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Musicman Sabre 2

Musicman are well known for the initial involvement of Leo Fender('71 to '79) along with some of his former employees and had a difficult history until purchase by the Ernie Ball company in 1984. Ernie Ball still owns the company today and have made it a significant force especially amongst bass players.They also manufacture guitars and did so from the outset but the early instruments,the Sabre and Stingray guitars took early baths while the bass equivalents,esp the Stingray,were more successful.

Here we look at some of the restoration needed by a Sabre 2 from 1978 and perhaps work out why such a well-designed evolution of Leo's guitar family failed to make an impact on the guitar playing community....

There is a subtle reference to the guitars Leo Fender pedigree at the end "...the end result of 30 years...Experience and research..." and indeed the Sabre does try to address some of the perceived shortcomings of CBS era Fenders at the time.

The ad shows how the Sabre draws on Fender's "experience and research".the maple neck,skunk stripe,bullet truss rod,melamine nut and black dots are all familiar.The headstock shape is a somewhat bland echo of his earlier efforts,presumably to avoid infringement. It probably did not help sales looking more like a generic copy than a Leo Fender design. But the neck is comfortable,slimmer,shaped differently behind the nut,with a large guide holding four strings. It is six a side as the 3+1 design of the basses was intended to eliminate "dead spots" and not considered necessary for the guitars.Tuners are Schaller,with the same mech as the "F" tuners of the time but a redesigned string post.

The tuner post was intended to keep the string low....split post....look carefully around the bullet....I believe this was the origin of the plast sleeve around the truss rod that's widely used now.Perhaps for strength the curve in front of the nut is upwards....

The Musicmen (Musicmans?) all featured a simplified version of Leo's controversial "3 Bolt" neck joint.I'll write about those eventually but for the Sabre he dropped the round plate/bolt at the back of the arrangement and used 3 standard screws directly into the wood eliminating the source of the wobble that seems to have plagued Strats of the period in particular. The neck pocket on this sample is also very tight,if anything too much so which made setting the orientation a little difficult.

I wonder if the square heel was cost control or to help neck stability?..the '78 date is clearly visible.

Finish appears to be nitro and has worn totally off a lot of the back of the neck.The guitar has had extensive use,a tribute to it playability.There has already been a refret which has a good bit of mileage left yet but which left considerable chipping poorly filled with cyano. In consultation with the owner a mild going over of the frets and a big tidy up of the glue was decided on.Oddly,the fingerboard finish looks to be original yet has lots of indents with no sign they were sprayed over...puzzled by it still....

Tidier,but lots of evidence of chipping from pre-existing refret.

The body of this example is poplar,ash was used on the natural finishes...again the indications are nitro. It had already been polished and worn so much that it really only required a cleaning under the fittings.Shape is an evolution of the Strat with a slight offset. Noteworthy is that the pickup height adjust screw and battery cover screws fit into threaded inserts in the body,a clever,quality detail.The chunky pickups are mounted on four strong springs with three screws.

They are different widths,thoughtful.Big magnets but these are low impedence,never popular with guitarists.

The string through bridge shows real thought went into its design....

Clever design,the two screws are hardly needed!

...the saddles are hollow stainless tube with the height adjusting screw tips recessed in there.Hands up(if you still have them)players who have been shredded by Strat and Tele adjustment screws?....not with the Musicmen!...and they are wedged into the heavy die-cast bridge which while only held by two screws has a big cast ridge fitting into a rout on the body...for sustain I'd guess,it was equated with weight and solidity then!

A three ply scratchplate in black,very late '70's CBS and that leads us to the electronics,a big departure from his earlier guitars though the design was apparently largely down to ex-Fender employee Tom Walker.Its pretty complex stuff for mere guitar players though I've no doubt a walk in the park for bassists!

There is a vol,then bass and treble tones with Tele style knobs.The two mini switches are a bright switch and a phase in/out for all pickup settings.The big switch is traditional,bridge,both,neck.The circuit board was "gooped" to preserve secrecy as was very prevalent at the time....and it was all low impedence.... my view is if they had opted for standard humbuckers and straightforward controls the Sabre would have sold better as it a very lovely instrument to play but reacts differently to amp settings and pedals,requiring a bit of thought to get the best from it. The system is powered by a standard 9V battery in a rear compartment.


Some solder joins were remade and the jack was reshaped but the electrics were in good shape.The main work was cleaning and tidying and getting adjustment screws working again by removing rust which had built up and was pretty red and active in places.



The Sabre was reassembled,tested and is now ready for its return to its owner up in Carlow!...hope you'll like it Tom!

...better photo to come!

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3 comentários

Hello, thank for your post. I search a schematic for wiring these pickups, do you know where I can find it ? Thank you for your help.

Kevan Farrah
Kevan Farrah
22 de dez. de 2023
Respondendo a

Hi I have a 78 Sabre II sunburst just like the one in the article but in much better shape. My pre-amp went on it and I found that there is actually a company in Kirkland Wa. that make replacement boards for cheap, I ordered one and had my local shop replace it and its like the guitar is brand new. the company is Griffin Effects on that page they also have a wiring diagram that you can download. Recently I've been looking at getting a new guitar only because I'm starting to wear out by beloved Sabre, I've tried every high end american made guitar but none of them play as nicely as my old Sabre II so I'm…


Paul Fakler
Paul Fakler
21 de out. de 2023

Great write-up on a great guitar. Any thoughts on what could be used as a replacement for those intonation adjustment screws? I recently picked up a Sabre I and a couple of the screw heads are stripped. Ugh.

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