Claescaster

Category: Made in Japan

Greco TE-500N

Greco Spacey Sounds TE-500N 1976Greco Spacey Sounds TE-500N, Made in Japan by FujiGen in 1976

I managed to find another Greco TE-500N, unfortunately later that week I found my new Nancy, the Greco TL-800. Hence why I’ve decided to sell the Greco TE-500N, I can’t stop playing my Greco TL-800 so I really don’t need two late 1970’s Greco Thinline copies. The Maxon pickups sounds great, still Tele like but with a fullness that is amazing. If anyone is interested then send me a mail. This guitar is sold now.

Greco Spacey Sounds TE-500N 1976
Greco Spacey Sounds TE-500N 1976

Greco TE-800

Greco TE-800 , Made in Japan, FujiGen 1981Greco TE-800, Made in Japan by FujiGen 1981

I finally found my “Nancy“, this has taken forever or at least four years. I used to have an amazing sounding and looking late 1980’s Japan made Fender Telecaster TL52-75, a great ’52 re-issue that I could never get used to the thin neck on. Then I found myself a 1979 Greco Spacey Sounds TL-500, equally great sounding but not in a mint state like the Fender, same problem there the neck was way too thin. So since 2013 I’ve been trying to find a nice Japan made ’52 re-issue with a thicker neck but without any luck. I don’t have large hands or anything, it’s just that since I mainly play old Levin acoustics from the 1960’s I’m kind of used to thicker necks than what’s standard on Japanese electrics. The solution turned out to be a an early 1980’s Greco TE-800 since they came with a pretty decent V-neck. It’s not the thickest neck I’ve seen or anything, it’s actually quite shy in thickness even though it’s a V-profile, but it’s far better that all the other Japan made Telecaster necks I’ve tried from the 1970-80’s. I’ve seen a few Crafted in Japan Fender ’52 re-issues from the mid 2000’s that has nice V-necks but nothing before that. The USA made Fender American Vintage ’52 Telecaster didn’t have it’s fat U-shaped neck until 1998 either, so this seems more like an 1980-90’s problem than purely a Japanese problem. I blame all the slick fast playing guitarists in the 80’s that wanted super thin necks, the ruined everything for the rest of us. The previous owner of the Greco TE-800, a really nice German man called Lennart, and I have had quite long mail conversations regarding this mythical creature, the unicorn of necks, the V-neck on Japan made Telecasters. In his expertise the V-profile appeared on the high-end Tokai, Greco and Fernades models around 1980-82. Something that I have had confirmed from early 80’s Tokai’s, both Strats and Teles I’ve seen for sale on eBay. This Greco TL-800 lost it’s original bridge at some point, with the serial number, but according the Lennart it must be from 1981. He has had a few other Greco TL-800 in his life and they apparently stopped with the V-shaped necks in 1982.

♪ ♫ ♪ Roy Buchanan – CC Rider

Greco TE-800 , Made in Japan, FujiGen 1981
Greco TE-800 , Made in Japan, FujiGen 1981Greco TE-800 , Made in Japan, FujiGen 1981I really don’t mind how worn this Greco TL-800 is, it’s so beautiful in my eyes. Everything from the chipped fretboard to the cigarette burn on the back of the neck, I’m not sure how someone managed with that. The only part I don’t like is the Wilkinson bridge, it’s actually what I use on the Claescasters but on this guitar I would have preferred something older, more worn and perhaps Japanese. The Greco TL-800 has, beside the V-neck, Nitro lacquer and a Maxon neck pickup and the legendary DiMarzio Pre B-1 in the bridge. I’m not 100% sure that the DiMarzio is for me, it seems a bit too hot for my liking but I will try it with the band first and see how it works in a louder setting.

Guitars for sale

I’ve decided to thin out my electric guitar collection as well so if you see anything you like, just get in touch claesgellerbrink@gmail.com

Fender Stratocaster Made in USA 1979, 3 tone Sunburst, hardtailFender Stratocaster, Made in USA, Fullerton plant 1979, 1650€ SOLD
A late 1970’s hardtail Fender Stratocaster in a classic 3-tone sunburst. The neck is stamped with 1978 but body, pickguard and pickups says 1979, very common on late 1970’s Fender. All hardware is original but the volume pot and 5-way switch has been changed and the middle pickup is a bit of a mystery, neck and bridge are original Fender and stamped 1979. It’s in really good state for its age with just a few marks to the body, the grain is amazing and it looks like it’s a one piece ash body. The back of the neck is in great shape just like the original jumbo frets and fretboard. It sounds and feels awesome. You can read more about the guitar here and here and watch this Youtube clip.

Greco Spacey Sounds TL-500Greco Spacey Sounds TL-500, Made in Japan 1979, 800€ SOLD
This is as close to a vintage Japan made Fender Telecaster you can get, built in the same FujiGen factory just before Fender gave the contract to build the first JV, Japan Vintage, series there. Greco is well known for their build quality and the sound of their Maxon pickups. This is an all original Greco TL-500, built in August 1979. The neck and frets are in great shape but there are some chips and marks around the body. You can read more about the guitar here.

Tokai Silver Star SS-36 Made in Japan 1979Tokai Silver Star SS-36, Made in Japan 1979, 750€ SOLD
This is a beautiful looking Tokai Silver Star with great grain showing through the 3-tone sunburst. It’s all original and in really good state for its age with hardly any marks. Tokai together with Greco was without any doubt the best Japanese copies in the 1970-80’s and the reason why Fender started to produce guitars in Japan, first through FujiGen and later the Tōkai Gakki factory. It has great sustain and together with the legendary grey bobbin pickups it sounds amazing. You can read more about the guitar here and listen to it in this Youtube clip.

Tacoma Stratocaster Made in Japan 1970'sTacoma Stratocaster, Made in Japan 1970’s, 500€ 350€
This great looking Tacoma Stratocaster was made in Japan in the late 1970’s, most likely by FujiGen since it’s so similar to a Yamaha Super r’n Roller. It’s all original and in really good state for its age with hardly any marks. Neck, fretboard and frets are fine, it has great sustain and the pickups sounds great. You can read more about the guitar here and listen to it in this Youtube clip.

Greco Les Paul Custom EG-600CGreco Les Paul Custom EG-600C, Made in Japan 1980, 750€ SOLD
This is as a great looking FujiGen built Greco Les Paul Custom copy with gold hardware. It’s all original and in great shape for it’s age. Greco is well known for their build quality and the sound of their Maxon pickups. The neck, fretboard and frets are in great shape and there is hardly any marks to the body.  These Greco’s are of course set neck Les Paul copies and of way better quality then all the bolt-on neck guitars built by Matsumoku and other factories. You can read more about the guitar here.

CG Winner AO-410 Made in Japan Neck trough late 1970'sC.G. Winner AO-410, Made in Japan, early 1980’s, 350€ SOLD
A great sounding C.G. Winner AO-410, a well built double cutaway neck trough guitar made in Japan. The brand was created by Clarence Griffith Winner (C.G.Winner), an American luthier and close friend of Leo Fender and built by Matsumoku in Japan, the same factory as Ibanez and Aria Pro II. These guitars are supposed to have Di Marzio humbuckers but I can’t see any markings on them so there might be normal Maxon pickups in this one. It has an awesome baseball bat neck, really fat and nice and plays really well. The hardware is a bit tarnished but it’s in overall really good shape for the age, the neck is straight and frets are fine. You can read more about the guitar here and watch this Youtube clip.

Sigma DR-35

Sigma DR-35, Made in Japan 1980, MIJ, C. F. Martin & CoSigma DR-35, Made in Japan 1980

I finally managed to find another Japan made Sigma, this time a 1980 Sigma DR-35. It’s a beautiful looking Martin D-35 copy with a 3-piece rosewood back. They are pretty hard to come by these early 1980’s Japan made Sigma’s and sometimes very expensive too, between 500-1500€ depending on the model. I didn’t buy this for myself, I’m way too happy with my Sigma DR-41 at the moment and on top of that I’m actually trying to thin out my Japanese guitar collection. I got it for my friend Wolf who just like me have gone from a pretty solid Gibson obsession to realise that perhaps that Martin sound is not that bad after all. There is something of that punchy mids and clear ringing highs in the Martin sound that these Japanese made Sigma’s have too, after all they were commissioned by C. F. Martin & Co. I thought my Sigma DR-41 was loud and had a very punchy midrange but this Sigma is one step beyond, I guess because of the 3-piece back. I like the highs and the overtones better in mine but still, this is an amazing sounding guitar that I thought long and hard about keeping for myself. I was sure that my Sigma DR-41 was made in 1982 since the serial number starts with E82 but since this Sigma DR-35’s serial number also starts with E82 and came with a receipt that proves that it was sold in September 1980 it must have been made that year, or earlier.

Sigma DR-35, Made in Japan 1980, MIJ, C. F. Martin & CoSigma DR-35, Made in Japan 1980, MIJ, C. F. Martin & CoThis guitar had apparently been in storage for the last 30 years, since the original owner died and that seems plausible, it’s in really good shape for it’s age.

Sigma DR-35, Made in Japan 1980, MIJ, C. F. Martin & CoThe classic Made in Japan football stamp, burnt in to the back brace that was used from 1978-1983 on Japan made Sigma’s stating: Sigma Guitars – Made in Japan for – C.F. Martin & Co, just like on mySigma DR-41. The rosewood looks really nice on this Sigma, even better than on mine.

Wolf asked me to install a LR Baggs iBeam in the Sigma before he received it and since I recently installed the LR Baggs Lyrics in my Sigma DR-41 it was a pretty easy task. We actually got to try them both out last Saturday when we played live with Cherry & Wolf at La Sonora, it sounded something like this. I did two tests to make it easier to compare the Sigma DR-35 with the iBeam to the Sigma DR-41 with the Lyrics. They both sounds pretty darn great, but in different ways.

Sigma DR-35, Made in Japan 1980, MIJ, C. F. Martin & CoThe original receipt from 26 September 1980. The guitar cost 475 Deutsche Mark which would be around 245€ today and probably a lot more 36 years ago. Taken from my Instagram

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

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

Guitars for sale

Martin SPD-16R Made in USA1999Martin SPD-16R, Made in USA 1999, 1500€ 1300€
Martin SPD-16R is a Special Edition Dreadnought from Martin guitars. Spruce top and Indian Rosewood back and sides with forward shifted scalloped X bracing. Performance taper, low oval mahogany neck with rosewood fretboard and bridge. Snowflake inlays, abalone rosette and a D-45 style back strip with gold Martin stamped machine heads. Produced in USA between 1996-2001. The guitar is in fantastic shape for being 18 years old with hardly any scratches and no fretware. The top has a hairline crack from the bridge down which has cracked the lacquer but not the wood. SPD-16R stands for Special edition, Dreadnought, 16-series in Rosewood. This guitar looks great and sounds amazing, you can read more about it here and listen to it in this Youtube clip.

Gibson J-45 ADJ 1965 Made in USAGibson J-45 adj, Made in USA 1965, 2300€ SOLD
An awesome looking Gibson J-45 ADJ, built in the Kalamazoo factory in 1965. It’s the classic round shouldered Gibson dreadnought, natural finish spruce top, mahogany back and sides, rosewood fretboard and bridge. All original except for the refinish which turned this J-45 in to a J-50. Apparently this was done in the early 1970’s when the slight separation in the tops mid seam was glued. The guitar looks really great, worn but still well preserved for being 50  years old. The sound is just amazing, it has that typical Gibson bass response that you can hear on the early records of James Taylor and Jackson Browne. I cut a new bone saddle for it but it comes with it’s original adjustable rosewood bridge. It has an endpin jack already installed so it’s ready to play live, just ad a pickup. A brand new flight case is included to protect the guitar. The action is low and there are no structural issues with this guitar, just the normal marks and scratches. You can read more about the guitar here and listen to it in this Youtube clip.

Gibson B-15 Made in USA 1969Gibson B-15, Made in USA 1969, 1200€ SOLD
This 1969 Gibson B-15 sounds and plays great and is pretty good shape for it’s age. There is a lot of scratches and wear to the top and sides but the are no cracks or structural issues. It’s all original and even comes with the Gibson made alligator chipboard case. The action is good and the frets has very little wear. The B-15 was an all solid model with a natural finished mahogany body, a mahogany stained spruce top and rosewood fretboard and bridge. Gibson referred to the B-series as student models at the time which is a bit misguiding considering what a student guitar sounds like today. These have great even tone and pretty amazing sustain for the size, a perfect little blues machine. You can read more about the guitar here and listen to it in this Youtube clip.

Harmony Monterey, Made in USA 1950's 784H1325Harmony Monterey H1325, Made in USA 1950’s, 550€ SOLD
Very cool looking US made archtop from the late 1950’s. Solid spruce top with birch back and sides, 16 1/2 in wide grand auditorium size, steel reinforced neck. This guitar is all original and even comes with the original case. There is a glued crack on the side but no other issues. It sounds great, loud and clear acoustically. You can read more about the guitar here and listen to it in this Youtube clip.

K. Yairi YW-1000 Made in Japan 1973K. Yairi YW-1000, Made in Japan 1973, 1700€ SOLD
This is the top of the line, the fanciest guitar that K. Yairi built. Their Martin D-45 copies are legendary for their sound and build quality. This guitar has real Brazilian Rosewood back and sides and a beautifully aged solid spruce top. Real abalone inlays all around and the typical Martin volute where the head and neck meet. At the moment this guitar has Wilkinson WJ28NGD open gear machine heads in gold fitted but I still have the original K. Yairi machine heads. It’s all original except for the bridge which is a brand new hand cut and shaped replacement in ebony with a bone saddle and ebony bridge pins. The guitar is in great shape for being 43 years old but there are a couple of scratches to the top, one big one close to the bottom. The neck is straight, trussrod works and the action is low. The guitar sounds amazing, so deep and clear at the same time. These K. Yairi YW-1000 are extremely rare in Europe and without any doubt the closest you can get to a real 1970’s Martin D-45. You can read more about the guitar here and listen to it in this Youtube clip.

Morris W-50 1970's Made in JapanMorris W-50, Made in Japan 1970’s, 700€ SOLD
Nice Martin D-42 copy with real abalone hexagon inlays and the typical Martin volute where the head and neck meet. Solid spruce top with nice inlays all around and a beautiful 3-piece back with flamed maple and dark rosewood. The guitar is all original and in really good shape for being over 35 years old but with some scratches, one slightly larger on the top. The neck is straight, trussrod works and the action is low. The guitar sounds great, very clear and Martin like. You can read more about the guitar here and listen to it in this Youtube clip.

Morris W-50 1970's Made in JapanMorris W-50, Made in Japan 1970’s,650€ SOLD
Great looking Martin D-42 copy with snowflake inlays and the typical Martin volute where the head and neck meet. Solid spruce top with nice inlays all around and a beautiful 3-piece back with flamed maple and dark rosewood. The guitar is all original and in really good shape for being over 35 years old but with scratches and marks around the body. It has Wilkinson WJ28NGD open gear machine heads in gold installed now but the original will be included. The neck is straight, trussrod works and the action is low. The guitar sounds great, very clear and Martin like. You can read more about the guitar here and listen to it in this Youtube clip.

Morris W-40 1973Morris W-40, Made in Japan by Terada 1973, 500€ SOLD
A pretty early Morris and a very nice looking Martin D-45 copy, made by Terada in Japan, the factory that makes Gretsch and Orville. Solid spruce top with a really nice 3-piece back of Brazilian rosewood and maple. The inlays are real abalone hexagon inlays and I still have the original machine heads if chrome is preferred to gold. It has it’s fair share of scratches and has been played a lot over the past 42 years but it has no cracks or issues. The neck is straight, trussrod works and the action is low. The sound is just amazing, really deep bass but with good clarity and great projection. It has a endpin jack fitted and a strap button so it’s ready to be gigged with straight away, just fit a pickup. It’s still one of my favourites but now I have too many Morris guitars and have to get rid of some. You can read more about the guitar here and listen to it in this Youtube clip.

Morris WL-35 Made in Japan 1970'sMorris WL-35, Made in Japan 1970’s, 400€ SOLD
A really cool looking Johnny Cash Guild copy. It’s in great condition except for one flaw, the end pin has been pushed in at one point and cracked the lacquer. It’s not as bad as it sounds and it doesn’t really affect anything but I thought it would be worth mentioning. I’m pretty sure it’s mahogany back and sides, it has a really warm and nice sound and is a great playing guitar. It has a endpin jack fitted and a strap button so it’s ready to be gigged with straight away, just fit a pickup. You can read more about the guitar here and listen to it in this Youtube clip.

K.Yairi TG-40 Made in Japan 1977K. Yairi TG-40, Made in Japan 1977, 700€ SOLD
A very rare and unique K. Yairi copy of the famous Guild D-40, which itself was introduced in the Sixties as a competitor to Gibson’s J-45. The Guild D-40 became famous as the Bluegrass guitar for their even response over all the strings and I have to say that this K. Yairi TG-40 sounds amazing. Solid spruce top, sides and back in solid mahogany, neck in Honduras mahogany, bridge and Fretboard in black ebony. The guitar is all original except for the pickguard, which was replaced with an official Guild pickguard, the old one was cracked. It has an end pin jack and strap button fitted and at the moment Wilkinson WJ-309 Art Deco machine heads in gold but I still have the original machine heads if chrome is preferred to gold. The top and back has a few scratches but no structural issues. It plays really well and has an amazing tone, very loud and clear with a great punch in the mid-range. You can read more about the guitar here and listen to it in this Youtube clip.

K. Yairi YW-130 Made in Japan 1977K. Yairi YW-130, Made in Japan 1977, 550€ SOLD
This is a quite accurate Martin D-28 copy made in Japan by K. Yairi in 1977. It’s really light and beautiful sounding, very responsive and a joy to play. Solid spruce top, rosewood back and sides with a smooth ebony fretboard. It has it’s fair share of scratches and a couple of dents to the top but no cracks or issues. The neck is straight, trussrod works and the action is low. The sound is great, very clear with great harmonics. It has a strap button fitted and at the moment Wilkinson open back machine heads in gold but I still have the original machine heads if chrome is preferred to gold. You can read more about the guitar here and listen to it in this Youtube clip.

IMG_9283Levin Model 13 Ambassadör, Made in Sweden 1950, 600€ SOLD
This is a beautiful Levin Model 13 Ambassadör, hand built in Gothenburg Sweden in 1950. If you are not familiar with this classic Swedish brand Levin, click on the link to read more about it. It was restored a few years ago by GammelGura, a great luthier in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden. With new bronze frets, a neck re-set, cracks glued and a new bridge was created to improve the intonation, the rest is all original. It even has the sticker on the back of the head from the guitar shop in Örnsköldsvik where the guitar was bought 65 years ago. It’s a fairly small ladder braced 12-fret guitar with a big sound because of the body width, 400 mm. All solid woods, as always with Levin. Spruce top, walnut back and sides, 4-ply bound top, single-bound back. Mahogany neck with non-adjustable T-shaped duraluminum truss rod. Single-bound rosewood fingerboard with 18 frets and pearloid dot inlay. Single-bound headstock, rosewood bridge, nickel plated individual tuners. Sunburst finish, very similar to the Gibson sunburst of the 1940-50’s, and 10 years warranty. You can read more about the guitar here and listen to it in this Youtube clip.

Levin Model 65 parlour guitar Made in Sweden 1942Levin Model 65, Made in Sweden in 1942, 550€ SOLD
A nice little parlour guitar from Levin, made during World War II in Gothenburg Sweden. It’s just 315 mm wide so it’s a perfect little ladder braced blues machine. All solid woods, spruce top, birch back and sides with walnut fretboard, brass machine heads and nickel plated tailpiece. The guitar is all original, I carved a new bridge for lowering the action but the original will be included in the sale. The neck is really fat and nice and feels great to play. A perfect parlour for blues picking. You can read more about the guitar here and listen to it in this Youtube clip.

Hagström Western 6 Made in Sweden 1978Hagström Western 6, Made in Sweden in 1978, 650€ SOLD
A very rare Hagström Western 6 Missouri made in 1978 by Bjärton in Bjärnum in the south of Sweden. Bjärton were the second largest guitar manufacturers in Sweden after Levin, and they produced all the acoustic instruments for Hagström. It’s both stunning to look at, a joy to play and it sounds great. It has the same head, fretboard and inlays as the legendary Hagström Suede electric guitars had in the 1970’s. Spruce top with X-bracing, mahogany back and sides. 4-ply bound top and bound back. Unbound ebony fingerboard, rosewood bridge, mahogany neck. Matte natural finish and 10 year warranty, which was only give to the top end models. You can read more about the guitar here and listen to it in this Youtube clip.

Hagström B-60 Made in Sweden 1975Hagström B-60, Made in Sweden by Bjärton in 1975, 500€ SOLD
This great looking Gibson J-50 copy was made in 1975 by Bjärton in Bjärnum in the south of Sweden. Bjärton were the second largest guitar manufacturers in Sweden after Levin, and they produced all the acoustic instruments for Hagström. It’s made out of all solid woods and it’s a very nice sounding guitar, even though it has a bolt-on neck, I guess the solid woods and massive neck block is helping with the sound. Spruce top with X-bracing, mahogany back and sides with a nice mahogany bolt-on neck, unbound rosewood fingerboard, Single-bound top and back, rosewood pin bridge. Van Gent machine heads, just like Levin, natural finish and 10 year warranty, which was only give to the top end models. You can read more about the guitar here and listen to it in this Youtube clip.

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.

Cherry & Wolf

Cherry & Wolf - La Sonora de Gràcia 10 Oct 2015Cherry & Wolf with me on guitar, La Sonora de Gràcia 10 Oct 2015. © Araceli Perez

Last Saturday I got a chance to play with my friends Cherry & Wolf again. It turned out to be great fun and it seems like I have a few more gigs lined up with them this autumn. Now you can see where the Luxor Dove copy went, it’s Wolf’s main guitar and I’m playing on my beloved Morris W-50.