Claescaster

Month: January, 2016

Alvarez 5014

Alvarez 5014 Made in JapanAlvarez 5014, made in Japan in 1973

I recently found a 000-sized Alvarez for my friend Wolf. It’s a really nice little guitar that we both were impressed by. These guitars were made in Japan for the US market and imported by St. Louis Music in Missouri, the guys behind Westone. According to Wikipedia and Alvarez own site it was the legendary Kazuo Yairi that founded the brand in 1965 to make cheaper Yairi guitars for the US market. Having said that, it’s still unclear if all Alvarez guitars were really made in the K. Yairi factory in Kani, Gifu in Japan or outsourced on other factories in Japan, see Jedistar. These early 1970’s Alvarez are a bit different to the later Alvarez-Yairi guitars that got famous in the late 1970’s and 1980’s when musicians like Crosby, Stills & Nash and Bob Weir endorsed them. Not only is the label inside and head inlays different, but they also seems to have their own models, the later Alvarez-Yairi are exact copies of the Yairi models of the time but made for export to the US. Since there is a sticker with a serial number inside that correspond perfectly to the Emperor code that K. Yairi uses things point towards the Yairi factory. As with everything made in Japan during the 1970’s, there are some questions we might never find the answer too. Either way we have an awesome Japan made Martin 000-18 copy that Wolf is very excited to play, especially with my Bill Lawrence A-300 in the soundhole.

Alvarez 5014 Made in JapanAlvarez 5014 Made in JapanThe serial number starts with 48 which signify the 48th year of the reign of emperor Shōwa, which was in 1973. You can check the serial numbers of your Yairi or Alvarez here

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Sonora parlour

Sonora parlour guitar Made in Germany 1920-30'sSonora parlour guitar made in Germany 1920-30’s

I’ve recently managed to do some more work to the Sonora parlour. I decided to reset the neck to try to get rid of the banana neck and high action and it worked pretty well. I also redesigned the fretboard and added some wooden dot markers. Now the action is low and the guitar is easy to play.

Sonora parlour guitar Made in Germany 1920-30'sSonora parlour guitar Made in Germany 1920-30'sThe new Sonora parlour and here is what she looked like before

Sonora parlour guitar Made in Germany 1920-30'sMy initial plan was to steam the neck off by drilling two small holes under the 13th fret and that way get steam straight in to the dove tail. That didn’t work, I think it was too much old glue stuck in the joint and also the needle tip I used for my home built steamer was too thin. I decided to remove the whole fretboard instead, I used a spatula heated on a normal clothes iron which worked like a charm. Once the fretboard was off I could just steam the hell out of that joint and eventually the glue softened and then neck came off.

Sonora parlour guitar Made in Germany 1920-30'sNext I had to try to remove the hump on the fretboard where the neck and body meet. I removed all the frets, and kept them in the correct order to make it easier to reinstall them later. To get rid of the hump I had to remove almost 6 mm of the overhang and then sand the rest to get the fretboard straight. 

Sonora parlour guitar Made in Germany 1920-30'sI re-cut all the fret slots, reinstalled the frets and added four wooden dots in different grain directions as position markers. I gave the fretboard a coat of lacquer and then painted everything black except for the 3rd, 5th, 7th, 9th and 12th fret. I added a layer of lacquer on top and then sanded it smooth and polished out the frets again.

ARTEC MHFC93

Levin Model 32 Made in Sweden 1946, Artec MHFC93-CRLevin Model 32 made in Sweden by Levin in 1946

I’ve finally received my Artec MHFC93-CR from EY Guitar, the order got lost and took 3 months to arrive. Last weekend I got around to install it on my 1946 Levin Model 32 and I’m pretty impressed with how good it sounds for being so inexpensive.

Levin Model 32 Made in Sweden 1946, Artec MHFC93-CRUnfortunately I had to remove the pickguard, well it was actually quite annoying and always in the way when I played so it was more of an aesthetic loss. I also installed an old vintage strap button while I fitted the pickup so now the guitar is ready to be gigged.

Levin Model 32 Made in Sweden 1946, Artec MHFC93-CRThe installation was pretty straight forward in the end but it took a bit of figuring things out so I completely forgot to take more pictures. First I made a small hole under the fretboard extension on the right side, where the cable from the pickup could enter the body without being visible. Then I drilled a hole for the endpin jack, just like a do when I install the endpin jacks for my LR Baggs, with a 1/2 inch or 13 mm flat spade drill bit straight through the end block. I measured two cables from the endpin to the f hole, fished them up before I cut them and then soldered them to the endpin while taped to the top for not disappearing inside. Once the cable from the pickup was fished up I checked which was which and then soldered them together and stuck them to the top on the inside with a little clip on the bottom side of the f hole so they can’t be seen. 

Artec MHFC93-CRArtec is perhaps not the worlds fanciest brand, especially not if you judge them by their website, but I like them and they sound very good for being so cheap.

I will get a video up as soon as possible

Sturgill Simpson

My new country favorite, Sturgill Simpson is finally coming to town. He’s playing Sala Rocksound here in Barcelona on Thursday 21st of January 2016. I was damn jealous when he was gigging around Europe last year but never came to Spain. I think it’s a solo show, which is a shame it would have been nice to see his band too. Having said that, I’m pretty sure Sturgill’s voice and guitar is enough to fill the room. If you want to learn more about Sturgill you can listen to this interview.

Levin W32 NS

Levin W32 NS, Made in China, Svenska Levin AB, 2014Levin W32 NS, Made in China in 2014 by Svenska Levin AB

I finally got a chance to try one of the new Chinese made Levin guitars. Levin closed down the factory in Gothenburg, Sweden back in 1981 when Svenska Levin AB bought the name and the remaining stock. A small batch of classical guitars continued to be made in Sweden by Lugnås Gitarr AB, and are still made there today. During the 1990’s there were some electric guitars and amps being produced in the far east under the Levin name, my first amp that I bought around 1997 was Levin branded. It took another 10 years until we started to see some Levin steel string acoustic guitars, these being produced first in Korea, then Indonesia and later China. Of course it’s impossible to compare a Swedish made guitar from the 1960-70’s with something being produced nowadays in Asia but I’m still quite impressed with these new Levin guitars. I emailed the owner and he told me that they had some issues in the beginning to get the finish right and I have to admit that the build quality is far from a Swedish Levin but still, if you see it for what it is then it’s a pretty great guitar for the price.

Levin W32 NS, Made in China, Svenska Levin AB, 2014Levin W32 NS, Made in China, Svenska Levin AB, 2014Levin W32 NS, Made in China, Svenska Levin AB, 2014A modern Levin, built in China for Svenska Levin AB

Morris W-50

Morris W-50 1970's Made in JapanTF Morris W-50, Made in Japan around 1979

I managed to find another Morris W-50, this time with hexagon inlays instead of snowflakes as on my earlier Morris W-50. They sounds pretty similar, very rich and full tone with clear highs. I guess the 3-piece back is adding to that full sound and of course it makes them very pretty to look at too. In my opinion these TF Morris guitars are almost up there with K. Yairi and the best Japanese builders. It doesn’t look like Brazilian rosewood, but it has some really nice figured dark rosewood back and sides with quilted maple in the middle and a solid spruce top.

Morris W-50 1970's Made in JapanMorris W-50 1970's Made in JapanThe guitar came from a collector in Scotland and was ready to play when it arrived, I didn’t have to do anything to it.

Morris W-50 1970's Made in JapanThe two TF Morris W-50 together, the left one from around 1976 and the right from about 1979

Morris Japan catalogue 1979Morris Japan catalogue 1979Morris Japan catalogue 1979Morris Japan catalogue 1979