I'm a huge fan for these Kawais and while I've sold a few 2 and 3Ws lately in the shop, this one I've kept for longer than the rest because it's the one that made me fall in love with this particular model.
The history of this model is here if you're interested as this is one of the 2Ws I sold recently. The SD came in a 2,3 and 4W which designated the number of pickups with everything else (except switches/electronics) being the same across the range.
Anyway, when I got this one I played it quite a bit and although it played well, it did have quite high action and being that it needed a bit of work to correct it, I just put it aside in the huge piles of guitars I have lying around that need "a little work" so I could fix it one day.
When I was selling the other Kawai SDs I had around I thought I'll fix it up while I'm doing them so I can keep one good one for myself.
A quick survey of the angles and adjustments gave me a much better idea of what was going on. I had removed the neck plate of one of the other ones to shim the neck to get a little more angle which is when I realised what an intricate, over complicated web of ideas Kawai were using in these early 60's builds.
The neck is not only held in with 7 (yep SEVEN) screws with a neck plate that runs from the body to the neck heel, but it was also glued in. Yeah, glued and screwed with 7 screws. I checked another one I had here to check this wasn't an afterthought of some repairer and yep, they were all attached like this.
So, with the action being too high on this one, and with a set neck I considered removing the neck to get a better angle. But first I thought I'd adjust the truss rod to see if getting the neck straighter, and shaving a little off the BIG metal bridge block might get me close.
I took the trussrod cover off to find ....... no nut. No nut, no rod, nothing.
The trussrod had been broken and the cover put back on. The neck had stood up surprisingly well as it only had a small curve and played well, except for the high action. So, if I was to do this properly it needed a new trussrod.
I've removed plenty of fretboards (and part fretboards) over the last 20+ years and the fun thing about them is, they're nearly always different in some regard. I removed all the hardware and took a good look around the ends of the fretboard to see if I could see any "issues" with just removing it normally. The only ..... slightly odd thing was with the nut removed, it was obvious the fretboard was a laminated board of softwood with a rosewood veneer on top. This is of course hidden by all the binding but obvious with the nut gone. This was a new sensation for me.
I usually heat (with a heat lamp) or steam fretboards off when I remove them. As a general rule, if there's blocks and binding, I steam them as the heat lamp tends to melt any plastic around the area. The type of timber also guides my decision as to what method to use and I was a "little" worried about the steam delaminating that fretboard, so I thought I'd take it easy and see.
The fretboard was still on tight. On some guitars this process is easy. You apply a little heat and the fretboard practically falls off. Some take a few hours to gently caress off the neck. It's got nothing to do with the quality/price of the guitar either. I've had expensive electric and acoustic fretboards fall off, while cheaper guitars take all day. I've had ebony fretboards disintegrate rather than "let go" which means making a whole new fretboard.
Anyway, this one was hanging on and took a little time. The steam seemed to be softening the laminated fretboard but not separating it so I persisted with the steam as it was softening the glue holding the board to the neck. Once I had access to the joint it was simply a matter of heating/steaming the next section and sliding scrapers and chisels under the join the separate the two.
The fretboard ended up coming off in one really nice piece and I clamped it to an aluminium block I have here to compress it and let it dry overnight to make sure it stayed flat. I used a heat lamp to remove the trussrod filler which was pieces of pine glued into the slot above the rod.
I then went to remove the broken trussrod.
Here's where things got fun, again.
The trussrod slot had been cut and the rod inserted, from the heel end, before the neck was glued in meaning that access to the body end of the rod was only accessible by taking the neck back out, which of course meant steaming the neck out. Oh boy ....
I made a cup of tea and looked at it.
I decided rather than removing the neck completely I would find the end of the rod, cut into the neck to gain access and then rebuild that part before fitting the new rod. I used one of my rare earth magnets I use for charging pickup slugs to "find" the end of the rod in the neck heel. I then used a spade bit to carefully drill down into the heel, from the top, until I had access to the rod. The block/end was more anchored than I thought and it took two holes to remove the rod.
I then plugged the two holes with hardwood dowel and let that dry overnight.
With the old rod gone and the holes plugged up I chose a new double acting rod of the right length to put back in and routed a new slot for it. I had to widen out the adjustment end and then fit the original "plug" back into the slot before reattaching the fretboard.
With the slot all done and the new rod in place it was all falling into place nicely.
The fretboard had well and truly dried flat and all the binding and blocks were completely unharmed buy the steam. It had shrunk ever so slightly but nothing worth worrying about as I could clean that up in the final work.
I glued the fretboard back on using my block of jarrah (and clamps) I have used to glue hundreds of fretboards onto necks I've made and replaced like this. It is a block I thicknessed down years ago to use as fretboards but never cut it into 6mm slabs. It became my solid block to use as a fretboard clamp as it's so straight and so stable. Anyone who knows jarrah knows it can be like a piece of metal.
I use good quality white or yellow PVA glue for all these types of repairs and never had any problems. There are many types of glues people use in these situations including hide glue but I rarely use it myself.
With the board back on and everything dry I tried the new rod. These double acting rods (which are commonly available online or at most repair shops) are affordable and work really well. Much more responsive and less physical stress on the neck than the than the standard "Fender style" rod used in many guitars. I prefer them to the "aluminium channel" rods used by cheaper end guitars in the 70's too as although they are strong, you need to remove a lot of timber to fit them. Having said that, I have used them in some repairs over the years when they're called for.
One of the great things about guitar repairs is rarely are two identical repairs the same. The bad thing about guitar repairs is rarely are two identical repairs the same.
This was a fun project and got one of my favourite guitars back up and playing better than it did from the factory (probably?, maybe?, almost definitely) and gave me another experience of a repair slightly different to the many I'd done before.
I'll do a "part 2" on the final set up and guitar after this repair but it's really playing beautifully and was well worth the effort. I did a blog recently on a Firstman bass with a similar issue and although it needed some finish work at the end, the process/results were almost the same. Some guitars may not be worth this kind of "trouble" to some repairers but I'm a big believer in a guitar of any price or quality can be "special" and the best guitar for the person who loves it, which makes jobs like this totally worthwhile.