The Shark Fin!! – Late 1960s Teisco K4L (ET460) Japanese Guitar

Yep, that’s what we always called these guitars, “shark fin” Teiscos.  In fact, there was a time that whenever I thought of a Teisco guitar, I thought of this model!  For me, it’s just so iconic of the Teisco vibe.  Plenty of switches, knobs, chrome, combined with those sharp horns and hooked headstock.  To me, this was the iconic Teisco guitar!

That familiar striped pick guard really helps to date Teisco guitars, since the striped aluminum guard started to appear in and around 1965.  And those square pole-piece pickups are just balls out!  These shark fins had a pretty good run, appearing in catalogs from 1966-1970.  Japanese catalogs had these listed as K4L guitars, but the WMI American catalogs had them listed as ET-460, and in other catalogs the Super Deluxe!  I can remember James Iha from Smashing Pumpkins using one of these in a video back in the day.  Here’s the vid, and the Pumpkins had such a thick sound on that album!!

Teisco must have sold a boatload of these guitars in the 60s, because this same guitar was also branded as a SIlvertone in Sears catalogs.  These shark fins were around during the same time span as the famous Spectrum 5, but for whatever reason this guitar here is just so much more plentiful.  I would see these all the time hanging in second hand stores and pawn shops.  Most of the guys I knew bought these for the awesome sounding pickups, which usually read out in the 7k range, but curiously, the pickups read out weaker as the guitars got close to the end of their run, like the guitars from the later 60s.  It’s probably a good way to date the guitar!!  In fact, if you take the pickups apart (you have to be a nut like yours truly), you’ll notice that even the construction of the pickups changed, even though they looked the same from the outside.  Tricky!!!

All of these Teisco guitars had a nameplate or sticker on them that identified the model and serial number, but mine has fallen off!  I suppose a lot of them have over the years.  What I think is really cool about these guitars is the carving around the edges of the body.  Often called a “German carve” on the front, these bodies have a very silky feel and are really comfortable to play.  They are very light, but the necks are slightly heavy so that strap button placement on the neck is a neat way to balance it all out.

I’m a total sucker for blue guitars, although when I look around the studio I have a ton of red guitars!!  Anyway, the blue on these is a really cool metallic color and holds up rather well.  When I was younger I knew about three other guys who swore by these guitars!  They are real road warriors and build well.

This particular shark fin had two pickups wired out of phase, FROM THE FACTORY!!  Too funny!  Dano had to sort out a bunch of things with this guitar because of the neglect I had laid upon it’s sharp shoulders, but hey, any good tech can sort it out!  This one got a refret, which can be a dicey proposition.  See, often a refret will involve sanding the neck to work out all the humps and bumps, but the neck inlays on these Teiscos are really thin, and sometimes just wear right off with sanding!  Dano is the man, I keep tellin’ y’all!  Dano also had an issue with the rotary switch because mine just kept turning round and round.  The rotary switch on mine was a two position switch, and those buggers are hard to find!!  Buyer beware!!  Anyway, after fixing it all up I have a great guitar that plays better than it ever did, even straight from the factory!!  And to think I played it for so many years, fighting it all the way!  Too bad I don’t play out anymore!  And then here’s good ol’ Mike Dugan giving it a demo.  He seriously did not want to put this one down.  Enjoy everybody!

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18 thoughts on “The Shark Fin!! – Late 1960s Teisco K4L (ET460) Japanese Guitar

  1. Anonymous says:

    Being a military brat, it was my first electric guitar bought outside the gate at Misawa AFB Japan around 1971-72 for 7000 Yen, $20 360 yen to the dollar at the time. No stripes on the pick guard, must have been before ’65 you say. Traded for a Mosrite bass late 70’s

  2. Steve says:

    I bought a red ET-460 from a fellow in my neighborhood for $50 in 1978. The pick guard is one tone and the name badge on the head is simply “Teisco” spelled out. One of the coolest looking guitars ever. Still have it under my bed to pull out and remind my kids that I used to be cool back in the day.

  3. Rick smith says:

    This is similar to the guitar that changed my life: won it in a lucky draw when I was 13 or so (1965!) except mine was sunburst. Beautiful guitar, give anything to hold it again. Led my to my life as a professional guitarist. Cheers.

  4. righy campuzano says:

    hola tengo eta misma gitarra, por fabor cual es su precio hoy dia. quiero venderla, grasias por su ayuda ,.es una hermosa gitarra.

    1. Eli DIaz says:

      Es una guitarra muy rara y depende el pais donde se encuentre…
      La mayoria de personas las compran solo para coleccionarla ya que actualmente no hay muchos musicos que aun las toquen en vivo.
      En la actualidad las que se venden en paginas de internet en USA se venden muy rapido y aunque se han visto a veces en tiendas de segunda mano a un bajo preicio como $100.
      en lo personal me gurtaria comprar una de esas.

  5. Caroline says:

    I have this 1965, original with headstock badge, only missing the whammy. It is for sale or trade for similar year acoustic

  6. Jeremiah szabelski says:

    I found one of these at an old house I was clearing out for a family member missing the bridge and the whammy bar and spring know of anywhere that makes replacements if so could u email me at jszabelski18@gmail.com

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