Watkins Bass??

8) I bought a bass two days ago that I am hoping some of you may be able to help me out with.

The brand name is Watkins. 60's vintage. Says " Made in England " on the neckplate. It is Sky Blue with White pickguard. Looks identical to a older Burns Bison, minus the Burns pickups ( it has three ).

Anybody seen anything like it before ?? 8)

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Sounds exactly like the Watkins/WEM "Rapier" bass. I semi-restored one for my German friend Arni (another lefty). Here it is:

and here's the description I wrote for him (it can also be found on his site, leftybass.com and clicking on "my basses")

WEM (Watkins Electric Music) is most famous for the "Copicat" echo, their PA systems (which powered all of the classic '60s British bands and festivals) and the "Dominator" amp. They also made guitars in England.

The WEM Rapier was the second English-made solid-electric guitar to be marketed; the Dallas Tuxedo beat it to first place by just a few weeks. The Rapier Bass is rarer than the guitar, only about 10% of WEM guitars were lefties and the sky-blue colour is very uncommon (most were painted red).

My other chum, Reg, has a Watkins guitars site and this also features the Rapier bass before I'd started the renovation.

8) Thanks man. I did some investigation of my own and you are exactly correct, The oickguard on mine is a little different, but that is the bass. I have a couple of old Baldwin's that look very much the same, except they have Burns pickups and the hip and groovy " Wild Dog" setting on the pickup selector rotor switch. Very cool.

Thanks for the reply !!!! 8)

Hope all is well with the new job.[/img]

New job is knackering, and slowing down my replies :)

I took that WEM bass completely apart during the refurb. It's a very odd construction. Charlie Watkins made the amps, his brothers Reg and Sid did the guitars. Reg was in the furniture business (I think he may have made the cabinets, too). Instead of using a pin router, the bodies are made from two halves (looks like white pine), so that pup and neck routs could be just jig-sawn out. The two were then glued together and, once the body was rounded and painted, the join's not visible until you remove the scratch and pup plates. The paint, BTW, was an early polyester and cracks easily if subjected to big temperature changes.

The rotary selector (ABCD) goes from bridge, bridge + neck, neck, neck with capacitor to roll off more treble. Prefer a switch and tone knob, myself, but it works in its way. Does yours have that rubber damper on the bridge that can be lowered using thumbwheels?

8) Yes 1bass, we are talking about the same bass. Mine had the rubber piece you speak of, but the previous owner took it off. I'm in the process of fixing it right now.

A friend of mine works at Basses Only and tells me that I have a very early version. He has seen several of them and has only seen one other one with a pickguard like mine. He says most all of them said " WEM" on the lower right hand side of the pickguard. Mine does not and never did.

It is a good sounding bass and I am having fun with it !! 8)

Yes, the products started off using the "Watkins" brand until the change to WEM in about 1963/4. The very early Rapiers had no truss rod (check if there's a cover on the headstock) but apparently warping is very rare even on these models. HST, I struggled to get a low action on Arni's WEM and settled for a bit of an egg-slicer rather than risk another tweak of the (odd, no Allen head) rod. I passed it to a luthier who agreed with me (and, to my delight, reckoned I'd done a good job so far and only charged me £30 for his own work).

Mine has no truss rod but it is certainly not a problem. The action on mine was just a bit low. However, after a fret dresssing it seems to be OK. It is a great sounding old bass !! Even with a very low action it sounds very good. I am certainly glad I got it !!!!

Where'd you manage to find an old watkins bass, i've been looking for one for a while in any condition and i was wondering if u could help

I got the one that I restored from eBay (£120, needing work). Even before I finished the restoration, a black lefty was also listed on eBay and this selled for a similar price. If you regularly search eBay for "WEM bass" and "Watkins bass" you might see one after a while, although it'll more likely hit on the Dominator Bass amp they also made. They come along if you're patient, but I notice that some silly prices (£200+) are being asked for what is an idiosyncratic, not the most playable bass.

Also, you could have a look at Reg Godwin's UK site (listed in previous posts in this thread) and ask him if he knows of one for sale. Lots of owners keep in touch with Reg and he may be able to help you (he helped me get hold of some Vol and Tone knobs).

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