Claescaster

Tag: Martin D-45

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 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€.

Kazuo Yairi

Master Luthier, Kazuo Yairi Dies Aged 81

I just found out that Kazuo Yairi died earlier this month at the age of 81. As I mentioned before, I would love to one day afford a K.Yairi and big reason for that is the philosophy of Mr Yairi himself:

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

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

Morris

Morris WL-35 and Morris W-40
1970’s Morris WL-35 and a 1973 Morris W-40

I’m still trying to figure out what I like and what I’m after when it comes to acoustic guitars. It’s a quite new thing for me, to play acoustic. I mentioned in an earlier post that it’s a bit like understanding and appreciating fine wine, you need to train your pallet and know what you are looking for, otherwise wine just taste like wine and acoustic guitars sounds more or less drang drang. I’m not sure if all Morris are as good as the two I got but these sounds better than pretty much anything I have ever heard before. I love the look of the Morris W-40 but it’s not as well sounding as the WL-35. I guess the W-40 has that typical Martin D-45 sound, a really dark bass and still nice highs, but a bit weak on the treble side for me. It’s not that good for finger picking, it’s lacking a bit of volume on the high E and B string, something that might be because of the light string gauge, I’m using 11’s at the moment. I’m going to string it with 12’s and see if the volume improve. The Morris W-40 still has one of the best sounds for open chords playing that I’ve ever heard, so much warmth and body, I guess because of the Brazilian rosewood. The Morris WL-35 is probably a better all-round guitar, finger picking, chords, solo playing, everything sounds good on it. I’m just struggling a bit since it’s so big. I think it’s based on some old Guild model, at least the head looks very Guild inspired. Anyway, I can strongly recommend Morris as a brand to anyone looking for a good sounding high quality built Japan made acoustic.

Morris W-40 1973

Moridaira (Morris Guitars)
Founded in 1967 by Toshio “Mori” Moridaira, the Moridaira factory produced high-quality guitars, including the infamous Morris badged guitar. Moridaira also produced badged guitars for Hohner including Coronado, Futurama, H.S. Anderson, Lotus (some) and Sakai.

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

Morris W-40

Morris W-40 1973
Morris W-40 1973

My new found love just arrived to the office, a 1973 Morris W-40. I have been looking for a Japan made Martin D-45 copy for a while and I’m really glad I went for a Morris. I have never played a guitar that sounds this good, amazing tone with really low action. She is a bit more worn than I expected, which doesn’t really bother me that much since the wood looks so good. I might put some gold tulip machine heads on her tonight, if my Gibson PMMH-025 fits. This Monday is just getting better and better. First I got to celebrate my girlfriends birthday, which meant getting up at 5.45 am and prepare breakfast in bed for her, and then I got this baby delivered and she arrived in one piece. Thank you Monday.

Martin D-45

Bob Dylan 1975 with A. Ginsberg playing a Martin D-45
Bob Dylan in 1975 with A. Ginsberg playing a Martin D-45

Neil Young Martin D-45
Neil Young in 1971 playing his Martin D-45 which was given to him by Stephen Stills in 1969

I just found my Japan made Martin D-45 copy that I was looking for, at least for now. I have managed to became the very proud owner of a 1973 Morris W-40, which is as close to a Martin D-45 that my budget could allow. Ideally I would have liked a Yairi YW- 1000 but they tend to go for 1000-2000€ so I had to settle for a Morris W-40. I’ve read a lot of good things about Morris, at least the ones made in the 1970’s so hopefully I will not only look like Neil Young, I will sound like him too, or maybe not. It doesn’t have the vertical logo, which is a shame but those tend to cost 500-600€ if you get one straight from Japan and are pretty rare here in Europe. Well at least it has hexagon mother of pearl inlays and the beautiful 3-part back with Brazilian rosewood and maple. Let’s see how good it sound and looks when it arrives next week. Here are some random photos I found of other Morris W-40.

Morris W-40
Some random Morris W-40 pictures I found online. Moridaira (Morris Guitars). Founded in 1967 by Toshio “Mori” Moridaira, the Moridaira factory produced high-quality guitars, including the infamous Morris badged guitar.