Standel Custom Bass - Bring on the CHEEZE !!!

  • Posted by Krishna
  • at 10/17/2008 05:53:00 PM -
I pulled this one right off of the "Wall of Shame" - my 1967 or so, Standel Custom Bass (that is the actual model name - creative ?). This bass is a good illustration of the obsessive nature of guitar collecting - I stumbled across one of these while out in LA for a friends wedding in early 2001 - but having just spent a ton of money on Christmas and travel, etc, I decided not to buy it, even though it was pretty cheap at $295 (see the price tag in the pic!). A month or so later, I did call back the shop - but it had been sold in the meantime - oh well!

The bass had caught my attention because I'd never seen anything like it before - I knew Standel made guitars, but the ones I'd seen had been made in NJ and actually were pretty nice instruments. And of course I knew of Standel amps. This weirdo bass not only had a unique headstock, and about the skinniest bass neck I'd ever seen - but it had FAKE stick on F-holes on a PLASTIC body !! Weird in a Supro sorta way.

I plugged it in and of course it was nearly unplayable with the skinny neck and sorta crappy action, but I was fascinated by its fine vintage cheesiness.

Flash forward several years - and I periodically do searches for some of the more obscure guitars from the 60s on Ebay - such as Murphs, Wurlitzers, Guyatone, Barths - and Standels. And one day - there's the same type of bass - in fact looks identical to the one I had seen, except someone has cleverly written their name in pearl nail polish across the back of the bass ... and it's in the Bay area - actually being sold by Jay Rosen (who sells some AMAZING gear !!). I do win the auction - and I think its for around $300 with shipping - so about the same as the bass I saw in LA several years earlier.

When I get the bass in the mail, and compare it to the pictures I'd snapped years earlier - I realize this IS apparently the exact same bass - it's also missing the pickguard and it also has some damage in the same spot to the f-hole decal !!

The nail polish on the back must have been added in the intervening years, but a little nail polish remover and a wipe down with naptha followed by some scratch-X polish removed the previous owner's name from the back cleanly.

Since my initial sighting - I had seen other Standels with similar headstocks, but they were solid body guitars - no other basses. A few pics taken from Ebay auctions over the years - these look like pretty nice guitars!

I did find an article by all-around nice guy guitar geek and virtuous Deke Dickerson from late 2006 that helped narrow down the date for this bass:
"Manufactured from ’66 to ’67, the Custom was made in Bakersfield, California, but had no connection to the Mosrite company. Although hollowbody versions were available" ... and .. "Sadly, Standel closed its Bakersfield factory in 1967, with a bankruptcy sale that would keep smaller Bakersfield luthiers such as Hallmark, Gruggett, Epcor, and Buck-A-Roo knee deep in parts for years to come."

In addition - I found a page with a guitar version of this instrument, though in black, not sunburst - sounds very similar in construction to my bass

So details on my bass:
- plastic/fiberglass body, with paper decal F-holes
- bolt on maple neck, rosewood board, with 29 3/4 inch scale length and zero fret
- 1 low impedance pickup
- Mosrite style truss rod inserted into base of neck but with Fender style adjustment nut
- Kluson tuners as also used on Gibson EB series and Guild Starfire basses

I'm not sure how the finish was done on this instrument - it appears to have ZERO fading, making me suspect that its actually molded into the plastic - much as was done with Supros. Unlike Supros, there is no visible seam (Supro bodies were built in two pieces, with a rubbery gasket between the front and back pieces) - making it appear that these bodies may actually be vacuum-formed ?? It couldn't have been easy to set up manufacturing for these - anyone out there have any more info??

The close-up below shows the f-hole decal - this one has some damage.

Here is a closeup of the headstock - showing the logo and model name - the neck width at the nut is only 1 and 3/8ths of an inch at the nut and even more amazingly, only 1 7/8ths of an inch at the last fret !! Skinny skinny.

Here's the pickup - which looks suspiciously like a 1960s Kay or Alamo pickup, but with a plastic casing instead of metal. But apparently, there is a low-impedance, no-polepiece pickup inside the casing. Perhaps someday I will open it up and let you know what I find inside.

Finally - the floating bridge assembly - looking a little Mosrite with its roller-saddles. Notice that it is lowered MORE than all the way - in order to make this bass more playable, I should either shim the neck or else make a replacement bridge base from rosewood thats about half the height. Someday .. someday ...

If you have any more info on this bass - or have seen another - or other guitar versions, please let me know - either by posting a comment or emailing me!!

Update - March 1, 2010
Here's another example of a Standel Custom Bass, but this time in a very cool Sonic Blue finish.  This instrument is owned by Steve Hartman of LA, though it apparently originated from a music store in Detroit, Michigan !

Note that this instrument apparently has the original pickguard my bass is missing - I may have to go down to the workshop and fabricate one someday !!

Here is the story of this instrument in Steve's words:

"Around 1968 in Los Angeles I bought the bass for $25 from a teen  bandmate 
(Steve Deutsch), as I was learning to play bass (I was already playing  drums).
I liked the bass because of its easy to play thin neck (and being  plastic and
hollow made it very light, too).

I kept the bass although I did not play it much. Then in the early 90's I
lent it to my daughters friend who was learning to play bass. She had it a few
years and then I got it back. Interesting way of doing serial numbers: 5A 1(sideways) 07

This is a much traveled bass, considering it was (apparently) manufactured
in Bakersfield, and then shipped to Detroit, and then back to Los Angeles,
where  it has been since. It doesn't have a case.

You can see by the other photos that the bass exhibits metal corrosion
(minor, I think); lots of dings in the blue plastic that reveals a black
underneath. The wood parts are chipped and worn, but what a great bass!"

And another update - a Standel plastic guitar - in a different shade of blue !!

Note the tremelo tailpiece - and pickup selectors built into the guard.

Another Example of a Standel Custom bass in light blue

This instrument was spotted at Front Porch Music in Bakersfield, CA - was not for sale, just on display.  Appears to be identical to Steve's bass documented above.


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1 comment:

  1. OK. Here's my blue fiberglass Standel