I've written HEAPS about Arai/Aria guitars and Matsumoku made guitars on this blog so I won't bore you too much with all the details again. I will however bore you with my love of these guitars. Matsumoku was a wood working factory producing cabinets and panels for Singer sewing machines but by the early 60's they were losing work and needed to find something new to make with their expertise and machinery. In 1965 they started making guitars of increasing quality and amazing design. By the mid to late 70's they were making some extraordinary guitars and by the early 80's were one of the best production guitar manufacturers on the planet. The factory closed in '87 and some brands moved to other factories and things just weren't the same. Most Arai/Aria/Aria Diamond guitars were built in this factory as well as brands like Epiphone, Columbia, Elk, Greco, Lyle, RCA/Victor, Univox and many, many more. I'm a huge fan of the output of this factory with some of my favourite guitars ever having emanated from this famous space.
By the late sixties Aria were releasing SO MANY great shapes like the 1532 and 1832 (more on them soon) style offsets and the 1702 Mosrite inspired guitars sold in the US as the Univox Hi-Flier. They also released this 1803T in about 1968 and was available in 2 (1802 / 1832 for 3 pickup in natural finish) pickup guitar version with 24.75" scale and bass versions (1820 and 1830) with 30.5" scale. I'm a HUGE fan of this shape which is somewhat traditional while still looking amazing. I do love this red/black sunburst too.
So, I thought I'd get this one ready to take over to the shop but I hadn't played it in a while (which is why it's going to the shop) and when I plugged it in, the neck pickup was dead. I removed the scratchplate and checked the switches and then measured the pickup at the connection tabs. Nothing ....
Luckily I can rewind pickups as the thought of making a new plate and fitting aftermarket pickups didn't appeal to me on something so nice, and original and these pickups are unique in size so nothing else would drop straight in.
It's always best to try and repair a broken pickup first as it keeps things more original and usually takes less time but after unwinding a few turns there was no saving this one. The start of the coil was still attached to the solder tab but the end was broken so I thought I was in luck but as I unwound the coil and kept measuring there was no life there, so, it was time to cut the coil off and start again.
While a lot of vintage Japanese pickups are very well made, some are quite rudimentary and some, especially early ones can be downright cheap and nasty, which in some cases adds to the appeal. These late 60's Aria pickups fall somewhere in between.
They're usually well designed and can be quite complex but the bobbins, which at first sight look like they are common throughout many different pickups, are made of a thin plastic that 50 years later has become quite brittle. Even being as careful as possible this one cracked while I was removing the wire so I had to repair it before going ahead with the rewind.
This pickup used AWG43 wire which is common, along with 42 on most vintage Japanese pickups. Using the physical size of the coil as a guide I rewound the bobbin using new enamel 43 to just over 9000 turns. The other 2 pickups measured at a very healthy 9.8 and 10.1K so I knew what I was aiming for. I always make a wooden insert when rewinding these pickups to support the thin bobbin while winding.
With it all wound and taped back up it measured at 10K so I added new lead wires (the insulation was deteriorated on the originals) and reassembled the whole unit.
It's a pretty simple single coil design with a big ceramic magnet glued to a brass plate that the pole pieces screw into through the coil. There's a black plastic sheet fitted over the poles to protect the top of the bobbin and then the top angular cover fitted over that. There's another bigger brass plate glued to the bottom of the magnet with the solder tabs where the lead wires attach and then a black plastic cover sits over the whole lot and is held in place by the adjustment springs and screws.
With the pickup back in it was just a matter of cleaning it all up and giving it a set up to go to the shop.
The necks on this era Arias are amazing. Thin and nice with nice maple and rosewood timbers being used you rarely see warped necks on them. Matsumoku were wold class are picking timbers and drying them and later high end through and set neck models are as good as anything being made in the US at the time.
The bodies on these are solid, sometimes laminated timber with a "swimming pool" pickup rout under the plate. They're always nicely contoured and finished.
The electronics are pretty simple with a master volume and tone control, a small tone switch and a 5 way slider switch for standard "Strat style" selection.
The bridge and vibrato are the very usable type used on many Arias of this period based on the offset vibrato with the (I think) wonderful "hanging bridge" which is suspended in the tailpiece and adjusted with 4 screws from above. Aria made this bridge with plastic and metal saddles and this model has the metal ones.
The headstock is of course very Fender influenced 6 a side with original tuners (the Epiphone version ET270 had a 3 a side headstock (2 a side for bass)) and one string tree with the original Aria Diamond badge complete with inlaid "Diamond". Some earlier versions were branded Aria Diamonds (with an S) and later versions had an Aria decal on the headstock.
This model ran through to the early 70's when brands like Aria really took off on the Fender/Gibson copy market and most of these original shapes were dropped in favour of closer and closer copies. By the late 70's these factories and brands were venturing back into original shapes and Matsumoku, and Aria became famous for the amazing set/through neck guitars of the early 80's sold as Aria, Vantage and Washburn.
This is in the shop now ready to be played.