An early ad for the Standard (1977), note the bound headstock.
In 1975 the Hamer Guitar went into production. The earliest Standards (as they were to become known later) featured vintage hardware (such as original Gibson PAFs, often rewound by Larry DiMarzio), but as the supply ran out vintage hardware was replaced by the modern equivalent. The trademark creme bridge and zebra neck PAF pickups, supplied by DiMarzio, were soon the regular pickup choice for the Hamer Standard. Hamer was one of the first companies to have different specifications for the bridge and neck humbucker. Grover kidney-button machines were fitted although at a normal angle unlike #0000. A strip (about 0.5inch wide) of opposing grain wood was used to reinforce the headstock along the machine-head holes. The narrow and steeply angled headstocks would be far more stable made this way as the neck and headstock were otherwise a single piece of wood. Fretboards were usually rosewood, but occasionally were ebony, and could be bound with crown or block inlays or unbound with dot inlays. One distinguishing feature of these early Standards was a long oval control cavity, later guitars having a regular triangular cavity. The controls followed the line of the lower horn rather than the neck unlike #0000. Several slightly different logos are seen on these early Hamers.
|An early 1977 Standard - Crown Inlays|
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Only a limited number of Standards were produced up to 1978 (Jol Dantzig estimates about fifty). The Sunburst was introduced in 1977, a more affordable guitar that was designed to be produced in far greater numbers than the Standard; the increased production meant that Hamer moved from the original shop at Wilmette to a factory at Palatine, IL..
The numbering system for the Standard was different to the Sunburst, using a simple four digit number stamped into the wood at the rear of the headstock. This gives the total number of instruments built and numbered this way. But to complicate matters many of the custom instruments were numbered alongside the Standards, as were the Eight- and Twelve-string basses built by Hamer at this time. A very limited number of Standard basses were also built and numbered as Standards. This means that the number of Standards built is hard to estimate as they share a numbering system with these other models. But it is clear that from building just approximately fifteen to twenty a year from 1975 to 1978, the production of the Standard was increased to well over a hundred a year in 1979 and 1980.
The Standard wasn't only available as described above, but could be ordered several more deluxe features such as headstock binding. More basic Standards were also built without binding and with opaque finishes (as distinct from the later Blitz model). Relatively few changes were made to the Standard model during its first run from 1975 to 1985. As mentioned above, the phenolic oval backplate was replaced by a triangular aluminium cover around 1978. On the very first Standards a rhythm/treble plastic ring was fitted around the pickup selector switch but these were lost by 1978. Grover machine heads were replaced by Schaller minis from late 1979 onwards. Sometime after 1981 the one piece neck became a three-piece neck again in line with, but later than, the Sunburst. Early "Dot" Standards often have larger dots than Sunbursts, and the octave markers are widely spaced (ie.- near the edge of the fingerboard). The small style dots were used 1980 onwards, the octave dots moving closer together, again in line with the Sunburst.
|A 1980 Standard - dot inlays. Finished in Cherry Transparent laquer.|
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From 1980 onwards the Hamer range saw a rapid expansion in the number of models offered. The Special was introduced in early 1980, the Prototype and Vector in 1981, and several new models in 1982 including the Explorer-shaped Blitz guitar. The Sunburst and Standard must have been produced in smaller numbers as the range increased. The Standard continued to built in small numbers until 1985, but probably fewer than fifty were built after the end of 1982. The Blitz was a cheaper alternative to the Standard and was produced in greater numbers; this model also was offered with locking tremolos, wild finishes and several other modifications to appeal to a growing Heavy Rock oriented market.
|A 1984 Standard - dot inlays. The colour of the transparent finish is called Walnut. This guitar, built in May 1984, is numbered 0722. |
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In total some 750 instruments were built between 1975 and 1985 carrying the four digit numbers. After 1985 this numbering system was abandoned and all Hamers numbered using the Sunburst system (1st digit being the year of manufacture), apart from a very few instruments that carried unique numbers. The best estimate would put the number of original Standards built in the first ten years of Hamer to be well under five hundred, with multi-string basses making up the bulk of the rest of the "four-digit" Hamers. A few Standards may have been built to special order after 1985, but these most likely carried regular serial numbers. One should not confuse a Standard with a Blitz guitar, some of which were built with an optional flame-maple top (see the next page for a full description of how to distinguish the Standard and the Blitz).
|The handcrafted Standard was built from top grade materials with an attention to detail not seen on contemporary guitars. Produced in such limited numbers they are sure to be one of the most collectible and desirable guitars of the late 1970's. These earliest examples will probably be the most sought after. Later Standards however, are also destined to be highly collectible, especially those with particularly fine figured maple tops.|
Custom Guitars related to the Standard
|It would be impossible to mention the Hamer Standard without some reference to Rick Nielsen and his array of customised instruments. Nielsen has the very first Hamer, #0000, as well other very early Hamers. A checkerboard Standard (without body binding) and matching Vee were built for him in 1978/1979.
The "Coffee Table" Standard has an intricate photocollage finish, as well as unusual black binding. Although not strictly speaking production Standards, mention must be made of the Explorer shape Mandocello (1977) and the three-quarter size Standard (1979) in his collection. Early advertising often featured Neilsen (see below or click here for large 1979 Advert.).
Other unusual custom order instruments appeared. A number of vee-shaped guitars were built that share more features with the Standard than with the production Vector guitar, such as the bound flame-tops. Several headstock styles were used including Explorer-style. Shown right is one such instrument made in 1980.
|A number of 3/4 size Standards were built in addition to Rick Nielsen's example.
A 1981 instrument in an unusual raspberry metallic finish is shown below.
And, naturally one mustn't forget the Standard bass that dates from the earliest days of Hamer. These rare instruments are quite variable, different headstocks and pickup configurations being used. Shown far left is an early example, #0003, in Greenburst. The sunburst Standard bass is later and sports a 2+2 headstock. Eight-string versions are not unknown.
Description form the 1981 Catalogue
The Hamer Standard is an exquisite example of patience and traditional craftsmanship. Each Standard is truly unique, requiring over two months to construct.
Description form the 1982 Catalogue
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