My Guitar Project III


New member
I bought this guitar a S.Yairi 950 last year through Craigslist in the US. To cut a long story short, my initial impression when I first got it was the sound was tight and subdued. Some thing amazing happened two weeks later after I got this guitar. The sound changes to become the best sounding guitar that I have heard so far. It is better sounding than all the guitars I owned. It has become my favourite.

The guitar was almost scratchless when I got it except for 2 "whip lash" mark just below the 1st & 2nd string at the sound board. This I assumed was sustained when the 1st & 2nd strings slip-off the tie block. I learned from the seller that this guitar used to belong to his father who have passed-on and that he found the guitar under his bed when he went to clear out the belongings when he was making plans to sell off his father's house.

The other thing is that this guitar was too plain for my liking. I have always love classical guitars with beautiful headstock carving. So, I have finally made the decision to give this guitar a new lease of life by giving it several upgrades. The first is to add carvings to the headstock.


This is the original headstock with a 2mm thick headplate which is too thin for carving.


First I removed the new Gotoh tuning machine which I replaced when I got the guitar because of cracked rollers.


I began to strip-off the existine headplate with a mini-plane and sand paper. Now you can see the bald headstock.


This is the new 6mm thick Indian rosewood headplate. It should be thick enough for the carving.


Notice that the S.Yairi has a super long headstock and it uses 39mm antique spacing tuning machine instead of the usual 35mm spacing. Notice the two twin peaks pointing extra long. This causes 2 problems for me. The first is to find a hardcase that will fit this guitar as the twin peaks will be pocking into the guitar case padding. The second is to find a headplate that is long enough. I have decided to trim the twin peaks to shorten it.


Work-In-Progress – 1 . The carving was tougher than expected as I do not have all the tools necessary and second, my hands have not been holding a chisel for more than 30 years.


Work-In-Progress – 2. After about 5 hours of carving, this is what I have progress to. Take a break, recuperate and continue another day.

I know that I would not be able to sleep well without having the carved headplate mounted on the guitar. Despite my aching fingers, arms and back, I decided not to wait another day. So 4 hours later, the headplate was glued onto the headstock.

With the almost finished carved headstock mounted on the guitar and the tuning machine temporary mounted for photo taking, I am extremely happy despite all the aching fingers and arms. It’s kind of like a bodybuilder feeling really good after an intense workout at the gym.

I will be mounting a genuine Japanese cultured pearl which cost me $48/- on the upper portion of the headplate where I have prepared a circular base for it.

The craved headstock will not be showing its “full glory” as I intends to redo the entire guitar including giving it a new finish. Hope this will give this 38 years old “dame” another 40 years or more of life.

After mounting the headplate, the entire headstock has to be stripped of its finish to match the headplate to the headstock.


The completely “naked” headstock and neck. I have no choice but to strip off the finishings fro the entire neck onwards as I will have difficulty matching the stained lacquer of the manufacturer.


The headstock, shorten by 5 mm due to the short headplate that I bought. The headstock is finished off with a genuine Japanese cultured pearl. The new and old headstock.
After completing the headstock carving, I felt that the original bridge is now too plain for the overall outlook of this guitar. After much consideration, the simplest upgrade I can think of is to have a mosaic wood inlay in the tie-block. The entire process though look simple took me 2 hours to complete.


The original plain bridge.


I start by gouging out the plain rosewood center. Noticed the well protected surrounding area.


All ready to receive the inlay.


Filled with 3mm thick wood inlay.


Excess inlay being shaved off.


The completed tie-block.
After putting on the inlay at the tie block, I found the pattern does not match the rest of the purfling or rosette. The only way to make it match is to either change the rosette or alter the rosette to match the tie-block.


This is the original rosette.


I made this rosewood sound-hole cover for me to locate the center of the rosette.


I found this circle cutter at the stationery shop. I use this to cut out the boundary of for the groove to mount the inlay.

This is my improvised 2mm mini chisel. I had been looking every where for a mini 2mm chisel When all else fail, make your own. The ready made purfling used for the inlay.


The completed rosette.


Close-up of my untidy work.

This is the original purfling on my S.Yairi 950. After refinishing the rosette and tie-block, I find that the purfling is too simple and does not match the tie-block. As usual, my hands get a little “itchy”.


After 2 days of hard work with simple hand tools, this is what happens. This is the new purfling which matches the pattern of the refurbished rosette and refurbished tie-block. The purfling is now matching and also a bit more noticeable. I am very happy with the result even though I made many mistakes along the way.


This is how the guitar looks like before trimming the purfling. This also gives me a very good reason to strip the top and refinish the top.
you should leave the top unfinished and see if you prefer the tone. It does make a difference when the finish is thinned down.