Claescaster

Tag: eBay

K. Yairi TG-40

K. Yairi TG-40 Made in Japan 1977K.Yairi TG-40 a Guild D-40 copy from 1977. Every K.Yairi guitar is given birth in Kani, a small community in the beautiful mountainside area of Honshu, Japan.

My new K.Yairi TG-40 has finally arrived, after 40 days stuck in Spanish customs. I have mentioned earlier that it’s a lot easier to import things from Japan to Spain compared to buying things from the US, well that was a lie. I have bought three electric guitars, mainly Greco’s from an eBay seller called Tokyowax. They all arrived within 48 hours so I stupidly assumed that everything from Japan would arrive quickly and without any problems, but no. Tokyowax uses DHL Express and they tend to deliver things within 2-5 days and you pay the taxes straight to them when they deliver the guitar. It wasn’t that easy with EMS Japan, that package went straight to customs in Madrid and spent 40 days in their lazy company. How can anything take that long? K. Yairi could probably have built me a new guitar in that time, if he was still alive. It seems like the only option now when buying guitars on eBay is to use the Global Shipping Program, that worked for my Goya 163 at least. Anyway, the guitar is amazing so it was well worth waiting for.

K. Yairi TG-40 Made in Japan 1977

It has a really nice tone with great bass response. It easily has the best bass of all my acoustics, even better than my Morris W-40 which has that Martin D-45 bass sound, this is nicer and a lot clearer. I guess it sounds like an old Guild D-40, at least if I can trust the Youtube clips I have seen since I haven’t had the chance to play one myself. It actually reminds me a bit of a Gibson Jumbo, like I mentioned in my Gibson J-45/J-50 post: “The Yairi TG-40 is a Guild D-40 copy, which 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 really like the sound of them, it’s actually not too far off from a Sixties Gibson J-45. With a bit of luck it’s going to be an awesome Yairi copy of an Guild which might sound a bit like a Gibson.”

K. Yairi TG-40 Made in Japan 1977I didn’t have to do much to it, it was ready to play when I got it. However, the pickguard was loose so I had to remove that, clean it up and then glue it back again with my trusty fish glue. When the strings was off I quickly polished the frets and oiled the ebony fretboard. I also installed a jack for my LR Baggs M1 and a strap button.

I bought this K.Yairi TG-40 from a really nice eBay seller called montebell86 who was a pleasure to deal with. The guitar was listed as “Taniguchi Gakki” Japanese guitar shop original model, very rare. Solid spruce top, sides and back in solid mahogany, neck in Honduras mahogany, bridge and Fretboard in black ebony. The label states it was made in 1977 but the serial number starts with 51 which was the 51st year of Emperor Shōwa and puts it to 1976.

K. Yairi TG-40 Made in Japan 1977K. Yairi TG-40 Made in Japan 1977I got this K.Yairi TG-40 fairly cheap since the pickguard needed to be reglued and one machine head wasn’t working properly. It also has two cracks, one on each side that has been professionally repaired and can’t be seen from the outside. Since the machine heads needed to be replaced I decided to change them for Wilkinson WJ-309 in gold, just like I did on my Levin 174


Here is a quick little comparison between the K.Yairi TG-40 and my Morris W-40, they sound pretty similar and I don’t think I would be able to tell them apart in a blind test. Well the Morris has a bit more bass and is a slightly weaker on the treble side, I feel that the Yairi is more even over all the strings.

Yairi TG-40 Japan Catalogue 1970'sK.Yairi TG-40in the Japanese catalogue from the late 1970′s. List price ¥60.000, around 420€, which must have been a fortune back in 1977. Then again, this was a fairly cheap guitar for being K Yairi, the top model cost ¥200.000, about 1400€.

Radius gauge

Understand radius
My Westone Stratocaster is getting the strings adjusted to the 7.25″ radius of the fretboard

I recently received my Understring Radius Gauge set from the friendly Portuguese luthier supplier Guitars & Woods. If I had only bought this before I ordered four new sets of Jescar frets from Philaluthiertools. I stupidly thought that most of my old Japanese guitars had a radius of 9.5″, they didn’t feel as curved as my Fender Telecaster TL52-75, which I knew had a radius of 7.25″. It turned out that both my Greco Teles and Hohner and Westone Strats had a vintage radius of 7.25″, so now I have to order new frets for them. I have never really cared about adjusting the strings after the radius, I read somewhere that Eric Clapton and others had the saddles flat so I thought I could have that too but when I received my Greco Spacey Sounds TL-500 back in September and it had really well adjusted action set after the radius I instantly fell in love. It’s such a difference on a Strat or Tele with a 7.25″ radius, you can really see and feel the curve. I adjusted all the guitars I could according to their radius and in most cases I had to raise the string height on the D and G string, which makes them really snappy and twangy, it sounds and feels awesome on my Telecasters.

How to… install side dots

Francisca Montersat
Francisca Montserrat with her new side dots

I get really confused when I play on guitars without side dots. You are playing your cowboy chords and everything is fine and then suddenly you want to play a bit of solo up on the 12th fret and you realise that there are no markers above the 5th fret and you have to guess where to put your hand. Well on a 14th fret acoustic guitar you know roughly where the 12th fret is, 2 above where the body and neck joins but say that you need to quickly find the 11th, or 9th fret. For me position markers, or side dots, are essential. Flamenco guitars seems to never have any side dots at all and a lot of Spanish or Classic guitars seems to have forgotten them too. I guess if you are used to it, if you have played your whole life without them maybe it’s fine but I come from the world of electric guitars with clear indications where you are on the neck. My Levin guitars only have side dots up until the 7th fret, it’s just my Goya T-18 that has markers up to the 12th fret, so I decided to change that. I had to order some new Jescar frets from my favourite eBay luthier supplier in the States, Philaluthiertools, so I got some 2mm side dot position markers in black as well. I was a bit scared to drill in to thin strip of binding on my 40-50 years old Levin guitars but after practising on my Francisca Montserrat I felt ready and just did it. It went pretty well, no real drama. It was interesting to see what the fretboards was really made off when you saw the sawdust. Some of the Levin’s had normal rosewood freatboards but the Levin 174 has a ebony fretboard, how fancy pants is that? My dads old Levin LT-16 is supposed to have a rosewood fretboard but I think that sawdust looks very dark for being normal rosewood.

Francisca MontersatFirst I installed 3 side dots on my Francisca Montserrat just to warm up. There might be some Flamenco purists saying that I’ve ruined this guitar now but I think it was a fairly discrete modification that will make it hundred times easier for me to play it. I just drilled a 2mm hole, same as the plastic side dot, about 3-4mm deep. I didn’t use any ruler, I felt that my eyes would be the best judge to make a visual estimatation and get them to line up. I made a little mark with a black pen and then when I was happy with that I made a little pilot hole with a nail so the drill wouldn’t slip. I put some super glue in the end of the side dot stick, stuck it in and then cut it off with a pair of pliers. I got it smooth with a razor blade and then sanded it down with 400, 800, 1500, 2000 and 2500 grit paper, the same technique I use for repairing lacquer damage.

Levin LM-26, Levin LT-16
All my Levin’s got new side dots installed, here is a 1959 Levin LM-26 on top and a 1966 Levin LT-16 below. I have to say that the dots I put in on the 9th and 12th fret on my dads LT-16 looks better than the original one on the 7th fret that was installed 48 years ago at the Levin factory in Gothenburg.

Ernie Ball Slinky Acoustic

Ernie Ball Super Slinky 11-52

I have recently started to use Ernie Ball strings for my acoustic guitars as well, I mentioned in a previous post about guitar strings that I now solely use Ernie Ball Regular Slinky 10-46 for my electric guitars. I still find it hard to know what to choose, I mean you can’t buy all the strings on the market and try them one by one, or I guess you can but it would cost quite a lot. On top of that, you can’t even have different strings on different guitars and that way hear the difference, unless you have a lot of guitars that sound very similar but I don’t. What I like with Ernie Ball is that they have nice tone and still doesn’t feel stiff, or too flimsy for that matter. I also like that you can listen to how the different strings sound on their website, I found that quite useful when I decided between their Earthwood strings and their Acoustic Slinky. I have only used them for a couple of weeks but so far I really like them, they sound a lot better than the cheap Martin strings I used before. I hope I don’t change my mind because I just bought 12 sets from an eBay seller in the US, 6 sets of  Ernie Ball’s Acoustic Slinky Phosphor Bronze 011 for Araceli and 6 sets of 012 for me.

Ernie Ball Regular Slinky 12-54

How to… remove a bridge

Levin / Goya 163 individual height adjustable plastic saddles
The old plastic saddles before I removed the bridge on my Goya Model 163 from 1968.

I recently had to remove my first bridge on an acoustic guitar, after removing my first neck it just felt like a natural next step. It turned out to be both harder and easier than I first thought it would be. I needed to do this for two reasons, first because the bridge started to come loose, it felt like the glue had dried up and started to fall apart. Second, I wasn’t too excited about the extremely low individual height adjustable plastic saddles, as Levin calls them, that the previous owner had left me. They were too low to adjust and made some strings sound muted and dull. I watched a Youtube clip before I started with Julyan Wallis, who happened to be working on a Levin guitar as well, and learned a few good tricks. He was heating up the spatula on an normal clothes iron and that way managed to loosen the old glue under the bridge. It worked extremely well.

Goya 163 bridge removal
I heated up the spatula on a normal clothes iron and touched it with my fingers to make sure it didn’t get too hot, I was scared to scorch the lacquer. As soon as you loosened the corners and worked your way around the whole bridge you can keep the tip of the spatula quite hot if you are quick to get it in under the bridge and not resting it on the lacquer. This could have been such a smooth and and easy job if I would have realised earlier that that saddle screws went all the way through and was actually screwed in to the top as well, something that kept the bridge secure even when all the glue was loosened. I tried over and over and even managed to damaged the lacquer in two places in my desperate attempts to get the bridge off. Since I couldn’t get a grip of the saddle screws, two was filed down smooth and the others were too low to hold on to with any pliers. I had to heat up a screwdriver on a candle, I should probably have used the clothes iron, and then melt the tip in to the saddle and that way get a grip and unscrew them. Once all the saddle screws were out the bridge came off straight away. It could have been a cleaner removal if I had realised that the saddles were attached to the top but still, I’m pretty pleased with the result for being my first time.

Goya 163 bridge removal
I painted the wood where the finish had come off and then added a bit of nitro lacquer to seal it. Since I had to burn the tip of the saddles to get them out I thought the best I could do in order to save as much material as possible was the flip them over and reshape the bottom instead. I used a normal hand file to shape the saddles, I made the tip both higher and wider to get a better grip with the pliers when I adjust them. Once the shape was good I rounded them off with my fret crowning file. I glued the bridge back in place with fish glue and a couple of clamps and let it set for 24 hours. It worked pretty well, the tone is better and I can now easily adjust the string height like Levin intended 46 years ago.

Global Shipping Program

1968 Levin / Goya 163 head
Goya Model 163 , made by Levin in Sweden in 1968

You might have noticed that eBay have started with something new, well fairly new, called Global Shipping Program. Basically you pay all the import taxes and charges straight away and therefore don’t have to go through the customs when the item arrives to your country. I have had some issues in the past when I have bought things from the US, like my Claescaster body and my Goya T-18. It took the Spanish customs a month the process the item and deliver it to me and they charged me 40% of the original price including shipping in import tax and other fees. I recently purchased a lovely Goya 163 from Massachusetts using the Global Shipping Program and it took exactly 14 days to get it and I only had to pay 32.5 % tax on the actual price of the guitar, not final price plus shipping as they normally charge me when it goes through the Spanish customs in Madrid and best of all, no paperwork. So for anyone living in Spain I can highly recommend buying things from the States using the Global Shipping Program.

How to… reset a Levin neck

Levin LM-26 1959A fairly unplayable 1959 Levin LM-26 before I reset the neck

I’ve been very lucky and managed to get my hands on a couple of really nice Levin and Goya guitars over the last year. I would probably have thought twice about getting any random 50 years old acoustic since the action is normally a bit of an issue but with Levin it’s quite easy to reset the neck. They have been using a bolt-on neck system since the 1950’s which makes the job pretty manageable.
How to reset a Levin neckRemove the two bolts that attach the heel with the neck block, you can see them if you look inside. A normal Philips no 2 screwdriver fits if you don’t have a square Allen key. The heel is normally not glued in so you will feel it loose as soon as you remove the bolts. If not, apply a bit of pressure upwards to loosen the heel. Now you will be able to fit a sanding strip under the heel and can start to sand it down and that way change the neck angle and lower the action. Apply a bit of pressure on the neck and just pull, it might take 40-60 pulls on each side so so be patient. Check the neck angle with a straight edge once in a while so you don’t take it too far. As long as the straight edge doesn’t go over the bridge it should be fine. I have done the sanding strip trick on two guitars so far, my Goya T-18 and a Goya 163. On my Levin LM-26 I felt it was better to remove the whole neck so that made the sanding process even easier.

Goya 163 neck removal
Update: January 27, 2014
I needed to sand down the heel a bit further on my Goya Model 163 and realised that the fretboard started to come loose. It looked and felt just like the bridge, like the glue had dried up and started to crack and fall apart. I tried a new trick that I learned on Youtube, to heat up the spatula instead of heating the neck, like a did on my Levin LM-26. My God, this was so easy and quick, I think it took me 7 min to remove the neck. When I had sanded down the heel a bit further I glued the neck back with some fish glue and a couple of clamps.

Levin bolt-on neck

Levin LM-26

Levin LM-26 1959Levin LM-26 1959Update: January 26, 2014 My Levin LM-26 from 1959 is now finished

Levin Goliath ad 1962
Bell ad from 1962 for the wonderful extra large sized Levin Goliath Model 1795

As I mentioned in my previous post about Levin I managed to win a Levin LM-26 on eBay back in December. It turned out to be in a worse state than I expected which I guess is both good and bad. Bad because it’s unplayable so I still don’t know how it sounds, good because I’m forced to learn a lot of new things, like how to remove the neck on an acoustic guitar. The Levin LM-26 was sold as The Levin Goliath Model 1795 in the UK and I think they sold pretty well, even Pete Townshend had one. They have spruce top with flame maple back and sides, all solid as always with Levin. If you want to know how old your Levin or Goya is then check Vintage Guitars Sweden. Levin serial numbers / Goya serial numbers

The Who in 1963 as the Detours, Pete Townshend playing a Levin Goliath LM-26
Pete Townshend is playing a Levin Goliath LM-26 in 1963 with Detours, later The Who

Levin LM-26 / Goya M-26
Goliath size: Body width: 400 mm, body length: 505 mm, body depth: 95/120 mm
Fingerboard width: 43 mm, scale length: 630 mm
Spruce top, flame maple back and sides, 4-ply bound top, single-bound back
Mahogany bolt-on neck with adjustable truss rod
Metal truss rod cover with a star and “1900”, nickel plated tuners
Single-bound rosewood fingerboard with centered pearl dot inlay, rosewood bridge
Sunburst finish and ten year warranty

Marketed by U.K. distributors as Goliath Model 1795.

Levin LM-26 1959Levin LM-26 from 1959, well the body is actually stamped with a number from 1958, the year this model was introduced. I’m not sure if they used an old body when they put they guitar together at the Levin factory in Gothenburg in 1959 or if someone changed the neck when the guitar came to the UK. The previous owner for the past 51 years, Roger, bought the guitar second hand in 1963 for £40 from Bill Greenhalgh Ltd, 125-127 Fore Street in Exeter. Roger changed the original machine heads to Grovers in 1965, it’s otherwise all original. The action was so high that I could almost fit my hand under the strings so I had to remove the neck and reset it. There are a few things that needs to be glued as well, the back is lose and there are 2-3 cracks in the top.

Levin LM-26 1959I have never removed a neck before so I was pretty nervous about this part. It’s supposed to be one of the trickier things to sort on an acoustic guitar but luckily this neck was fixed with the Levin bolt-on neck system which made it a lot easier. I removed the two bolts inside and the heel came lose straight away, now I only had to loosen the fretboard overhang. I removed the pickguard with a razor blade, cutting under the edge, just to make sure I wouldn’t melt or damage it while removing the neck. Then I used a normal clothes iron to heat up the fretboard, I don’t have any fancy pants Stew Mac tools or special gadgets. I heated up the fretboard for 1-2 min and felt with my hand every 30 sec to make sure it didn’t get too hot, I thought if I could still touch it maybe I wouldn’t burn or damage the lacquer on the top. It took ages to get it off, I think I probably spent 1-2 hours per night for 3 nights in a row on this. The glue loosened more and more and in the end I could get a flat screwdriver in and bend it loose. Unfortunately a chunk of spruce decided to stick to the neck instead of the body but to be honest I expected worse damage than that on my first attempt to remove a neck. I used my clothes steamer and steamed the spruce loose from the mahogany neck, it peeled right off, and just glued it back in the neck pocket again.

Levin LM-26 1959
I masked off the top and sanded the pocket even so now the neck will fit fine once I’m ready to put it back on. I had to get the gap on the back closed. I’m not a master gluer and since you pretty much just get one shot, or rather it’s really annoying to remove and re-glue things if they aren’t perfect, I was a bit concerned about this too. I used plenty of fish glue and then 4 strong straps that could not only press in the back but also press down the the sides to close the gap as much as possible. I’m pretty pleased with the result, the gap is gone and it seems pretty solid.

Levin LM-26 1959Next thing was to try to close the cracks on the top. One was all the way through and two was smaller hairline cracks. I filled everything with fish glue and used a suction cup to try to push in the glue in the cracks, I saw this on Youtube and it made sense to me so I tried it. Then I just strapped everything up and put a piece of wood the keep the main crack flat while it dries.

Levin LM-26 1959Once I had glued the cracks in the top, the first image shows before I started, I painted and lacquered the crack. I used normal matt black acrylic paint for the dark parts and just darkened the rest with furniture oil before I applied the nitrocellulose lacquer. Once the lacquer was dry I sanded the surface smooth with 400, 800, 1500, 2000 and 2500 grit. It worked really well, it’s actually hard to even see the big crack that went all the way from the edge to the bridge. I removed the old glue from the pickguard and then glued it back again. 

Levin LM-26 1959The neck was in really poor state, deep groves and marks all over it. I filled it with nitrocellulose lacquer, as mentioned in my previous post about how to repair lacquer damage. I had to take out the heavy artillery in order to get the neck smooth and used 180 grit. Then it was just a matter of sanding it back to it’s former shine using 400, 800, 1500, 2000 and 2500 grit. You can still see the marks but the neck is perfectly smooth and shiny again.

Levin LM-26 1959
According to Roger the guitar has been stored in a back room in it’s case for the last three decades and I guess the humidity wasn’t ideal, hence the cracks. As soon as I got the guitar I started to humidify it with a wet sock in a plastic container inside the body and then sealed of the hole with a lid from a Mercadona lunch box. The Grover machine heads from 1965 got a good clean and is now oiled up and works fine.
In the last picture you can see what lied hidden in the accessory compartment in the old hardcase. Old guitar and banjo strings, an old sellotape box full of fingerpicks and best of all, an original Levin trussrod key. I’ve been looking all over for one of these. Thank you Roger.

Wilkinson WJ44

Morris W-40, Wilkinson WJ44

I just installed a new set of Wilkinson WJ44 in gold on my Morris W-40. I wasn’t happy with the fake 10€ tulip Grovers I had before so I decided to get some Wilkinson Deluxe tuners instead. They cost me about 33€ including shipping from Vansonguitars on eBay. I really love the tulip shape and will always chose that if possible but I really don’t like the green buttons that most companies use, even the big ones like Schaller, Kluson and Grover. Luckily Wilkinson has started to make their deluxe tuners in both vintage green and cream white so I could get my beloved gold deluxe tuners in off white instead of hospital green. Another good thing with these Wilkinson’s is that they have a 9mm bushing instead of 8mm which makes them easier to fit if you have modern 10mm holes for the tuners. Wilkinson are manufactured in Korea by Jin Ho and I’m very impressed with their quality considering how the cheap they are. I have both Wilkinson tuners and bridge on my Claescasters, I love their vintage bridge with compensated brass saddles.

Morris W-40, Wilkinson WJ44
Since the Morris W-40 has 10mm holes I had to try to make the 9mm bushings 1mm bigger. I decided to try the beer can trick which turned out to work pretty well. Cut a can open and remove the top on the bottom and then just cut strips as wide as the bushing. 1mm might sound like nothing but the bushing needs to sit tight in the holes otherwise they will be pulled out or move from the string tension. I had to go for about 1.5 strip to fill the gap and there was a lot of fiddling and pain in my thumbs to get it in place but I eventually succeeded.

Morris W-40, Wilkinson WJ44I was hoping that the screw spacing matched the old Morris tuners but they didn’t so I had to drill new holes. They are going to be hidden under the original tuners if I restore it but for now, I prefer gold and tulip buttons to the original Japanese 70’s chrome tuners.

Hondo II P-bass

Hondo II P-bass
It took 3 months but now it’s finally ready, Verushka’s Hondo II P-bass

We had such a bad luck with the pickups we ordered for Verushka’s Hondo II P-bass. First we ordered a set of Artec P-bass pickups my favourite Hong Kong store EY Parts, but they never arrived, we waited for more than two month and finally got refunded instead. Then we decided to order from Custom World in Holland but that took ages too. Now we got everything we needed, full sized 250K Alpha pots, Orange drop cap, cloth covered wire, new jack and the Artec pickups. I put it together the other night and got it to work fine. I’m still really impressed with these Hondo II basses, the electronics and hardware are pretty cheap but that’s easy to change, and it’s so worth it for these amazing necks.

Hondo II P-bassIt was pretty straight forward to change the electronics. I checked the Seymour Duncan’s wiring diagram for P-basses and followed that instead of the old wiring.

Hondo II P-Bass
Hondo II P-Bass
I really liked the look of the Hondo II I got for Dani but this is ten times better for Verushka, all black just like her