Kawai S1 Electric Guitar
Kawai S1 Electric Guitar
This guitar is a perfect example of the difficulties that go with placing the origins of a guitar that was built at the height of the 60s post Beatles boom era when Japanese guitar companies were coming and going at a ridiculous rate. It is nearly impossible to find exact dates and even builders of 60s Japanese guitars unless there are clear markings or headstock logos. But wait, logos are little help because sometimes companies traded/took names or were bought out. Sometimes people left one company and moved to another company and took design ideas with them.
This guitar is labeled as a 'Marco Polo' which at least narrows the guitar down to three companies!! Firstly we will start with the Teisco Gen Gakki company which supplied Teisco with timber bodies up until the late 1960s. Teisco Gen Gakki and Teisco have a complex interwoven history and both companies used the 'Marco Polo' label.
However, the S1 was originally made by Kawai, starting around 1963/64 and this model is known as the S1. It was also sold as a Kingston among many other brands. The confusing aspect for me is that the neck seems to be solid timber and not a laminate, which for me dates it to this earlier period - making it a Kawai. It also has no truss rod but relies (I believe) on steal strengthening beams in the neck and a 5 screw/glued in neck to body joint??? which is classic Kawai. So if it's an early Kawai why is it branded as a Marco Polo?? AAARRRGGGHHH!!! MY HEAD HURTS!!!!!
The guitar was bought off an American seller on eBay. When I saw the guitar on eBay I didn't hesitate to put on a bid without viewing the pictures. I won it. When I received the guitar I was immediately filled with a sense of sadness. How could anyone treat a guitar so badly!! I believe that there is something special about guitars especially ones that are still alive after over fifty years. The guitar had been refinished by a monkey with a paintbrush dipped in laquer, the electrics were held together with masking tape and tied on to the pots and jack (Why would a person try and rewire a guitar without knowing how to solder? It beggars belief!! ) and the tuners were broken among other things.
The guitar sat in my shop for about 3 months while I devised a plan to save it. My first course of action was to pull the whole instrument to pieces. I decided to rebuild the base of the bridge from solid rosewood as it has great sound vibration transferring properties and the original one was shot. The pickup worked but the electrics were fried and needed to be replaced and the tuners were swapped out for period correct, vintage tuners. The frets needed a bit of dressing but not too much. The greatest issue was the finish on the guitar. I had to sand the entire instrument down to the bare timber and start again. Instead of burying the guitar in a pile of lacquer I decided to invest instead in some beautiful water based stain and specialty guitar finishing oil from Crimson Guitars in the UK. Not cheap but totally worth every penny! the guitar has a beautiful natural feel and you can feel the timber beneath your fingers. It has a natural organic feel that I think is lacking from heavily lacquered instruments. The guitar plays beautifully and it has been worth every minute spent on this (now) stunning instrument. It has a great tone and the instrument is very responsive to the players attack and use of the volume and tone control.
This guitar deserves a new owner who will treasure it and let it sing once again. Is that you?
This is the model that I designed the 'NOIZU' around
Remember that all Birdwood/Retro-electric vintage Guitars are given a 100% lifetime warranty on build and parts.