Claescaster

Tag: Tokai LS-55

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.

 

 

VOX, Made in Japan

VOX Les Paul Made in Japan 1970'sVOX Les Paul Made in Japan 1970’s 

I recently found a nice looking VOX Les Paul copy that I couldn’t resist. I had decided not to buy any more Les Paul’s after I sold my Westone a few weeks ago but this was just too nice to miss out on. It has a bolt on neck, which you could either hate or love, I’m fairly indifferent myself and you can read why here. The good part with bolt on necks is that they are so easy to adjust. It’s fairly common that older Les Paul and SG guitars with set necks gets a hump over the neck joint, something that can cause buzzing and you have to either raise the action or level the fretboard to get rid of it. The bad part with bolt on necks is the second hand value, a lot of people are still a bit racist when it comes to Gibson copies with a bolt on neck even though Gibson built a few themselves in the early 1980’s. What I fell in love with on this VOX was the flame top and the thickness of the neck, it’s so nice. It feels even fatter than my Tokai Love Rock LS-55 which has a fairly accurate 59′ Les Paul neck. This VOX even have the small head as the real Gibson of the late 1950’s and the pickups sounds pretty close to my old Westone. The only thing that is annoying me a bit is that I haven’t figured out who built it yet. There is no info about VOX in my list of Japanese guitar brands, well there is a Magnavox and a Univox but that’s not the same. The only thing I know is that when VOX stopped making guitars in the UK they moved to Italy before they ended up in Japan. The build quality is not as good as my 1991 Tokai Love Rock LS-55 or my 1980 Greco EG-600C, but it’s easily on the same level as the Westone which was built by Matsumoku. Even though I really enjoy this Les Paul I have too many guitars and is therefore up for sale.

VOX Les Paul Made in Japan 1970'sVOX Les Paul Made in Japan 1970'sIf anyone happens to have more information about Japanese made VOX guitars please get in touch

 

Japanese guitar brands: Greco

Greco Spacey Sounds TE-500N, Greco Les Paul Custom EG-600C, Greco Spacey Sounds TL-500The Greco family, Greco Spacey Sounds TE-500N 1977, Greco Les Paul Custom EG-600C 1980, Greco Spacey Sounds TL-500 1979

I’m so in love with my Greco‘s, every time I pick one up it hits me how good they feel to play. They might not be the best built guitars to ever come out of Japan but they all have something special, here is a list of Japanese guitar brands. I only have 3 in the 500-series and I have never tried anything in the 1000-series so I can only speak about the cheaper Greco models. I would say that the best built Japanese electric I own is my Fender TL52-75 and the best acoustic would be the K.Yairi TG-40 or my Morris W-40. Having said that, there is something that makes me like my Greco’s more than all the others, more than my Fender, my Tokai LS-55 and even the fabulous Fernandes RST-50 I sold that I really liked, and still miss a bit. There is a resonance in the wood on my Greco’s, especially on my Greco TL-500, that I haven’t felt in my other Japanese guitars. I’m not sure if it’s down to the brand, the factory or their age. All three were made in the late 1970’s by FujiGen, I have actually never tried a Matsumoku made Greco, they changed factory around 1974-75. In my opinion FujiGen built better guitars than Matsumoku, having said that this could be down to years rather than factories, read about it here: Are all Japanese guitars good? I have two Westone guitars made by Matsumoku and three Greco’s and one Fender made by FujiGen and I feel that later are way better, again could be down to brands and years rather than factories. The Hohner Strat I have might have been built by Morris, but out of the cheapest materials around, before they started up H.S. Anderson and all of that. Now I’m seriously considering extending the Greco collection with a nice late 1970’s Strat, ideally a Greco SE-500 in a three-tone sunburst, just like my Claescaster.

Japanese guitars, MIJ, Made in JapanI have sold some of my Japanese guitars so this is more or less what’s left, from left to right: Fender Telecaster TL52-75 1987, Greco Spacey Sounds TE-500N 1977, Greco Spacey Sounds TL-500 1979, Greco Les Paul Custom EG-600C 1980, Tokai Love Rock LS-55 1991,  Westone Les Paul 1970′s, Jazz Bass 1978, Hohner Stratocaster 1970′s, Westone Stratocaster 1979, K.Yairi TG-40 1977, Morris WL-40 1973, Morris WL-35 1980′s

Tokai Love Rock

How to… refret a guitar
Tokai Love Rock LS-55 Les Paul Standard “Made in Japan” 1991

All guitar players dream of finding something amazing, and ideally cheap, in a pawn shop but few of us do. It takes stupid amounts of persistence and a even greater amount of luck. To be hounest, most of the time they are just full of crap and you have to go almost daily since bargains don’t tend to hang around for long. Then again, sometimes you can find something awesome that they have missed the value of because it wasn’t that easy to Google. Like a Tokai Love Rock Made in Japan from 1991 that didn’t have the Made in Japan marking on it. I found this guitar a couple of weeks ago in a pawn shop, or cash converter as they tend to be called here in Spain. It was in a really bad state, I mean I have never seen a dirtier guitar in my life, a thick layer or grease and grime on the fretboard and bridge. The previous owner must have sweat like a pig because all the screw were black of rust and impossible to get out. I actually had to drill them out to change the humbucker mounting screws so I could adjust the pickups. I got this image in my head of a rather hairy and sweaty gent that had been playing Sweet Home Alabama on this guitar for the past 20 years and really gigging the hell out of it. I soaked the bridge in normal washing liquid over night and then cleaned it with an old toothbrush, my favourite cleaning tool. I bought this guitar on a whim, I mean I loved the neck, I hardly dared to touch it because it was so dirty, but the body was pretty well worn and one of the pots was broken. On top of that I had no clue if it was made in Japan, Korea, China or it might not even be a real Tokai, I read somewhere about tons of fake Tokai’s, or Fakai’s flooding the market in Canada. If I didn’t find cleaning and making guitars look pretty the best past time in the world I would probably not have bought it, but I do, so I got it straight away. I cleaned it up and took it apart and started to look for the clues.

Tokai Love Rock Made in Japan
The night I found here, unclean and weary.

I remembered that I had read that the Japan made Tokai’s had 2 screws for the trussrod cover while the Korean and Chinese had 3. Mine has 2, check. Then I noticed that both the bridge and stopbar had Made in Japan stamped under, check. Then I read on My Les Paul that the Japanese guitars has square holes from the routing under the pickups and diagonal wiring, mine has both, check. I actually read here that Tokai are still using the same router that they have used since the 1970’s so all guitars made by them, Greco briefly and recently Burny, should have this routing if it’s made in Japan. I thought that was pretty cool. To be sure I did a bit more research on Tokai registry and even did a few posts myself on different forums to see what people said. They all agreed, it’s a Tokai Love Rock Made in Japan from 1991.

Tokai Love Rock Made in Japan
Now, all dolled up. I just need to change the broken pot, a set of new amber knobs are already on their way from China.

Tokai Love Rock electronics
A quick update, in mid-March 2013 the Tokai got the broken pot fixed. I also decided to change the frets, something you can read about here and here.