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Bizarre Japanese Guitars Thread

Postby sleepkid on Thu Jun 12, 2014 3:47 am

So, to make a long story short, I've been buying and repairing odd Japanese guitars for a while now, somewhat behind the scenes, somewhat not (people might recall my hilarious shielding problem thread, and oddball pickup thread.) Some people might have noticed some of the guitars that have ended up in the excellent Chris Jury's hands recently and some of the wonderful stuff he's done with them (a working relationship which will continue). I've even had a sideline as a guitar finder going on, searching out rare guitars for overseas collectors. In the repair aspect of it, I knew just enough to be dangerous, but not enough to do all the repairs I wanted to do, so I recently took a luthier course, and learned not just guitar repair, but also guitar building. Finishing the course is really just the beginning, as it's really through experience that I will learn more and more (for example: late model Teisco pickups can't be wax potted, the bobbins will melt(!) If they're microphonic, lacquer them instead. Stupid cheap plastic bobbins.)

Anyway, so this thread is to share some of the oddball Japanese guitars which I plan on specialising in, and some of the repair aspects of them, and what goes on with them. The ultimate source for a lot of this knowledge is Frank Meyers and his website Drowning in Guitars (serious guitar porn). Frank is a great guy, and when his book is published (hopefully soon) it will be the defacto gold standard for information on a lot of these guitars. I also have a Japanese book on this history of bizarre guitars which is quite good, but I am certain that Frank's book is going to supercede it.

However, I hope to add to what Frank has, and maybe fill in the technical gaps that might be lying out there on some of these guitars as I repair them.

I also hope to eventually get enough of a workspace that I can build guitars that are inspired by the era of "Bizarre Guitars". This is my first attempt at an original guitar:

Image

Alder body, maple neck, cocobolo fretboard. Takes elements from a couple different guitars and combines them. Played well during the testing phase, I'm still doing a little bit of finish sanding and am going to shape the pickguard just a little bit further.

Image

The pickups are an original design both visually and internally. I'm still tweaking them a bit as well. I think this is one of the most fascinating parts of guitar building for me, and hope to do a lot more with pickup winding in the future. Have my own winder now, and am building another.

Feel free to share any info or other exciting stuff you might have about Japanese guitars in this thread.
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Re: Bizarre Japanese Guitars Thread

Postby Luzwei on Thu Jun 12, 2014 4:35 am

Can this be a thread where people ask about Japanese guitars they have but have no idea what they got?
lemur68 wrote:A bite from a Lu Zworis is also highly venomous.


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Re: Bizarre Japanese Guitars Thread

Postby madlee on Thu Jun 12, 2014 4:48 am

that is one cool looking guitar.
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Re: Bizarre Japanese Guitars Thread

Postby honeyisfunny on Thu Jun 12, 2014 4:59 am

That Drowning In Guitars link is amazing!

Here's some stuff I've come across...

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Aria 1802T type guitars - the bass is an Epiphone branded version, the turquoise one an Eros-branded version (UK importer though you don't see many of them) and the bottom one came to me with no brand and a replacement neck (the split neck is shown too). The neck on the turquoise body is branded Granada (Canadian importer) and is really nice quality and is replacing the unattached neck in the middle but it's not a straight swap (angle is a little different) so I'm guessing there was more than one phase of production for these. 2 or 3 single coils in them usually (though Electra imported one that had humbuckers and more 'deluxe' fittings). I still own the 2 guitar versions and they're still in exactly this state.

Here's a couple of the Epiphone ones (ET270 model) - the only version with the 3-a-side headstock design. Even with these 2 they're not identical - slightly different colour, pickguard, truss rod cover etc.

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Here’s a few of the ‘Crestwood’-type MIJ Epiphone. They seem to be a bit of a parts bin series of guitars with every conceivable combo of tailpiece, trem etc and the model names are ET280, ET285 and ET290 I think but it depends on which catalogue you look at and the black and white one doesn’t really match any of them. The black and white one has the ‘Motorik’ trem, the blonde one a stop tail and Tune-o-matic and the red one a wraparound…

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(And in the foreground of the last pic is an Antoria-branded SG copy – bolt-on neck, open-book headstock, fake Bigsby. Same as an Ibanez branded one)

Here’s a 4 pickup Kingston (though this one is unbranded). They usually have a metal plate pickguard at the control section but this one is all one piece. Hagstrom-ish trem plate and ‘harmonica’ bridge (maybe not original). This thing was huge as well, almost felt like a baritone.

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Here’s some Univox Hi Fliers – all Phase III models with the humbuckers and Univox’s Jazzmaster knock-off trem.

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Even with these, they’re all different. The sunburst one weighs almost half as much again as the others, I guess they made the ones with transparent finishes out of nicer wood maybe or perhaps they changed the wood at some point in production. The black one has a Phase II neckplate which means the neck isn’t as stable and the natural one (got to be a refinish) is a sort of cross between the two but has a metal saddle bridge and not a plastic one and the pickguard doesn’t fit properly for some reason.

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Excetro Mosrite copy – one of the earliest MIJ Mosrite copies out of the Teisco factory (Mosrite shaped neck plate says Teisco – Stell (sic) Adjustable Neck). Really good copy, really beautiful looking. Slightly crappy pickups. I have no idea why I sold this and would like another if anyone finds one.

And last but not least a ‘Top Twenty’ which is the UK importer name for the really cheap MIJ stuff you’d get out of catalogues. This stuff still shows up at jumble sales and the guitars are pretty cool, especially the pickups:

Image
chris jury wrote:"blistering walls of questionable tone"
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Re: Bizarre Japanese Guitars Thread

Postby sleepkid on Thu Jun 12, 2014 5:00 am

Guyatone SG-12t Goldfoil Pickup Rewind.

So, some of you may have seen the Guyatone SG-12T in the Jury thread. This is a great Japanese guitar from the mid-60's. I really love the way the pickups sound in these things. The offset body shape on an archtop is also very appealing. Unfortunately very few have survived to the modern era, but I will jump on them any chance I get just for these pickups.

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Goldfoils. But goldfoil really means something quite different from manufacturer to manufacturer. It's a popular term to bandy about on Ebay for people who are searching for the mythical lost holy grail of pickup sound. That and Ry Cooder.

In the case of a Guyatone goldfoil, it's actually a bobbinless single coil pickup that is lacquered into paper and covered by a thin bandaid like cushion and gold tinted cellophane. (The gold tint wears off over time on some of these pickups). It sits in a cradle under a cover which was ground down to different sizes to fit the variances in the guitars which were being built. Also, at different times the cradle either snapped in (later models) or had small holding screws (earlier models). The "pole piece" screws are actually more of just a design element... and a way to make sure the cradle is secured to the cover... six fucking times.

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Jury's guitar was a very nice one, and I had a very crappy one. Unfortunately both of them had pickup problems. In his case the lead wire had turned to goo (the insulation had done this - some sort of chemical breakdown of the rubber - not sure why, but it was just goo) which made it an easy case of rewiring new leads to the coil. On the other one though (mine), the pickup was shot. The reason was easy to see:

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Corrosion from the cradle plate had eaten through the paper and the coil. Nothing to do but remove the coil and rewind it. Sanded the rust off the cradle and sprayed it with lacquer to prevent further abrasion. When removing the coil all that was left was a shielded ceramic magnet, but cleverly it had a hole in the center. I'm not sure how these were done at the factory, but I decided to build a wooden bobbin for it:

Image

One side of the wooden bobbin is larger than the other so that it can hold the paper necessary for wrapping the bobbin after finishing. If you don't wrap it, the coil will just kind of fall apart on you as you try and remove it. A small amount of lacquer was placed on the bottom of the magnet so that it could adhere to the paper, then the paper and magnet were threaded onto the bobbin's central screw, and then the excess paper taped to the back of the bobbin so it wouldn't interfere with the wind. A smaller piece of paper was lacquered to the top to keep the top of the coil intact after the bobbin was removed (not visible).

Image

It looks ungainly, but it works. If I ever have to do it again in the future, I will improve upon the methods a bit. I wound with 43AWG enamel coated as this matched what was originally on the pickup. It's how it achieves a higher resistance despite having such a low coil profile. The pickups in these guitars usually rate between 5.5k to 6k. (depending on neck/bridge position, etc.) I scatterwound this one to 6.2k to compensate a little for a drop in pickup height due to the cover having to be relocated (and being non height adjustable). I laid put in a layer of lacquer every 1000 winds or so to pot the pickup, and then dipped the final wrap in lacquer as well. In the end it sounded just fine. Clear, with good output, and since it was in the bridge position, just the right amount of twang. The guy who bought the guitar really likes the sound of it, and plans on using the guitar for slide. Goldfoil. Ry Cooder. There you go.

I really like the concept of the bobbinless pickup, though it has some practical problems - namely that it's difficult to work with, and they tend to be fragile, and you have to build a cradle or something else to hold them in place in relation to the strings. Having said that though, it allows for a different kind of coil geometry both in relation to the magnet and the strings which results in some interesting sounds. I might revisit this for my own designs later.
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Re: Bizarre Japanese Guitars Thread

Postby sleepkid on Thu Jun 12, 2014 5:04 am

Luzwei wrote:Can this be a thread where people ask about Japanese guitars they have but have no idea what they got?


Yes. And I can probably identify them for you based on the books I've got. If not, Frank can identify it. If he can't, well... every so often one of those comes up. I have one that we're both scratching our heads over.

madlee wrote:that is one cool looking guitar.


Thank you. I'm very hopeful about it.

Honeyisfunny posted Japanese Guitar Porn


Awesome. I love all the different Hi-Flyer variations I find here, Univox and otherwise. So, so many. The Ventures were/are huge here.
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Re: Bizarre Japanese Guitars Thread

Postby honeyisfunny on Thu Jun 12, 2014 5:55 am

sleepkid wrote:Awesome. I love all the different Hi-Flyer variations I find here, Univox and otherwise. So, so many. The Ventures were/are huge here.


It seems like every Mosrite ever made is slowly making it's way to Japan too.
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Re: Bizarre Japanese Guitars Thread

Postby sleepkid on Thu Jun 12, 2014 7:11 am

honeyisfunny wrote:
sleepkid wrote:Awesome. I love all the different Hi-Flyer variations I find here, Univox and otherwise. So, so many. The Ventures were/are huge here.


It seems like every Mosrite ever made is slowly making it's way to Japan too.


I do know Japanese collectors are hot for original Mosrites, but there are a ton of Mosrites here that are not actual Mosrites also. Look just like the real deal. Firstman guitars was an original guitar manufacturer (and boy is that Firstman Liverpool one original, if ugly guitar) that at some point, quasi-legally acquired the right to make Mosrites here in Japan. The details are fuzzy, but it was in a legal grey area at the time, and they ran with it. I believe this occurred after the original owner of Firstman had passed the company on to someone else. They made copies that were anywhere from 90% to 99% accurate depending on what materials they had, etc.

Rickenbacker almost reached an accord with a company called "Idol" guitars at one point, but I think it fell through, but when it did, Idol had already tooled up to make Rickenbackers, so they happily set about making very competent knock offs under their own "Idol" brand. Unfortunately they didn't take off, and are rather obscure at this point.
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Re: Bizarre Japanese Guitars Thread

Postby twelvepoint on Thu Jun 12, 2014 7:36 am

Image

The second guitar in is a 12 string "Gretsch-like" Japanese no-name. The nut and zero fret need a little attention, but the bolt-on neck is otherwise nice a straight, and the pickups sound amazingly good - very bright and detailed.

Would you have any other info about this guitar? Like I said, there's no name on the headstock, nor does there appear to ever have been.

The "bigsby" on this thing is so ridiculous I can't bring myself to swap it out or put in a block.

I currently have this tuned to open G, and the low Es are removed, Keith Richards-style.
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Re: Bizarre Japanese Guitars Thread

Postby NewDarkAge on Thu Jun 12, 2014 12:39 pm

honeyisfunny wrote:stuff


Holy fucking shit, some of those guitars actually made my heart skip a beat. Tell me if you see anything like that come up on eBay or have leads elsewhere, I absolutely adore guitars like these. Only problem is the 'falling apart in your hands' thing that happens with some of them. Thanks for this incredible post.
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Re: Bizarre Japanese Guitars Thread

Postby honeyisfunny on Thu Jun 12, 2014 6:06 pm

NewDarkAge wrote:
honeyisfunny wrote:stuff


Holy fucking shit, some of those guitars actually made my heart skip a beat. Tell me if you see anything like that come up on eBay or have leads elsewhere, I absolutely adore guitars like these. Only problem is the 'falling apart in your hands' thing that happens with some of them. Thanks for this incredible post.


You know I buy and sell stuff like this right? At the moment I have a few things that'll be coming up for sale soon - mainly a 'lawsuit' SG with a speedy neck and a zero fret. Just got to spend a day cleaning it up. It'll be £cheap.
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Re: Bizarre Japanese Guitars Thread

Postby honeyisfunny on Thu Jun 12, 2014 6:08 pm

Also - Tym in Brisbane is a great source for weird and wonderful Japanese guitars:

http://www.tymguitars.com.au/blogs/blog
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Re: Bizarre Japanese Guitars Thread

Postby Redline on Thu Jun 12, 2014 11:08 pm

Best thread ever.
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Re: Bizarre Japanese Guitars Thread

Postby etch on Fri Jun 13, 2014 2:32 am

What a great idea Sleep, and I'm glad the class went well.
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Re: Bizarre Japanese Guitars Thread

Postby free meat on Fri Jun 13, 2014 2:42 am

sleepkid wrote:Image

Image


If this was in white and not stupid expensive, I'd totally buy the shit out of it
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Re: Bizarre Japanese Guitars Thread

Postby honeyisfunny on Fri Jun 13, 2014 4:05 am

Is that build based on a Univox body shape? I remember a friend having a 12 string that looked really similar and the headstock was almost bigger than the body.
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Re: Bizarre Japanese Guitars Thread

Postby honeyisfunny on Fri Jun 13, 2014 4:11 am

sleepkid wrote:I do know Japanese collectors are hot for original Mosrites, but there are a ton of Mosrites here that are not actual Mosrites also. Look just like the real deal. Firstman guitars was an original guitar manufacturer (and boy is that Firstman Liverpool one original, if ugly guitar) that at some point, quasi-legally acquired the right to make Mosrites here in Japan. The details are fuzzy, but it was in a legal grey area at the time, and they ran with it.


I think it was that they started making them in Japan around the time Semie Moseley lost the rights to his own brand name (late 60s) so he couldn't fight it and then by the time he got it back and relaunched Mosrite a few years later he was never really in a position to get legally heavy about it. Since he died there is all sorts of confusion about who owns the right to the name so there are (good) Japanese Mosrites being made now and sold through Ed Roman in the USA. I think one of my favourite things about Mosrite is how crazy the business was run over the years. If you ever come across any Japanese Mosrite copy of any type then be sure to give me a shout if you're going to pass on it...
Seems a good time to recommend the truly wild guitar styles of Takeshi Terauchi to everyone too - the Japanese Surf Guitar king!
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Re: Bizarre Japanese Guitars Thread

Postby Luzwei on Fri Jun 13, 2014 4:18 am

Beautiful guitars all around.

sleepkid wrote:
Luzwei wrote:Can this be a thread where people ask about Japanese guitars they have but have no idea what they got?


Yes. And I can probably identify them for you based on the books I've got. If not, Frank can identify it. If he can't, well... every so often one of those comes up. I have one that we're both scratching our heads over.


This is my bass players guitar. He has no further info beside that is MIJ.

Image

Image

Image

Image

Image

I know, minus points for the back stickers.
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Re: Bizarre Japanese Guitars Thread

Postby NewDarkAge on Fri Jun 13, 2014 4:21 am

honeyisfunny wrote:
NewDarkAge wrote:
honeyisfunny wrote:stuff


Holy fucking shit, some of those guitars actually made my heart skip a beat. Tell me if you see anything like that come up on eBay or have leads elsewhere, I absolutely adore guitars like these. Only problem is the 'falling apart in your hands' thing that happens with some of them. Thanks for this incredible post.


You know I buy and sell stuff like this right? At the moment I have a few things that'll be coming up for sale soon - mainly a 'lawsuit' SG with a speedy neck and a zero fret. Just got to spend a day cleaning it up. It'll be £cheap.


I knew you had a bunch of these but didn't know you did a thing. Excellent!
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Re: Bizarre Japanese Guitars Thread

Postby honeyisfunny on Fri Jun 13, 2014 4:34 am

If there's anything in particular you're after just give me a shout.
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