Claescaster

Tag: Tōkai Gakki

Guitars for sale

I’ve decided to thin out my electric guitar collection as well so if you see anything you like, just get in touch claesgellerbrink@gmail.com

Fender Stratocaster Made in USA 1979, 3 tone Sunburst, hardtailFender Stratocaster, Made in USA, Fullerton plant 1979, 1650€ SOLD
A late 1970’s hardtail Fender Stratocaster in a classic 3-tone sunburst. The neck is stamped with 1978 but body, pickguard and pickups says 1979, very common on late 1970’s Fender. All hardware is original but the volume pot and 5-way switch has been changed and the middle pickup is a bit of a mystery, neck and bridge are original Fender and stamped 1979. It’s in really good state for its age with just a few marks to the body, the grain is amazing and it looks like it’s a one piece ash body. The back of the neck is in great shape just like the original jumbo frets and fretboard. It sounds and feels awesome. You can read more about the guitar here and here and watch this Youtube clip.

Greco Spacey Sounds TL-500Greco Spacey Sounds TL-500, Made in Japan 1979, 800€ SOLD
This is as close to a vintage Japan made Fender Telecaster you can get, built in the same FujiGen factory just before Fender gave the contract to build the first JV, Japan Vintage, series there. Greco is well known for their build quality and the sound of their Maxon pickups. This is an all original Greco TL-500, built in August 1979. The neck and frets are in great shape but there are some chips and marks around the body. You can read more about the guitar here.

Tokai Silver Star SS-36 Made in Japan 1979Tokai Silver Star SS-36, Made in Japan 1979, 750€ SOLD
This is a beautiful looking Tokai Silver Star with great grain showing through the 3-tone sunburst. It’s all original and in really good state for its age with hardly any marks. Tokai together with Greco was without any doubt the best Japanese copies in the 1970-80’s and the reason why Fender started to produce guitars in Japan, first through FujiGen and later the Tōkai Gakki factory. It has great sustain and together with the legendary grey bobbin pickups it sounds amazing. You can read more about the guitar here and listen to it in this Youtube clip.

Tacoma Stratocaster Made in Japan 1970'sTacoma Stratocaster, Made in Japan 1970’s, 400€ SOLD
This great looking Tacoma Stratocaster was made in Japan in the late 1970’s, most likely by FujiGen since it’s so similar to a Yamaha Super r’n Roller. It’s all original and in really good state for its age with hardly any marks. Neck, fretboard and frets are fine, it has great sustain and the pickups sounds great. You can read more about the guitar here and listen to it in this Youtube clip.

Greco Les Paul Custom EG-600CGreco Les Paul Custom EG-600C, Made in Japan 1980, 750€ SOLD
This is as a great looking FujiGen built Greco Les Paul Custom copy with gold hardware. It’s all original and in great shape for it’s age. Greco is well known for their build quality and the sound of their Maxon pickups. The neck, fretboard and frets are in great shape and there is hardly any marks to the body.  These Greco’s are of course set neck Les Paul copies and of way better quality then all the bolt-on neck guitars built by Matsumoku and other factories. You can read more about the guitar here.

CG Winner AO-410 Made in Japan Neck trough late 1970'sC.G. Winner AO-410, Made in Japan, early 1980’s, 350€ SOLD
A great sounding C.G. Winner AO-410, a well built double cutaway neck trough guitar made in Japan. The brand was created by Clarence Griffith Winner (C.G.Winner), an American luthier and close friend of Leo Fender and built by Matsumoku in Japan, the same factory as Ibanez and Aria Pro II. These guitars are supposed to have Di Marzio humbuckers but I can’t see any markings on them so there might be normal Maxon pickups in this one. It has an awesome baseball bat neck, really fat and nice and plays really well. The hardware is a bit tarnished but it’s in overall really good shape for the age, the neck is straight and frets are fine. You can read more about the guitar here and watch this Youtube clip.

Sigma DR-35

Sigma DR-35, Made in Japan 1980, MIJ, C. F. Martin & CoSigma DR-35, Made in Japan 1980

I finally managed to find another Japan made Sigma, this time a 1980 Sigma DR-35. It’s a beautiful looking Martin D-35 copy with a 3-piece rosewood back. They are pretty hard to come by these early 1980’s Japan made Sigma’s and sometimes very expensive too, between 500-1500€ depending on the model. I didn’t buy this for myself, I’m way too happy with my Sigma DR-41 at the moment and on top of that I’m actually trying to thin out my Japanese guitar collection. I got it for my friend Wolf who just like me have gone from a pretty solid Gibson obsession to realise that perhaps that Martin sound is not that bad after all. There is something of that punchy mids and clear ringing highs in the Martin sound that these Japanese made Sigma’s have too, after all they were commissioned by C. F. Martin & Co. I thought my Sigma DR-41 was loud and had a very punchy midrange but this Sigma is one step beyond, I guess because of the 3-piece back. I like the highs and the overtones better in mine but still, this is an amazing sounding guitar that I thought long and hard about keeping for myself. I was sure that my Sigma DR-41 was made in 1982 since the serial number starts with E82 but since this Sigma DR-35’s serial number also starts with E82 and came with a receipt that proves that it was sold in September 1980 it must have been made that year, or earlier.

Sigma DR-35, Made in Japan 1980, MIJ, C. F. Martin & CoSigma DR-35, Made in Japan 1980, MIJ, C. F. Martin & CoThis guitar had apparently been in storage for the last 30 years, since the original owner died and that seems plausible, it’s in really good shape for it’s age.

Sigma DR-35, Made in Japan 1980, MIJ, C. F. Martin & CoThe classic Made in Japan football stamp, burnt in to the back brace that was used from 1978-1983 on Japan made Sigma’s stating: Sigma Guitars – Made in Japan for – C.F. Martin & Co, just like on mySigma DR-41. The rosewood looks really nice on this Sigma, even better than on mine.

Wolf asked me to install a LR Baggs iBeam in the Sigma before he received it and since I recently installed the LR Baggs Lyrics in my Sigma DR-41 it was a pretty easy task. We actually got to try them both out last Saturday when we played live with Cherry & Wolf at La Sonora, it sounded something like this. I did two tests to make it easier to compare the Sigma DR-35 with the iBeam to the Sigma DR-41 with the Lyrics. They both sounds pretty darn great, but in different ways.

Sigma DR-35, Made in Japan 1980, MIJ, C. F. Martin & CoThe original receipt from 26 September 1980. The guitar cost 475 Deutsche Mark which would be around 245€ today and probably a lot more 36 years ago. Taken from my Instagram

Sigma DR-41

Sigma DR-41 Made in Japan 1980, MIJ, C. F. Martin & CoSigma DR-41, made in Japan in 1982

I have heard a lot of good, and some not so good, things about Sigma guitars over the years but never actually tried one. To be honest, I really didn’t know anything about the brand until this beautiful Sigma DR-41 arrived and I felt curious and started to read up on them. I guess one big reason why there are both avid supporters and fierce haters of Sigma could be the big changes in production over the past 45-years. The brand was Created in 1970 by C.F. Martin & Co as a line of inexpensive guitars to compete with all the far east brands that flooded the market at the time. The first generation of Sigma’s from 1970-76 were made in Japan but came with adjustable bridges and looks very inexpensive to me, I haven’t tried one so they might be great. When the second generation of Sigma’s arrived in the later half of the 1970’s they really started to look like Martin guitars and the build quality seems to have improved a lot, at least by the look of it. From around 1976-1984 Sigma produced the now classic DR-line, these guitars seems to be ridiculously collectable and very popular because you rarely see them up for sale. I have a feeling that most of them live somewhere in the US and are owned by middle aged men that bought them new as their first proper guitar around 1980 and since they still sounds really good they would never sell them. I have nothing against middle aged men or guitar hoarders, I’m 35 and an avid guitar hoarder and of course I still have the first guitar I bought back in 1993.

Sigma D-41 Made in Japan 1982I have had at least 20 different Japanese acoustics in my house over the last couple of years and this 1980 Sigma DR-41 is easily my favourite so far.

The DR line consisted of DR-8, DR-9, DR-11, DR-14, DR-15, DR-28, DR-28S, SDR-28, DR-35, DR-41 and DR-45. I’m not entirely sure what DR-8 to DR-15 were based on, but DR-28 to DR-45 were pretty accurate copies of the Martin models with the same number. The guitar I’ve managed to find, the Sigma DR-41 looks very close to a Martin D-41 and I’ve seen pretty convincing Sigma versions of Martin D-28 and D-35’s too. Apparently 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 in Sweden, which makes sense since C.F. Martin & Co bought Levin in 1973. There are actually quite a few of the earlier 1970’s low end Sigma’s that were imported through Levin for the European market as well. It seems like the earlier Sigma guitars were made by Tokai through Kasunga Gakki but I really don’t know if all Japan made Sigma’s were produced by them or not. I have a feeling they might have used a lot of different factories during their 13 years in Japan.

Sigma DR-41 Made in Japan 1980, MIJ, C. F. Martin & CoI couldn’t resist so of course I changed the machine heads for Wilkinson WJ28NGD as soon as I got the chance. I just can’t stand those big bulky Japanese 1970’s machine heads.

Sigma stopped the production in Japan around 1983 and moved everything to Korea, later Taiwan and finally Indonesia. Martin claims that all Sigma’s where sent to them in Nazareth, Pennsylvania to be inspected and adjusted by Martin personnel before they sent them out to the dealers, which I doubt for the later Taiwan and Indonesian guitars. In 1981-1982, Martin imported partially assembled Sigma guitars from Japan and then put them together themselves in Nazareth, these were labelled Sigma Martin USA DR-28N and DR-35N. The Sigma story seems to be a bit shady from the 1990-2000, C.F. Martin & Co lost the rights to the name for a while and there seems to have been other companies producing Sigma guitars and then Martin got it back and closed it down in 2007. In 2011 the German company AMI Musical Instruments GmbH purchased the rights to the name and relaunched Sigma Guitars that are now being produced in China. There is quite a lot of information on Wikipedia about Japanese Sigma guitars. I also found this Sigma site really helpful.

Sigma D-41 Made in Japan 1982 guitar ad1980’s ad for Sigma guitars, with my beloved Sigma DR-41 far right

I really didn’t know what to expect when I got myself this Sigma DR-41. I just bought it because I’m so insanely gay for any guitar that looks like a Martin D-41 or D-45, or actually any guitar with a volute on the back of the head, hexagon markers and a lot of mother of pearl inlays. At first I didn’t like this Sigma much, I thought it sounded stiff and boring but after two days with the pump and a week of heavy playing I was sold. I’m not sure if all Japanese Sigma’s are this good, but this guitar is freaking amazing. It’s easily up there with Morris and K. Yairi, perhaps even better, see the second video where I compare it to my K. Yairi YW-1000.

Westone, Made in Japan

 Westone Stratocaster Made in Japan, Matsumoku 1979
Westone Stratocaster copy, made in Japan by Matsumoku in 1979

This weekend my Westone Stratocaster found a new owner. It felt kind of sad, I don’t normally miss guitars that I sell, well that’s I lie, I have missed all of the guitars I’ve sold but normally not this much. Oh well, I needed to make room for my new Tokai Silver Star SS-36 so it had to go. I have had two Westone guitars, a Strat and a Les Paul copy and I really liked both of them. Westone built Fender and Gibson copies in the late 1970’s before they started on their own heavy metal influenced creations of the 1980’s that owned the brand it’s name. You can read more about the brand Westone here. I have to say that the quality was pretty good for being a less known brand from the Matsumoku factory. I’ve always claimed that FujiGen was better than Matsumoku but I start to think that might have been more about when and not so much where. There was a huge change in Japanese guitars around 1975, not just the quality but perhaps more about how well they managed to copy the big American brands.Therfor a Greco guitar from 1978 would be better built than one from 1972, not just because the first was made by FujiGen but because it was made after 1975. You can read more about in my earlier post, Are all Japanese guitars good? I think what I would miss most of the Westone Strat is the Sen ash body, the wood was amazing and without any doubt the heaviest and most solid Strat I have ever seen with a fantastic sustain. The pickups were pretty great too, not Grey Bobbin pickups like on my Tokai Silver Star SS-36, but still, pretty sweet sounding. The pickups were pretty great in the Westone Les Paul too, maybe there was something special about these late 1970’s Matsumoku built Westone guitars.

Westone Les Paul, Made in Japan, Matsumoku 1970's
Westone Les Paul copy, made in Japan by Matsumoku in 1970’s

Matsumoku
Matsumoku is one of the Japanese manufacturers that did not survive long after the heyday of the 1970’s guitar market despite having a long tradition of quality stringed instrument craftsmanship. Matsumoku produced guitars for major manufacturers Greco, Guyatone and Yamaha. Matsumoku made Arai, Aria, Aria Pro II and Aria Diamond badges, with Aria being their primary badge for a majority of this time frame. Badged guitars known to have been made by Matsumoku include Apollo, Arita, Barclay, Burny, Capri, Columbus, Conrad, Cortez (electrics only), Country, Cutler, Dia, Domino, Electra, Epiphone, Granada, Hi Lo, Howard, Ibanez, Lindberg, Lyle, Luxor, Maxitone (this guitar differs from Tama’s Maxitone badge), Mayfair, Memphis, Montclair, Pan, Pearl (electrics only), Raven, Stewart, Tempo, Univox ,Vantage, Ventura, Vision, Volhox, Washburn (in 1979 and 1980), Westbury, Westminster and Westone. Possible Matsumoku badges include: Bruno, Crestwood, Conqueror, Eros, Mako, Memphis, Orlando and Toledo. Taken from my previous post about Japanese guitar brands

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.