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A British cult classic electric guitar makes its return as the Rapier 33 is revamped and brought back from the dead

The Rapier 33
(Image credit: JHS)

UK gear distributor JHS and guitar design guru Alan Entwistle have joined forces to revive a lost classic of electric guitar design, with their newly developed Rapier 33 reanimating the Watkins Rapier for a new generation.

A solid-bodied electric with a faintly S-style silhouette, the Rapier was a staple of the British guitar scene in the 60s, and like models from brands such as Dallas and Burns, it offered a cheaper alternative to US models, with its three-pickup model notable for its forward-slanted middle pickup. 

Many players started out on one, with Vivian Campbell owning a second-hand model back when he started playing, and whether in their two, three or four-pickup versions (named the 22, 33 and 44 respectively), the Rapier was once ubiquitous across the UK.

The JHS/Entwistle Rapier 33 retains much of the original aesthetic, but debuts new pickups, upgraded hardware, and uses solid okoume for the body. There is a Canadian maple bolt-on neck that is is carved into a soft C profile and topped by a rosewood fingerboard, with a 12" radius and an old-school zero-fret design.

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The Rapier 33

(Image credit: JHS)
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The Rapier 33

(Image credit: JHS)
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The Rapier 33

(Image credit: JHS)
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The Rapier 33

(Image credit: JHS)

Perhaps the biggest change is with the pickups. While we have a similar configuration with that angled middle pickup, the Rapier 33 returns with a trio of low-noise Entwistle EWR64 mini-humbuckers, plus a tone circuit that allows you to dial in that British 60s guitar sound with plenty of trebly chime to cut through a mix.

Replacing the original Rhythm/Solo switch we have a three-way pickup selector that selects the neck, bridge or neck-and-bridge pickups together, with a slider switch on hand to engage the middle pickup. There is also a Bass Cut slider switch for added jangle.

The Rapier 33

(Image credit: JHS)

Today's player might find that an eccentric way of doing things but it means the Rapier 33 provides you with seven core sounds to play with before you touch the volume and tone controls. Here, JHS and Entwistle use 500K pots with the tone control fitted with a 0.015 micro-farads capacity to retain clarity at all positions.

Elsewhere, there is an Original Rapier Hi Lo design smooth action vibrato, Wilkinson E-Z-Lok tuners, and a GraphTech Nubone nut, measuring 43mm wide. The headstock has a newly designed logo – very Moddish – and a three-ply pickguard completes what is an avowedly vintage vibe.

Priced £429, the Rapier 33 is available now, with Arctic White, Daphne Blue, Fiesta Red and 3-Tone Sunburst your finish options. See JHS for more details.

The Rapier 33

(Image credit: JHS)
Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.