The Ovation Breadwinner Electric Guitar – An Unsung Ergonomic Design

Ovation Breadwinner Electric Guitar

The Ovation Breadwinner electric guitar is a fine example of an ergonomic design incorporating both good balance and excellent picking arm support. Interestingly, it has not gotten the attention given to the Klein electric guitar. Only in production from 1972 through 1979, the design predated the Klein electric guitar by about a decade.

Even a cursory look at the two designs reveals a striking similarity. So much so that according to this Vintage Guitar Magazine article, Ovation considered legal action against Klein. In the end, Ovation decided against it in light of the company’s lack of success with solid body electric guitars.

What I found truly striking about the Breadwinner was its designer’s revelation that its ergonomic design was somewhat of an accident! According to The Ovation Breadwinner Fanpage’s The Designer Writes, the “idea was to make it resemble a medieval battle axe because musicians at that time often referred to their instruments as their ‘axe’.” However, the designer goes on to state that the easy upper fret access and comfortable position while sitting were intentional. Fortunately, he struck on a shape that delivered on ergonomics and to which the Klein electric guitar has at least a debt of gratitude.

19 Responses to “The Ovation Breadwinner Electric Guitar – An Unsung Ergonomic Design”

  1. Hurrah! Here’s my favourite. I’ve been waiting for you to feature this.

    1. I think the Ovation Breadwinner is a fine example of a guitar that combines both an ergonomic sense as well as an aesthetic sense. It shows that a single guitar can achieve both form and function.

  2. So sometimes it pays to think in literal terms.

  3. Part of what attracted me to the Breadwinner was that it looked NOTHING like a Strat or a Les Paul. The fact that it turns out to be ergonomically designed is a bonus – it wasn’t something that I was specifically looking for.

    (BTW, has anyone else out there tried playing a Flying V sitting down? It IS possible – you have to position the lower point between your legs – but it doesn’t really feel natural).

    1. It’s exciting to think that a designer could just stumble upon an ergonomic design. Imagine what would be possible if there was a concerted effort. In fact, my next post is about a design that was built expressly with ergonomics in mind.

      1. However, what was the difference between the Breadwinner and Deacon?

        I tried some 2 nd hand in shops in Sweden, and they felt ergonomic, but they neck dived if you didn’t slant it upwards enough. They couldn’t be played at a 45 degree angle. With a strap on though, no problems. The sound was a little to much on the thin tele side for me. But nevertheless, a very intriguing gutiar.

        Wonder, why they never took off. Even remember Ace Freehley played a white one.

  4. Having played both the Breadwinner and the Deacon through the 70’s and early 80’s, I was always surprised by the looks I’d get when playing a jazz gig. That is until I’d peel off a nice little scale or two from the neck pickup through my Twin Reverb.

    While the ergonomic element is there (it was easier to play sitting than my ES), everyone seems to forget that the sound was also awesome.

    1. Anonymous – Thanks for the insight on the Breadwinner’s playability and sound.

  5. Everyone has been talking about the shape, but this guitar really sounds good. I have an all original early Breadwinner model 1251-5 serial # E00488 in excellent shape. I have the large toroidal single coil 18 volt pick-ups and this is the cleanest guitar I’ve heard and it has a broad range of tones. I have a 79 Strat, a Tele, Parker Fly Classic, and 6 other popular model, but my breadwinner cuts through the music like none other. This is a very funky guitar with a super fast neck. If you can find one, play it, you won’t be disappointed.

    1. Thanks for the insight on the Ovation Breadwinner’s sound. We had an anonymous poster earlier this year who also mentioned the great tones…

  6. I thought my next build was going to be a small travel guitar but after having discovered your site I have the body for a cross between a Klein and a Ovation roughed out. Here in Mexico it`s a big hassle to get double ball strings so I`m staying with a conventional headstock. I really am enjoying your page. Thanks. Don

  7. I really am enjoying your blog. Great resource. Hopefully soon I can get you some pics of my cross between a Klein and an Ovation. Hope this post works this time……. Don

    1. I’m really looking forward to the pictures of your build! Keep me posted…

  8. I’ve been a fan and playing the Deacons/Breadwinners for over 10 years now. The 12 string versions are just as amazing, if not more, than the 6 stringers. Think affordable Rickenbackers! Actually not any longer though. Last I seen the 12 string Deacons were selling upwards around 2k USDs and I think that was at least 2-3 years ago. Well, they are definitely very rare. Just like the Breadwinner Limited… very hard to aquire indeed.

    1. Hi Michael! Thanks for the comments. I wish I had picked up a Breadwinner when I first came across them a couple of years ago. I’m afraid to look at what they go for now.

  9. Great Great Great guitar in a lot of aspects. i use on with my band which i have listed for my website. Does anyone know how much these things go for nowadays?

    1. Hi Frank – Thanks for the feedback on the Breadwinner.

      I don’t know what they’re going for but you might get some idea by checking out eBay.

  10. This was the guitar Ace Frehley used when he played in a band called “Honey” just before joining KISS. He really couldn’t play this one any better but it was a great guitar. I remember his was white or off white.

  11. I know this topic has been quiet for a long time, but I thought that I would provide an answer to the question about the difference between the Breadwinner and Deacon:

    The two most notable differences were in the finish of the two instruments – the Breadwinner body was coated with LyraChord which provided the textured finish. The Deacon had a gloss finish. The next was the neck treatment and inlays – the Deacon had mother of pearl diamond shaped inlays and an ivory binding while the Breadwinner had plastic dot inserts and no binding.

    There were differences in the hardware, but they were not obvious except under close comparison. There was also a rumor/myth that the wood used for the Breadwinners may have been blemished, or multiple pieces, and therefore not suitable for the clear finish used on the Deacon. No one in Hartford ever confirmed or denied that as far as I was ever able to learn.