; "muddy" is the word I'd use to describe the tone. However, despite all that, I can't help liking the guitar. I like the shape and the general design of the instrument, not to mention those crazy slider controls - you just don't see stuff like that on guitars any more.

Perhaps I'm letting my prejudices have too much say, and maybe - just maybe - this is a great player. Still, I wouldn't like to be the one to shell out the $549 eBay Buy It Now price so as to find out one way or the other.

G L Wilson

© 2012, Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 10th year!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Budget ergonomic guitar is a Klein/Telecaster hybrid

Ergonomic guitars don't usually come very cheap. They are specialist instruments and are very often luthier built. It's little wonder that many people have sought to build their own, which is where the resources available at the Building the Ergonomic Guitar website make themselves invaluable.

The one design that crops up time and time again is that based around the Klein guitar as designed by Steve Klein (no doubt using the Ovation Breadwinner as inspiraton). Kleins have long been out of production with existing examples changing hands for many thousands of dollars, so it's not surprising that the design has been appropriated by other builders.

The above pictured guitar, however, is currently listed on eBay for $199 Australian dollars, which is approx £132.40 GBP, and a little over $206 US dollars at the time of writing. The body design, although a bit "blocky" and under-sculpted is copied from the Klein, although unlike the Klein guitar it is not headless (note the cutaway area behind the bridge - that's where the headless tuners would be on a Klein). The bridge, pickups and controls are borrowed from the venerable Telecaster.

Now, at this kind of price I couldn't comment on the quality of the guitar, but suspect that seeing as it utilises readily available Telecaster components, that it could be upgraded very easily and may well appeal to those on a strict budget wanting to experiment with guitar ergonomics.

G L Wilson

© 2012, Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 10th year!

Monday, 9 January 2012

Multivox/Premier carved scroll mahogany-bodied electric from 1959

Premier/Multivox started making these carved scroll mahogany solid bodies in 1958. The very earliest version was set-neck, going over to bolt-on pretty quickly. The shape of the treble-side horn evolved from long to stumpy to the version seen in this 1959 example, with its elegant outward curve echoing the wave shape of the scroll side, the perfection of the design. The later Premiers covered in Italian cellulloid are nice in their way but part of a downward slide in quality, materials, and looks throughout the 1960s.

The neck here is solid perfectly vertical tight grain Brazilian rosewood that sustains like nothing else and rings like a bar on a marimba.These earliest necks have an angled scarf-joined headstock (made with a “V” notch cut under the integral fingerboard; a less desirable non-angled scooped headstock with string retainers came shortly thereafter. In Premier's world at this time truss rods were a tone-deadening frill, unnecessary on a good quarter-sawn Brazilian neck. This neck, after almost fifty years of string tension — some of that with hulking flatwounds — had only a slight bow, easily brought to perfect minimal relief by a compression fret job. By the way, the position markers are just cut from aluminum rod, though most people assume they are mother of pearl.

On the down side, the binding on Premiers often deteriorates and the fret spacing is oddly erratic for an otherwise extremely well-crafted guitar with bound body, fingerboard, and headstock, and gold plated hardware standard. You can even see the bad spacing in the upper frets of the 1964 model you posted. I corrected fret spacing problems and replaced the binding when I refurbished this one, which I bought in deteriorated but complete condition in 2005. Unless the frets are repositioned it is only good for slide, and Ry Cooder (see picture) has been known to play this very same two-pickup early model. The “Franz” pickups (as used also on early Guilds) are like dream P-90s. To top it off, it has catalin knobs, a big appliance-style pickup selector switch and a flashy pickguard that leaves no doubt that this instrument was made for show business.


© 2012, Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 10th year!

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Now for something completely different... Greenfly, horticulture, explosions and an EBow!


OK, this isn't the usual sort of thing we show you here at Guitarz, but please bear with me. This is a short animated video that I made over the last couple of weeks. Yes, the animation style is very Monty Python/Terry Gilliam, although that wasn't a conscious decision, it's just the way it worked out.

"But what's it got to do with guitars?", some of you might well be asking.

Well, I actually recorded the piece of music used as the soundtrack several years ago, and believe it serves quite nicely to demonstrate the sound of the legendary Energy Bow or - as it's more commonly known - EBow. For this piece, I actually used a Bass VI guitar (I think it was an earlier version of the EBow too, rather than the EBow Plus model as seen in the photo here), but if you're not already familiar with the EBow you still get the general idea of what it can sound like.

G L Wilson

© 2012, Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 10th year!

Framus Camarillo Custom in Nirvana Black finish

Still not a superstrat fan but this Framus Camarillo Custom really caught my eye! It's probably because I have a fetish with black color, but this transparent satin black finish is just gorgeous, and fits perfectly the curves of an archtop superstrat, with the help of black hardware (also like how the knobs are emerging from the top)...

The Camarillo is a model of the revived Framus company (that started again in 1995 after 20 years in limbo), only available from their custom shop.


© 2012, Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 10th year!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

1970s Dan Armstrong London with sliding pickup

Here is a rarely seen Dan Armstrong London from the early 1970s, quite an unique guitar with its characteristic sliding humbucker. The body is an hybrid of Les Paul Doublecut and Rickenbacker 325 cut out of mahogany, the bridge only looks like a wrap-around one but is one of Dan Armstrong innovations, being connected to the ramp on which the pickup slides.

You know, I could tell much about this guitar but I would just summarize what I found on the very complete website dedicated to Dan Arsmtrong's life with guitars, that I invite you to visit. And for those who would not know who Dan Armstrong is, you probably know how most famous guitar, the plexiglass model released by Ampeg and played by all the Rolling Stones members on their 1969 US tour (and resulting film and record).

© 2012, Guitarz - The Original Guitar Blog - now in its 10th year!


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