Maton Fyrbyrd #4

The fourth Fyrbyrd ever made. Story and photos by Michael S.

Here’s my Fyrbyrd… been resprayed black and serial 104, so the fourth one made ever. It came with its original case and original (though probably not Maton affiliated) strap. Still has the original truss rod cover badge too.

One tuner head was replaced with a square styled one, so (but thanks to the story on your Fyrbyrd) I carved it down to a matching oval shape with sandpaper.

It has been refinished in a black polyurethane paint which has a very nice gloss to it, but it was originally a Fyre Red colour. When it was refinished there was a grey undercoat added, but the original red is still visible in a few places. As you can see, the black refin is quite old itself as it has also undergone some very nice crazing.

Unfortunately the ‘Fyrbyrd’ sticker was lost as was the Maton ‘M’ on the headstock (though I have no idea why, as I believe that all Fyrbyrds had black headstock faces, so I dont see why they needed to refin it in black)?

It’s hard to see, but the serial number is still visible, and this is number 104. Going off what I’ve picked up (that Maton Serial numbers start at 100), I believe this makes it the fourth Fyrbyrd ever made.

It also has some other tell tale features about it that suggest it was made very early in the production of Fyrbyrds. It has the rare 14th and 16th Fret markers as opposed to the standard 15th and 17th markers (which takes a while to get used to at first!). It has two recesses in the bridge pickup which I’m yet to see elsewhere.

Also the pickups themselves have a few design flaws which they clearly hadn’t rectified at that point. The pickups sit in a metal dish which then fits into the cavity of the body/pickguard, but the screws through the top of the pickup only hold it down in place, there are no springs to automatically push the pickups up when you loosen the screws. Instead, in the dish, there are four small screws which the pickup base sits on. These screws can be driven in or out to set the height of the pickup, and the long screws through the pickup, pull the pickup down tight onto the four screw base. Not only is this a long process, but to access the screws, you first need to jimmy the pickup out of the dish which is hard enough in itself as it requires taken the strings of, and then using a small flathead screwdriver to lever the pickup out (as the pickups fit in very tightly to the dish). So fast adjustments are completely out of the question! Furthermore, the screws from both the top of the pickup and from the bottom of the dish, are too long for the cavity, so when they are fully driven down, they start pushing the pickup and pickguard back up. Unfortunately, even at their lowest adjustment, the pickups are still too close to the strings, so I removed the screws in the dishes completely, and since the pickups fit into the dishes tightly, I removed the long screws too. This gave me an extra 1.5mm (thickness of the screw heads) to lower the pickups and action, making it more playable still. When I got it, the middle pickup quickly stopped working, but luckily it was due to the very old braided wiring coming apart.

The frets also were in a pretty rough condition and absolutely destroyed the first set of strings I put on there, plus there was a bit of buzzing on the higher notes.

I had Paul Dalby at the Music Swop Shop do a fret dress on it which made it far more pleasurable to play instantly. It has the hint of a ‘V’ profile in the neck which is also quite a full shape… more like a gibson than a fender. Very nice to play.

I used it for a few gigs with the middle pickup taken out (as whenever I was playing I would accidently knock the switch down and turn on the middle pickup, which consequently shorted out all the pickups), and it sounded absolutely awesome! But not having the middle pickup in there bothered me greatly, so I took it over to Valley Music and Adam Cole was nice enough to help me wire it all back in with some fresh push-back wire.

We also compared it to his later non-sharkbyte and this is what I found out about it.

• It was definitely the fourth one made as they quickly stopped making them with 14th/16th markers, the bridge pickup was a very early design which is also not seen on later Fyrbyrds and the pickup selectors are very early examples.

• The scale is that of a Gibson (24.75 inches) and Adams later Fybyrd is that of a Fender (25.5 inches).
• The stickers that say ‘Maton Quality Instruments’, and ‘Fybyrd etc.. are actually super thin sheets of brass.
• Adam reckons that the original Nitro Red wasn’t completely removed, as the way that the Black poly has crazed looks like the result of Poly aging over a nitro base.

• The pickups magnets were magnetically alternated so that the neck and bridge were ‘North’ and the middle was ‘South’. Adam warned me that putting the middle pickup back in would probably harm the overall sound of the guitar as the opposing magnetic field would kill the strings sustain and also cause wolf notes (a kind of vibrato/tremolo beating frequency in the ringing string).

Adam was dead on about the middle pickup… It makes the guitar sound out of tune/intonation, so I’ve been playing it with two pickups (which individually have nicer tones than the middle anyway). I put the middle back in for these photos, but it’s coming straight back out.

You mentioned in a forum somewhere that your ‘sound barrier’ switch acts as a tone choke (which is totally cool!). On mine, the ‘half’ setting means that the volume pot is active, and the full setting bypasses the volume pot and is the pickup at full volume. This is dead useful when you want to set up a fuzz to a rolled back tone using your volume pot, but want to switch to crazyness for a solo or similar, and then switch back to the exact same tone.

And of course how I got it. I was lucky enough to find this guy on the New Zealand website a few months ago, and luckier still that it had been refinished, as had it been all original, I probably could not have afforded it. Personally, I reckon the black is dead mean, and with only two pickups, its the perfect gigging guitar. Another bonus in the poly refin is that you can get it as sweaty as you want and the paint polishes up good as (I’d say new, but its at least thirty years old hahaha). The original nitro would just roll off with the sweat.

All in all, I’m totally stoked to have this guitar. It’s just so so awesome! The neck is straight (enough for me anyway), the pickups are strong (about 9k each) single coils, its nice and light, and it loves fuzz! Can’t wait for Maton to reissue it! All the best!

*** update: Looking through my old guitarnerd stories, I came across the story I did of 60’s Aussies band TwoBy2. Looking at the photos and of the late Ron Dent’s beautiful white Fyrbyrd, I noticed the dot markers were the same 14th & 16th position as the #4 Fyrbyrd above.

This, along with the fact Ron’s Fyrbyrd is white with a black scratchplate would make this Fyrbyrd a VERY rare early example…