1965-66 Pleasant SEL-220

Pleasant in Japan made some of my favourite offset guitars ever. Their Jag/Jazzmaster influences were worn proudly on their sleeve but their shapes were always just a little more ... interesting and aesthetically nicer than some other offset inspired shapes.

I've written about Pleasant before with the really nice, earlier SEL model and the history of this short lived company is all there so let's look at this great SEL-220 which was made for almost the entire companies existence from early '65 to late '66.

Along with the SEL, the Concert SEL and the awesome SEV-218, Pleasant made a few slightly more Burns (London) inspired guitars and 12 strings but no electric basses or semi acoustics. 

 

These were well made guitars having been made by Shinko Gakki which was a well known quality woodworking factory in Tatsuno. These are all solid timber bodies with bolt on single or (more commonly) multi laminate necks with rosewood fretboards. The timber and build quality is good on every one I've seen. 

 

The hardware on all Pleasants are made in house or custom for the brand as none of it appears on any other brands of the time. These square pole piece pickups are great with a very warm, medium high output with good frequency response and behave well with lots of gain. 

The switching system here is complex and took me the best part of a day along with a service to rebuild. I really wanted to keep this switching system in place as I really like it, and I love the original aluminium scratchplate. It's a mechanical switching system with sliding, sprung loaded panels with metal contacts and as you press the desired pickup, the panel for that pickup slides into place to make contact. 

 

The system becomes a little more complex with the switches that engage two pickups simultaneously (1+3) and both end switches which are all three (M) and none (0). It's an ingenious system and works really well for choices in tone and "1+3" is bridge and neck which immediately gives you an option not available on a Strat. 

Attached to this switching system is a master volume and tone control. 

The original vibrato is excellent and works smoothly and well. I replaced the original (non intonatable) bridge with an offset set up which works well and gives more options in individual string height and intonation. The vibrato arm is not original.

 

Unfortunately when I got this the original tuners had been (badly) replaced with a cheap set of three a side units and after inspecting the headstock I decided it was best to drill clean holes and fit sealed gear tuners for reliability and function. 

All the electrics are original except the knobs (which were missing) and work well after being completely serviced.

 

The neck is on the thick side but very comfortable. It instantly feels very playable and the tones from these pickups are excellent. The vibrato works well and the new bridge only improves playability and intonation.

The original aluminium foil headstock badge is missing on the oversize, VERY Fender influenced matching headstock. These Pleasants all had heavy chrome steel trussrod covers that also hold the string bar in place which is quite an interesting way of doing it. 

I LOVE this shape and the VERY slightly out turned horns look great on this offset shape. While the SEV is probably my favourite shape Pleasant, the SEL series is a close second. 

 

Jan 27 2018 Written By: Tim Brennan