The first ”Fender” amplifiers were manufactured by Leo Fender and Doc Kauffman, doing business as the K&F... View more
The first “Fender” amplifiers were manufactured by Leo Fender and Doc Kauffman, doing business as the K&F Manufacturing Corporation. The amplifiers were housed in a steel case and most were finished in a “gray crinkle” finish that was baked in the Kauffman family oven. They were made in three sizes, 1×8″ (one 8-inch speaker), 1×10″, and 1×15″. They are all very rare today and few have survived.
The first amplifiers made in-house by the Fender Electric Instrument Company were a significant step up in size and function to the small, nameless amps that preceded them, however, they didn’t have technological advancements such as circuit boards in their designs. They were constructed out of spare hardwood held by the Fender company at the time and were hence given the name ‘woodie’ later on by collectors. These amps were the Princeton, the Deluxe and the Professional. The Princeton was a small six watt amp with an 8″ Jensen field-coil speaker. This amp had no controls as it was designed for the guitar to solely control the volume and was simply turned on by plugging/unplugging into the wall plug. The deluxe was a larger amp with a Jensen 10” field-coil speaker and five tubes in a 14-watt design. It was the most popular amp of this era, with most amps surviving from this era today being deluxe’s. The rarest of all the original ‘woodie’ series was that of the professional. It was the largest of the trio featuring Jensen 15” field-coil speaker and 6 tubes delivering 25 watts of power.
The Brownface series was introduced in 1959. The name ‘brownface’ stems from the brown-colored control panels, common to both the brown- and cream/blonde- Tolex-covered amps. The brownface amps originally featured a dark maroon or “oxblood” grillcloth, which was changed to “wheat” in 1962-63.
The shift from tweed to Tolex occurred in limited production in 1960. The tolex on the earliest versions in this era was pinkish brown and rough textured. There were only six amplifiers covered in tolex originally, the Professional Series: Bandmaster, Concert, Pro, Super, Twin (production halted Feb-May 1960, resumed as the blonde Twin) and Vibrasonic. The cheaper student models (Champ, Harvard, Princeton) remained tweed-covered until later in the decade. The 1×10″ Harvard which was discontinued in 1961. The 1×8″ Champ remained tweed-covered until 1963 when it made the change to black tolex, and the Princeton acquired its brown tolex in 1962 along with a complete redesign that saw it adopt more powerful twin-6v6 circuit and a larger speaker: 1×10″.
The first tolex cover used by fender was a light brown one matched dark maroon or “oxblood” grillcloth. This look didn’t last long and by 1961 Fender was using a darker brown tolex which was remained commonplace until 1963. There were three different grillcloth colors used during this period: wheat, brown, and maroon. Fender used various grillcloth and tolex combinations, suggesting that they were using up whatever stock was on hand instead of assigning one combination to one amp consistently.
Accomplishments for the company’s amplifier division during these years include the introduction of the stand-alone spring reverb unit in 1961, followed by incorporation of the reverb circuit within a combo-amp design with the 1963 Vibroverb. Other changes include the shift of the top-of-the-line model from the traditional Twin to include other models, like the Vibrasonic in early 1960, as well as the blonde Showman in 1961. Fender began using silicon rectifiers to reduce heat and voltage sag caused by tube rectifiers, and introduced an all-new, very complex Tremolo circuit (or, as it referred by Fender – “vibrato”).
The Blackface amplifiers were produced between 1963 and mid 1968 with the earliest blackface piggyback and large combo amps (Twin) having bodies covered in blonde tolex, with the new black control panel. The white control knobs continued briefly before giving way to black skirted “hat shaped” numbered knobs. These amps had new circuitry featuring bright switches.
Blackfaced cosmetics do not necessarily mean “pre-CBS” since the CBS company takeover took place in 1965 and amps with blackfaced cosmetics were produced up to 1967. After the buyout the front panels were changed from “Fender Electric Instrument Co.” to “Fender Musical Instruments”. No real changes were made to the amps until the silverfaced amps of 1968 where certain circuit changes made them less desirable than the blackfaced amps. This affected some models more than others. For example, the Twin Reverb and Super Reverb combos, along with the Dual Showman Reverb and Bandmaster Reverb “piggyback” heads were equipped with a master volume control while other models such as the Deluxe Reverb were not altered in any way except for the change in cosmetics.
Silverface cosmetics do not necessarily denote silverface circuitry, however. Leo Fender was notorious for tweaking his designs. During the transitional period from late 1967 to mid-1968, the circuit designs of the Twin Reverb and Super Reverb were altered to eliminate an uncommon but serious oscillation in the signal chain. These changes took some months to finalize, as Leo worked through some designs, and happened after the cosmetic changes. Furthermore, the schematic and tube charts that shipped with these models did not always reflect the actual circuitry. Fender had many leftover AB763 (blackface) tube charts left over well into 1969 and shipped these charts with silverface models.
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