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Tag: Japanese acoustic guitars

Levin LDR-28H

Levin LDR-28H Made in Japan 1979
Levin LDR-28H, Made in Japan in 1979

I have a lot of Swedish made Levin guitars but I’ve never actually had a Japanese made on in my hands, until now. After C. F. Martin & Co. purchased Levin in June 1973 they started to import Japan made Sigma guitars for the European market under the Levin brand. There are actually quite a few of these mid 1970’s low end Sigma’s, especially in Sweden, but it’s a lot rarer to see a high end 1979-1982 Sigma made in Japan with Levin on the label. 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. When the Levin factory closed down in Sweden in 1979 they had a short run with making Levin guitars in Japan, mainly Martin copies. I have to say that owning a 1982 Sigma DR-41 and now a Levin LDR-28H, they are very similar in build, sound and feel. Even though they are two different models, you can tell they are made in the same factory and both are excellent guitars. Now when I have a fancy pants real Martin to compare them to, my 1999 Martin HD-28LSV, there is something very special about these Japan built Martin guitars. There is a punch in the mid range and a cleanness to them, less woody and more sparkly perhaps. It’s very hard to explain but I really like the sound and I guess that’s why I got in to Japanese built acoustics in the first place.

Levin LDR-28H Made in Japan 1979 Levin LDR-28H Made in Japan 1979
The Levin LDR-28H is in pretty good shape for it’s age. There is an old crack on the lower bought of the top but it’s well glued and doesn’t look too bad. I really like the eye for details on this Martin HD-28 copy, diamond volute, herringbone binding and zig-zag backstrip, just like on my Martin HD-28LSV.

Levin LDR-28H & Sigma DR-41 Made in Japan
The Levin LDR-28H and my Sigma DR-41, most likely made in the same factory in Japan under the supervision of C.F. Martin & Co.

Ibanez V 637

Ibanez Vintage 637 BS Made in Japan 1978Ibanez Vintage 637 BS, made in Japan by Fujigen Gakki in 1978

I managed to find another a Ibanez Vintage, just like the Ibanez V 300 BS that I got for my friend Miki back in July, but this time it’s a Ibanez Vintage 637 BS. I’m not really sure what the difference is between the V 300 and V 637 because they feel, look and sound very much the same but I assume this one should be a bit better since the model number is higher. Unless they used the old 600-series number for them in 1978 like the used on the Concord earlier and then changed in 1979 to a 300 series. Either way it’s a beautiful and very well sounding guitar. This guitar is now sold.

Ibanez Vintage 637 BS Made in Japan 1978Ibanez Vintage 637 BS Made in Japan 1978I only had to clean her up, polish the frets, oil the fretboard and machine heads and change the nut and saddle to bone and she was ready to go

Ibanez V 300

Ibanez V300 BS Made in Japan 1979Ibanez V 300 BS, Made in Japan by Fujigen Gakki in 1979

Last month I was asked to find a guitar for my friend Miki’s birthday. His girlfriend Laura thought that I was the man to source an old Japanese acoustic for him, well I found it and she picked it. Last night he received the guitar so now the surprise is over and I can write about it, he seemed very pleased to be a part of the vintage Japanese guitar club. It’s pretty similar in shape and sound to the Ibanez built Cimar D-320 I got for my friend Tomasz back in May. Even though they have a lot in common, this Ibanez felt both fancier and more solidly built. I really like the sound of these 1970-80’s Ibanez and they look pretty unique since they aren’t an obvious Gibson or Martin copy. I can highly recommend them if you find one for a descent price, they tend to be more in the Morris price range than Suzuki which I guess could be because Ibanez is such a famous brand.

Ibanez V300 BS Made in Japan 1979An extremely well kept 1979 Ibanez V 300 BS, built in Japan and after spending 36 years in France now lives happily in Barcelona

Ibanez catalogue 1983-84Ibanez catalogue 1983-84 take from Ibanez Guitars

Cimar D-320

Cimar D-320 by Ibanez, Made in JapanCimar D-320, Made in Japan in the mid 1980’s by Ibanez

I recently helped my friend Tomasz to find a nice Japanese acoustic and we ended up with this Cimar D-320. Cimar were made by Ibanez in the 1980’s as their cheaper brand and even though you seen them for sale quite often, I had actually never tried one. Ibanez is owned by Hoshino Gakki and based in Nagoya, Aichi, Japan. Hoshino Gakki also had semi acoustic, nylon and steel stringed acoustic guitars manufactured under the Ibanez name. Most Ibanez guitars were made for Hoshino Gakki by the FujiGen guitar factory in Japan up until the mid-to-late 1980s and from then on Ibanez guitars have also been made in other Asian countries such as Korea, China and Indonesia, taken from Wikipedia. I have a feeling this Cimar would be one of the last ones to have been made in Japan and I’m still struggle to see how they could be making inexpensive guitars in Japan in the mid 1980’s, I had a feeling that everything had already been moved to Korea or some other cheaper country. They guitar seems to be pretty solidly built and has a lot of swanky details like the snowflake inlay and herringbone binding which looks great from a distance. The best part is still the sound, I would never have expected it to have such rich bass and great response, especially not for being fully laminated. A pretty great guitar for the price. If you want to know more about different Japanese guitar brands then check my previous post.

Cimar D-320, Made in Japan in the mid 1980's by Ibanez
Cimar D-320, Made in Japan in the mid 1980's by Ibanez
Cimar D-320, Made in Japan in the mid 1980's by Ibanez

Fujigen Gakki
Fujigen Gakki began operation in 1960 as a classical guitar manufacturer, moving into the lucurative electric guitar markets in 1962. The company was the largest producer of Japanese guitars during the 1960-1980 period. They were known for producing high quality products, especially for the badged guitar market, which is why the company was selected by so many major American brands. It wasn’t until 1970 that the company began making products for the venerable Ibanez brand, which was an unqualified success. Fujigen Gakki was the main manufacturer of choice for Greco badged guitars in the 1970 to 1980 period. They also produced guitars for major manufacturer Yamaha. Badged guitars made by Fujigen include Antoria, Epiphone, Jason and Mann. Badged guitars that may have been made by Fujigen Gakki were Marlin and St. Moritz.

How to… fit a LR Baggs M1

Morris W-40 1973 My new Martin D-45 copy, a Morris W-40 Made in Japan by Terada in 1973

There was a bit of work that needed to be done when I first got my Morris W-40. First of all I polished the frets, cleaned her up and oiled the fretboard. Then I needed to take care of the action which was too low, imagine that on an acoustic guitar. There was a slight forward-bow on the neck which made a bit of rattle when I played solos in the middle of the neck, at least when I hit the strings hard. I adjusted the trussrod and gave her a slight bow the other way, meaning that cowboy chords still sound beautiful and the action is still very low for being an acoustic around the 12th fret. I changed the machine heads to a pair of Grover tulip copies in gold, maybe not the best ones but it looked so much nicer than the original plain ones in chrome. Then I fitted a strap button in gold, I can’t stand having to tie the strap to the head of the guitar. I’m still waiting for the Nitrocellulose lacquer I ordered so I can fill in the three dents on the back of the neck, which is going to be a new adventure since I have never done anything like it before. Last step was to fit my new L.R. Baggs M1 soundhole pickup. I’m getting pretty used to fit endpin jacks on acoustic guitars now so it was pretty straight forward even though it was a bit more hard work on this one. I’m not sure if it was because the wood is older, or the type of wood used in this, it’s Brazilian Rosewood and maple in the 3-piece back, Now it plays and sounds amazing, I’m really pleased with it.

Fitting LR Baggs M1
I prefer to fit the endpin jacks by hand, with a small round file and then even out the hole with sandpaper when it’s big enough

Morris W-40 1973
Morris W-40 1973

Morris W-40 Made in Japan by Terada in 1973, just look at that Brazilian Rosewood and maple 3-piece back