My Hagström I® (Kent®)

(The Ugly Duckling®)

Click on any of the images to download a (largish, 300KB to 670KB) JPEG version.
[full back] [body front] [full front]

You can also see what a Swan looks like. This is a set of photos from the factory collection, and these page contains several, marvelous Swans, but the photos of this Swan match my color, and have better detail on the controls.

This is a fairly unknown, semi-rare, very cool guitar. It's also pretty unusual. People's initial reactions to it vary from ``Huh?'' (common) to amused to ``Cool!'' (sadly rare 8^). I call mine the ``Ugly Duckling''. It's beautiful to me! (I've always preferred ducks to swans, anyway.)

Guitar or Food - Is It Even A Choice?

I got it ``by accident''. I was living on the hungrier side of the poverty line at the time. Helen Fairbrother, a friend, had loaned me her Esquire (thanks, Helen!) I had saved up the money to replace the strings (yes, money was tight). I walked into Clark Music on Ponce de Leon in Atlanta, and while I was waiting to get some strings, a fairly desperate hippie type (a lot of folks would have described me the same way!) was trying to get Bobby to buy an old junker.

``Man, I'd like to help you out, but I've bought several of your guitars, and I can never sell them!''

Like I said, the guy was desperate. He was willing to take $20. Bobby stood firm. I interrupted, and double checked the price. Bobby knew I couldn't afford a new guitar (and knew where I'd come back for everything else), and didn't object, so I bought it for $20 cash (in early 1976). I'd eat more rice and beans that week, but I owned a guitar!

The strings were shot. I bought another set. Man, over $25 when I planned to spend less than $3! Oh, well. At home I looked a bit more critically. What was this? The whole front was plastic or plexiglass! It was painted on the underside, giving it almost the look of a really deep paint job. Vinyl covering on the back and sides -- split, cracked, and falling off. Two pickups, molded into that funky top. Wild-looking, silver 3D checkering between the pickups. (Hagström used this ``sparkle'' motif on several of their guitars and basses.) Volume knob, four switches. A whammy bar.

But, oh man, the neck was so fine! It fit my hand like a glove. OK, so a guitar neck isn't a glove; it still felt wonderful. Low, low frets like an old Gibson® ``fretles wonder''. Rosewood fingerboard, nice and narrow (just the thing for my short, thick fingers).

Lavender wasn't exactly an ``in'' color, but I never was much of an ``in'' kind of guy, so that didn't worry me, either. (Some people call this ``blue'', but that was actually a different shade.)

I plugged it in to Helen's vintage Fender amp. Not too bad, kind of a thin sound, but OK. Just a tone switch, but hey... The volume was scratchy, the switches were dying inside. It would do for now. Helen's amp and guitar were returned to her, and I turned a car 8 track player someone had pitched into a guitar amp. I ran it through two monster bass cabinets someone had gven me, which sort of compensated for the pickups not producing much bass. Glynn Spivey gave me his old Kalamazoo Model One, 5 watt tube amp. That sounded much better.

Anatomy of a Duckling

Over the next few months, I saved and worked on that Hagström. I used a lot of clarinet bore oil and OOOO steel wool cleaning the accumulated gunk off the fretboard. I rewired it almost every time I changed strings. I played around with stereo (two pickups, two channels, right?) and all sorts of crazy stuff. I eventually settled on mono output, two Seymour Duncan pots (volume and tone), and three switches - one on/off/on per pickup for in phase, off and out of phase, and a series/parallel switch. I used toggles because I kept missing the slide switches. Eventually I managed to buy a pair of DiMarzio SDS-1® (Super Distortion/Sustain) pickups right after they came out (I think they listed for $75.00, but Bobby sold them to me for less than $40 each). Now I had all the output anyone could ask for! I also added copper foil shielding around the entire pickup cavity.

The bridge was only adjustable for height. I bought an inexpensive Tune-o-matic® style bridge (whose? I have no idea.) First I tried it with the thumbwheels under the bridge, but the action was too high. Then I tried placing the bridge directly against the guitar's face, but it was too low (fret buzz). So I played around with a few sizes of flatwashers until I found a size that worked.

Finally, the vinyl was just shot. I tore the wretched mess from the body. It took a while to get all the old adhesive off. I stained it a medium brown (it was handy), which didn't look that great, but beat torn up vinyl! (If you look at the Swan photos, you can see the vinyl pulling up in the cutaways.)

Somewhere in there, I took the Tremar arm off. It and the thumbscrew somehow got lost in a move. For years, I despaired of ever finding another. I don't use a vibrato arm much, but it's nice to have on occasion. In 2001, I finally found a NOS arm and screw at a reasonable price through HagstromUSA ( I'd forgotten how hard this is to use! The Tremar works great within its range (it's fine, but it's not a modern dive bomber). But it takes a lot of effort compared to, say, a Floyd Rose II. Still, I'm happy to have it working, and I'll just have to beef up those forearm muscles! (Note: the Tremar works much better for bending down than up, at least in my experience. Although if you set it up for some pull, you can get great vibrato sounds!)

Glynn later gave me his red Hagström 1. He didn't play it, didn't want it, didn't care what I did with it. It sounded a bit better than mine did with stock pickups, but nowhere near like the DiMarzios, and had a fret buzz I couldn't get rid of. Bobby sold it on consighment; I probably got $75 for it. At the time, I was happy to get that!

In addition to the 8 track amp and the Kalamazoo® Model 1, I played it through a Univox® knock off of a Fender Twin Reverb® (sounded OK, weighed well over 100 pounds), a Lab® L5® (I really miss that, it sounded wonderful) and eventually through a Peavey® Heritage VTX 212 (sounds great). Lately I've been playing it through a variety of obscure tube amps, including a couple of Kalamazoos, a Hohner I rebuilt for a friend, and a Silvertone . Driving a Big Muff Pi, nothing sounds any nastier. It sounds downright ethereal through a Ross flanger. And I still love that wonderful neck.

Vintage Mess?

Today, Hagström guitars and basses go for far more than they used to. You probably won't get rich collecting or trading them, but they are worth a bit. If I hadn't modified mine, I could probably sell it for between $300 and $400. So, would I modify a Hagström again?

It depends. Certainly, if it were my only guitar I would. Collectors, of course, will cringe at this. What can I say? I prefer playing them over collecting them. That said, if I had a second one, I would probably not change it. And of course, if you run across one and are happy with it, why change it?

The one change I would definitely still make is to replace the bridge. The intonation was just wrong with the original. But you can save the old one in case you ever want to sell it, and the bridge drops right off when you change strings. (You could probably do a bridge swap by loosening the strings if you really wanted to.) Alas, I gave my original bridge to a friend to put on a hollowbody...

And did I mention that wonderful neck?

Vital Statistics

Model: Kent PB-24-G (This or a slight variation was also sold as the Hagström I model.)

Serial number: 603012

Year manufactured: 1964








other hardware:


``Ugly Duckling'' Changes:

Pretty much everything that attaches to or sits on the faceplate has been replaced, except the vibrato/tailpiece. The rest of the guitar is stock. The decal from the back of the headstock was gone when I got the guitar.

Misc. changes

Other cosmetic issues

Hagström Links

Thanks to Michael Baechli for dating my guitar, and Anders Westerberg for confirmation and various information, as well as those excellent web pages.

``Peavey'' and ``Heritage'' are registered trademarks of Peavey Electronics Corporation. ``Fender'', ``Strat'' and ``Twin reverb'' are registered trademarks of the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. ``Gibson'', ``Lab'', ``L5'' and ``Tune-o-matic'' are registered trademarks of Gibson Musical Instruments. ``DiMarzio'' and ``SDS-1'' are registered trademarks of DiMarzio, Inc. ``Hagstrom'', ``Hagstrom I'' and ``Kent'' are probably registered trademarks of whomever now owns whatever was left over after Hagstrom closed down. ``Ugly Duckling'' guitar is a trademark of Roadkills-R-Us.

Last updated: 16 October 2004

Copyright 1999,Y2K Miles O'Neal, Austin, TX. All rights reserved.

Miles O'Neal <> [remove the "XYZZY." to make things work!] c/o RNN / 1705 Oak Forest Dr / Round Rock, TX / 78681-1514