Steel Trappings

The Clinesmith Frypan: A Second Look

The Clinesmith Frypan: A Second Look

September 10, 2019 • Addison ChingInstruments and Luthiers

Since the original article about Clinesmith Instruments' Frypan steel guitars, several steel guitarist owners have weighed in about the instrument.

Hideki Hattori from Tokyo, Japan, is one of the select few that can claim ownership of a Clinesmith frypan steel guitar. A seasoned steel player with several steel guitars in his collection, Hideki says, "I have a prewar 6-string Rick Frypan. But I prefer the Clinesmith to my Rick." If you were one of the guests at the 2018 Hawai‘i Island Steel Guitar Festival, you may have seen Hideki play his Rickenbacher frypan on the festival's Open Stage program.

Hideki goes on to say that his preference is not because the Clinesmith has 8 strings, but because of its fabulous tone. "To my ears, Clinesmith has more complex and rich overtones, fat and sweet sounding."

Another Clinesmith owner, Jim Newberry of Seattle, Washington, adds, "The bell-like tone is bright and very clear and the sustain is like nothing I've ever experienced. Just amazing. Unplugged playing is a joy as well."

"The pickup is superb of course, but I feel the difference comes from its solid and longscale neck. My Rick's neck is hollow and short," says Hideki. "A solid and long neck makes sweet and long sustained smooth notes, I feel. The long scale makes playing easier and sounds better when playing higher positions beyond 14th fret."

Jim was one of the first recipients of Todd Clinesmith's new frypan. "I received my Clinesmith A25 8-string, long scale frypan on August 9, 2018.

Jim Newberry's Frypan

"I believe it was the first production unit shipped (S/N A25002). I brought it to the HSGA Fort Collins event a couple of weeks later where many players were able to see and play it," says Jim. "Mine is set up with concentric Volume and Tone controls on the side opposite the player. The Tone is the topmost knob and the Volume is the lower ring. The look is very reminiscent of the early 1-knob frypans."

Regarding his frypan controls, Hideki says, "I chose one stacked volume and tone knob. It has classy and vintage-looking and I like it. But it is difficult to play volume swells. I may choose separate knob when I order a second guitar."

Both Hideki and Jim mentioned some visual impairment because of the Clinesmith frypan's glossy finish. "I have had minor visual issues with stage lights due to the very shiny finish (and lousy stage lights!)" says Jim. Hideki adds, "The only complaint is its too glossy fretboard. It is a beautiful instrument overall but overhead light is reflected and dazzling at some angle while playing."

Hideki offered these final comments: "I can not say Clinesmith is better than vintage Rickenbacher. But I honestly say to someone who is looking for sweet Frypan tone, Clinesmith is the choice now. It is very difficult and very expensive to find good Rick Frypan. We are lucky we can get nice alternative now."

Jim gave these closing remarks: "I'm more of a hobbyist than a pro player and play Hawaiian and Early Country/Honky Tonk styles. The sound and playability of the frypan fit the Hawaiian style perfectly. For those who work frequently with volume effects ('violining'), I would probably suggest reversing the Volume and Tone knob setup such that the Volume was on top of the stack since it might be more accessible that way."

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