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Yamaha FG300 Nippon Gakki Red Label 6-String
October 2013
Yamaha exported the renowned FG series of red label Nippon Gakki guitars from 1969 thru the late 70's. One of the higher end of the all-laminate guitars from that lineup was this FG300. These guitars are renowned for their extremely good resonance, and are a testament to the quality of laminated guitars produced in Japan during this period. This guitar was restored for Phil Holzbauer of Maryland.

AS RECEIVED 10/1/2013 (Unpacked 10/23/2013)
The photos below show the condition of the guitar as received. It was sold as an "AS IS" guitar on eBay. Phil was the "lucky buyer".

BEGIN WORK 10/26/2013
Below, is shown the normal saddle that came with the FG300. The original functioned much like an electric guitar's in that it each individual string was adjustable for both height and intonation. Finding spare parts is next to impossible, so I am making a saddle insert that will fit into the slot. that way, if the owner ever finds one of the original saddles, this one can be easily replaced by the original by simply loosening the strings, lifting it up and out of the slot, and slipping the original in.  
I measured the slot for the saddle first. Then I put a bone saddle blank between two pieces of rosewood. This will be the replacement saddle. As you can see from the photos, the slot is much smaller than the saddle. That will allow me to remove material in same shape as the slot in the bridge to self-compensate when I set the scale. Photo 1 shows the saddle being laminated, in the vise, then Photo 2 shows the slot. Photo 3 shows the width of the new saddle, and Photo 4 shows the same measurement (of the saddle width) as it will be at the slot--showing that there is plenty of material to be removed to allow the compensation discussed above. The outer edges of the saddle insert will be hand carved to the shape of the slot.

RESUME WORK 11/13 TO 11/15/2013
A lot has occurred since October. I actually have been working on a couple of other guitars, but also looking for parts for this one. I have found some screws for the tuning machine covers, and have removed all of the tuners and cleaned them to remove rust. Also have polished them. I also was in consultation with a couple of luthiers about the deeper nicks in the top wood. I wanted to be sure that when I refinish the top, it looks good. Both had suggestions, but I just decided to go with my own process, and I believe it is going to yield the desired result. I have sanded the top to remove discoloration that appears to be from a couple of sources. First from the original finish not being completely removed, but secondly from handling the bare spruce with unclean hands. Oils etc. from skin can get into the grain, and if cleaned immediately with alcohol, can be removed. But if left, you have to sand it out. Well, I spent an hour sanding the top with 220, then 400. Then I coated it with shellac to seal the wood. I then sanded again with 400 grit, and again coated it with shellac. This top will not look 'new', but will still have some discoloration. It is impossible to get it completely even, because the top wood is very thin, and has cross-grained laminate underneath. But it does look pretty good. Beginning tomorrow (Saturday the 16th) I hope to work the fretboard. I ordered pick-guard material today (11/15) because in spite of my searching and communication with custom pick-guard manufacturers, I cannot find anyone who makes the FG300 type pick-guard.  Anyway, below are a couple of photos of the top after the second sanding and shellacing.



PICK GUARD 12-14-2013
I have not worked on this instrument since mid-November. I was unable to travel to my friend's local shop to spray it, and I had about 7 other guitars come into the shop--including the Ovation with the shattered neck (see the menu at left). So this one--which the owner has stated is not a high priority, went on the "back burner". But on 12/14, I attempted to contact my friend to inquire about spraying it at his shop. I got his voice mail, but will continue trying to reach him.  Meant time, I decided to make the pick guard. It does need the edges to be finished, but below is shown the rough cut (and the pattern I used).


No photos here. I have been doing things that I'm not photographing. These are being done concurrently, so here they are:
1) I took measurements of an original adjustable saddle--very uniquely made. See here. I have decided to attempt to make one. I have much of the needed material already (metal, saddle material, screws, nuts), and will be using a hand brake to bend the metal, and a belt sander to shape the top arch.
2) Took the guitar to my friend's shop, to begin lacquering the top. This has been more labor intensive than originally thought. I have currently applied 6 coats, and the imperfections are beginning to disappear. I will apply one more coat of catalyzed lacquer, then will lightly sand, and begin coats of regular (non-catalyzed) lacquer to begin the finish coats.
3) I got word from the owner that he is happy with the pick guard, so I'm going to finish the edges, and get it ready to apply.
During this time, I've also been working on the second FG300 owned by the same owner. See it here.

1-2-2014 thru 4-21-2014  Working Refinishing, Saddle Fab, and Fretboard Work.
Again, no photos of the time period of 1-2 thru 4-15, but in reality I have been continuing with refinishing of the top. I sprayed it about 28 thin coats of lacquer within those several weeks. I sprayed on the average about 3 coats per week. Then from about 3-10 thru 4-15, I did nothing but allow the lacquer to fully cure. On 4-16 I wet sanded the top with 1500 grit wet sanding paper. And on 4/18 I buffed the top. You can see the results below. On about 4-10 I finished the edges of the fabricated substitute saddle. I am making this saddle as a temporary one until I can either fabricate one, or until the owner can find one. I have not given up on fabricating one, but resources are limited for metal work and machining. Lastly, on 4/23 I began reconditioning the fretboard. First I cleaned off grime etc with alcohol. I use 90%--it's a bit more expensive, but is more pure and avoids allowing the fretboard from absorbing water. After cleaning it, I scraped it to remove some of the grooving--which was successful, but still had grooves to fill. I filled those using a mixture of 2-part epoxy, rosewood dust, and mahogany dust. I used the mahogany only to somewhat lighten the rosewood color to match the existing fretboard. Tomorrow I will finish down the patched grooves, and put linseed oil on the fretboard.

4-23-2014 Photo shows the nice gloss of the top after buffing.

4-23-2014 Again, the quality of the finish is apparent--notice the reflection of the lamp just above the guitar.

4-23-2014 Although not "factory" when the insert saddle is finished, I hope to achieve a result that looks as if it was made that way originally.

4/23/2014 This is what the original saddle looks like. This is a photo from the owner's other FG300 guitar--which DOES have the original. I had planned to attempt making one, but was lacking resources.

4-23-2014 After cleaning the fretboard with alcohol, and scraping the wood, and buffing the frets, I proceeded to mix two-part epoxy with some sawdust from both rosewood and mahogany (mahogany to lighten it), and apply it to the deepest grooves (not to ALL).

4-23-2014 Another view looking down the fretboard at the filled grooves. This grooving was extensive, but scraping removed some of it, and filling with this epoxy mixture will make the fretboard a pleasure to play.


April 25 and 26th - Fretboard Repair Finished, and Preparing to Reassemble Guitar
On April 25, I finished the fretboard, and applied boiled linseed oil to fill and seal. The result is better than I hoped for. You can barely tell where the deep grooves were in the fretboard. Not all are patched up...only the really deep ones. Below are two photos of the fretboard work.


On the 26th, I realized how bad the back of the guitar now looked since I had refinished the top. Lots of dull places, scrapes, scratches, etc. So I wet sanded to blend the uneven surface finish, and will now take the guitar again to buff the back. Also today I set out to mount the Grover tuners that were sent by the owner. However, I found two issues. One was that they would not quite fit into the hole. I used a rat-tail file to open the holes up slightly. They now are a nice snug fit. But also I noticed that, with them in place, the top screw hole from the Yamaha tuners is exposed. So I opted to make this less noticeable by mixing two part epoxy, adding mahogany sawdust, and filling the holes with that mixture. As of 7:45 PM the epoxy is curing. On 4/27 I will finish off the 'dimples" flush, install the tuners, install strings, and finish setting up the action (see the saddle that I 'finished' above on 4/23). The saddle will likely still require some adjustment, and perhaps compensating. This will be apparent when I string it up tomorrow and check intonation.

4/26/2014 - After wet sanding the back looks much more even. Wet sanding removes only a small amount of the top layer of finish--the layer that contains the imperfections. This will not be perfect, when buffed, but will look much better. I did the same thing for some of the side areas where there were splotchy scrapes, and dull finish.

4/26/2014 The headstock had the same issue as the was dull and splotchy. I wet sanded it also, and then buffed it. Above is the result. Two part epoxy with mahogany dust imbedded makes a great patch for the extra holes left behind by the original Yamaha tuning machines. This will be finished down similar to the fretboard, but will be buffed glossy to match the headstock.

As a matter of interest, I have found some resources for making an original saddle (see the original shown far above).
April 27, 2014 - Reassemble Guitar / Finished
On April 27, I have all but finished this guitar. Today I buffed the back and sides where I had wet-sanded to try to remove some of the blemishing. This was partly successful, but some of the blemishes will remain. This just gives it character. After buffing, I installed the new tuning machines, new bridge, pick guard, and strings. Immediately the action was about 1/8" at the 12th fret. Great guesswork if I do say so myself (saddle height). Below are the finished photos. There is, as of today, some minor issues with intonation and fret buzz. But today I am calling this project completed. I will work out the intonation and fret buzz issues this week and ship it back to the customer.

4/27/2014 Here showing the front, reassembled. 

4/27/2014 Here is shown the body front.


4/27/2014 Here the back shows the beautiful wood grain of the jacaranda.


4/27/2014 Here in the close-up you can better see the beauty of the jacaranda grain.



4/27/2014 New Grover machines, provided by the owner, installed. Also, the original Yamaha truss rod cover was missing. One that came with the guitar did not fit properly, so I made this one from rosewood.