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Yamaha FG550 Nippon Gakki Red Label 12-String
September 2013
Yamaha exported the renowned FG series of red label Nippon Gakki guitars from 1969 thru the late 70's. The high end of that line was represented by the FG500 series (FG500 6-string, FG550 12-String), the FG-1000 series and the FG-1500 series. According to Yamaha history, the FG500 and FG550 had solid tops, solid backs, and 3-ply laminated sides. The back and sides are Jacaranda (genus Jacaranda) which resembles Brazilian rosewood (Genus Dalbergia) in color and figuring. The wood is also very resonant. This guitar was restored for Phil Holzbauer of Maryland.

AS RECEIVED 9/23/2013
The photos below were sent by the owner before he sent the guitar. Yes that stuff looks like tar. It was pretty nasty. When I received it I wrote to the owner that it looked like someone had started a garage-based business of undercoating cars, and had this guitar sitting in a corner of the garage. It had a fine film of tar or some kind of petroleum-based overspray all over. Plus, the pick guard was coated as if a layer had been painted on it. I honestly cannot fathom how this guitar got this way. The owner would not speculate either. Below photos represent BEFORE.

 
REMOVING TAR
I initially purchased a new Yamaha "bird" style pick-guard to replace the original, because I thought it was probably a total loss. However, as I used a solvent (sorry, this is proprietary) to remove the gooey stuff, I found the underneath pick guard to be highly re-useable. The originals were made of a translucent material and were thick (about 1/8") and allowed the grain of the wood to show through. Many aftermarket pick guards are printed onto plastics and are not translucent. In fact, the swirling tones are created on a computer and the pixilation can actually be seen when examining closely. For this reason, use of the original of a guitar of this quality and age, is the most desirable thing to do. Photos below show progress. Not shown is the final cleaning, removal of bridge, surface prepared before remounting the bridge, fretboard reconditioning, polished frets.

FINISHED? (10/8/2013)
I took these photos on 10/7/2013 after "finishing" the guitar. However, due to carelessness I broke the high G string, while re-tuning after lowering the action (notice the missing bridge pin in the first photo). Still, the result was less than gratifying. Although the instrument now has a Tusq saddle, new bridge pins, bone nut, the action was slightly too high.

FINISHED (10/22/2013)
I spent quite a bit of time fixing up some flaws from above. For one, I decided to remove that beautifully re-mounted bridge, and take some material off the base of it, so that I could achieve action that is the way I like it. I like my acoustics to play more like an electric. Us old men don't like to push so hard on strings to make chords. So yes...I took the bridge back off. That was a job, because when I put them on, the intention is that they don't come off easily. How many guitars do you see for sale with gaps under the bridge? NOT THIS ONE!!!  So after removing the bridge, removing some material, then re-mounting it, below is the end product (minus the high G string still).  On 10/23, I'm going to the local music store and buy a PL008 string, putting it in place, then packing this up to ship back to Maryland. I am excited to hear the owner's glee when he plays this instrument. It is a beauty in both looks and sound. Larger photos below so you can see just how pretty it is. However, every small flaw looks very "pronounced" in these photos. Especially on the back side of the guitar. The cracks shown there are stable (they've been repaired) but you can see where they were (looks much worse in the photos than "in person").