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Had this for awhile. I have only known it as Prison Bitch guitar. Because it looks completely home/hand made. Tonight I pulled it out, tuned it up and was surprised it played quite well. Big ass baseball bat neck. So I’ve always been curious of this guitar. Whoever made this appears to have been very knowledgeable of guitar building, or at least inventive or creative within the process. I only recall it fictionally thought up that someone incarcerated with limited resources, and time on their hands must have ‘created’ this playable instrument. It only made sense as it looks so raw. But that was just a guess, or story made up. 
So I delved a bit to see if I can find something that may give me a general idea of when this may have been created. I pull the three way pup switch and find some stampings. MADE IN USA, then some PAT’S #’s... 2291516 2291517 and I think something else. Searched and what pops up? Early Fender Esquire switch. Now I’m think advent of solid body electrics. Look at the photos. Maybe something will tell us more? Look at case, label in case. Anyone familiar with these ‘custom bilt’ cases? Pretty well put together for what it is. Maybe an early experiment by Fender, or ?  Note the body contour. Slot head screws galore. Can this also be early 50’s? Share any thoughts. Thanks.

Dave
 

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Edited by Hamer Dave
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The sought-after Bulwin cases were the thermometer-shaped ones for the very earliest Esquires and Broadcasters.  REALLY spendy: 

v5hnthvwgja2vts37tqt.jpgwpcc1b5sukoxor8ijpoz.jpg

https://reverb.com/item/2423852-bulwin-fender-alligator-thermometer-case-1950-brown

No idea about that rectangular one.

I don't see anything that cries out "Fender."  The body shape is somewhat Stratty, and the shape of the butt end of the neck is generally Stratty (i.e., rounded), but not much else seems even remotely Fender.  Perhaps the builder ran out of fretwire, but a 19-fret neck? 

Would be interesting to know the construction of the pickups - bar magnet below the polepieces or are the polepieces, themselves, the magnets?  Either way, I don't recall Fender using adjustable polepieces until Seth Lover jumped ship to Fender and designed the Wide Range ('71-ish).

The machined metal pieces look a bit like the wooden adornment found on guitars by Bigsby:

9d39ff18b0ad6ff852e3b3f1732c3e63.jpg&f=101580_front_detail.jpg

 Cool guitar, either way, and as @veatch always said, "if it sounds good, it is good!"

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Just found this: https://reverb.com/item/23156783-bulwin-case-for-fender-music-master-or-duo-sonic-1958

It is a somewhat similar (okay, it's rectangular...) Bulwin case that the seller notes as being for a late-50's Fender student guitar.

lfzzzn1yuuwuzq7vk9ze.jpgmh5nzeclk9twobsx5lr2.jpg

 

 

Edited by velorush
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On 8/24/2020 at 8:12 AM, Biz Prof said:

Looks like a shop class guitar; perhaps even something whipped up in a tech school vocational lab.

I can see that. I think it was a valiant effort. 

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On 8/24/2020 at 8:20 AM, Steve Haynie said:

Someone did a good job if they were doing this for the first time. 

Yes. I’m quite impressed with the ingenuity. Sure wish I knew more about the person. They appear to know what they were doing. Like they needed to build a guitar, and made due with what was available.  

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On 8/24/2020 at 12:38 PM, velorush said:

The sought-after Bulwin cases were the thermometer-shaped ones for the very earliest Esquires and Broadcasters.  REALLY spendy: 

v5hnthvwgja2vts37tqt.jpgwpcc1b5sukoxor8ijpoz.jpg

https://reverb.com/item/2423852-bulwin-fender-alligator-thermometer-case-1950-brown

No idea about that rectangular one.

I don't see anything that cries out "Fender."  The body shape is somewhat Stratty, and the shape of the butt end of the neck is generally Stratty (i.e., rounded), but not much else seems even remotely Fender.  Perhaps the builder ran out of fretwire, but a 19-fret neck? 

Would be interesting to know the construction of the pickups - bar magnet below the polepieces or are the polepieces, themselves, the magnets?  Either way, I don't recall Fender using adjustable polepieces until Seth Lover jumped ship to Fender and designed the Wide Range ('71-ish).

The machined metal pieces look a bit like the wooden adornment found on guitars by Bigsby:

9d39ff18b0ad6ff852e3b3f1732c3e63.jpg&f=101580_front_detail.jpg

 Cool guitar, either way, and as @veatch always said, "if it sounds good, it is good!"

Appreciate the input. $4,852.18 That case sold for?!!! I’d guess mine isn’t quite as early? Yes, it is Stratty. That non-fretted end piece of fingerboard appears to be a separate piece for whatever reason, and could’ve easily accommodated 21 frets. Will look closer at that. I’ll look into it what is going on with the pups, haven’t looked under that, only the selector switch. They definitely look fabricated from scratch and a very tight fit with the guard. The metal work does resemble Bigsby a bit. Profiling is clean. I’d hope somewhere inside there’ll be something to break this mystery. I should unbolt the neck as well, maybe something will be found wtmritten in there. Great thoughts.  👍 

Edited by Hamer Dave
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On 8/24/2020 at 12:43 PM, velorush said:

Just found this: https://reverb.com/item/23156783-bulwin-case-for-fender-music-master-or-duo-sonic-1958

It is a somewhat similar (okay, it's rectangular...) Bulwin case that the seller notes as being for a late-50's Fender student guitar.

lfzzzn1yuuwuzq7vk9ze.jpgmh5nzeclk9twobsx5lr2.jpg

 

 

Yes, closest I’ve seen. Mine has a sharper edge than this. How the neck support goes only goes so far across width of case, similar to mine. Thanks. 

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As far as 'slot head' vs. 'Phillips' head screws go, Phillips screws were introduced in the early-mid 1930s, and caught on fairly quickly.  Gibson Guitars started using Phillips screws instead of slot head screws around 1937, for whatever reason Fender used slot head screws until the early-mid 1950's.  Why?  Maybe Leo got a better price on a bulk order of slot head screws, or maybe he was stubborn about using them.  All I know is that they're a PITA on guitars, especially if you're trying not to gouge a guitar with a slot-head screwdriver while working on it.  Coincidentally, Fender started expanding production around 1953 (give or take a couple of years, especially after Forrest White became Plant Manager), which would be as good of a reason as any to go to Phillips-head screws.

I gotta second what Velorush said about cases being spendy years ago, of course buying used is always much cheaper than buying new, regardless if it's the 1950's or 2020.  Here's a 1957 Fender price list; in 2020 terms you can multiply by 9 and not be far off the equivalent price, according to various inflation calculators online:

https://guitar-compare.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Fender-1957-Catalog.pdf

As far as those electronic switches go, they've been available for years, possibly before 1950.  Keep in mind that there was a big post-WWII boom in the late 1940's into the 1960's in DIY hobbies, including electronics (not just Radio Shack...think Heathkit, for example).

Edited by crunchee
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Tuners are Grovers. Bridge looks self made. See photo of neck plate removed. There is a truss rod, butt access. What you see is how I got it, case and all. Seeing if anything lends to a later build, or if all early 50’s. And we can’t say if the case wasn’t added later. Pups look home made, may need to look there. 

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