Claescaster

Tag: Morris W-40

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

Bridge Pins

Most guitars come with plain plastic bridge pins and I never really thought that changing them would effect the tone, but it does. To be honest I wasn’t sure how much difference it would make to change the nut or saddle either but there I was proven wrong straight away. I’ve heard so much talk about how superior bone is to plastic and thought it was nonsense, until I actually tried for myself. Now most of my guitars have bone or Tusq nuts, both electrics and acoustics. I changed to Tusq on my Claescaster and was sold straight away, it really felt and sounded different. The only acoustic I’ve had to change nut on was the Suzuki and that guitar sounded way better with a bone nut. It’s weird but acoustics for me, up until the last couple of month, have always sounded good or bad but without any nuances. I guess what I’m trying to say is that just like with a fine red wine you need train your pallet to really understand and appreciate all the flavours and subtle differences. I have been buying more acoustics lately and really listened to them while playing and have come to realise more and more what I like and not like with acoustics. It’s not just down to brand, shape and woods, no guitar sounds the same and there is a lot subtle differences. I think that age is very important factor, I really do believe that wood needs time to open up and that it affects the sound a lot, hence why a lot of modern guitars sounds more or less the same to me. I ordered 12 bone bridge pins and 12 ebony from rockcarvings a Chinese eBay seller that was really cheap, $9.90 for 12 ebony pins. I changed the pins on my Morris W-40 first and made a little sound clip with the plastic, bone and ebony bridge pins to really be able to hear the difference. There is a difference, maybe not as big as changing the saddle to bone, but still. In my opinion the bone pins sounded too clear and sparkly on that guitar, they lacked a bit of bottom which could be more about the quality of these Chinese pins than the material itself. The Morris has a lot of warmth and bottom, which is the reason why I love that guitar so much, so I wanted to keep that rather than give it more treble. The ebony pins were perfect, they just gave such a solid tone, both playing chords and solo. I changed my dad’s Levin LT-16 to ebony as well and put on a new compensated bone saddle, which made wonders to the tone and playability. I will try the bone pins on some other guitars but I have a feeling that I will order more ebony pins in the near future. Here is a list from Maury’s Music with the tonal qualities of different bridge pin materials. I wish I could have found Mammoth or Walrus because that seems awesome but eBay only allowed for Tusq, bone, ebony and horn.

  • Tusq can add a moderate amount of treble, sustain, clarity and volume to your guitar.
  • Bone offers everything Tusq provides, but in bigger doses.
  • Ebony can add bass and warmth to your guitar, along with a signifigant increase in sustain and volume.
  • Buffalo Horn sounds almost identical to bone, and is a great choice if you want a dark looking pin with bone tone.
  • Walrus Jawbone offers the fundamental tone of bone but with better overtones and fatter harmonics.
  • Mammoth Ivory can add sustain, volume, and a transparent richness to your guitar, with an increase in harmonics and overtones.
  • Walrus Ivory provides the greatest increase in volume, sustain and clarity among all the pin choices.

1973 Morris W-40 and 1966 Levin LT-16 with new ebony bridge pins
1973 Morris W-40 and 1966 Levin LT-16 with new ebony bridge pins

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

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.