Steel Trappings

More Magnatone

More Magnatone Parts II-2 & III

October 1, 2016 • John TeagleInstruments and Luthiers

The series of articles titled "More Magnatone" originally appeared in the March, 1998, and April, 1998, issues of Vintage Guitar and are reproduced here by permission from the publisher and the author. The first series of articles covers Magnatone MOTS amplifiers and the second series of articles covers Magnatone steel guitars. Article section identifications have been enhanced for clarity. © John Teagle and Vintage Guitar.

Part II: Wood Bodies

An early wood-bodied single-neck is pictured in Hawaiian Steel Guitars and the Great Hawaiian Musicians (pg. 128) by Lorene Ruymar (Centerstream). Without having actually seen or discussed this instrument, which has a completely different body, headstock, pickup/controls setup, etc., than the models inherited from Dickerson/Fator and later wood models, one can only guess it is a very early Magnatone model, ca. 1947-'48 (pre-MOTS). The black fingerboard has the fancy french curve/scroll "Magnatone" logo at the end, otherwise the instrument is entirely transitory.


Following their acquisition of Dickerson, Magna Electronics continued to offer six and eight-string deluxe models with hardwood bodies. This ca. '50 Troubadour guitar (Magnatone No. 8074) is the inspiration for most of the later deluxe Hawaiians, with a body having an asymmetrical shape, stairstep silhouette on the treble side, and a Gumby headstock. The bridge, nut, pickup/cover, plus the clear tuner buttons and knobs, are all upgrades from the Standard models and would be seen on many of the fancier instruments through ca. '55. The painted lucite fingerboard was also new, with gold dots and black fret markers. Controls were mounted from the front, with a chrome plate. Pots are dated 137811 (note different brand from Standard models).

A snapshot from the files is all that could be used for research here, but mention should be made of this guitar due to its falling between the wood-bodied model previously described and the final deluxe version G-65. Asymmetrical headstock and body, clear tuner buttons/knobs, metal nut, bridge and pickup cover are the same as above. A raised wooden handrest (similar in concept to the plastic one of the MOTS Varsity), hollow circle inlays, rear loaded controls and the recessed jack are differences. Another beauty of a case, white leatherette with blue lining and an amber lucite handle!


For the second half of the '50s, the top of the line six-string (in walnut or blond, eight-string optional) was the Troubadour G-65, with the asymmetrical body and headstock of earlier Troubadour models, save for additional removal of wood on the top edge of the bass side, not to mention the raised handrest. Features were the same as for the rest of the late - '50s line (see G-70 and Four Neck). An early walnut example, ca. '55-'56 (Serial No. 50672) was still fitted with the small Serial No. plate of the earlier Magnatones, as well as a gold Magnatone logo plate attached to front edge. Pot codes are 140502 and 140535.

Part III: Lucite

If you have an appreciation for Hawaiian guitars (why else would you be reading this?), you probably remember the first time you saw the Magnatone pictured on pg. 39 of Gruhn and Carter's Electric Guitars and Basses, A Photographic History; the stunning red lucite body, with red-buttoned tuners and red/clear/red transluscent knobs. Available for only a short time, ca.'49-'50, the Jeweltone was the top of the line steel for its fleeting reign - and one of the most incredible examples of industrial design ever brought to fruition as a musical instrument. Three color combinations could be had, "Vibrant - Ruby Red and Crystal," "Lovely - Sapphire Blue and Crystal," and "Striking - Onyx Black and Opal White."

Starting with a felt clad sheet of colored Lucite on the bottom, followed by a sheet of clear (or white on the Striking) and topped with a second sheet of color, the "body" was formed. This was topped with the structural integrity of the instrument, a sheet of polished aluminum that stretched from one end of the guitar to the other. The tailpiece was simply recessed holes for the strings and at the other end, the tuners were screwed right into the metal, which tipped back a few degrees to form the peghead. A thin sheet of colored Lucite was used as a peghead veneer with the company logo applied across the top, by use of a decal.

The fifth layer in this musical club sandwich was a sheet of clear Lucite for the fingerboard, painted white from the backside and routed for black fret markers. Brass position dots were also inlaid from the rear. "Safti-String Post" Kluson Deluxe tuners (Pat. Appl'd.) were capped with "Matching hand-cut Lucite tuning pegs" and these were complemented at the other end by transparent cylinder knobs, following the color/clear/color pattern of the body. Polished aluminum was also used for the rather large nut and bridge, as well as a bumper across the body's bottom edge, housing the output jack and offering protection when standing the guitar up.

Capping the whole look was a large, rectangular pickup cover, lined on the sides with more colored Lucite. Still dazzling today in the "beautiful, oyster-white Spanish grain leatherette" hardshell case with red "crushed plush lining" and amber Lucite handle! Available in regular (22 1/2") or long (25") scale length with six or eight strings.


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