1979 HOFNER WESTERN MODEL 4920 TWELVE STRING GUITAR
I saw this guitar up for sale locally in "Loot" with a very reasonable price tag. Bearing in mind the asking price, I assumed that it would be fairly well beaten-up. None the less, I went to have a look, and was delighted to see that the guitar was in excellent, original condition. The only real blemish was where Lee, the lady who had owned the guitar from new in 1982, had put her name onto the guitar top using adhesive letters. These have left a ghost "Lee" on the guitar for posterity, but I think that adds a certain charisma to the old Hofner, particularly having met the charming lady herself.
Selmer commenced importing Hofner flattops, both six and twelve string versions, into the UK in 1964, and this particular guitar is very similar to the
Western model from that period. However, by the end of the 1970's, Selmer's Hofner distributorship had ceased in the UK, and perhaps therefore this guitar should be referred to as a Model
4920, which was the "non-Selmer" name for the up-rated Hofner 12 string flattop with a mahogany
back and individual Shaller tuners. I am not at all sure who distributed Hofners in the UK in 1982, but there were certainly not many being sold in Britain at that time.
Hofner flattop guitars generally had solid spruce tops and laminated body and sides, and this Model 4920 is no exception. Mahogany veneers have been used to provide a rich appearance to the back and side views. Mahogany on a flattop guitar is supposed to provide a bright clear tone, but perhaps that only applies with solid timbers. Never mind, it still looks great on the old Hofner!
Single white plastic binding has been applied top and bottom of the body, with black/gold/black/gold/black purfling around the outside of the body top. The sound hole has simple circular purfling as decoration. The whole guitar has been finished to a high gloss using what I assume is polyurethane. By the late 70's, Hofner presumably had moved away from the cellulose finish used on all the earlier "Selmer-era" guitars.
The neck has been produced from a single piece of plain maple, with the headstock width being extended by "ears" of maple. The fingerboard is a nice rich, dark rosewood. The machine heads are good quality individual Schaller enclosed units, with chrome buttons. With twelve strings to keep in tune, really only the best are acceptable, and the Schallers certainly do a good job. To be fair, the instrument does maintain its tuning stability very well, with little adjustment being necessary.
There are two labels on the rear of the headstock - one bearing a Serial Number, 207010, and the other indicating the music shop where Lee purchased the guitar new in 1982 -
Jones Music Store
5, Queen Victoria Street,
Tel (0625) 22677
Using the sample serial numbers provided in Michael Naglav's excellent book on Hofner guitars, the number 207010 indicates that this guitar was made in late 1979.
The heel of the guitar has been shaped into a pleasing curve. During the early 1970's, Hofner flattops had been fitted with an adjustment screw on the heel in order to provide a means of making minor adjustments to neck angle. A picture of this can be seen elsewhere on this website. I have to say that I prefer the more traditional approach of fixing necks to bodies.
The bridge is of the usual design, glued to the body top and retaining the strings by means of pins inserted into holes drilled through the bridge and guitar top. The bridge is made from rosewood, and it is apparent that it has parted company from the body top at some time. A rather untidy job of re-attaching the bridge has been made using what looks like Cascamite,but there is no doubt that things are now very secure.
I have never really played a 12 string guitar prior to acquiring the
4920. Now, however, I find it very difficult to put this guitar down. The depth of tone and volume is amazing to a person such as myself who has been reared very much on solid 6 string guitars and archtops. The action on the guitar is fairly low, and the neck acceptably slim, bearing in mind that it is coping with 12 strings. The physical effort of fretting double strings was quite daunting at first, but my fingers have now developed further strength, and this is no longer a problem.
Hofner six and twelve string flattops are fairly easy to come-by, and sell at comparatively low prices, bearing in mind the quality of their construction. After living with this 4920 for a few months, my only advice to others is to go out and buy one. The enjoyment/cost ratio provided by an old Hofner flattop is very high indeed!