Claescaster

Tag: Made in USA

Martin SWDGT

Martin SWDGT, Made in USA 2004Martin SWDGT, Made in USA 2004

Last weekend I adjusted Sr. Chinarro’s 2004 Martin SWDGT. It’s a really nice guitar and it reminds me a lot of the Martin SPD-16R I got for Christmas. These Martin SWDGT or Sustainable Wood Series are constructed in an ecologically responsible way with alternative woods. It has a really nice coloured sitka spruce top with non-scalloped X-bracing, back, sides and neck are cherry wood and the fretboard is made from katalox. It’s constructed with a simple dovetail neck joint, gold machine heads and a faux tortoise binding all around, just like the Martin SPD-16R, the only difference is that the SWDGT has faux tortoise headplate as well. The Martin SPD-16R has rosewood back and sides and it feels like the cherry wood in the SWDGT is adding more bass, depth and warmth, I really like the sound of it. I’ve always been a big fan of fancy exotic woods, especially Brazilian rosewood, but if you can build guitars this good from woods you can find in your backyard, then perhaps that’s the sustainable way for the future. I have to add that I hate the future and prefer to live in the past with my fancy old exotic woods but we can’t all do that, that wouldn’t be very sustainable.

Martin SWDGT, Made in USA 2004
Martin SWDGT, Made in USA 2004I love the colour of the top, so much nicer than the new made Martin D-18 and D-28.

Martin SPD-16R

Martin SPD-16R Made in USA1999
Martin SPD-16R, Made in USA 1999

Before Christmas I got myself my first Martin. Like most acoustic guitar players I’ve always dreamt of getting a really old Martin D-28 but since they are so ridiculously expensive I settled for a more modest Martin, a 1999 Martin SPD-16R. I have to say that it’s an amazing guitar for the price, I think these cost between $1500-2000 when they were new in the late 1990’s. One of the problems I have with modern Martin guitars is the Richlite and other weird wood substitutes they use on the Martin 16-series nowadays. I also think that most new Martins look pretty bland and boring, hence why I liked the SPD-16R so much with it’s fancy snowflake inlays and abalone rosette, it even has gold hardware. Unfortunately for me, I’ve realised that I’m not a Martin guy, I feel like I’m cheating on my Levin guitars every time I pick another guitar up so I’ve decided to put this Martin SPD-16R up for sale.

Martin SPD-16R Made in USA1999Martin SPD-16R Made in USA1999

Martin SPD-16R
14 fret Dreadnought with spruce top and Indian Rosewood back and sides. 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. SPD-16R stands for Special edition, Dreadnought, 16-series in Rosewood.

Player Reviews, taken from Dream Guitars:

“The SPD-16 series offers a lot of guitar for the money. Solid woods, abalone markers and rosette and gold hardward were all standard. Great tone is standard also. This is a true Martin guitar with the punch and wonderful midrange Martin fans will enjoy.” – Paul Heumiller

“This is a great dreadnought for the money. This Special Edition Martin has that vintage look and appears to be a cross between a D-18 and D-28. Pretty darn nice.” – Al Petteway

Martin SPD-16R Made in USA1999

Rickenbacker 330

Rickenbacker 330 Made in USA 2000A Rickenbacker 330 in Fireglo, Made in USA April 2000

Last week I had Sr. Chinarro’s Rickenbacker 330 at home for some minor work. This was actually the first Rickenbacker guitar I’ve ever played, I tried a Rickenbacker 4003 Bass ones but that’s all. I’m not sure why I haven’t been more interested in the brand, they look amazing and a million awesome musicians plays Rickenbacker. Perhaps I got lured in to the Telecaster cave early on and never managed to find my way out. The Rickenbacker 330 was introduced in 1958 and it really feels like it was built in an old fashioned way, perhaps not entirely in a good way. I mean when the electric guitars came in the 1950’s all the different brands had to figure things out for themselves for not infringing anyone else’s previous patents, hence why saddles, pickups and constructions varied so much in the beginning. There are a few solutions on the Rickenbacker that feels a bit weird, like the saddle, pickguard or the fact that they have lacquer over the rosewood fretboard. The problem with this guitar was that it had groves in the fretboard that I had to fill in with lacquer, scrape and then buff out with sandpaper and metal polish, which worked really well in the end. I think I will stick to my Levin orchestra guitars when it comes to hollow bodies but I really enjoyed having this Rickenbacker 330 at home so I could finally try one out. I loved the neck, both thickness and the feel of it and the pickups sounds really great, it’s a very versatile guitar.

Rickenbacker 330 Made in USA 2000
Rickenbacker 330 Made in USA 2000

Gibson B-15

Gibson B-15 Made in USA 1969Gibson B-15, built in Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA in 1969

Another 1960’s Gibson came in to my hands this weekend. This one is actually not mine, it belongs to Sr Chinarro. The Gibson B-15 was introduced in 1967 as the last model of the famous B-series, the Gibson B-25 was already a huge hit and they continued to manufacture the B-series through out the 1970’s. 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.

Gibson B-15 Made in USA 1969Gibson B-15 Made in USA 1969

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. This guitar is sold now.

Gibson B-15 Made in USA 1969Gibson B-15 Made in USA 1969

 

 

Gibson J-45/J-50

Gibson J-45 ADJ 1965 Made in USAGibson J-45 ADJ, built in Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA in 1965

As mentioned quite a few times in the past, I’m very gay for the old round shouldered Gibson J-45 / J-50. I’m not entirely sure why, it’s not just for the amazing bass response, I think I really like the look of the round shoulders as well, it’s very woman like. I previously owned a 1970 Gibson J-50 Deluxe which sounded great but it didn’t really have the look or sound I was after so eventually I sold it to a nice older gent living in Kent, no he lived in Asturias here in Spain but he might very well have been from Kent originally.

Gibson J-45 ADJ 1965 Made in USAGibson J-45 ADJ 1965 Made in USA1965 Gibson J-45 ADJ, round shouldered 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

In the beginning of the year I was contacted by a seller that happened to sit on a 1965 Gibson J-45 ADJ with a natural top, apparently it was refinished in the early 1970’s. It looked exactly like the guitar I was looking for, round shouldered, small headstock with old school Kluson 3-on-a-plate machine heads and a big pickguard. The only downside was a couple of old cracks in the top and the adjustable bridge. The cracks had been fixed 45 years ago and it wasn’t that hard to carve a new bone saddle the size of the old rosewood saddle, insert and all. Finally I had my mid-1960’s round shouldered Gibson J-50, I would of course have preferred a mid-1950’s but the price difference is just insane. Even though it’s a 1965 Gibson J-45, the only difference between the J-45 a J-50 was the sunburst so with that gone it’s a 1965 Gibson J-50.

Gibson J-45 ADJ 1965 Made in USAI wasn’t overly keen on the sound of the original adjustable rosewood saddle so I carved a new one in bone and removed all the nuts and bolts under the bridge. The rosewood saddle didn’t sound bad, just a bit muffled and to me the bone is huge improvement

Bob Dylan in 1963 on his late 1940's Gibson J-50This is how cool I feel with my 1965 Gibson J-45, like a 1963 Bob Dylan with his late 1940’s Gibson J-50

Harmony Monterey

Harmony Monterey, Made in USA 1950's 784H1325A late 1950’s Harmony Monterey H1325, made in USA

A couple of weeks ago I came across a really nice looking Harmony Monterey H1325. The only way to date these guitars is by the second stamp inside, if you can find it, giving the year and month. Unfortunately I can just see 784H1325 and the second stamp JAN in mine. I assume it’s from the late 1950’s judging by the head logo and the lack of trussrod since that was introduced in 1964. It’s a really nice playing and sounding guitar, not as loud as my Levin archtops, the 1951 Levin Royal or 1946 Levin Model 32, but still a very nice guitar. Harmony guitars were mass produced in Chicago during this time and even though they are made from solid woods they feel a bit low budget, in a good way, I guess that’s why they are so damn awesome and look so rock n’ roll.

Harmony Monterey, Made in USA 1950's 784H1325Harmony Monterey, Made in USA 1950's 784H1325

Harmony H1325 – Monterey
Acoustic archtop – Brown shaded
Production years: 1952-1972 (other years possible, not verified)
Spruce top, birch body – Grand Auditorium 16 1/2 in. Unusual sunburst pattern in bands. Neck has a trussrod from 1964.

Harmony Monterey, Made in USA 1950's 784H1325There was a lot of cleaning to do and two cracks that needed to be glued. One large on the upper bout and a smaller one on the top and then I glued down the heel a bit better which got the action down. Except for that it was in pretty good shape for being around 60-years old and all original.

Harmony Monterey, Made in USA 1950's 784H1325The original case has these awesome looking shipping stickers on it, I presume from when the guitar left America for Germany by boat in the 1950’s carried by the first owner.

Harmony Monterey, 1959 Harmony catalogueThe top left looks very much like my Harmony Monterey, having said that, the model number inside mine is H1325 which match the bottom left. Taken from a 1959 Harmony catalogue

Harmony H162, 1959 Harmony catalogueI also got myself two late 1960’s H162 from the US that I need to restore. First of all they need a neck reset but then I was actually thinking of removing the back and X-brace at least one of them. Taken from a 1959 Harmony catalogue.

 

Martin 000-15M

Martin 000-15M, Made in USAMartin 000-15M, Made in USA 2011

I recently had my friend Rafa’s little Martin 000-15M over for a set up. I didn’t have to do that much to it, just adjust the trussrod and file down the saddle a bit to get the action down. I realised that I have completely mixed up the Martin sizes, I always thought that the 000 was smaller than the 00, apparently it’s the opposite. That means that my dad’s old Levin LT-16 is a copy of a Martin 000, at least size wise, and not a Martin 00. It could be good to know next time I’m looking for some old guitar and they refer to it as being 000 sized, smaller than that is probably not for me. I don’t like jumbo guitars, but I do like the bass response of a good dreadnought sized guitar, and I think that anything smaller than a 000 would most likely sound like a parlour guitar in my ears. These Martins 000-15M have a pretty descent bass response for their size, I guess because of the shape and the all solid Mahogany construction. It’s a beautiful looking guitar, very light and easy to play and with a warm nice sound that I can highly recommend to anyone looking for a new guitar.

Martin 000-15M, Made in USA
Martin 000-15M, Made in USA

Gibson J-50 Deluxe

1970 Gibson J-50 Deluxe USAGibson J-50 Deluxe, made in Kalamazoo, Michigan, between 1970-72

As mentioned before I have been dreaming of a Gibson J-50 for years now and last week I finally managed to find one. Of course I would have preferred a 1940’s or 1950’s one but it’s hard to even afford one from the 1960’s with today’s vintage guitar prices, and I really don’t approve of the adjustable bridge they used in the mid 1960’s. They changed from round shouldered to square shouldered around 1969 and at the same time got rid of the horrible adjustable bridges. Gibson reached a lot of low marks in the late 1960’s with laminated backs and sides, plastic bridges, massive bridge plates and double X-braces to stiffen up the tops and making sure that they wouldn’t belly or break. I knew when I bought this J-50 that it might not sound like James Taylor’s, not just because it’s not a round shoulder, but also because of the double X-bracing and the general build quality of a 1970’s Gibson. Even though it doesn’t sound like James Taylor’s J-50 I really like the sound of it and it’s very pleasing on the eye too, at least for me. I love the simplicity of the small black drop shaped pickguard and the grain of the top is just amazing. It’s a Gibson J-50 Deluxe with the original Gibson Deluxe machine heads, made at the Kalamazoo plant between 1970-72, apparently it’s impossible to date it any closer.

1970 Gibson J-50 Deluxe USA
1970 Gibson J-50 Deluxe USA

It has had a neck reset at some point and it seems like the bridge has been re-glued too, which could mean that it’s one of the earlier ones that perhaps came with an adjustable bridge and someone changed it to a normal rosewood bridge. I bought the guitar from a gentleman in Oxford, England where it had lived for the past 15 years but before that it came from Oklahoma, USA, where the repairs where made at some point. The bridge plate seems to be a really thin, delicate and made of spruce, perhaps that’s been updated too since these where know for having massive tone killing blocks of wood under the bridge. It has the double X-bracing which I guess has it’s pros and cons like any other form of bracing. It’s an extremely light and well sounding guitar, I don’t know how they managed to build it so light since these are supposed to be really heavy. Gibson got tired of all the returns which cost them a lot of money so in order to increase profit they started to build their acoustics thicker and heavier until they were built like tanks and could survive any beating. These are known as the Norlin era Gibson guitars, but it’s important to remember that even though Norlin took over in 1969, the old owners CMI kept control over the Gibson production up to 1974, so I guess that’s when the real dip in quality happened. As with any vintage guitar of any brand, there are good ones and there are bad ones. Not all Levin guitars are good, but all of the 12 I have sounds amazing so perhaps some brands are more even in the quality than others. I feel that I was lucky with this Gibson J-50 Deluxe and managed to find an extremely light built and very well sounding example. I wished that the bass was a bit deeper, it still has the Gibson bass response, but since the mid range and trebles are so good I’m still very pleased with my new guitar.

1970 Gibson J-50 Deluxe USAA picture of the inside, beautiful solid mahogany back and sides, with the dreaded double X-bracing. It actually sounds better than expected and since the braces are fairly thin and delicate, together with the thin spruce bridge plate, it’s a very light and resonant guitar with great sustain. Except for a little worn patch on the neck after a capo and two tiny cracks in the top where the pickguard has shrunk it’s in very good state for being 45 years old. The neck reset and general set up it had before it left Oklahoma has made it an extremely easy guitar to play with fantastic low action. It has 011 gauge strings on in the clip below, I guess with 012’s it will sound even richer.

1979 Fender Stratocaster

Fender Stratocaster Made in USA 1979, 3 tone Sunburst, hardtailFender Stratocaster Made in USA 1979, 3 tone Sunburst, hardtail
Fender Stratocaster, Made in USA at the Fullerton plant in 1979

This weekend I restored my 1979 Fender Stratocaster to it’s original state. One pot has been changed at some point and I needed to put in a new 5 ways switch but the rest seems to be all original. Well the middle pickup is a bit of a mystery, I’m not sure if it’s a Fender pickup or if it’s something completely different, either way it sounds awesome. It has staggered pole pieces, something that Fender stopped with in the mid 1970’s so I would say that it’s either an older Fender or a newer Japanese pickup. I really like the look of the guitar now, a classic late 1970’s 3 tone sunburst hardtail Fender Stratocaster. The guitar is for sale here.

Fender Stratocaster Made in USA 1979, 3 tone Sunburst, hardtail
First I had to check that the original pickups even worked. After getting pretty strong readings I decided to install them, now I knew in which order to put them too since they weren’t marked with neck, middle and bridge.

Fender Stratocaster Made in USA 1979, 3 tone Sunburst, hardtail
I filled the old holes from the gold Gotoh machine heads with a tooth pick and normal wood glue, it worked really well. When I removed the terrible shielding job that was done before I could for the first time see the serial number, this body was made on a Monday in the 5th week of 1979. The neck is from 1978 which makes sense if it was put together early the following year. I have to go through the soldering again though, there is something that isn’t right. I noticed when I had put it back together that there something wrong with the middle pickup, it sounded like a wah wah stuck in one position. Well first thing I realised was that the switch was the wrong way around so that has been flipped now, then after a lot of detective work I figured out what was wrong. The middle pickups wires was the other way around, the white was the ground and the black was going to the switch. There was also an extra capacitor on the second tone pot that I had to remove. Now everything works perfectly and it sounds awesome, I really love this guitar. Thanks again to Dating Late 1970’s Fender Stratocasters for all the useful information.

Mossman Guitars

1979 Mossman Catalog - Great Plains Mossman 1979
1979 Mossman Catalogue, taken from David Hylander Guitar Works

I have recently come across another American guitar maker that was previously unknown to me. I mentioned Grammer guitars earlier, this time it’s Mossman guitars that I’ve fallen in love with. One of the guitar builders that I follow on Instagram, kawvalleyguitars in Kansas, kept posting images of Mossman guitars he had done neck resets on, which awoke my curiosity. After a bit of Googleing I realised that quite a few artists liked Mossman guitars, including John Denver, Eric Clapton, Albert Lee, Doc Watson, Hank Snow, Cat Stevens and Merle Travis. Stuart Mossman got fed up with all the plywood guitars that was pumped out of the big factories in the 1960-70’s and decided to start building his own guitars with real tone woods and proper craftsmanship, and so S.L Mossman Guitars were born in Winfield, Kansas.

Stuart Mossman at work, S.L Mossman Guitars
S.L Mossman Guitars 2
Stuart Mossman in Winfield, Kansas. Here you can read more about the Mossman story

1979 Mossman Catalog - Flint Hills Mossman 1979 1979 Mossman Catalog - Great Plains Mossman 19791979 Mossman Catalog - Timber Creek Mossman 19791979 Mossman Catalog - Golden Era Mossman 1979
This could be the most awesome guitar brochure ever printed, the 1979 Mossman Catalogue, taken from David Hylander Guitar Works