The speaker codes indicate a date of c1972.
4x12Ē Speaker Cab Ė Fully loaded and working
This is an
original WEM Starfinder Cab from the 60s/70s.
Several months ago
I was contact by an acquaintance who knew I was interested in WEM equipment. He
had purchased a pair of WEM speakers from a friend who had them stored away for
a long time but he didnít have much info other than that one of the cabinets
was in very poor condition.
I met my
acquaintance a short time later and I was surprised to find that the cabinets
were both original rare WEM Starfinder 4x12Ē guitar cabs. Sadly, to say that
one was in very poor condition was an understatement. Almost 40% of the cabinet
had been reduced to a pile of dust by an infestation of woodworm. This was a
great shame as the cabinet was a very early Starfinder with the serial number
00111 so probably one of the first ever made in the 1960s. The good news was the
cabinet had been kept dry and so all 4 original Goodmans Power Audiom 50 watt
drivers were intact and undamaged, although rather dirty. I was also able to
salvage the original WEM serial number nameplate and the gold piping that went
round the perimeter of the front baffle and also a small quantity of the iconic
WEM grille cloth.
Starfinder cabinet was in much better condition. It was intact and the woodwork
was in remarkably good condition. The speakers were also intact. This cabinet
had three original Fane Crescendo drivers and a single McKenzie driver. (I
assume that one of the original four Fanes must have blown at some time and the
McKenzie was fitted as a replacement.) The McKenzie is an excellent driver but
it would have been good if all four Fanes had been present. Of the three
remaining Fanes, two had a very small tear in the cone which looked like they
were caused just by old age. They still worked well and sounded excellent and I
made minor repairs to the tears which has not affected them in any way.
The grille cloth
on the second Starfinder cab was also intact, with just a few small holes and
some age-related fading. The cabinet covering was in fairly good condition
although rather dirty, with a few spray paint marks where I assume the cabinet
had been sat just a little too close to some spray painting at some time. The
cabinet itself had not been painted and there were just some minor tears in the
covering. The cabinet still had its original back panel including WEM nameplate
with serial number and it also had its original internal metal reinforcing bar.
The red/gold piping round the perimeter of the baffle was also intact and in
good condition. The only part that was in poor condition was the vinyl/tolex
covering on the base of the cabinet. This was badly worn with multiple tears.
So thatís what
they were like when I got them. Once I had salvaged everything I could from the
very early Starfinder, the rest was disposed of as it was totally unusable.
I then set about
doing what I could with the second Starfinder :-
I removed all four
drivers, tested them and then put them safely to one side.
The front baffle was
in two layers. The 3/4Ē thicker solid 12-ply main baffle, to which the drivers
are fixed, was well and truly fixed to the cabinet and unmoveable so that stayed
where it was. The 3/8Ē thinner front baffle, to which the cloth and piping is
fixed, was screwed in place so this was removed.
I purchased a piece
of viny/tolex cabinet covering that closely matched the original covering on the
rest of the cabinet and I cut it to shape and fixed it to the base of the
cabinet. This is only visible if you turn the cabinet upside down.
I fitted a set of 4
heavy duty wheels to the base. This cabinet is made of very thick, very strong
solid plywood Ė not the MDF or chipboard found in many other well known but
inferior cabinets Ė so it is extremely heavy, especially when all four drivers
are loaded, so a set of strong wheels is almost a necessity.
I removed the piping
from the front baffle and also both sets of speaker grill, all of which were
stapled in place originally. Those of you that are familiar with early WEM
cabinets will know that the black/red/silver sine-wave pattern WEM grille cloth
is very thin and not particularly strong, so WEM reinforced it with a second
grille cloth behind the first. The second grille cloth is plain black mesh, and
Iíve yet to find an old original WEM cabinet on which this second cloth is
still intact. On this Starfinder, it was badly torn in several places and
After I had removed
the cloth and piping from the front baffle, it just left the 5-ply wooden frame
and unfortunately I found that the woodworm had struck again but not too badly
and only on the front baffle. I treated the wood with woodworm killer and
several of the b*****s literally climbed out of the woodwork, trying to escape.
They didnít get very far and will never damage another piece of wood ever
Once the woodworm had
been disposed of, I filled with wood filler the few small holes that they had
left behind, which I then rubbed down and followed with two coats of black wood
stain. That left the front baffle in good strong condition, bug free, and ready
to be reused.
The second layer of
plain black mesh grille cloth had to be replaced by something as close as I
could find to the original. Not easy to find. I ended up using a piece of the
very strong plain black mesh that HH used on the front of their early cabinets.
Not the plastic stuff with large holes but the finer stuff that looks much
better. This is pretty close to the original WEM cloth, and gives the drivers a
good level of protection as it is kick-proof provided your shoe size isnít
greater than 8. This was stapled onto the wooden front baffle frame.
The front patterned
grille cloth was then very carefully rinsed in warm water and mild detergent.
The water immediately turned a very dark brown as it absorbed more than 40 years
of dirt. The cloth itself came out intact and looking much better than it did
before. The cloth then went off to my local seamstress who has done speaker
cloth repairs for me in the past. She did a superb job patching the small holes
in the cloth, although it took her several hours to try to make them as
invisible as possible. I then stapled the freshly cleaned and repaired cloth
onto the front baffle followed by the outer piping which had also been cleaned.
The front baffle was then ready to be refitted back onto the cabinet. The cloth
had become frayed around the edges, so it had to be stretched a little which
made the edges look a little uneven, but this was unavoidable as I didnít want
to overstretch the 40 year old cloth.
Before refitting the
front baffle I repaired the small tears and holes in the tolex on the main
cabinet. There were surprisingly few considering its age so this didnít take
The tolex on the main
cabinet and back panel then got the cleaning treatment, which consisted of
wiping over with a damp cloth and mild detergent followed by a polish with black
renovating polish. Of course, it didnít look perfect, and never will, but it
looks a hell of a lot better than it did before.
I then fitted a set
of corner protectors. I know that WEM didnít use these but the corners take
the most wear and tear and get easily damaged. I used the same corner protectors
that are used on Vox, Ampeg, and many other vintage cabinets so they are
appropriate for the period if not for the cabinet itself. Ok, I accept that
takes away a degree of originality but I personally think the corners look good
and they certainly do an excellent job of protection. Of course, they can be
easily removed if they arenít wanted.
So the cabinet was
now cleaned, polished, back in one piece including the front baffle, and, even
if I do say so myself, looking pretty good compared to how it was when I first
My final task was to
decide which drivers to use and to then fit them and wire them up. I decided to
load the Goodmans drivers as there was a full set of them and they were in
slightly better condition than the Fanes.
So there you have it. The cabinet is now ready. It looks good and
I know how rare and sought after these cabinets are and having seen
first hand just how strong and well made they are, Iím not surprised.
The work that Iíve done on the cabinet took many hours, but I
strongly believe it has improved the overall condition and appearance of the
cabinet. I apologise to all WEM lovers who would have preferred it if the
cabinet had been left untouched, completely original, and still showing its many
years of wear and tear. In this instance, the only things that arenít original
are the second layer of grille cloth, the corner protectors, and the new back
panel screws which replaced the old worn out originals so the vast majority of
this cabinet is original. I fall into the category of those people who prefer
things to look and sound as they were intended and I hope there will be a few
people out there who agree with me.
Four 12" Speakers for the handling of up to 80 watts.
Impedance: 12 to 15 ohms.
30" x 30" x 14.5" cabinet, with internal metal bracing to eliminate cabinet movement.
As above, but equipped with heavier duty speakers to raise maximum output to 200 watts.
Impedance: Choice of 6 to 8 ohms or 12 to 15 ohms.