A Star is Born
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The Maton Starline 4606 Story (or how Rome was built in a day).
Do you know the feeling you get when you finish up a high level meeting, shake hands with everybody, wander back to your office with a cup of tea in one hand, your notes in the other and then realize that you have promised to produce the holy grail of guitar making, and what’s more, deliver it by AMAC 2006 and have the country’s most revered jazz guitarist play the guitar at the launch?Well, I do...
This is exactly what happened with the 60th Anniversary limited edition Maton Starline 4606.
Once Ian (Chapple – production manager) and I recovered from the shock we set about figuring how we were going to recreate history. Ian had vague recollections of assembling the last few batches of the Golla model (Maton’s last archtop, produced in 1990) and I (Patrick Evans – manager of production & projects) had repaired a large number of vintage Maton archtops and had designed the BB1200 which was as close to an archtop as anything we had done since 1990.
The new guitar had to surpass the old guitars in several areas if it was to be successful. It could not be “just a jazz box” even though my personal passion is for traditional jazz guitars. This guitar had to cover a lot more ground. Do you know the difference between a dead frog on the road and a dead jazz guitarist on the road?
The frog was probably on his way to a gig!
In 2006 an archtop guitar is more likely to be used at ear splitting volumes with dropped tunings, crowd surfing and tattoos than in a small bar after midnight with dinner suits, soft lighting and martinis. So………….how were we going to do this?
To get around the feedback issues common to semi acoustic archtops we decided to use carved solid timber face and back plates with a central core running through the body of the guitar. To keep the weight down we decided to make the core a box section (much like the fuselage of a vintage aeroplane), which would provide stiffness and resonance. The core has six oval “ports” to reduce the weight even further without reducing strength and is made from Bunya for the same reasons. The back is made from figured Qld Maple and is carved from a 23mm thick bookmatched blank, as is the face (AAA Sitka Spruce from Alaska). The Bunya core also makes up the laminated Neck Block which houses the neck joint and the whole “sandwich” is glued together to produce a tight, resonant body. The neck joint is a unique combination of pocket and mortice and tenon which creates a rock solid union of neck and body. The sides are hand bent figured Qld Maple and the body is built in a jig (or mold) in the traditional manner.
In many ways this guitar represents a new stage in guitar making history because it is a perfect example of the latest technology working together with traditional craftsmanship to achieve a superb result. Great guitar making is achieved when the makers are so comfortable with their tools, equipment and techniques that the end result is a work of art, uncompromised by machining constraints or less than perfect hand skills. This guitar (like all Matons) is made by hand and machine, and in both cases is only touched by our most experienced luthiers.
The guitar’s dimensions are based on the old Golla series (named for George Golla) though the headstock is a direct reproduction of the Mayfair headstock from the mid 1950s while the fingerboard and neck are the same specifications as the much more recent BB1200 to allow the effortless execution of today’s playing techniques.
We wanted this guitar to be a celebration of our 60 years and to try and be as much about today as about our origins. Thus we have a classic timeless look (including a block inlay with Bill May’s signature engraved on it) with construction techniques and pickups that “are as modern as tomorrow” (to quote our esteemed Managing Director). The pickups are the same as those used on the BB1200 and make great use of Alnico 8, a magnet that, as far as we know, has not been used in pickups before and which seem to suit this type of guitar brilliantly.
Although it looks like a “jazz box” the Starline offers a myriad of tonal choices. Both pickups can be split, the combination of separate volume controls with a master volume can produce a very broad palette of sound indeed. In fact, during our first testing we tried a jazz player, two country players, a blues player and a power pop player and we could all find a sound to suit us. Subsequent tests revealed a powerful hard rock rhythm sound as well.
I am happy to report that we met the AMAC deadline and two models were sent to the launch to be played by George Golla himself. George was involved intimately with Bill May in developing the original Starline models and later his signature GG series so we knew he would be a tough critic but we passed with flying colours.
The Maton Starline 4606 (1946 – 2006) is a strictly limited release and we are proud to say that this is the very best electric guitar we have ever made!
Patrick Evans, 2006
The specifications are as follows:
• Face – AAA grade Spruce (from Alaska) with Bound “F” Holes
• Back & Sides – Figured Qld Maple
• Neck - Straight Qld Maple
• Core – Bunya
• Fingerboard – Ebony with MOP Block Inlays with Bill May’s signature on the 10th fret and the word “Anniversary” engraved on the 17th fret.
• Headstock Veneer – Rock Maple with MOP inlays & logo
• Nut - Bone
• Scale Length – 25.5”
• Number of Frets - 22
• Body Width – 400mm
• Body Depth at Edge – 80mm
• Body Depth at Bridge – 112mm
• Nut Width – 42.5mm
• Pickups – Maton JHB & JHN Alnico 8
• Bridge – Gold Tonepros Saddle on Maton Base
• Scratchplate – Tortioseshell on Black / White Backing
• Machine Heads – Grover Gold Deluxe
• Tailpiece – Gold Trapeze Style
• Strings – Elixir
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