John Hall Responds to Questions about
Rickenbacker International Corportion

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John Hall's Responses Posted on alt.guitar.rickenbacker:

This page is comprised of a number of John Hall's responses to questions regarding Rickenbacker International Corporation. It is important to appreciate that some of his responses are based on circumstances at the time of the question. For this reason, the interested reader is advised to check with RIC directly.

John Hall's Responses: Dec. 31, 1997 to Nov. 9, 1999

Subject: Fretboard Material

Date: 1999/11/09

Question: I consider that Padouk is used for the fretboards. My friend says Pau Ferro. The Rickenbacker literature says Rosewood.

Response: Padouk (if that's how you spell it!) is far too oily and open grained for our purposes. Pau Ferro, aka Ironwood, is much too heavy. We use both African Rosewood and Bubinga, which are very similar close relatives. Both are also classified as Hong Kong Rosewood sometimes, which is closer to the mark, since it is grown in Asia rather than Africa.

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Subject: Fireglo Finish

Date: 1999/10/16

Question: I saw a Rickenbacker bass up close and personal in which the black edges were actually a very dark chocolate brown. It does not appear to be a refinish.

Answer: This is obviously one of those few instruments made in the "B" era which had the yellow shading in the middle. This unattractive aging effect is very much as I suggested it might be in an earlier message when someone insisted here that vintage reissues would have to have a yellow coat "to be authentic". Give this guitar another ten years (or less with plenty of sun) and the perimeter will be virtually black, as the yellow increases and visually mixes with the red. Some folks might actually like this color but it won't look vintage Fireglo by any stretch of the imagination.

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Subject: Fireglo Finish

Date: 1999/09/29

Comment: Rickenbacker may tell you that nothing has changed, but from my observation it has. For one thing, the composition of the clear coat is not the same, therefore you will see yellowing lacquer clear coast on the older guitars which you don't see on a newer guitars. Maybe the newer clearcoats will yellow in 30 years, but who knows for sure. Maybe the original guitars were as RED as the new ones.

Answer: Contrary to what you say, the clear coat has varied very little. Indeed, there have been UV filtering additives to stop yellowing, but mostly a reduction of the VOC's, but the chemistry and family of finish has not changed. Perhaps you're referring to the urban legend about nitrocellulose? Our use of nitrocellulose was stopped in the late 1950's, replaced by the current conversion varnish system. Originally it was based on the Fuller system, later the Sherwin-Williams base formulation. More recently, Lawrence-McFadden has supplied raw material. (We blend the base material with other components to bring it up to our specs.) Some nitro was used in sealer coats for part of one year in the early 80's, mainly as part of a test, but other than that has NOT been used for a very long time.

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Subject: Fireglo Finish

Date: 1999/09/28

Question: I have a quick question. Did RIC change the red color of the Fireglo finish to a darker shade?

Answer: The color itself hasn't shifted in decades but there is certainly variation in the darkness and pattern between spray booth operators. However, it sound like you're comparing images you've seen on the web and these vary like crazy, due to the way the files are digitally captured. It really is a difficult color to photograph well and also certain file formats such as PNG and JPEG can really alter the appearance. The digital side of color matching really drives us up the wall sometimes!

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Subject: Fireglo Finish

Date: 1999/09/28

Comment: I recently compared the color of a newer 360/12v64 with a 1965 360 O.S. he has for sale. In person, the color differences vary greatly from the vintage instruments. This would seem to be a greater change than would be expected simply on the basis of different spray booth operators. Older Rick's seem to have a more "sunburst" color change to the Fireglo. The only thing I can guess would account for it (if the coloring hasn't actually changed) is that yellowing of the finish over time has caused the natural areas to take on a more orangish color instead of the clearer tan's of the new ones.

Answer: Indeed, 30 years of finish aging just MIGHT have some effect. The older clear coats tended to be more reactive to U.V. yellowing, but all newer paint materials are much less susceptible to this patina effect. What will be interesting is to see these new guitar 30 years from now and also to see how much darker what will be sixty year old guitars will appear. My guess is that the old guitar will almost be black around the edges, with a deep yellow in the middle. The new guitars probably only be slightly darker than they are now, and most of that may be due to the wood itself changing color.

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Subject: Harrison's 425 Rickenbacker Finish

Date: 1999/10/02

Comment: A reliable source recently told me that George Harrison's 425 RIC allegedly left the factory with a fireglo finish and was refinished black at George's request. My source also claims that the original fireglo finish can be seen where the chip marks are. True or false?

Answer: George's sister Louise has said this. She also said that the dealer in the Midwest which sold this guitar refinished the guitar overnight per George's request, which would attest to the allegedly poor current finish.

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Subject: Origin of Triangle Inlays

Date: 1999/09/26

Question: I am wondering if anyone knows the origin of the inlayed triangle (shark's tooth) fret markers that have been one of the salient features of the Rickenbacker. It would seem that the design began in 1961 0r so with some of the deluxe models. Who came up with this design?

Answer:This is an old German design, favored by many of the Mittenwald School luthiers, such as Roger Rossmiesl. Actually, the original inlay was a square, halved diagnally, one side white, the other black. The black tended to visually blend into the fingerboard, so at some point only the white section was retained. You can see this first used on our acoustics guitar of 1953 and 1954 as individually hand-made by Roger.

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Subject: Rickenbacker's Older Finish

Date: 1999/09/14

Question: I wonder what Rickenbacker used before they switched to conversion varnish?

Answer: Fuller-Plast, a catalyzed varnish. Beautiful to work with, great appearance, although it did yellow through UV exposure. For the record, conversion varnish is currently used for only some of the coats. The durability of our finish is only achieved by creating 11 layers of compatible material, each type of which contributes something to the overall finish. And finally, even I'll agree that probably some of the finishes in the 1950's were nitrocellulose. Some of the guitars here in my office from that period do exhibit aging characteristic of nitro, although I don't see the water-absorption milkiness which usually is visible. Richard Burke is now the only one in the factory that worked here in that era, wasn't involved in the finish back then and just doesn't remember.

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Subject: RIC Distribution Rights

Date: 1999/09/10

Comment: To become a Rickenbacker distributor you have to purchase $4000 at first, and be in business for three yrs or more, and also you have to establish yourself with another music manufacturers.

Answer: That's to be a dealer. It's a bit different to be the exclusive distributor for a whole country. You could be missing a couple of zeros there depending on the country. . . Each country being different, the amounts are negotiated using a computer model which has statistical data regarding the population, GDP, and a variety of other factors which would indicate the "musicality" of the country. We then watch to see if the goals are being met, typically over a 3 year period, and keep renewing the franchise . . . or discontinue it. At this time we're not soliciting any new international business as we're still unable to supply all of our current customers in what we consider a reasonable time period. However, the strongest growth area we see with current customers is in South America.

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Subject: Rickenbacker "R" Tailpiece

Date: 1999/09/10

Comment: My tailpiece is chrome plated POTMETAL! "Jeff" at Rickenbacker customer service says tailpieces are made "just as they always were". Too bad, as they need to be improved. Cost me $65 + from RIC!

Answer: Now that's an alloy I'm not familiar with. But what these really are is zinc, the metal most almost exclusively for diecasting. It's that same as used on all Schaller keys and bridges, for instance. What it is not is powdered metal, which is probably what you're familiar with as a cheap metal, and it about the only other way to produce a part like this.

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Subject: Rickenbacker Logo

Date: 1999/09/02

Comment: I read where Mrs. FC Hall designed the Rickenbacker logo.

Answer: My mom did design the logo, coming up with the shape as a variation from the cats-eye soundhole. She made the first one by cutting up some paper with scissors. But she didn't do the lettering . . . nobody seems to know who did. Anyway, it's a hand lettered style, not any particular font that I've ever seen. It'd be difficult to read in any case, considering the full underline.

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Subject: Pickguard Question

Date: 1999/08/26

Question: The pickguard on my new 370 appears to be made of PVC. My Luthier said if it's PVC, the lacquer may destroy the guard. He's very reluctant to do my pickguard.

Answer: A genuine RIC pickguard is acrylic, just like the back-painted units. PVC would eat the finish up in a flash!

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Subject: Serial number question

Date: 1998/12/03

Question: The serial number for my 360/12 is on the jackplate. What happens if for some reason that particular part needs to be replaced? New serial number? Is the serial number found anywhere else on the instrument?

Answer: On older guitars, the serial number is strictly limited to the plate. (We will make a new plate with the appropriate serial number only if the existing plate or its remains are returned to us.) Replacement plates without benefit of reference to the old plate carry a special serial number sequence, which is registered in our database, which identifies it as a replacement plate. Newer guitars also have both a sticker in the control cavity with the serial number, as well as a radio tag imbedded in the neck containing serial number, production sequence numbers, and model data. (It takes special gear, obviously, to read that radio tag.)

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Subject: Post-1996 serial numbers

Date: 1998/10/26

Question: I was just wondering about the serial code after 1996. Does 1997 just start with "x0" again? If so, how come Rickenbacker don't take into consideration that collectors in 20-30 years may appreciate a differentiation between the decades?And looking back 20-30 years, we all know that 10 years make a huge difference regarding collectability of an instrument.

Answer: There are no duplicates our our serial numbers (although the I's, and O's can sometimes be mistaken for "one" or "zero"). The current numbering system is still good for, what, 13 or 14 years, depending whether we choose to use the O or not. 1997 starts with "M0", by the way. But, as it happens, at the moment, I'm toying with a new serial number scheme, all numbers, which is prefaced with the two digit year, such as 9843123. The reason for this is the industry association and dealer mandate for bar coding, and there are some technical advantages to us for an all numeric serial number. The upshot of this would be the fact that anyone should be able to discern the model year of a guitar without referring to a table or website.

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Subject: Can my serial number be correct?

Date: 1998/11/11

Question: I just purchased a Rick 360-FG from A Guitar Center in California. Taking a look at the FAQ I saw that there was a serial number decoder on the web. Well, I punch in my serial number (WI5084) and I see that the unit was manufactured in....September of 1983? Is this correct?

Answer: Try W15084 (instead of WI5084), and I think you'll see that your guitar was made in October of this year. The I's and O's will get you every time. But not for long . . . all guitars coming down the line now have all numeric serial numbers.

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Subject: Famous Rickenbacker finish

Date: 1998/09/30

Question: John Hall, if you're following this thread,>would you care to comment about some of the finish materials have been over the years. Did you use nitro lacquer back in the '60s? I always heard that the '60s finishes were not nitro, but something closer to a poly/marine/spar varnish and very picky to work with.

Answer: Everyone refers to "the finish", as if it is only one material; it consists of a number of sealer coats, followed by color coats, and then clear coats. Each material is different and various fourmulations have been used through the years. Nitrocellulose has never been used as a clear coat here, only for some color coats. Nitro shoots well but is a poor final finish coat as it will absorb moisture and turn milky, among other things. In the 60's, our material of choice was a catalyzed synthetic resin, more in the varnish family than anything else. It is no longer available since it had the same regulatory problem as nitrocellose: a very high VOC (solvent) level which is now banned in most areas.

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Subject: Rickenbacker Registrations

Date: 1998/07/28

Question: Why is this warranty registration limited to North American residents? Although you accept registration from "anyone, no matter the age of the guitar", this does not include first, orginal owners of Rick's in other continents.

Answer: Every country has its own regulations regarding warranties. Each of our distributors has their own policy and administers it separately from us. Some maintain registries, while others rely on an ID card system. There's no way we could keep up with all of these jurisdictions. Our own company warranty registration database, on the other hand, IS a company function and has several hundred thousand entries in it currently. While we accept registration from anyone, no matter the age of the guitar, it does primarily document only the first, original owner of a new Rickenbacker guitar in North America. (Owners of non-warranty instruments can benefit from registration only from the standpoint of identification in case of theft.) We don't sell the names from our database, publish it in any form, nor do we currently use the information in any specific marketing function other than anonymous statistical form. We do use the data to centralize warranty and service administration.

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Subject: Lefty discrimination

Date: 1998/06/11

Comment: The major guitar companys are phasing out left handed models, this is discrimination, lefties unite, write post and complain that you want left handed guitars.

Answer: They're still certainly part of our standard production! We even do left-handed, right hand stringing. About 1% of our production is in lefties, and perhaps 10% of that with the right hand strung option. The only thing we won't do is make a left-handed -R- tailpiece. Last time we checked, the tooling was $27,000. It would take an awful lot of lefties to make that one break even!

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Subject: One-of-a-kind-350

Date: 1998/03/05

Question: I have a custom made Rickenbacker 350. It has a purple burst, an F sound hole, checked binding on the front and the headstock, a bound neck, vintage pick-ups, vintage tuners, and a "R" tailpiece. The serial no. is C6 8634. Does anybody have any info on this incredible guitar?

Answer: This guitar was custom-made for a friend of mine, Mark Hudson, who you might remember from the TV show with his brothers, and more recently a record producer for Aerosmith and Chastity Bono. I've made several "purple-burst" guitars for him, including a 4005 bass. This color was matched to a scarf of his mom's. Anyway, I'm really surprised that he let this unique guitar go.

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Subject: White Rickenbackers

Date: 1998/02/08

Question: I've noticed that with age, most White Ric's turn yellow. Are there any secrets to keeping a white Ric white as it ages?

Answer: The modern clear coats (which is where the yellow cast actually appears) are very resistant to yellowing these days. However, it is still wise to avoid using any extra foam padding other than what's built into our cases as the deterioration of many foams emits sulphur, which is the main culprit. (That's why old foam looks yellow.) New finishes are fairly resistant to U.V. radiation in sunlight and flourescent lighting but personally I would keep my guitar out of direct sun for extended periods of time, just to be sure.

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Subject: Ric factory

Date: 1998/02/08

Comment: The Rickenbacker factory is in Anaheim, California near Disneyland in southern California, quite a ways from the bay area. I spoke with a Sales rep this week in fact, and they no longer have tours. But there is a wonderful web page to see the factory, and all their guitar models, with dimensions, and lots of other Ric stuff, including a web "tour" of the factory. It's at

Answer: We're located about 15 minutes away from Disneyland and Anaheim, over in the city of Santa Ana. John Wayne Airport is just around the corner. The company was founded in Los Angeles in 1931. The headquarters moved to Santa Ana in 1953 and the factory followed in 1964. We've never had tours and are not open to the public, as our business is wholesale only. That is, of course, why we tried to make our web site as complete as possible.

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Subject: Richard Smith Production Totals?

Date: 1998/05/01

Question: Does anyone know how accurate the production totals are that were published by Richard Smith? I keep getting conflicting stories. What is the truth? For example, were there really only three natural Combo 850s made in '58? John Hall, maybe you can answer this question.

Answer: Unfortunately, Smith's book seriously under-reports the production totals. It's pretty tough to ignore when the book says three of something were made in a certain year and ten of them show up at one guitar show! It's also pretty easy for me to look at old records and see that the numbers don't correspond at all with dollar sales volumes. But this really isn't a reflection on him or his accuracy. At the time he was writing and researching the book, the records were hard to access and very poorly organized, and the files scattered over several locations. We also operated as two entirely different companies, an old-time way of organizing companies for tax purposes. Richard only had access to the records of the one company and not the other, so many sales were not counted. He certainly did the very best he possibly could, given the information he had access to at that time. Since then, both the companies and the records have all been completely consolidated, although there is still much sorting to do within the archive area. If past production is ever to be properly counted, it will take a great effort but using computers it certainly would be possible to generate a relatively complete database. (I keep hoping that some scanning and OCR technology might help us to do this.) Whether there will be time or motivation in my lifetime to do this is another issue entirely!

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Subject: Re: Rickenbacker Construction Time?

Date: 1998/03/27

Comment: We are all well aware of the substantial backlog of orders that RIC has. Would you be able to comment on how long it takes, on average, to make a Rickenbacker?

Answer: A typical instrument takes about 5 weeks from the time we cut the wood until the guitar goes out the door. Obviously a model like the 381 takes the most time and the oil finish instruments the least. Believe it or not, the woodwork usually only takes a day, the binding a day (if there is any), and final assembly a day. The rest is all in the finish department, including at least 14 days of drying time.

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Subject: Rickenbacker Amplifiers

Date: 1998/03/26

Comment: I rarely hear anything about Rickenbacker amps, and I'm not sure where to go for information about mine. It's a Model B212, #NN112. Although I've been playing guitars through it exclusively, the Model's "B" preface leads me to believe it might really be a bass amp; the two 12-inch speakers probably account for the Model's "212" designation.

Answer: This is a tube type guitar amp manufactured in February 1974. The bass model was a B115. The "B" designation was historical, coming from the earlier Supersonic "B" series, the silver amps such as the B16 and B22. Raul Taibo and I designed these to incorporate some updated manufacturing features not previously common in tube amps, such as the way the tubes are socketed and the wiring harnesses join the printed circuit boards. We had a lot of fun with these and I'm glad to hear there's still some in use.

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Subject: Rickenbacker "OS" guitars

Date: 1997/12/09

Question:I believe OS stands for "Old Style" - meaning double bound. I believe at one time Ric used the designation WB for 'with binding' but then they started doing guitars with black or white binding, so WB could be confused with 'White Binding' - which really doesn't make any sense, since white binding is standard. I'm not sure what they use now, I believe the double bound modern 360 is special order only & they're not taking any orders. So is my early 90s modern double bound 360 one of the last? In any case the Vintage Reissue is double bound.

Answer:OS was the original designation, meaning "Old Style", in the time following the removal of the extra binding from standard models. Later, for some reason I don't know, it changed to WBBS meaning "With Binding Both Sides". About 1973, I was putting eveything on the computer and WBBS was a bit cumbersome, hence WB or just "With Binding". That designation continued until December 1995, when the WB option was discontinued on "modern" models. But the Vintage Reissue Models 360V64 and 360/12V64 continue to have this binding, as the originally did in 1964. This allowed us to reduce our model count to only about 2800 different stock codes (groaning from production department). So you CAN get a guitar with WB in standard production. It just doesn't call it that in the model number.

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