Other Guitars

NGD: Hallmark 65 Custom

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Hallmark 65 Custom built by Bob Shade. Been gassing for one of these for a while and finally sold off some gear to make it happen.

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NIce!!

I"m interested in his Single pickup bass -- with kool 32" scale.

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The 65 Custom is basically an improved/updated version of a 60's Mosrite. Improvements include a wider nut width 1 5/8" for the 65 vs 1 1/2" vintage Mosrite Crowned vintage sized wire vs flat, uncrowned "speedfrets" on the old Mosrites The vintage style roller bridge has also been redesigned by Bob Shade along with the trem. The Hallmark's body is also made of alder vs the basswood of vintage Mosrites. Fit and finish on this guitar is impeccable. The Pearl White finish (which is basically a metallic) is flawless and has to be seen in person to be appreciated. The 24 3/4" scale fretboard is Indian Rosewood with a zero fret and chromed metal string guide,a 13" radius, very small dot markers, and cleanly applied ivory binding. The vintage size frets are nicely leveled, crowned and polished with perfectly manicured fret ends. The bolt-on maple neck profile is similar to a 60 slim Les Paul with a bit of flatness to the back and some shoulder and feels very comfortable. This all adds up to low, buzz free action and a very fast "hot rod" feel. The combination of well crowned and polished vintage frets and flatish 13" radius makes string bending a breeze. The Shade Vibrato, which is kind of like a streamlined, more responsive Bigsby, has a very easy, sensitive and responsive feel and coupled with the roller bridge and zero fret stays surprisingly in tune as long as you don't get too heavy handed. Overall, the guitar has a very solid feel with no buzzes or rattles to be found. Pickups are two big honkin' single coils w/ adjustable poles that come in at around 12-13K. Unlike the old Mosrite pu's the Hallmark's have been improved with better construction and materials and are very quiet, with minimal 60 cycle hum, no squealing or feedback. The best way to describe the tone/sound of the 65 Custom is that it doesn't really sound like any other particular guitar....which is a good thing. Despite the high output, these are still single coil pu's and they produce a very clear and articulate tone. they have some percussiveness and a bit of the mid scoop of D'Armond Dynasonics but are not as wild n wooly and don't mush out at all under heavy overdrive or distortion. The bride pu sounds great by itself and can twang and jangle but also rock out. The neck pu is very fat but still maintains excellent note definition. The middle position with both pu's has a killer sound all its own with some nice slightly scooped twang that maintains note articulation. Volume and tone knobs have a nice smooth feel and are both voiced very well throughout their ranges. The 65 Custom, despite its offset look and surf music pedigree is far from a plinky sounding one trick pony. The combination of big, fat, single coils, substantial offset alder body (with beautifully rendered German carved top), bolt on neck w/ tight neck pocket and long neck tenon that goes deeper into the body than a Fender style guitar contributes to plenty of sustain. While it's still a great guitar for any king of surf / instro the 65 sounds great for any kind of country, wailing blues, rock or hard rock. Another nice touch is that the Hallmark comes with a custom fitted faux gator hardshell case. Niggles? Not many. The 65 Custom is a Jazzmaster sized body guitar and with that comes a bit of weight but it still came in at a bit under 9 pounds but more importantly balances well on a strap and on my lap. Also, truss rod accessibility is gained by removing the neck pickup (pu's are mounted Gibson humbucker style so it's really just a matter of loosening/raising the strings and removing two screws). Still better than having to remove the neck. Bob Shade did explain that he chose this rod access because he couldn't find a headstock access that didn't ruin the perfect look of the headstock plus removing more wood equals less strength. All in all, the Hallmark 65 Custom is an amazing playing guitar with its own unique voice, and look and a great way to get very close to a real vintage Mosrite without the inherent issues of the originals. The fit, finish and attention to detail are on a par or exceeds any MIJ Gretsch, USA Fender, or PRS I have ever played plus the guitar came perfectly set-up (to be fair, I actually picked the 65 up in person from Bob...so no chance to be effected by shipping). At $999.99 plus shipping these guitars are an absolute steal IMO. Not just great for the money, but a really high end instrument. How does he do it? According to Bob (who is a pleasure to deal with and a very nice guy to boot) it's a small operation that sells direct w/ no middleman. The bodies and necks are produced in a small factory in Korea (SPG?) to Hallmark's spec's but finishing and everything else is pretty much done in here in the good old USA. I also think that the hardware and pu's may be manufactured overseas to Hallmark's design and spec's (nothing on this guitar except the Kluson style tuning machines, pots, switch, wiring are off the shelf parts). More pictures to follow.

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Why the 65 rather than the 60? Just curious.

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This gives you a better idea of the actual Metallic Pearl White finish of the 65.

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Detail of the nicely figured headstock and zero fret.

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Back of the headstock signed by builder, Bob Shade.

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Close up of Shade Trem and Roller Bridge. Notice some similarities to a Bigsby.

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Why the 65 rather than the 60? Just curious.

– Don Birchett

The 60 has a set neck, painted headstock face and body binding everthing else is the same. The 65 w/ the maple bolt on neck allegedly has a bit more snap, twang and a bit brighter sounding. But I really didn't have a strong preference for either one over the other. Bob happened to have the 65 in my color of choice available in stock and because I live within driving distance I was able to actually play the guitar before purchasing which was a nice perk. I will say, with the flatter fretboard radius and 24 3/4 " scale, neck profile, neck joint, etc the playing feel of the 65 is much more Gibson/Gretch than Fender. Higher fret access is like an SG but the neck doesn't feel as long as an SG, has zero flex to it (also unlike an SG) and it balances very well on a strap. Also, as it turned out, I actually prefer the natural finished neck and headstock (which has some nice grain figure) with the solid color Pearl White body and red tort guard.

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Very curious...Good for You!

Makes me recall my long ago Univox Hi Flyer...but a lot nicer.

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It's a funny thing. I've known about these Hallmark guitars for a while and thought they were certainly cool but kind of put them on the back burner as something may be I'd get around to some day...... Always a fan of surf music, I was always interested in getting that wet, drippy reverb sound and started poking around the 'net looking at tube reverb units and stumbled onto a Chinese knock-off of the old Fender '63 Unit being imported by a shop out in California and the price was so cheap I took a chance and ordered one. Turns out it was a pretty well made, hand wired knock off probably made by the same folks who do Joyo pedals, etc and nailed that deep, drippy, wet, surfy verb you can only get from a stand alone spring tank. Ok, so now I need a proper "Surf Guitar" (which is of course the complete rationalization of the gear obsessed looking for an excuse to buy another guitar since you can play surf on any electric) so I go low budget and grab up a clean Squier VM Jaguar. The Jag is certainly decent enough and gets that "surf tone" with the spring tank for sure. But now I'm looking on sites like Surf Guitar 101 (very cool people post there and a fountain of knowledge about surf music, gear, etc) and I'm reminded about these Hallmark guitars, especially the Mosrite/Ventures 60 and 65 models style models and I start doing my due diligence including checking out some demo videos, most especially RJ Ronquillo's (that guy does the best demos, IMO and what a player). So now I'm really gassing for a Hallmark 60 or 65 Custom. The rest of course is history. Here's a picture of the Chinese made knock off of a '63 Fender Tank that started this:

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Here's a gut shot. Not quite a perfect copy but same circuit and fairly nice pt to pt wiring. Came stock with a 17" Accutronics pan. I opted to change out the stock Chinese 6V6 for a vintage correct NOS 6K6 (it actually cleans up the tone and smooths out some of the spikiness in the high end. Again this is how this all started That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

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I wonder if he can do one in this finish but with gold sparkle?

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Hallmark can definitely do gold sparkle!

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Apparently they are very open to custom orders, spec's, etc. Bob Shade is great to deal with and responds quickly to emails. Bob's a hot rod guy and they do crazy killer flames, etc. When I picked up my 65 Custom I got to see a guitar with a custom flame paint job and it was beautiful. They will also do custom color pickup covers including tortoise shell. They sell the Shade Vibrato, Roller Bridge, and pu's separately on the Hallmark website. I have no connection to Bob Shade or Hallmark guitars except for buying a guitar from them. Like Jer Delisle and Proteus who I have purchased outstanding products from I believe in supporting small businesses who make outstanding products at fair prices. From what I have read on the GP and seen/heard in demos, etc Tavo and his Nocturne pedals, amps, etc fit that profile also.

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Hallmark can definitely do gold sparkle!

– FritzTheCat

Those are nice but too much. The one I showed was burgundy with silver sparkle. I (think I) would like one with Burgundy but with gold sparkle with it. Probably won't happen.

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Bob Shade used to work for Semie Moseley at Mosrite so many years ago. I've known him for ten years or so via the Mosrite Forum and have always found him to be the nicest guy to talk to. He is extremely knowledgeable regarding Mosrite and his Hallmark guitars are top notch. It seems everyone who buys a Hallmark absolutely loves them.

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I just read through the Website...hard to figure when Bob put the first reissue Hallmarks into the market...

2012 or so?

My last Mosrite-type search was about 3 years ago, and nothing Hallmark popped up during that effort as an alternative. Only the Ed Roman...

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Don, a real hot rod paint guy, especially in SoCal, shouldn’t bat an eye at a request for gold flake in trans burgundy. Great idea: dark, rich, and alluring.

The Hallmark vibrato is a brilliant piece of work, too. Smooooth and stable. ALso robably the best roller bridge going... Now I’m wondering what guitar I could put them on.

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I just read through the Website...hard to figure when Bob put the first reissue Hallmarks into the market...

2012 or so?

My last Mosrite-type search was about 3 years ago, and nothing Hallmark popped up during that effort as an alternative. Only the Ed Roman...

– Twangmeisternyc

Before that. Probably about 2008.

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Seems like I remember Bob being at Deke's GuitarGeek fest one of the years I attended...so, 2008-2010 anyway.

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Seems like I remember Bob being at Deke's GuitarGeek fest one of the years I attended...so, 2008-2010 anyway.

– Proteus

Proteus I was there. I believe it was 2008. He had his guitars on display and they were beautiful. It was in OC.


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