Claescaster

Month: November, 2015

LR Baggs Lyrics

LR Baggs Lyrics System

I’ve just ordered myself a LR Baggs Lyrics, mainly because I needed a second pickups system but also because I thought it would make me as awesome as Sturgill Simpson. Either way, I needed something new and felt that the Lyrics sounded way more realistic than my old LR Baggs M1. My friend Wolf and I recently installed a LR Baggs iBeam in his Luxor Dove copy and that sounded great. I still haven’t decided if I’m going to install the Lyrics system in my new 1982 Sigma DR-41 or the 1973 K. Yairi YW-1000.

Here is Sturgill with his LR Baggs Lyrics

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Goya T-16

Levin Goya T-16 Made in Sweden 1965Goya T-16, made in Sweden by Levin in 1965

I finally managed to get another Levin LT-16, just like my dad’s old guitar that I learned to play on as a kid. His is a 1966 Levin branded one and this one is from 1965 and has the Goya logo on the head stock. These guitars normally don’t come up for sale that often, I guess because they are really well sounding and perhaps the 000-size is very sought after too. It took two years but finally I managed to get my hands on one, in bad shape when it arrived but now fully playable again.

Levin Goya T-16 Made in Sweden 1965Levin Goya T-16 Made in Sweden 1965Levin Goya T-16 Made in Sweden 1965

Levin LT-16 / Goya T-16
Grand Concert size: Body width: 380 mm, body length: 480 mm, body depth: 98 mm. Fingerboard width: 43 mm, scale length: 630 mm. Spruce top, mahogany back and sides, 4-ply bound top, single-bound back. Mahogany bolt-on neck with adjustable truss rod. Single-bound rosewood fingerboard with bass side pearloid dot inlay. Rosewood bridge, nickel plated individual Van Gent tuners with metal buttons. Matte natural finish and ten year warranty

Levin Goya T-16 Made in Sweden 1965There was quite a lot of work on this one. First I re-hydrated the guitar for a week, just a wet sock in a bowl inside, which made the cracks close up quite a lot. I removed the bridge and the pickguard and glued all the cracks on the top and reattached the back that was coming loose. I also flattened the top, it had a bit of a belly that I managed to get down with a flat piece of wood covering the top that I clamped down for a couple of days.

Levin Goya T-16 Made in Sweden 1965I re-glued the bridge and replaced the 10 cm of missing binding. Someone had also sanded down the neck, which I hate, so lacquered it with a couple of coats of Nitro and sanded it smooth. 

Levin Goya T-16 Made in Sweden 1965Levin guitars normally lack side dots for the 9th and 12th fret, which always confuse me while playing, so I added 3 dots. I reattached the pickguard and cleaned up the original Van Gent machine heads. Levin uses a rather clever bolt-on neck system which makes neck-resets very easy. You just loosen the two bolts inside and then you can sand down the heel, it takes time but it was easier than removing the whole neck.

Sigma DR-41

Sigma DR-41 Made in Japan 1980, MIJ, C. F. Martin & CoSigma DR-41, made in Japan in 1980

I have heard a lot of good, and some not so good, things about Sigma guitars over the years but never actually tried one. To be honest, I really didn’t know anything about the brand until this beautiful Sigma DR-41 arrived and I felt curious and started to read up on them. I guess one big reason why there are both avid supporters and fierce haters of Sigma could be the big changes in production over the past 45-years. The brand was Created in 1970 by C.F. Martin & Co as a line of inexpensive guitars to compete with all the far east brands that flooded the market at the time. The first generation of Sigma’s from 1970-76 were made in Japan but came with adjustable bridges and looks very inexpensive to me, I haven’t tried one so they might be great. When the second generation of Sigma’s arrived in the later half of the 1970’s they really started to look like Martin guitars and the build quality seems to have improved a lot, at least by the look of it. From around 1976-1984 Sigma produced the now classic DR-line, these guitars seems to be ridiculously collectable and very popular because you rarely see them up for sale. I have a feeling that most of them live somewhere in the US and are owned by middle aged men that bought them new as their first proper guitar around 1980 and since they still sounds really good they would never sell them. I have nothing against middle aged men or guitar hoarders, I’m 35 and an avid guitar hoarder and of course I still have the first guitar I bought back in 1993.

Sigma D-41 Made in Japan 1982Sigma D-41 Made in Japan 1982I have had at least 20 different Japanese acoustics in my house over the last couple of years and this 1980 Sigma DR-41 is easily my favourite so far.

The DR line consisted of DR-8, DR-9, DR-11, DR-14, DR-15, DR-28, DR-28S, SDR-28, DR-35, DR-41 and DR-45. I’m not entirely sure what DR-8 to DR-15 were based on, but DR-28 to DR-45 were pretty accurate copies of the Martin models with the same number. The guitar I’ve managed to find, the Sigma DR-41 looks very close to a Martin D-41 and I’ve seen pretty convincing Sigma versions of Martin D-28 and D-35’s too. Apparently there is a very rare version called Sigma DR-14, which is a DR-41 but with a 3-piece back, that was imported through Levin in Sweden, which makes sense since C.F. Martin & Co bought Levin in 1973. There are actually quite a few of the earlier 1970’s low end Sigma’s that were imported through Levin for the European market as well. It seems like the earlier Sigma guitars were made by Tokai through Kasunga Gakki but I really don’t know if all Japan made Sigma’s were produced by them or not. I have a feeling they might have used a lot of different factories during their 13 years in Japan.

Sigma DR-41 Made in Japan 1980, MIJ, C. F. Martin & CoI couldn’t resist so of course I changed the machine heads for Wilkinson WJ28NGD as soon as I got the chance. I just can’t stand those big bulky Japanese 1970’s machine heads.

Sigma stopped the production in Japan around 1983 and moved everything to Korea, later Taiwan and finally Indonesia. Martin claims that all Sigma’s where sent to them in Nazareth, Pennsylvania to be inspected and adjusted by Martin personnel before they sent them out to the dealers, which I doubt for the later Taiwan and Indonesian guitars. In 1981-1982, Martin imported partially assembled Sigma guitars from Japan and then put them together themselves in Nazareth, these were labelled Sigma Martin USA DR-28N and DR-35N. The Sigma story seems to be a bit shady from the 1990-2000, C.F. Martin & Co lost the rights to the name for a while and there seems to have been other companies producing Sigma guitars and then Martin got it back and closed it down in 2007. In 2011 the German company AMI Musical Instruments GmbH purchased the rights to the name and relaunched Sigma Guitars that are now being produced in China. There is quite a lot of information on Wikipedia about Japanese Sigma guitars. I also found this Sigma site really helpful.

Sigma D-41 Made in Japan 1982 guitar ad1980’s ad for Sigma guitars, with my beloved Sigma DR-41 far right

I really didn’t know what to expect when I got myself this Sigma DR-41. I just bought it because I’m so insanely gay for any guitar that looks like a Martin D-41 or D-45, or actually any guitar with a volute on the back of the head, hexagon markers and a lot of mother of pearl inlays. At first I didn’t like this Sigma much, I thought it sounded stiff and boring but after two days with the pump and a week of heavy playing I was sold. I’m not sure if all Japanese Sigma’s are this good, but this guitar is freaking amazing. It’s easily up there with Morris and K. Yairi, perhaps even better, see the second video where I compare it to my K. Yairi YW-1000.

Sigma D-41 Made in Japan 1982It’s very hard to read but that is the back brace brand used from 1978-1983 on Japan made Sigma’s stating: Sigma Guitars – Made in Japan for – C.F. Martin & Co.

How to… carve a bridge

K. Yairi YW-1000 Made in Japan 1973K. Yairi YW-1000 a Martin D-45 copy made in Kani, Japan in 1973

It’s been a while since I posted anything in my little DIY series, How to…, like me previous post about How to… reset a Levin neck or remove a bridge. I did carve a little floating bridge for my Levin 65 over a year ago but now it was finally time to carve a proper ebony bridge for my K. Yairi YW-1000.

K. Yairi YW-1000 Made in Japan 1973I thought about getting a pre-made Allparts ebony bridge at first but felt that it would be more fun to make one myself from scratch instead. I ordered some rosewood and ebony blanks from Madinter, it thought it could be good to have some extra at home, and got started. First I removed the old bridge, it had two screws that was a bit tricky to get out but eventually I figured it out. I removed the bridge with a spatula that I heated on a normal clothes iron, it works like a charm every time. Start in a corner and work yourself towards the middle and be careful when it starts to loosen up so you don’t break it off and chip the top, it should come off slowly and without force. I planed the ebony blank and then used a cabinet scraper to get it even. I copied the old bridge and drilled the holes straight away. It felt easier to do this before the bridge was shaped, it would also have saved me a lot of time in case I messed up the holes and had to start all over again. Luckily everything went fine.

K. Yairi YW-1000 Made in Japan 1973Once the bridge was sawed in to a good size, I made it a couple of millimetres bigger on all sides, I drew the outlines of the final shape. I mounted the bridge blank on a piece of scrap wood with two screws so I could more easily work all around with the bridge firmly secured. I used a chisel to carve out the shape on the sides and from the top down towards the wings. I got a good round shape with a half round rasp and then it was just a hell of a lot of sanding to remove all the lines from the rasp and to get it smooth and nice.

K. Yairi YW-1000 Made in Japan 1973I glued the bridge on and after 3 days I strung up both E-strings and used a drill as a saddle so I could move it around until I got the intonation right, I forgot to take a picture of that. I marked out the saddle and then sawed a 3 mm slot. Next step was to create a bone saddle to match and string it up. Easy peasy, well it was a hard days work but it was easier that I thought.