Electric guitars and basses from Poland

Electric guitars and basses from Poland at “lordbizarre’s electric guitar and amp museum “ Leuven,Belgium,€pe

One of the first Polish basses/guitars (known by me) seem to be build by an accordion factury: Bydgoska Fabryka Akordeonow (Accordeon factury of Bydgosnhzcz) (fig 01). The bass produced by this factory was called “Lotos”. This Lotos was, together with the “Samba”, a far copy from the Hägstrom guitars from Sweden (fig 02).

fig 01

fig 02

The body and electrics where good quality, and so were the tuners and sliding switches: a linea recta copy from the Van Ghent tuners Hägstrom used (fig 03) or even Hägstrom made? Also the perforated metal sheet between the pu’s resembles a Hägstrom (fig 04). The strange thing about the Lotos is that the tuners are mounted upside down... Rather a good look than efficientcy?
It’s not clear if this Samba was also manufactured by the accordion factory or by the Defil company. Rumours state that Defil took over the Bydgoska factory and manufactured their guitars there also. In short: the Samba is simular to the Lotos in construction. But Samba’s can be found with or without a Defil logo on the headstock. The Lotos bass came in a orange colour. I’ve seen Lotoses in other colours, but always repainted and/or refinished.

fig 03

fig 04

fig 05 :::::::: fig 06

The headstock, pick-up’s, pickguard and vibrato are also clearly copied from Hägstrom (fig 05-06)! This bass and electric guitar can be dated by the potentiometers to be from around 1966. The Lotos and Samba have offset cutaway’s and no bindings on body or neck, and for Samba 6-a-side tuners.
The same pu’s (rounded black Hägstrom copy pu’s) could also be found on some semi-acoustic models. Presumably these came also from the 60’s and were called “Malwa” (fig 07-08). The 3 pu’s have the same construction as the Samba and Lotos - not fixed on a pickguard, but set in a special pu-holders screwed directly to the body. The Malwa had a glued on neck. Although they where archtop they where made of triplex (3 layers of wood glued together) pressed into archtop form. The 1-rounded body has two f-holes with bindings, and a wooden bridge, 4 pots and a stoptail. The neck has bindings and dot markers.

fig 07

fig 08

From the same time (according the pots...) came the ”Jola“. This electric guitar (fig 09) seems to be the start of a long series of electric guitars and basses, until the “2“ series took over in the mid 70’s.

As the Samba and the Lotos, the Jola also has a trussrod, so the guitar could be adjusted after years of heavy duty and nefast environmental circumstances... But the pickups changed. Now they turned from the Hägstrom copy to a own factory design, and were used for the next decade. The square or rectangular pu’s (fig 10) offered the possibillity to adjust them, not in the way we know by adjusting screws, but by raising or lowering the pu’s (in any form, such as rubber strips, wooden blocks or even folded paper... you name it... ). The body was like the Samba, very heavy and solid. The guitars and basses seem to be always painted in red, don’t know why but I’ve never saw another shade.

fig 09

fig 10

fig 11

It’s also the first guitar I’ve seen with a serial number (here 1103), but with the aluminium neck plate instead of chromed steel or bronze (fig 11). This can also be found on Julia and Echo from arround ’72.

In the semi-acoustic range Defil started to produce a range of copys from the Western World. They had a 335 copy wich was used for a 6-string; 12-string and a bass model. They had the “Melodia” name as a six string; the “Echo” as the 12-string (fig 12-13-14) and the “Rytm” for a bass. They all used the square pu’s. The electrics where mounted on a small oval shaped pickguard, with indications of the potentiometers' functions: bass, treble and volume.

There’s some confusion about those 335 serie: here also there was a Malwa, not as the semi-acoustic mentioned above, but with pu’s with adjustable pole pieces as on the following Jola22. The archtop body’s have equal cutaways; the heads 3-a-side tuners, f-holes and plastic dot markers. Body and neck have bindings, while the head is covered with exotic wood. Plastic factory and model logo can be found on headstock and body.

fig 12

fig 13

fig 14

Besides the 335 copy there was also a violin shaped Höfner bass copy: “Romeo”, and also the guitar version... yes, the “Julia” (fig 15). They where also archtop made out of triplex, with bolt-on neck and trussrod. These models also carried a serial number on their neckplate. Some of the Julias have the black Hägstrom copy pu’s but adapted in the metal housing from the square pu’s. So some black pu’s are fixed into the metal housing and visible; other black pu’s are fixed into the metal housing and coverred with pearloid plastic! Perheaps a transition period end 60’s/early 70’s?

All the Julia’s have a wooden bridge and an old style stoptail as the Malwa, some with the Defil logo on it.

The head was coverred with a sheet of exotic wood and the plastic Defil logo. The necks are made of 3 layers (for guitars) and 5 layers (for bass) wood. It's always beech with (looks like-) mahogany strips. Although these are very atractive, some of the mahogany strips aren’t in the center probably due to poor quality.

fig 15

fig 16

fig 17

These instruments had one round soundhole between the pu’s; little oval shaped pickguard; bindings on their neck’s and a trussrod. The Defil logo was glued on the head, and the model name on the body above the neck pu. Although the bass tuners are high quality, the Julia tuners aren’t (fig 17: Echo tuners, same as Julia). The above pictured instruments all date from the early 70’s, the Echo from 1972.

Arround that time there where also Melodias; Jolas and Julias with some different pu’s. Those pu’s had adjustable polepieces, also a Hägstrom copy, so the pu’s where much larger than the usual ones. The housing contained one single coil (half the cavity) and the pole pieces adjusting levers. It seems to me that in those days, the guitars with such a pu carried the “22” after the model name. The only 22 model I have is a”Jola22”, unfortunately not complete... but with the same hardware (vibrato & bridge) as the early Jola.

fig 18

fig 19

fig 20

This guitar has clearly another influence: Germany! The pickguard looks like an East-German Musima (fig 19), the vibrato like a East-German Migma and/or Meinel und Herold. Jola22 wasn’t the only guitar with German influences! Proof here is the “BasTon”. This bass carries a West-German Framus Strato de Luxe copied head. Most of the guitars also had Höfner-like bar markers.

fig 21

fig 22

This brings us to the next period: the “2“. All of the previuos guitars (exept Lotos, Samba and Jola) can be found from arround 1977 and later in a much cheaper version. They all carry the 2 behind there model name. Like: “Jola2” ; “Melodia2” ; “Echo2” ; “Rytm2” ; “Julia2” ; and so on...

These instruments had different pickguards, but also didn’t have a trussrod. Many can be found with bent necks, although the necks where made of 3 layers of wood. Another difference is the logo: instead of a plastic glued-on logo there was a decall on the head. However the plastic model name stayed on the body. They have the same body shape as the early 335 (fig 23), equal cutaways, 1 f hole, and no bindings on the neck. The Echo2’s all had a wooden bridge, all others have metal bridges.

fig 23

fig 24

fig 25

The pickguard changed: it supported the pu’s, with sliding pots instead of the usual ones, switches and jack’s. The jacks often used where white plastic ones, mostly replaced by conventional ones. The plexi pickguard came in brown, white or painted (gold-brownburst). Most of the heads wheren’t painted anymore.

Here’s an advertisement from 1977 (fig 26), with some acoustic guitars; the BasTon & Jola2 (fig 25); the Julia2 (fig 24) & Rytm2. The f hole from Julia2 is an original factory design: counter clockwise cat's-eye with a small cut-out.

fig 26

Those guitars all came from the late 70’s. On the pub one can see that the ’77 pu’s are still metal housed.

In the 80’s the quality went down further: for the semi-acoustic range the bodies wheren’t archtop but flat, and the pu’s wheren’t metal anymore but with plastic housings. One of the semi-acoustic models was the “Jowita” (fig 27). A flattop with two pu’s and “cat’s-eyes” f-holes. The electronics where mounted on a printed circuit board and the toggle switch was some adapted sliding switch. An interesting fact is that each PCB carries the model name, so one can found the model name on the incorporated PCB. Although there was an intermix later on with pcb’s from different model names! Some of the heads are clearly Ibanez copied: same design as Ibanez Musician, so even Japan had his influence on Polish guitar making.

fig 27

One of the highlights from the 80’s is the “Aster”(fig 28). This was clearly a LesPaul copy, with a heavy body, a bolt-on neck, two Muza (made in Poland) pu’s, toggle switch and trussrod. Here also a pcb with the electronics. Each pcb bears the model name. Those pcb’s where also used in the “Kosmos” (fig 29-30), a Gibson Moderne copy, and in the “Luna2” bass (fig 31).

A few times I saw a Luna2 with “Luna22” model name but the usual plastic coverred pu’s (not the large adaptable ones) ,with the lowest knob much larger than usual... special version of a Luna2?? Never had the occasion to check out this bass...

These guitars where often used by HeavyMetal bands in Poland. The neck’s are often 5-layers of wood, so reasonably stable.

fig 28

fig 29

fig 30

fig 31

Although these guitars where made to reach many guitarists the quality didn’t appeal greatly: lot of Asters and Kosmoses were upgraded with better pu’s; better output jack’s (the DIN jack was often used in the East-European country’s); bridges and tuners. The original tuners where not user friendly (fig 32-33):
Some axe are rivetted and not rechangeable; pu’ where changed to humbuckers to give more output, bridges to be more use-reliable...

fig 32

fig 33

One of the most remarkable things about Defil is that all necks are playable untill the 13 fret, then the neck thickens to join the body. Sometimes the body side of the neck is two times the thickness of the neck. This can be clearly seen in fig 19. It’s very difficult to reach the high notes, even with a large body cuttout! Another fact is that all Defil necks have a zero fret.

What happened later on with Defil...?... I don’t know. It seems that Defil still exists, but only manufacturing classic and acoustic guitars. In the 1997 Katalog Polskich Produktow Muzycnzych (a catalogue of all Polish musical instruments manufacturers) Defil is still mentioned, but only for acoustic guitars.

So that’s all folks!
Up to the next challenge !

Ivan alias lordbizarre

*ref : katalog 1997 Polskich produktow muzycznych (promotional book about all Polish muzical manufacturers s.a. Defil ; Muza ; Presto ; etc...)
*ref : 1977 Dolnoslaska Fabryka Instrumentow Lutniczych (Defil guitar publicity folder)
*ref : all Defil guitars,retired in my museum after a long life of heavy duty, abuses and good times and enjoying their last stand in : “lordbizarre’s electric guitar and amp museum”Leuven, Belgium, Europe.

All dates and data are based on my personal experience and knowledge of the Polish guitar brand Defil , no guarantee though !!

Request :if you have any corrections,updates or additions :welcome ! Please write to . http://www.lordbizarre.com

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About the author:

Ivan alias "Lordbizarre" is a guitar collector from Leuven, Belgium. He owns more than 10,000,000,000 cheesy guitars, posessing the largest collection of European and Russian cheesy instruments in the world. He's also a frequent contributor of our site. CheesyGuitars.com is very grateful for all the help and the permission to publish the article.

Don't forgey to visit his website -

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