'60s Silvertone "Sharkfin" ET-460 K4L
When three pickups simply won’t do, reach for a Silvertone ET-460 K4L
There was a time when a man was judged by the number of pickups on his guitar. Ah, those were the days—the glorious ’60s!
After seeing some 4-pickup Silvertones show up on eBay over the years, I decided I needed to experience one. So I bookmarked this particular guitar—an old ’60s teal-colored Silvertone ET-460 K4L. Nicknamed the “Sharkfin,” the instrument was made in Japan by Teisco. On this model, each of the 4 pickups has its own on/off switch, a system that allows a mind-boggling number of different pickup combinations. (Okay, that’s only 15, not including “all off,” but compared to a Tele, Les Paul, or Strat, this seems almost infinite.)
This guitar’s “Sharkfin” moniker comes from its cool, sculpted headstock. The Grover tuners were added by a previous owner.
The seller admitted that his tech had declared the neck was slightly twisted, and this probably kept bidding low. It was also missing one of the bridge roller inserts for the low-E string, as well as the Silvertone headstock logo.
I decided to take my chances anyway because everything else seemed to be there, and apparently all the pickups worked. Also, someone had replaced the tuners with nice Grovers, and the original tuners would be included in the case for the winner. I always figure when an owner changes out the original tuners for Grovers, the guitar must be pretty decent, so I bid on it.
The entire guitar sports a teal paint job.
I won it for $262, plus $18 shipping. Not exactly a steal, but definitely within bottom-feeder territory. It arrived with no strings on it (usually a bad sign), and I immediately took it to my tech Jack Dillen for an assessment. He was amused by all the pickups and switches. He put on a single high-E string, started fretting it all over the neck, and after a few minutes gave me some good news: The neck was actually in good condition. It only appeared to be twisted because a half-dozen frets were popping up.
After Jack applied a few dabs of super glue and clamped the loose frets to reseat them, the neck seemed to be just fine. He also looked in his parts box and found a compatible roller bridge saddle to replace the missing one. These simple modifications made my Sharkfin work just fine.
The Bigsby-inspired bridge includes roller saddles.
Bottom Feeder Tip #2,289: Keep your friends close, but keep your guitar tech even closer. It was my guitar tech against the seller’s tech ... and mine won. So is it a keeper? Absolutely—it now has super-low action, plays like a dream, and seems to possess a gazillion different sounds, thanks to all the unusual pickup combinations. I also dig the cool “pointy” Jetsons vibe. She’s a real retro-future looker!
Will Ray is a founding member of the Hellecasters guitar-twang trio. He also does guitar clinics promoting his namesake G&L signature model 6-string, and produces artists and bands at his studio in Asheville, North Carolina. You can contact Will on Facebook and at willray.biz.