Claescaster

Tag: Hondo

Tokai Silver Star SS-36

Tokai Silver Star SS-36 Made in Japan 1979
Tokai Silver Star SS-36 Made in Japan 1979

When arrived to the office on Monday morning I noticed that Yuma, one of the eBay sellers that I follow from Japan, had added a new guitar, a 1979 Tokai Silver Star SS-36. I’ve always admired, well admired is not strong enough, I’ve always been totally gay for the 3-tone sunburst that Fender used in 1970’s. I even built the Claescaster because of this, since I couldn’t find a Telecaster with the right colour I decided to assemble one myself. For the past two years I’ve been looking at different Japanese big headed Stratocasters with the 3-tone 1970’s sunburst and black pickguard and was pretty convinced that a Greco SE-500 would be my next electric guitar or perhaps a late Seventies Fernandes Burny but they never seemed to have necks that were fat enough. I was in touch with a couple of the Japanese sellers and asked which brand had the fattest neck and got this reply, none. One seller explained that most Japanese guitars have fairly flat necks since the Japanese have small hands, which sounded a bit racist but whatever the reason is, most Japan made guitars had soft profiled necks up until now. I’ve played a couple of Crafted in Japan Fenders with great V-profile but that’s just in the last couple of years, none of the Japanese guitars that I’ve tried from 1970-80’s has had any baseball bat necks. This was a beautiful looking Tokai Silver Star with great grain showing through the 3-tone sunburst. I asked the seller about the neck and he replied that it wasn’t super fat, more of a soft U-profile, well that sounded close enough to me. The truth is that I’ve really missed the sound of the Fernandes RST-50 ’57 that I had for a short while. The Grey Bobbin pickups just sounded so amazingly good but I could never really come to terms with the small head or the fact that the guitar was black. Eric Clapton’s Blackie in all honour but they look pretty bland and boring to me, I like wood coloured or 3-tone sunburst guitars. My head started to think, well what could be better than Greco’s Maxon pickups, well the Ferndandes grey bobbin pickups, any day. Who was making Fernades in the late Seventies, well Tokai. Does that mean that this Tokai Silver Star will have some form of similar pickups? I tried to do some research but before I had even come to any conclusion I was the happy owner of a 1979 Tokai Silver Star SS-36. It was a Monday morning, I was a bit hungover, most of my guitar purchases has been made in that state, or perhaps when I’m drunk. I tend to be really concerned about money, I like to plan ahead, save for a rainy day, and then suddenly I sit there in front of the computer drunk or hungover without any filters whatsoever and just thinking GAS, GAS, GAS.

Tokai Silver Star SS-36 Made in Japan 1979
Tokai Silver Star SS-36 Made in Japan 1979

To be honest I didn’t know that much about Tokai, a part of me has always classed it like Ibanez, kind of bellow Greco in terms of quality. Then again, I can’t really say that I have felt a huge difference in quality between the Fender Japan made by FujiGen or the ones by Tokai, but everyone seems to prefer the Made in Japan to the later Tokai built Crafted in Japan. I have a 1991 Tokai Love Rock LS-55 Les Paul copy that is awesome but that doesn’t mean that an entry level Strat from 1979 would be equally good, but luckily it was. The Tokai Silver Strat SS-36 was the cheapest in the line of the late Seventies Fender copies that Tokai made but I think the main difference between the top and the bottom was if they had 3 or 4 screws bolt-on-necks, how many pieces of wood was used for the bodies and the quality of machine heads and hardware, and less about the pickups. Or perhaps these are the shittiest pickups Tokai produced and they still sound awesome.

Tokai (Tōkai Gakki)
Tōkai Gakki was founded in 1947 and is based in Hamamatsu, Japan. Tokai began production of acoustic guitars in 1965 and by 1968 was producing electric guitars for the American market. Tokai still exists as guitar manufacturer. Tokai made guitars for Fernandes, Mosrite and Fender Japan. Tokai badged guitars included the house brand Tokai as well as Cat’s Eyes, Conrad, Drifter, Hondo, Love Rock, Mosrite, Sigma and Silver Star. Possible badges include Artist Ltd., Gaban, Gallan, Gession and Robin. It’s suggested that Tokai made Hummingbird acoustics as well, but if these were related to those made by Humming Bird I haven’t quite sorted out yet. Taken from my previous post about Japanese guitar brands

Fender replicas were started in 1977 officially. These were great guitars too. Using good quality wooden material with great craft man ship. “Springy Sound” Stratocaster replicas and the “Breezy Sound” Telecaster replicas are superior to the original Fender. Tokai has own factory and has built guitars for many famous known brands such as Fernandes and Fender Japan. For that mean, Tokai is only one original electric guitar manufacturer in Japan. (Note: Fender Japan used many sub constructors such as Fujigen, Dyna, Tokai, and Terada. The JV and E serial were made by Fujigen. Tokai made has “Made in Japan” under serial number in cursive handwriting). Taken from Music-Trade Japan

Tokai Silver Star SS-36 Made in Japan 1979
The guitar has a really nice soft U-shaped 1-piece maple neck with a nut width of just 40.6 mm, which didn’t feel that different to me. The body is 4 pieces Sen (Japanese ash) with poly lacquer in the classic 1970’s Fender 3-tone sunburst, which I truly love. I’m not sure if the pickups are similar to the L-5000 Vintage Arched PP Grey Bobbin pickups that the Fernandes RST-50 ’57 had or just some other grey bottom pickups. I tried to find some more information about them but they are just refereed to as grey bottom Tokai PU at Music-Trade Japan. Tokai Was building Fernandes at this time so I assume they would have used similar pickups for both. Either way, I love the pickups in this Tokai and it sounds almost as good as the Fernades did. I added an extra spring to the tremolo block since I never use the wammy bar and prefer a more solid hardtail feel, just like a real late 1970’s Fender Stratocaster.


I will try to get a new video up soon where I play a bit louder so you can hear the pickups properly, I was worried about the neighbours, and ideally play a bit better.


Well here it is, I might not play any better, but at least it is a more of it. I changed the string to 010, always Ernie Ball Regular Slinky, raised the action and fitted a 4th spring to the tremolo. Not sure what difference it made sound vice but it made it felt better to me playing.

 

 

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

Hondo II P-bass

Hondo II P-Bass
Hondo II P-bass copy, it’s a bit roadworn but the neck is in a really good state and it feels great to play.

Hondo II P-Bass
The machine heads could do with being replaced too, it seems like Hondo II have great necks but cheap hardware and electronics.

As I mentioned before I got a Hondo II P-bass for my colleague Verushka, she plays in an awesome punk group called Sect. The bass arrived last week and I took it home and had a look at it. It was sold as untested so I presumed that nothing worked, and I was right. The wood seems really solid and good, just like the Hondo II I got for Dani a few months back but the electronics seemed to be pretty bad. I took it a part and cleaned it, polished all the metal and then started to go through the electronics. It turned out that the pickups doesn’t work. Or rather they work, but the output is so low that you can hardly hear them. We ordered a new set of Artec P-bass pickups, new pots and jack from my favourite Hong Kong store EY Parts so as soon as they arrive I can get the bass sorted.

Hondo II P-Bass
I cleaned it, polished the frets and all the hardware with wire wool and metal polish. I have to say that this cheap little bottle of Harley Benton Hardware Polish has proven to be extremely worth the 1.90€ I paid for it. I put in a little shim when I assembled it, just like I did with Dani’s and it made wonders to the action. Now it’s really low and easy to play.

Hondo II P-Bass
I took all the electronics apart, cleaned the jack, cut the ends of all the wires and replaced the mini pots with some newer mini pots I had at home, I did everything I could to make sure that all the connections would be as good as possible but it didn’t help. Well I got rid of the extremely loud humming noise that was there before but the pickups are still way too weak for being usable. Let’s see what it sounds like when the new full size pots, jack and Artec pickups arrive.

Hondo II P-bass

Hondo II P-bass

I just bought another Hondo II P-bass on eBay, this time for my work colleague Verushka from the Barcelona based punk band Sect. The listing stated that the bass was untested so hopefully it doesn’t work and I got a lot of work to do before it’s ready to be played. Dani is selling his Hondo II but Verushka and I decided that black was more her and then we found this beauty.

Hondo II P-bass

Hondo II P-bass

My friend Dani bought himself a Hondo II P-bass copy the other week, well I had to buy it for him since he doesn’t have a eBay account. I took it home and spent my Sunday morning with her,  it wasn’t much work needed. The electronics are pretty old but it works and sounded pretty cool so I think we should keep it as it is for now. However, the actions was extremely high so I had to first adjust the trussrod a bit and then put in a shim in the neck pocket to get the angle of the neck right. Now it’s as low as it can go without any buzzing and it feels really nice to play.

This bass is now for sale.

Hondo II P-bass I love the wood grain, really beautiful. We bought the bass from a UK seller but it seems to have been sold in Canada originally.

Hondo II P-bass Pretty descent wood, good weight and really solid. I’m not really sure what type of pickup that is but it works and sounds good. I folded a business card and used as a shim to get the neck right and to lower the action. I couldn’t find any markings anywhere so we are still not 100% that it is made in Japan, it could be Korean made. Anyway, it feels really nice and seems to be pretty good quality so it doesn’t really matter.

Hondo D-18

Hondo D-18

About a month ago I stumbled upon a Korean made Hondo D-18 acoustic guitar in a Cash converter. It only had 1 string and looked like shit but I was intrigued by the challenge to see if it I could get it to sing. I took it home, cleaned it up and restrung it and the first thing that hit was the tone. It has a really warm and nice tone, way deeper than any of my other acoustics. I’m not sure how old it is, I guess the 1981 on the label is referring to the company name and not the year it was made but it must be from the early to mid 1980’s.

Hondo D-18

I changed the machine heads for a set of fake tulip Grovers that I bought on eBay about a year ago. Then I fitted a strap button and my old 1970’s Shadow pickup that I used to have on a 12 year old Cort I kept in the rehearsal room. It was the normal procedure, drill a pilot hole and then put some wax on the screw and fit the button. I had to widen the hole quite a lot to get the end pin jack in, but that was pretty straight forward as well with a round file. I do hate to fit end pin jacks since my underarm is to wide to fit in the sound hole so it’s quite pain full experience. If you have a girlfriend with slender arms nearby that is to recommend but mine was out of the house when I did this. I have to say that I’m pretty pleased with both the sound and the look of this guitar, the grain is amazing.

Hondo D-18

I had a cheap Artec MSP-50 pickup at home so I fitted that in my old Cort and then installed the Shadow pickup in the Hondo.

Hondo D-18

Hondo D-18

Hondo D-18

Hondo D-18

Update 2013-09-14
The Hondo D-18 is sold now. This is how happy Iñaki was when he bough it.

Hondo D-18 sold