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Thread: NGD - Even more vintage Australian guitar action!

  1. #1
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    Default NGD - Even more vintage Australian guitar action!

    So the other day (the same day I did this as it happens) I spied another old Maton that I thought I'd take a punt on. After a bit of messing about with delivery, I brought this home yesterday..

    Say hi to a 1964 Maton DC545!


    1964 Maton D.C. 545 by Ch0jiN, on Flickr


    1964 Maton D.C. 545 by Ch0jiN, on Flickr

    She's not been lying under a bed for 50 years this one. There's more exposed wood than paint on the sides, and the top and back have substantial wear and tear. You can't see it in this shot because of my lighting and editing, but the original nitro finish is fairly heavily crazed and dull. It looks like it might have once had a pretty nice looking flame when it was all new and shiny


    1964 Maton D.C. 545 by Ch0jiN, on Flickr


    [from the original brochure] "New "big sound" twin adjustable pickups by Maton. Complete distortion-free sound with power plus."

    Distortion Free? Muhuhahahahaha!

    [from the original brochure] "Exclusive new Bass Expander Control and smooth, wide range volume."

    It has original pots, which are in pretty urgent need of replacement, but the "bass expander control" does have an interesting effect unlike a "typical" tone control, so I'm keen to see how things are wired up.

    The control up the top is actually supposed to be a little lever thing (I have an eye on the correct replacement) as that's the pu selector. It's also missing the pick guard which I'm going to have to get custom made if I decide to replace it.

    You can see the repair in the F hole where a large chuck was broken out. it's also cracked a little through that bare wood section below.


    1964 Maton D.C. 545 by Ch0jiN, on Flickr

    This is what a REAL relic neck looks like


    Well Worn by Ch0jiN, on Flickr


    Check out these tuners. From what I can tell, these were only used on the very first few 545's before they changed to plain oval buttons with the change in body shape. This was the 13th of it's type built in 1964 from what I can tell. I'm going to check in with Maton and see if they can verify it. Look at that nitro. Pretty easy to see why guitar makers stopped using it. Not exactly your "durable" finish


    Groovy Tuners by Ch0jiN, on Flickr

    Likely the original nut. It's not in tremendous shape... It's had a great fret job in it's recent history though, with only mildly worn stainless frets with silky smooth ends.


    Old Nuts by Ch0jiN, on Flickr

    I really need to preserve this headstock artwork. That appears to be a hand painted logo and graphic, perilously close to chipping away forever. I'll be talking to some resto guys about sorting that out. I'm thinking a few coats of satin clear over it to lock all the old paint down, but I'll see what happens.


    1964 Maton D.C. 545 by Ch0jiN, on Flickr

    Now in case your wondering why I think this guitar is a bit exciting, even in it's neglected state (there's even other dodgy stuff I have told you about yet, diners ready so I'm wrapping it up early) well I can sum it up easily.

    I've seen exactly 3 of these guitars ever on the net (so far anyway). This one, a really nice green one, and the one that's in the Maton Museum here http://maton.com.au/ on their home page. Look at the guitars in the glass cabinets on the right, it's the green one second from the right.

    You might also spy one in the film clip to "Friday on my mind" by the Easybeats

    It's basically the Australian version of a 335

    Anyway, time to eat. I'll be posting more about this one soon I can guarantee it!

  2. #2
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    Wow! Those current model Maton guitars look gorgeous! I imagine they're hard to come by outside of Oz? Your new project looks like a good chunk of work, but I'll be interested to see how she looks restored.

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    Yes, the more recent models do look great! That's why I also own this pair


    The Matons by Ch0jiN, on Flickr

    Yeah you are right, there's a lot of work to be done if it's going to be pretty again. In fact, it's in worse condition than I expected from the eBay photo's. It does play well though (apart from some buzz resulting from the nut being well worn out), but I guess that's part of the gamble buying online.

    The dilemma I'm wrestling with now is the "restoration vs relic" one.

    If this guitar is as rare as I think, it's probably worth a bit as-is. People tell me you can slice the value of a vintage guitar in half if you refinish it, even if (as would be the case here) the new finish makes the guitar look amazing. Then there's the current trend for relicing new guitars to look like they have been played for 40 years. This one has that look in spades!

    There's no rush though, and I keep swinging between a full resto and keeping it looking all punk rock.

    Looking at the wood in that first and third shot, I'm tempted to talk to a restorer about reproducing the old faded burst look (three colour faded to two like it is now) but maybe a light honey stain to really bring out the flame. Could look really sexy! (plus sanding and painting would likely help remove the built up cigarette smell. I know the whole "Smokey Jazz Bar" mojo looks nice in pictures and sounds nice in theory, but even as an ex smoker, this guitar smells like it it lived in the smoking lounge at an international airport. Yuk!)

    Anyway, more later including "was this a neck reset" and "Fiberglass? Really?"

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    I would find out about the value, and if wouldn't destroy the value, I'd just slap a coat of clear polyurethane on it. And of course the electronics. I think it looks great as is.

  5. #5
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    Whoa! If those guitars sound half as good as they look...! Gorgeous!

    Most 'antiques' are like that - touch the original finish and you've trashed the value (furniture, at least). If it turns out not to be particularly valuable to a collector, I'd do a nice restore/refinish myself.

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    Yeah, they are pretty (and yes, they are both amazing to play!)

    So I've been playing it for a few days now and it's definitely growing on me. The neck is amazing for a 50 year old design. Best I can describe it is; wider across, but pretty similar to, a Hell ZeroDot. It's got a low action, but with the nut completely worn, there's a few rattles here and there. A new unbleached bone nut will fix that right up though. I don't care about vintage if it isn't awesome to play. The tuning stability doesn't seem great, but with 50 year old tuners, a worn out nut, a wooden bridge, and unknown strings that are certainly too light for my tastes, the instability could be a result of any of those factors.

    It's -far- louder acoustically than my BB1200 semi hollow, but it is quite a lot bigger, and a lot more hollow, so that's to be expected. Plugged in, it's really got some potential. It's got the original pots as I mentioned, so they are pretty flakey, and I think the pick-up heights need a play as there's a noticeable volume difference between the two.

    That said, the way it is now works pretty well.

    From what I assume is the neck pick-up (I don't know how it's wired till I get under the hood) you get an enormous fat tone, with a woody, open, ripple through it. Push it, and it gets this massive, saggy, fuzzy, bottom. The bridge? pick-up presents itself with less output and a much thinner tone. The thing is though, with the body accentuating the low end, this pick-up cuts through pedal board distortion beautifully. Maton advertised these pick-ups as completely "distortion free" and "power plus". Maybe in 1964 they were powerful, but they have appreciably lower output than anything else I own. Maybe that's how they made them "distortion free".

    The thing is though, the output seems to tickle my fuzzface and big muff just right. I put my SHO after my fuzzface for a little post fuzz boost and sparkle, and my tube amps just eat it up. The low output, thinner, pick-up works wonders with my big muff too.

    Like any guitar of this design, I think feedback will be an enormous problem at high SPL, but at home in front of my amps, that early "pre-feedback" fattening of the sound is a lot of fun to play with. Especially with my El Capistan engaged as well.

    So there you go, a bit of an insight into what it plays like

  7. #7
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    Very cool guitar id fix the lil bits to make it play good and leave the finish as is with maybe some clear satin over the finish minus the neck .I would just oil the back but thats just my opinion! Nice though my Aussie brother!

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    Cool! Mojo to the max dripping off of that one! I remember your cool newer models too. They look like good stuff!
    Steve Thompson
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    Thanks guys! Well I have some exciting news by way of update.

    So on Friday I shot the manufacturer a nice email asking for some info on the guitar, and I enclosed a couple of pics and the SN#. You know, just to the generic "Sales@" kinda email address. I wasn't really expecting much.

    Today I have an email from the Managing Director asking me to call him to talk about the guitar! It's a little late now to call, but oh man am I excited to make that call in the morning! The MD of my favourite guitar company, the largest and most well know in the country, wants to talk guitars with me!

    I'll let ya know how that goes tomorrow!

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    Mate I can't wait to hear what happened with the MD of Maton, that is one cool guitar you found.
    I was keen on a Maton Mastersound DLX lefty with Seymour Duncans that was on ebay but the seller ended the auction early!!

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    So I had a good old chat yesterday. Neville is the son in law of Bill May (the founder and the "May" in May Tone, or Maton). He confirmed that, back in the day, Bill would just make a change to a models design as he saw fit, and whilst Neville couldn't say exactly how many of the "Crab Claw" DC545's were actually made before they changed to a more "335-esque" shape, he mentioned that it was less than 100 and that's a conservative estimate. He actually has one in his personal collection. Based on the serial, mine would have been the 13th DC 545 ever made in 1964. Lucky 13

    We talked about my paltry Maton collection (I have four of them) and he is putting me in touch with some of his collector contacts, as one guy in particular (who has 100 or so vintage Matons) is apparently even more knowledgeable on the old stuff, and could be an option to move mine, should the responsibility of looking after this classic become overwhelming.

    One thing was really apparent during the conversation. In my email to Maton I asked them if their repair/custom shop guys would be interested in doing a full resto on it. The answer is a resounding "NO". Several times during the conversation Neville mentioned that I should not touch/alter anything on the guitar. He mentioned what I pretty much knew anyway, that a vintage guitar is always worth more in original condition. I got a sense that at least part of the reason for getting in touch was to gently suggest I don't mess with it. Fair enough too. I mentioned the apparent re-fret and poor state of the original nut, and he mentioned that given the wear on the back of the neck (seems he checked out my pics too) it has probably had a few re-frets back in the days before stainless, and that's expected on a vintage instrument that's actually played. Same goes for the nut. Whilst an original nut would be appreciated by a collector, the attractiveness decreases if it messes with the playability (as it does on mine), so I'm OK to get that replaced.

    I also mentioned that I had an early 60's Alver (Maton student brand, I'm restoring it right now) and he had a bit of a chuckle mentioning that the Alver was significantly less rare. They produced thousands of them in the 60's and 70's, often building 30 of them at the same time. Laminate sides back and top, mahogany necks. A cool resto project (I think mine is going to look pretty hot when I'm done) but not really a museum piece collectible like the 545.

    It's a shame I'm in Sydney though, I really got a sense that I could have arranged to go in and have a chat and a look around and talk more about old guitars. Next time I'm in Melbourne I'll definitely be going out to Maton for a poke around.

    TGV. That's a bummer man. I have a right handed MS2000DLX SD (the black one in the pic above) they are discontinued, and Maton have changed the headstock graphics, so they might be collectible in another 20 years, but a lefty? they have to be pretty rare already. Awesome guitars!

    So there you go! Just another reason to support local manufacturers, especially when they have been at it since 1946, and still make everything right here in Australia!

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    Hey Ch0jin here is a couple of photos of the lefty Maton that I was chasing on ebay, though you might get a kick out of seeing a lefty version of your guitar...... Wish I had it in my hands, rare as rockin' horse poo I reckon
    It could well be worth your while to take a trip to Melbourne & see the Maton crew with that DC545 of yours! Never know what could come of it.


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    Awesome! Its the mirror image of mine! My case has far sexier lining though (it's that dark purple colour) ;P

    I can see why you'd be bummed to miss out on that one!

    I can see one thing definitely coming from a trip to the factory. Serious GAS

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    So against my better judgement, and mostly because I have a new pocket camera that I wanted to try out, here's a minute or so of what the 545 sounds like as I received it. I haven't haven't even changed strings yet. Apologies in advance for the crap playing and wearing a hat indoors

    I'm using the neck pickup the entire time and have the "Bass Enhancer" (which is a reverse tone control really) at around 80%. You can really hear the big open woody sound. Well I reckon you can anyway. I had originally considered trying a TOM bridge, but the wooden one, whilst ensuring horrible intonation at present, does seem to impart plenty of warmth to the tone which has won me over. That said, I won't promise the one that's on there is staying. It looks to be built for a wound G, so unless I beef up to 13's (which is unlikely) the intonation is never going to be right.

    There was lots more of this noodling, but a 1GB memory card doesn't go far when recording in 1080P stereo.......... (which is not what I uploaded BTW)



    Oh, I'm using my home-made JTM 45 style amp here too and playing with my fingers so that's warming things up a little too

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    I bet that axe has the sweet spot..............

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    The old warhorse sure sounds sweet

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    Thanks guys! Yeah totally my fav at the moment

    But I have updates!

    So if you were hoping I'd take the advice to not mess with it at all, then you better stop reading......

    So whilst the neck shape is totally satisfy to play, what's left of the finish made it feel like playing a blunt cheese-grater. Complete with little chips of nitro falling off in my hand. I suppose I could have tried to remedy this in some less destructive fashion, but I do love the (call me a hippy, but) organic feel of a near naked neck, and the end result is going to feel so incredibly nice.

    Tada! Blatant Guitar Nudity!


    nude neck by Ch0jiN, on Flickr

    I'm not done yet as it needs another coat before I can buff it, but you get the idea

    So as you can see from the earlier pics a lot of the finish on the back of the neck was gone. All it took to remove the rest, was dragging a sharp knife across it to flake it off on the bench. I left the base of the headstock area relatively untouched, only lightly sanding the edges of the finish to smooth the transition. Same deal where the neck joins the body. I didn't want to mess with it past what was required to make it play well.

    So finish removed, I gave it a very light sand, the bare sections were very smooth already from years of playing, but I needed the wood to suck up some juicy Tung goodness. As you can see, I left all her bruises in tact. I was going to fill the dings, but then decided this wan't cosmetic surgery, and a couple of little dents in the back of a 50 year old neck is part of the appeal.

    I went with what Mudcat mentioned earlier to seal up the naked wood, and rubbed in a coat of fine buffing oil (tung oil plus carnuba wax and beeswax) Based on how it feels now (very good) I'll give it a rub down with steel wool and one more coat followed by a buff and it'll be insanely smooth, organic, and a bit more stable from a moisture point of view. If it ends up feeling horrible, no bother, it comes off with turpentine.

    Here's a shot showing how the oil really sexes up the wood. So it's not a completely fair comparison as the top of the neck was darker to start with, having been exposed for years, but compared to the the fresh sanded bottom, you can see how it brings out the grain and keeps the vintage yellowed look.


    nude neck II by Ch0jiN, on Flickr

    The best thing about this oil so far is that it seems impossible to mess up. I'm applying it with a scouring pad, you can just wipe off excess after 10 minutes, it's reversible, and it feels like BUTTAH when its dry. Anyway, time will tell and we'll see how it holds up after playing it a while. The next job will be trying out some replacement tuners. These are pretty, rare, and vintage correct. They are also sloppy, tricky to adjust, and fragile feeling. I'm not sure how much mojo comes from being out of tune, but I can always put the originals back in if I need to.

    So anyway, gasp in horror at the vintage guitar butcher or dig on the serious playability vibe, I just hope you enjoy the story

  18. #18
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    Don't think that is a butcher job at all, what has to be done has to be done ya can't play the the guitar when you have great old chunks of crap flying off the neck & it seems to me you brought the old warhorse to play. Nice one!

  19. #19
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    I agree wholeheartedly!!!! Keep old tuners close by and get some good tuners to replace, that is essential. Just tung oil the neck time to time and enjoy!!!

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