Claescaster

Tag: Gifu

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.

K. Yairi YW-1000

K. Yairi YW-1000 Made in Japan 1973K. Yairi YW-1000, made in Japan in 1973

Since it’s my 35th birthday today I’m going to post this guitar even though it’s not 100% ready yet, it was my birthday present to myself. As I mentioned earlier I recently became the proud owner of a 1973 K. Yairi YW-1000. It’s something I’ve dreamed of for many years and after a bit of hassle it finally arrived. The previous owner didn’t really give much of a description so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Luckily it sounds at least as good as I had hoped for, if not better and it’s structurally fine. Having said that, there were a couple of things that I wasn’t overly excited about, like the bridge and the scratches on the top. I don’t mind worn guitar but there is one big scratch that is still a real eyesore for me, I’m sure I will get used to it and not even see it in a few weeks. The bridge is a chapter for itself, I really don’t know what has been going on there. It has been removed at some point and re-glued, it also has two screws that I doubt were supposed to be there and on top of that someone has added a bit of rosewood to make it higher and topped it of with a fret as the saddle instead of a normal slot and bone saddle. As soon as the wood shops open again here in Barcelona, a lot of shops are closed in August, I will get a piece of ebony and create a new bridge from scratch. Since I couldn’t wait a whole month to play the guitar I lowered the bridge and cut a saddle slot and installed a bone saddle for now, which has worked fine. It’s a beautiful guitar, it’s smells wonder full and sounds even better. This is my third K. Yairi and I have to say that it’s without any doubt the best Japanese acoustics I’ve played so far. I really love my K. Yairi YW-130 and K. Yairi TG-40 but nothing sounds as good as this K. Yairi YW-1000.

K. Yairi YW-1000 Made in Japan 1973K. Yairi YW-1000 Made in Japan 1973K. Yairi YW-1000 Made in Japan 1973It’s worn and has few scratches but nothing too serious, except for the bridge as mentioned before. I changed the machine heads to Wilkinson WJ28NGD open gear in gold, the original ones were in gold too but most of it had worn off and on top of that they were really heavy. I love all the abalone binding and the hexagon inlays in the ebony fretboard. I’m so gay for bling on guitars, the more the better, perhaps I’m the Liberace of guitars.

K. Yairi YW-1000 Made in Japan 1973As soon as I got the guitar I removed the fret, lowered the bridge by sanding it down and then I cut a proper saddle slot. Apparently the top of the bridge is rosewood on an ebony base so I had to paint the top black to match the rest. The bridge works fine but I’m not happy with how it looks so I will try my best to carve a new one in ebony and replace it.

The fist video is with the old makeshift rosewood bridge that the guitar came with, the second video is with the new ebony bridge that I carved myself from scratch, you can read about it here.

K. Yairi YW-1000

1973 K. Yairi YW-1000K. Yairi YW-1000 Made in Japan 1973, Taken from my Instagram

I did it, finally I found myself a K. Yairi YW-1000. This has been a goal of mine for years, or at least since October 2013. You never see them for sale in Europe and to buy one from the US or Japan would set you back at least $1500-2000 plus import taxes and the risk that it gets confiscated in customs, some countries are really picky about Brazilian rosewood crossing their boarders. This K. Yairi YW-1000 was made in the 48th year of Emperor Shōwa, meaning 1973, I love the Emperor based serial numbers. I will write a lot more about this guitar when I got it all set up, I need to re-glue the bridge first.

K. Yairi

K.Yairi YW-1000
The most beautiful Martin D-45 copies in the world, a 1976 K. Yairi YW-1000

I’m extremely happy with the two Morris I have and think that Terada is one of the better acoustic guitar builders in Japan. Having said that, I think everyone that is in to Japanese acoustics dream of owning a K. Yairi, at least I do. Unfortunately they are a bit too expensive for me, I’m sure they are worth it but you can get an old Martin, Gibson or Guild for that money. One thing that I really like with Yairi is that they use the year of the Emperor of Japan to determine the production year of their instruments, how awesome is that. See the list below.


Good materials are hard to find so it’s better to make guitars through limited production by hand instead of mass production. Trees are very important “precious” things so we should make good use of them. Guitars made with “heart” are the best use of trees.  Kazuo Yairi

When was my Yairi made?
By reading the number stamped on the heel block of your Yairi, you can tell in which year it was made. The first two numbers correspond to the year of the Emperor of Japan at that time, see chart below. The second two numbers refer to the month of production. Taken from The Fellowship of Acoustics

A.D.       Emperor                Year
1970      Shōwa                    45
1971                                      46
1972                                      47
1973                                      48
1974                                      49
1975                                      50
1976                                      51
1977                                      52
1978                                      53
1979                                      54
1980                                      55
1981                                      56
1982                                      57
1983                                      58
1984                                      59
1985                                      60
1986                                      61
1987                                      62
1988                                      63
1989       Heisei                    1
1990                                      2
1991                                      3
1992                                      4
1993                                      5
1994                                      6
1995                                      7
1996                                      8
1997                                      9
1998                                      10
1999                                      11
2000                                      12
End of Emperor Date Code
2001                                       01
2002                                       02
2003                                       03
2004                                       04
etc.

Emperor Shōwa and future Emperor Heisei on 10 April 1959
Emperor Shōwa and future Emperor Heisei on 10 April 1959