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JHS UK and designer Alan Entwistle team up to relaunch vintage British electric guitar, the Rapier 33

Rapier 33 electric guitar
(Image credit: Rapier)

UK instrument distributors JHS and guitar designer Alan Entwistle have announced a newly revamped take on the vintage British electric guitar, the Rapier 33.

Originally produced by Watkins Electric Music (WEM), the Rapier can essentially be thought of as the UK equivalent to the US department store brands of the '60s, like Harmony and Kay.

The likes of Fender and Gibson were not always easy to come by for UK guitar shoppers in the '60s. At that point they were imported in relatively smaller numbers, with comparatively higher initial production costs, and as a result were often prohibitively expensive.

WEM’s Rapier models were produced in the UK from the early ’60s (though possibly as far back as 1957) through to the late ’70s, and like many before and since, the instrument took some inspiration from Fender’s Stratocaster styling. The double-cutaway Rapier 33 offered British buyers an affordable, home-made alternative to the big brands.

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Rapier 33 electric guitar

(Image credit: Rapier)
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Rapier 33

(Image credit: Rapier)
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Rapier 33 electric guitar

(Image credit: Rapier)
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Rapier 33 electric guitar

(Image credit: Rapier)
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Rapier 33 electric guitar

(Image credit: Rapier)
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Rapier 33 electric guitar

(Image credit: Rapier)

Now JHS has announced it has worked with designer Alan Entwistle to reprise the 33 model under its own ‘Rapier’ banner. The new instruments have okoume bodies, hard rock maple ’soft C’ profile necks and a rosewood fingerboard. 

As you’d expect, there are some nods to modern appointments, with Graph Tech Nubone nuts, Wilkinson E-Z-Lok machine heads and a “high spec’d” roller bridge included, designed to provide a stable base for the vibrato. 

The electronics have been overhauled, too. The new generation Rapiers will use Entwistle EWR64 mini-humbucker pickups, with two blades – this is “unlike the early models which had five, one of which was upside down,” says Entwistle. 

“The intention was to boost the treble – it was a unique idea, but it actually made the top three strings out of phase and also resulted in loss of volume.”

Another tweak is that the original Rhythm/Solo toggle switch has been revamped as a three-way pickup selector, which combined with the Bass Cut switch and middle-pickup selector switch offers a total of seven tonal permutations.

Finally, the revamped Rapiers will be available in a choice of Fiesta Red, Daphne Blue, Arctic White and 3-Tone Sunburst with an MSRP of £429 (approx. $580).

Head to JHS UK for more information on the Rapier brand.

Matt Parker

Matt is a freelance journalist who has spent the last decade interviewing musicians for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar, NME.com, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched CreativeMoney.co.uk, which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.