Sunday, January 20, 2008

National Bel Aire for sale

We recently imported this magnificent and very rare 1958 National Bel Aire, one of only a small handfull produced . It is in completely original and almost perfect condition.

The body is a Gibson 175, made by Gibson for National who then added their own neck and those wonderful loud Supro pickups. If you do a Google search on the Bel Aire, the only one we managed to find is this very one.

We would love to keep her but because Mongrel Guitars needs to keep expanding we need the capital and we reluctantly have to find her a good home.

In all our years of searching for rare guitars we have never seen another one and doubt we ever will.

It arrived strung with flat wounds which made it perfect for a Jazz player, however with round wound strings it is a Blues and Rockabilly monster, Like a Gibson Switchmaster on steroids.

OK, there is a little wear here and there but remember this guitar is 50 years old and only has very mild player wear.

Although the truss rod is not adjustable, the action, while a touch high for a fast lead player, is still within perfectly respectable limits.

The neck angle on these can be altered with an adjustment behind the heel but it really is about right.

The top three knobs are tone controls while the lower three are volumes, the single knob lower down is the master volume.

There is a three way switch near the cutaway.
Pictured here is a page from a 1959 catalogue and you can see the price is $295.00 which is $30.00 more than Gibsons Les Paul Standard of that year.

Interested serious players or investors are welcome to contact us for further details.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas, A New year and New Hope

Its boxing Day, Christmas has come and gone and The Mongrels are about to start the New Year with a great deal of anticipation.
The weather, which is normally very summery has been terrible for quite a few weeks now and has put us behind with guitar production. We have been unable to Paint or French Polish due to the rain and high humidity for a couple of months.
Nevertheless, Ians daughter Colleens restored '63 Duosonic has is almost ready to go and as soon as there is a gap in the weather, a couple of final coats of clear will see it ready for assembly.
The '58 Supro for Kate just needs the pickup covers to come back from the gold plating and that will be finished.
Those old Supro pickups have to be heard to be believed. Talk about a huge sound!

Mongrelguitars have also become the Australian Distributors for Wolfetone pickups. These are hand made by Wolfe himself and used throughout the world by a number of really big name artists. They really take your guitar to a whole new level- and thats not just me saying so. You can read reviews on Wolfes range of pickups here.

The Mongrels guarantee that you will be blown away when you put a set of Wolfetones in your guitar- regardless of the brand you have there now.

We are also working on bringing a range of high quality guitar strings to the Australian Market.

Ian has managed to pick up a very rare and extremely beautiful three pickup '57 National Bel Aire and it is due to arrive from the U.S. any day.

These magnificent guitars were produced in very limited numbers. The bodies were made by Gibson for National and are a 175 body with a National neck and three Supro pickups.

Loud, rockin', foot to the floor Blues Anyone?

The shop has seen a number of interesting repairs too, some really challenging ones.
A brand new Masterbuilt Epiphone which had a lifting bridge has caused us the most trouble. These Chinese made guitars are now put together with Epoxy and the bridge is glued right to the finish. This makes it impossible to remove the bridge without causing damage to the very thin Spruce top.
Although they look and sound pretty good, they are not really designed to be repaired. Epoxy is permanent whereas the tradition luthiers animal hide glue can be easily steamed off allowing for a limitless number of rebuilds.
Michael has stripped the top back and it will be refinished in French Polish before Ian sets up the new bridge.
Ian has inlayed the fingerboard of a Les Paul with Abalone Shell and it will soon be ready for a Cherry Burst finish which will be done using wood stain and French Polish. The idea is to use a Golden Maple or light Teak stain in the centre, A dark stain toward the binding. Then by carefully masking, say a half inch at a time and gradually diluting the cherry stain as you work your way in, it should end up looking great.
Of course, like all Mongrel Guitars, it will be finished in French Polish which is non toxic and acoustically less reflective than modern Poly finishes.
Once the weather clears up, there is a new Thinline Tele, an old 70's Ibanez Strat which Michael has reshaped into a more traditional '50s style body. Another Brazillian Ash Tele which has been finished in a dark red Mahogany stain , a lightweight Strat copy which self destructed when the timber around the bridge broke free.
We decided to rout out the whole area behind the bridge pickup and glue in a Maple block to support the new bridge. This should transfer sound into the lightweight body very well.
Michaels Brazillian Tele, See top pic, turned out just incredible. After a lifetime of coveting a vintage Tele, this one is all that and more. Wolf wound me a cooking hot 10k Bridge pickup which has all the character of a vintage Broadcaster but when you crank it up- It just eats anything I have ever heard.
Many people complain that hot pickups can sound muddy when rolled off or lose their character when cranked up. This one has the best of both worlds.
It is so good that my Vintage G&L Tele is up for grabs and I am happy to sell it with no regrets.
Our good friend Jimmy Lloyd Rea will be touring Australia in the new year- stay tuned for dates and he has asked Ian to join The Switchmasters for the tour. He is a world class guitarist and it will be great to see him play with such a great Blues band.
The Mongrels would like to with everyone a really Happy New Year.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

A new post- At last!!

Ian at work on the 'magic' Tele

It is turning into a huge year for The Mongrels- and we are only just past the halway mark.
We have been increasingly aware that we- well me actually, Michael, have let the Blog slide while we concentrated on getting the business really flying.
Lets go back to the last blog- The two Kay 592s which were being restored have both turned into spectacular instruments. Although they both share identical construction and hardware they sound completely different. The only things we can think of which contribute to this are they weigh in slighty differently and one is finished in French polish while the other has retained its original burgundy laquer finish.
With the P90s singing away they just sound bloody amazing and are a delight to play.
Two Kay 592s

After the 592's were finished we sat down with a rough Alder Strat blank and Michael hand shaped it , drawing inspiration from the very early 50's Strats and also a solid Maple bodied vintage Mighty Mite belonging to Ian.
What amazed us both while we researched Strat design is the amazing number of subtle changes which have been made over the years. We put it down to increased mechanisation as production expanded and the bean counters looking for shortcuts.
After shaping and sanding it was finished in clear French Polish and a very wide 1 and 7/8ths nut width neck was added. Then Ian got stuck into the electronics and setup. When all was ready, we plugged her in and WOW- I'm talking serious BIG sounding stage guitar here.

Definitely not a guitar for whimps. Ian jumped straight up and said. "We are going to name this one 'The Duke' after John Wayne."
Without wanting to sound sexist, the only way to describe The Duke is to say it is a Big guitar for a Big Man.

The next project had a very unexpected outcome and makes for an interesting story. A couple of years ago we found five ridiculously cheap Telecaster bodies being sold by a bloke in South America as 'pine '. Unable to resist the bargain, we snapped em up as we had always wanted to have a go at building a "Pinecaster".
When the bodies arrived they were a mess and we thought we had really done our dough. The wood was green and the glue joins were open, the routs were terrible and they were only roughly finished.
For two years they sat in a pile on the top of a wardrobe. To cut a long story not quite as long, about Easter time this year we took em down and had a look. The wood, in drying, had developed splits here and there and the glue lines had opened up even further but as we had a bunch of Telecaster spares and a few necks lying around we though, 'What the Hell.'
The instant I started sanding I knew they weren't pine- it was like rock. Turns out they are some kind of Brazillian Ash. I sealed it all off with a good coat of Shellac and we put my old 80's Jap Squire neck on one and Ian set up the electronics and opened the neck pocket up to fit the Squire.
The Mongrel Tele just has to be heard to be believed

Well sometimes magic happens. This is a better Tele than anything I have ever played. Put it this way. I have held on to a Vintage G&L Asat Tele for years. Now anyone who has played one of the latter day Leo Fender and George Fullerton masterpieces knows just how good it can get- They are superlative stage guitars and mine is a bloody good one. It is also for sale. I just don't need it anymore now that I have this ugly block of wood which is everything a telecaster should be- and more!!!!!
Oh the other four bodies- well they aren't for sale and will be our private stock. Bloody unbelievable.


Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Peace at last. The little mongrels are back at school

Hi Crew
Its been a couple of months since the last post. Ians daughters and Michaels son are all safely back at school after the summer holidays and it is now time to dust off the tools, see if the fingers can still manage a couple of chords and generally get stuck back into the routine- If we can remember what it is.
The Blue Mountains Blues and Roots Festival is only five weeks away and we plan on having another stand there this year. We will have five complete Kay Speed Demons. As many as four new Mongrel Strats and at least three Mongrel Telecasters. Two Kay Basses and an assortment of other projects nearing completion. We have a Regal Tricone which is about to get the full Mongrel treatment and we are hoping it will be ready in time.
It has been a fascinating couple of months musically. A few weeks ago Eugene 'Hideaway' Bridges an amazing Blues and Gospel guitarist from Texas came by for an afternoon, grabbed one of our Kay Swingmasters and completely blew us away with his mastery.

A humble and completely genuine bloke who shared his vast knowlege with us very generously for a few hours and then left for Barbados while we sat a bit stunned at what we had experienced. If you ever have the chance, he tours the world extensively and you just have to catch him.
A couple of weeks later Ians old mate Snowy White, ex Thin Lizzy and long time Roger Waters guitarist came to town with the Roger Waters circus and Ian was able to spend some time reliving the good old days. He got to see the gig at the Sydney Superdome and spend some time backstage while I bravely volunteered to babysit. He owes me big time -OK Ian!

Ian had a long chat with another old mate- UK based guitarist Gwyn Ashton who is currently touring OZ. Gwyn is an avid guitar collector and is keen to fit in a visit to the Mongrels kennel between shows.
I would like to mention a couple of friends who have given us a great deal of support and encouragement. Both of them have profiles on MySpace so please check them out.
First Liz Kilgo a country songwriter/singer who lives in Virginia USA and who works out of Nashville has become a dear friend and supporter of The Mongrels and she has gone out of her way to promote us. Also Gary Peterson from Ontario just keeps us rolling around the floor laughing. He is an actor and connoisseur of a staggering array of plonk.
Our blogs should be a little more frequent now and I promise to finish my History of Kay Guitars as soon as I remember where I put my notes.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Working Dogs

Unfretted Supro neck shows the unusual nut with an ebony shim.
Beautiful 2 piece maple Supro body.
Supro neck fretted.
Kay 592 with frets removed & fingerboard dressed ready for refret.

It has been a huge week for everyone in the Mongrels camp this week. The birthday girl turns seven on the 30th of November and we are racing to complete the '58' Supro in time. Someone had damaged the strap button holes on the lower bout and filled the resulting mess with some kind of plastic filler. We are going to cut the heel off an old Strat copy neck and make a Maple endgrain plug to repair that. Michael is going to French Polish it using golden shellac and he spent much time prepping the body as any timber blemmishes invariably show through. Shellac is a very durable, finish which ages well and is easily maintained. It is also considered to be one of the most tone friendly finishes along with Nitro Cellulose. More modern finishes, such as Polyurethane are very durable and attractive but tend to lock tone into the body and reflect the brittleness of of the finish rather than the true tones offered by the timber.
Ian has reprofiled the fingerboard and finished refretting the neck. He has also almost finished the same job on the 592 neck shown in the prevous blog.
Michael finished his repair of a broken Bass neck and returned it to the happy owner.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Another week in a dogs life

We have been pleasantly surprised by how quickly people have begun to respond to the Mongrelguitars website. This week has seen our first order for what should be a really nice Mongrel Telecaster to be built for a West Australian guitarist.
We have begun what to us is one of the most pleasant and exciting steps in the custom building process which is finalising all the details such as neck profile and fingerboard materials- either Maple or Rosewood, body timber- whether to use Alder or Swamp Ash and finalising the harware specs. In this case we will most likely install some beautifully handmade scatter wound single coils which we have made for us in the US.
We will post the progress of this project here as it develops.
Ian has been refretting the 1958 Supro which he is building for his daughter Kate's seventh birthday. She has been passionately interested in guitars since she was a toddler and probably knows more about vintage guitars than any six year old on the planet. She browses the Ebay Vintage Guitar listings almost daily and she constantly calls out for us to look at the "Very tasty Flamed Maple" or "Dad I just love slotted headstocks." It is a bit disconcerting sometimes when she picks an old guitar as a Kay before we do.
The Mongrels have sanded the heavily and badly varnished body back to reveal a stunning blonde two piece Maple body and the Brazillian Rosewood fingerboard on the one piece Maple neck.
Not to be outdone Ian's youngest daughter Colleen has picked a Truetone Kay 592 as her own and so Ian has also been busy on that project.
The guitar is finished in Kays version of the Gibson Transparent Cherry finish which displays the magnificent Flame Maple veneers on the front and back, and being a redhead Colleen naturally chose this very cool thin double cutaway as her own.
Typical to this model it is split around the neck pocket and it will have to be stabilised.
So far the frets have been removed and Ian has profiled the neck to a ten inch radius and dressed it to reveal the magnificent purple streaks of the Brazillian Rosewood.
As is common with the majority of Kay guitar necks, the thickness of the Brazillian fingerboard is a generous quarter of an inch. These Brazillian Rosewood fingerboards are from old growth rainforest timber which has been under International embargo since 1968.
Ian has plenty of these beautiful Kay necks to refret and we will post photos showing them as they progress.
Musically we have been playing around old blues forms this week enjoying the intricacies of what on the surface appears to be the simplest musical form.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Not so easy

Another day for the mongrels. Setting up a website is much harder than it looks- at least for a person who has trouple with anything much more complicated than a piece of wood. Have been trying to change the template for our blog for two days now and I just keep going around in circles- what is an FTP server anyway?
Harry Mum and Me at their house in Tassy
Ian and I had spent most of the winter concentrating on building up the business, stocking up, doing repairs and completing some old Kay restorations etc. As a result we had let The Mongrels slip a bit- although we are always jamming- usually when we should be working!!

Anyway during the September school holidays I took my 11 year old son Harry to Tasmania for a couple of weeks- to visit my parents and see how the old place had changed in 21 years- It had and for the better too!!!!
It was great to see that even the smallest pubs supported live music and every band I saw seemed to be playing to a full house- get your act together Sydney.
I returned full of inspiration and we have decided to fire up the The Mongrels again so for the last couple of weeks we have been putting together some new arrangements and refining some of our old stuff.
Ian is a great arranger whereas until I met him I was pretty much a three chord wonder with a few ragtime licks up my sleeve. I do get a lot of satisfaction out of playing pieces we have spent time really working into something we can call our own.

We spent much time yesterday taking the last of the photos of our guitars- both the sale instruments as well as documenting our own. It has been a huge job- we do have rather a lot come to think of it but you can never have too many guitars can you?