1964 Kawai SD2W

I'm trying desperately to keep up with blogs about all these guitars I'm fixing up for the shop so ...

This a REALLY nice Kawai SD2W from the early 60's. These were only made for a couple of years and came after the more basic but very flamboyant) S series made famous by Hound Dog Taylor and were faded out as the boom hit and Kawai ramped up production to keep up with demand.

Kawai were THE big manufacturer of the Japanese guitar boom in the mid 60's making guitars for over 50 known brands and probably plenty more. Kawai were famous in Japan for making pianos and started production in the 1920's but entered the guitar market with a vengeance in 1963, making them late to the party, but their connections for distributing pianos helped them establish the market very quickly and established big export markets in the US with big and small department stores and music chains. 

The first S series guitars were very similar to Teiscos and Guyatones of the time with lots of chrome and pickups and Kawai were very quick to start making their own hardware which made them different from some of the other big name producers who outsourced pickups to electronics companies and hardware to metalworking and engineering shops. 

 

The SD series was the second big line released by Kawai in '64 and was a step up in quality and feel over the S series. Kawai were instrumental in working with other companies to improve Japanese guitar production and were leaders in pushing the technology further to mass produce good quality affordable guitars for the world market.

This guitar is in amazing condition for it's age and is a great example of what Kawai were producing by '64.

 

This is a solid timber body with contouring and it's finish is really impressive looking almost like vintage furniture. The neck is one piece and glued in AND bolted on. This was a speciality of Kawai at the time but was dropped when production ramped up and they went to the standard "Fender" style bolt on. It makes a VERY strong neck joint indeed.

 

The neck is thick but very comfortable with a nice piece of rosewood with binding and small block inlays. There's no zero fret here as Kawai started using them more a year later on most of the cheaper end models. 

The tuners are very nice and the (BIG) headstock has the chrome plate which looks classy. The frets are bigger than most of these Japanese guitars of the time and it's a very playable guitar.

 

The pickups are Kawai single coils and these were used on many guitars throughout this period. They're really nice sounding, clear with good volume pickups. The pickups are turned on and off by large switches above the strings and there is also a SOLO/RTHM switch was common on Japanese guitars well into the 70's. It's basically a tone switch even though there is a master tone pot. The bridge is a pretty simple affair much like other Japanese guitars of the time. Within a year most, even cheaper end models would have adjustable intonation bridges. 

The vibrato is a Kawai made unit and this was sold to other manufacturers at the time and show up on other brands not made by Kawai. It's a very functional, if not bulky unit.

 

The shape is great and the oversized headstocks were a "thing" for a while in Japan with some getting crazy big like almost as big as the (admittedly small) bodies. This body however isn't small and it feels great to play standing and sitting. The guitar hangs well, even with that giant headstock. 

This one is missing the Kawai badge but it would have also been sold outside of Japan as a St George and a Kimberley, among others.

 

Like the Pleasant, I love these older Japanese guitars when they're in great condition like this because you can actually see what sort of quality they were producing at this time, and it was pretty good. In all fairness they play and sound better than most US budget and department store lines or our locally made Matons of the time. Of course, some of those US brands would end up being made by Kawai by the late sixties. 

The contouring on the body and headstock (which is VERY cool) along with the timber grain and finish make this look and feel like a very nice piece on antique furniture, and the aluminium scratchplate and chrome fittings (and knobs and switches) really give this a very art deco kind of feel. It reminds me of my grandmothers furniture when i was a kid.

Aug 31 2017 Written By: Tim Brennan