Image of last Belman guitars home page from Audiomastermind.
Belman guitars were handmade in Melbourne, Australia from 1994 to 2007 by Tony Bell. Sadly Belman guitars are no longer produced. The following Belman history is from the internet archive and contributions from forum members:
“The first incarnation of Belman Guitars was actually formed in the class room of a Secondary Technical School in 1982, where Anthony decided to build his first electric guitar. Craig Manger also in the same class having already completed his project asked Anthony if he would like some help to finish the project. Thus the seeds were sewn for what would eventually become Belman Guitars. The project was a major success for their grades and confidence. With the help and support of Mr Hogg (woodworking teacher), and working after normal school hours they proceeded to build their first bass.
The major turning point for the young guitar builders was the realisation they did not posses any of the necessary equipment to continue building guitars from home. The bass went up for sale in a local music store. To their delight the bass sold in little over a month, they had now sold their first instrument (circa 1984) and also possessed the funds to buy tools and machinery that allowed them to continue building guitars.
The early years were spent working long hours in Anthony’s mothers tiny garage, both men maintained full time employment and would perform all manner of guitar repairs long into the night. Within this small garage was crammed everything that was needed to build guitars, except for the space to stretch your arms. In these confined conditions the pair were able to perform some amazing repairs and produce incredible custom instruments. These hard years honed the skills of both Anthony and Craig into becoming one of the most sort after repairers in Melbourne.
Finally realizing that they had to make the decision to go full time or scale back the work load, they officially formed Belman Guitars in 1994. The name coming from the abbreviating and joining of the two sir-names Bell and Manger, Bel-Man, Belman.
From this point forward they dedicated every spare minute into understanding all the workings of electric guitars and basses. What timbers to use to achieve certain tones, what colour effects could be obtained from different staining methods. From re-winding pickups, to actually creating their own personal pickup models. Putting their instruments into the hands of as many professional players as possible, and more importantly listening to the feedback given by these players to help them achieve better results with the next instrument.
As the workload grew they knew it was time to relocate to a factory. Enter Tino Maiorana, having known the guys for a number of years and spent many hours in the garage, initially to have work done and later helping out and performing repairs. Belman Guitars relocated to their first factory in Thomastown, Victoria.
From the early days of the factory when the range offered 4 models, up to the current range of over 18 different variations of models for the player to choose from (including bass instruments). Belman stopped producing early in 2007.
Dating Belman Guitars Serial numbers
“…for the serial numbers, ours work like this. You may have an instrument that has HPG0124. The H is the shape so in this example Hornet, the P is for the model which in this case would be a “Plus” and the G is the alphabet number 7 (being the 7th letter in the alpha) for the 7th guitar built that particular month. Hope I haven’t lost you yet. The numbers are for the year and month, so the outer 2 numbers are the year, in this case “04” and the inner 2 numbers are the month 12 which of course is December. We then went to a simpler numbering system last year, which is for example 06506. The first 3 digits are the number of guitar for that year being the 65th instrument, and the last 2 digits are the year 06. Hope this helps” [source: Tino, Belman, email 29/1/2007]
Images courtesy of East Gosford Music and Albatross:
2001 Belman Guitar Catalog courtesy of Daz, Australia.
(I have only compressed the pricelist pages. Note the guitar picture scans are not compressed and up to 1.3 mb.)
Belman bass reviews
Here are a few sample pages from the internet archive:
? released 2006. The following announcement appeared on their site:
Belman after many requests from players have finally released our own range of guitar replacement pickups, with four models to get things started. Currently on offer are Standard Vintage, Hot Vintage and Anniversary which all feature Alinco 5 magnets. For those players looking for something hotter is the Ceramic model which features you guessed it a Ceramic magnet. Full descriptions will be following soon located in a new Pickups page on the site.
(Pickups will be available with or without covers, contact Belman Guitars for pricing.)
The main timber of choice in the Belman guitar range, Queensland Maple has provided a very real alternative to Honduran Mahogany. Although called Queensland Maple the timber bears no resemblance in appearance, texture and more importantly tone to Maple. Having a tone more along the lines of Mahogany, featuring a thick midrange, crisp highs and and solid bottom end without being muddy sounding. Very similar in appearance Mahogany, although consistently lighter, works great for both body and neck timber.
Used as a top ‘cap’ on the guitar for its stunning visual beauty. Figured Mountain Ash while maintaining the bottom end adds mids and top end clarity when combined with Queensland Maple. With a look that can vary from very clean almost Maple looking to slightly more grainy looking figure, Mountain Ash adds to any Belman guitar both visually and sonically.
Being a darker looking timber Blackwood works better when stained with more natural looking hues, rather than darker overtones. Sonically it adds a very clear smooth top end and a touch of definition to the low end. Blackwood can range in appearance from thin flame to a naturally wild curl, creating a look of pure elegance on any guitar or bass.
Used only as a headstock overlay simply for its stunning figure to add that extra touch to the Grand models.
A standard within the guitar building industry. Known for its thick full tone, Mahogany will add a warm richness of tone when used as body and neck timbers. Due to recent events around the world Honduran Mahogany has become a little more scarce than ever before and thus the price for this timber has risen dramatically. Used as a body timber will produce a mid-heavy guitar weight.
Adding brightness and clarity to the tone of a guitar, Maple makes for a great match with many timbers. Used as a top ‘cap’ on guitar bodies, seems to expand the frequency response of the mating timber, lowering the mids and adding to the tops and lows of the guitar. Also used for necks and fingerboards or as a 2 piece body for bass it will add clarity and punch to any sound.
While maintaining most of the same tonal characteristics generally speaking of Maple, Flame Maple adds a distinct beauty to the top of any instrument. Ranging from thin tight stripes to wide bands.
Again maintaining most of the same tonal characteristics generally speaking of Maple, Curly Maple adds a distinct naturally wild beauty to the top of any instrument. Curly is generally a looser more unpredictable figuring of the timber somewhere between Flame and Quilt.
Quilted Maple is extremely rare and provides one of the most stunning effects found in timber. Ranging from Bubble Quilt (appearing as circular type bubbles within the timber) or Sausage Quilt (similar to what’s shown below with elongated ribs producing a tubular effect) and anywhere in between, the right stain can transform it from simply a piece wood into working art.
Swamp Ash popularised by many instruments of the 50’s. Swamp Ash known for its lively, full round punchy sound providing a little bit extra in the top end. A timber that really works in almost any situation (or body shape) from guitar to bass. The other major advantage being the light weight of the timber. Making for a very comfortable instrument, be it playing 5 minutes or 5 hours.
Another timber made popular in the 50’s and 60’s (especially in single coil instruments) for its versatility. When combined with a bolt on Maple neck provides a full round tone with a little less tops and more accentuated lower mid-range tone. Generally speaking will produce a guitar of medium weight.
A visually stunning piece of wood when found in its highly figured form. Makoré while not commonly found on guitars actually provides a stunning top end to the range of a guitar, similar to hard Maple. Producing a defined clarity to the whole tonal spectrum, adding just the right amount of tops to allow the guitar to cut through any situation.
Belman Thomastown factory tour photos courtesy of Justin
Belman handmade logo.