Enter Sandtron: 1960s Japanese Sandtron Guitar

(Scroll all the way down for the video demos!!)

sandtron9

Geez Louise!  Here is quite possibly the weirdest, oddest, strangest. . . sometimes even I’m left speechless!  Peoples, seriously!  When I saw this Sandtron guitar I had to buy it just to see what it was!  At first I thought it was modified, since I never saw a vintage Japanese guitar with those four toggle switches.  And that pickguard!  It’s a thick somewhat transparent blue-ish color combined with the rust brown color of the guitar.  Good grief! I searched all over many catalogs and the Internet looking for information, and I came up “almost” empty.  I did happen to find one of these guitars listed on a defunct music store’s web page, and here’s what I found:

This is the only pic I’ve seen of another Sandtron guitar!!!

So now at least I had some proof that at least two of these guitars existed, and that they both had the same components.  Check out the nicks in the headstock in the above pic. My Sandtron doesn’t have the same nicks there.  Also, my Sandtron has a slightly different trem arm.  But basically I discovered there were at least TWO of these guitars!  And thank god I saved the pic because the original image has gone the way of the dinosaurs. Let’s just run down the features of this here ol’ Sandtron guitar.  Once again, Dano did all electronics work on this one!

  • Body – The paint is kinda thick and is reminiscent of Italian guitars of the 60s.  I call it the candy coating paint.  The body is carved so interesting.  It has these fluid, subtle carves on the front and back.  The belly contour and arm contour really flow into the rest of the body, if that makes sense.  It’s just artfully done.  The sharp, odd horns are offset, and overall the whole guitar is just aesthetically pleasing.  Well, other than the color combination of the body and pickguard!  Body looks to be made of high quality wood like mahogany, probably Sen.

sandtron2

  • Neck/Headstock – OK, so here’s where the guitar gets totally weird!  Check out that extra “thing” at the peak of the headstock!!!  What is that?!?!  I seem to remember there were some Eko bass guitars from the 60s that had some sort of “thing” up there on the headstock, but I’ve never seen something like this on a guitar. So odd.  The neck is also cool because of the fret markers, which are similar to some Teisco guitars.  Frets are typical tiny and the neck radius is slightly flatter than 7.25″ The neck is nice and chunky, and it set up pretty well despite there being no truss rod!  Also, the neck has a combo attachment, meaning the neck is set and screwed in!  This guitar also had the original flat wounds still on it!  Also, take a look at the hexagonal tuner covers.  Never seen those before!
  • Electronics – The pickups are VERY similar looking to the famous gold foil Teisco pickups, except that instead of gold foil, these have an almost “cork” like appearance.  Like a dull tan with little darker spots.  Again, very odd.  I found this pickup design on Zen-On guitars from the mid sixties.  Each pickup has an on/off toggle and a volume and tone knob assigned.  Additionally, there is a treble/bass toggle on the lower horn, and that has a subtle affect on the sound.  The wiring was bone stock and pretty well done.  This wasn’t a cheaply made guitar! The pickups all read in the 3.00k range, and do sound nice.  They’re snappy and bright, very typical of many Japanese pickups from the era.  Also, none of the pickups are microphonic and they handle fuzz pedals rather well!  Another oddity regarding this guitar is the dual inputs!!  They each do the same thing, so why is there two? Besides the obvious ability to plug into two amps simultaneously? Seriously, this thing just gets weirder and weirder!  And how about those knobs?  Someone told me that the knobs are very similar to what you would find on a Japanese stereo receiver during the same era.  Do they look familiar to any other guitar you’ve seen?
So in the fall of 2011 I took this guitar to the Philly guitar show.  There are always plenty of buyers from Japan attending the shows, and I felt like I needed to ask some of these cats if they might be able to clue me in (BTW, these Japanese buyers really scarf up the American guitars!).  A few of the guys passed and didn’t want to spend the energy looking at a guitar that wasn’t a Fender or a Gibson (or they didn’t understand what the hell I was talking about), but there were more than a few collective gasps when I pulled this out of the gig bag!  Here’s what I gathered:  The guitar was most likely made by Teisco around 1964 (since there isn’t a truss rod, Teisco started using truss rods in 1965) and was leftover when Kawai purchased what was left of Teisco in the later 1960s.  It was during this truly crazy late 60s period of Japanese guitar making that Kawai finished the few of these guitars that were initially made and sold them off in the US to whoever labeled them “Sandtron.”   The neck plate is stamped “Steel Reinforced Neck, Made in Japan” which I always took as a sign of a Matsumoku-made guitar, but the Japanese buyers agreed that it’s not a totally reliable way of researching the 60s Japanese guitars.  The thick acrylic pick guard was also similar to Zen-on guitars and the famous Sharp 5 guitars.
And after some requests, here’s some pics of the electronics!  Pickups have no markings underneath.
Pot codes read “873J”  All the switches are labeled “Tokyo Okazawa.”  And check out how the bridge is screwed through the pickguard and into the body.
Another possibility is Zen-On.  The pick guard and pickups really scream Zen-On to me and a few other experts in vintage Japanese guitars.  So which one is it? I’m leaning towards what the Japanese buyers agreed on, that the Sandtron guitar was probably a prototype left over from Teisco, completed by Kawai with parts sourced from all over, and sold to a buyer in the US who only ordered a few “higher-end” Japanese guitars, of which at least two survive today.  Isn’t that cool?!  Lastly, check out the video demos that Mike Dugan and I made.
And people, don’t be afraid to add your knowledge!!  Especially the nice dude I met at the show who was also a lover of bizarre guitars!
********UPDATE!!!**********
I had two people so far contact and say they have this same guitar!!  Now we’re up to four!  Mike in Canada even sent some pics!!  It’s like seeing Sasquatch!!
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28 thoughts on “Enter Sandtron: 1960s Japanese Sandtron Guitar

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hey there i was just reading everything you had to say about this guitar… thanks for the info on it i just purchased one for five dollars from a friend that has had it sitting in a closet for years, unfortunately the little “thing” on the headstock is broken so it doesnt curve up like it once did, but still a sweet guitar! would you happen to know what the retail value on this guitar would be? not that i have any intentions on selling it, just out of curiousity . so what im really gettin at is there are at least three of these things in existence.

    1. drowninginguitars says:

      These guitars seem to be extremely rare, and yours is really only the third one I’ve heard of/seen. The Japanese buyers guessed that there were 5-10 of these guitars made since they were most likely originally prototypes. Could you send some pics? I’d love to see it! Also, does your friend know where the guitar came from?

  2. Anonymous says:

    I will upload some pics when i have a little more time. He does not know as his father passed it down to him, but his dad will be in town for the holidays and i will be sure to ask if he remembers.

    1. drowninginguitars says:

      Cool, send some pics when you get the chance! It would be important to know where it was bought and where in the US it was bought. These were probably sold through like a small department store, or a small “mom and pop” shop in the late 1960s. Even hardware stores sold guitars in the 60s!!

  3. Farruge says:

    Hey, I have one too, found it in my grandfather’s basement. A friend of a friend of my dad left it there god knows how long ago. It’s in pretty rough condition though, lots of deep nicks and scratches, the pick guard is cracked and it’s missing a tone knob and the bridge piece that fits over the two circle pieces so I haven’t been able to string it up. I’m really interested in hearing what it sounds like if the internals are alright, do you think I could find a replacement bridge for it?

    1. drowninginguitars says:

      That’s cool you found another! Now we know that at least 4 of these survived! Send me a pic if you can at frankeroo at yahoo dot com. The bridge should be easy enough to find, it is standard Japanese fare for the later 1960s.

  4. Al Milburn says:

    Howdy,
    I am a luthier in California, originally from Ohio. I own a Teisco TG-64,EB-200 bass, and have an EB-100 bass on the way. I am on the search for a Teisco TB-64, the 6-string bass patternRed on the Fender 6. Any help on your part is greatly appreciated. I will buy a partial instrument if it’s available.Regarding your instrument, I wonder if it may have been a music or department store in Sandusky, Ohio. The name is what has me suspecting this. Those tuning machines began to be used in the early 70s, I believe. I think you’re correct in assuming it’s a conglomeration. Good wishes, and respect to you!

    1. drowninginguitars says:

      Woah, that Sandusky Ohio is an interesting lead! As for vintage parts and guitars, check out Nate DeMont and of course Dano Dave D’Amelio. You can find them both on my links page, and either one of those guys would probably be able to help you. I currently have two EB200 basses that belong to Dano, but those “monkey grip” basses are just great!

  5. Anonymous says:

    I have one as well, bought in the eighties in Southern Ontario. I was just checking online to see if I could glean any info and found your site. It is exactly the same guitar as the one pictured.

    1. drowninginguitars says:

      Thanks for your reply! I think we’re narrowing these down to that region of Ontario. Now all we have to figure out is what music store sold these. Can you send me some pics of your Sandtron I could post?

  6. Anonymous says:

    talked to my friends father who had originally owned the guitar and guess what… he is from and bought it in ontario canada

  7. Jess says:

    Looks like your count is up to 5. Husband inherited a Sandtron from his grandfather in Toronto, Ontario. He was a salesman who sold stuff to truck stops mostly. Husband’s left handed so it never got played much. Thanks so much for the information though!

  8. Percy says:

    Greetings ALL … I bought my Sandtron (exactly the same as your pictures) from a workmate in the mid 1970 … yes … southern Ontario again. Great to see some information about the guitar. Just dug it out of the basement and polished it off for old time sake. If you’re interested, I might be able to contact the ‘workmate’ and see where he bought it … Cheers

  9. greg says:

    Ive got a sandtron as well. My step grandfather, who is also from Toronto, sold stuff to truck stops and I think he had more than one of them at one time but gave them away. He usually bought things in bulk and sold them. My guitar is in excellent condition other than some chunks of paint missing at the back of the neck. I play left handed and don’t have the patience to play it upside down. I have it mounted on my wall because it looks cool. I may sell it if I got a decent offer for it.

  10. Bill Menting says:

    Here you go Frank, just found one in Portugal…..different or {more likely swapped} knobs, no moniker, headstock possibly repainted….but I doubt I will ever see another one, so I grabbed her!!

  11. Bill Menting says:

    I’m still wondering if the Sandtron name wasn’t something done byTeisco for Sanyo, since the knobs resemble very closely the knobs that are on a Sanyo stereo unit I own….

  12. Laszlo says:

    Nice website,thanks for.I bought a nice guitaryesterday,and I think,that she is a Santron from the 60′,the form is like telecasters. All black,I’m looking for the type.Greets from Hungary.

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