1960s Maruha 00-Size Archtop Guitar

When a customer tells you he's found "the perfect poor man's Gibson L-2" and that it's a Japanese budget guitar from the '60s, one has to roll the eyes quite hard. That's especially true if he tells you the joke three more times. Then you have to worry about what he's gotten himself into!

Information about who made these budget-friendly Maruha/often-branded-Domino guitars is sketchy at best, so I will refrain from taking the plunge into internet dissonance and let web guitarcheologists chime-in.

Anyhow -- I'll admit it -- there's a lot to admire about this ridiculous, over-the-top, plywood box. It has a Gibson-style 24 3/4" scale and the body proportions and size truly are close to an archtop Gibson L-1/2/3 from the 1910s/1920s. It departs from a period Gibson in every single other way except for the substantially-backed neck, however. The body, as noted, is entirely made from thin plywood and has ladder-style bracing. The top is not so much "arched" as it is "canted" below the soundhole towards the bridge. It's pretty flat but the whole instrument has induced "arcs" in its top and back lengthwise.

Work included a neck reset (on the quick), fret level/dress, some bridge massaging, side dots, and a good setup. The neck angle was actually pretty decent but I could tell something was wrong as the fretboard extension had "humped" over the top ski-jump fashion. Taking it off, I discovered a loose neckblock. Shim-up the front of the joint, glue up the block, add some pins just in case through the ply top into the neckblock... and hey presto! She's singing with a nice, straight neck and spot-on action -- 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE at the 12th fret, strung with 54w, 40w, 30w, 22w, 16, 12 gauges.

The instrument is entirely original except for a later endpin/strap button and at least the bridge saddle which is a replacement (but still rosewood). There are no cracks, unsurprisingly, and she's ship-shape.

Specs are: 24 3/4" scale, 1 5/8" nut width, 1 7/16" string spacing at the nut, 2" spacing at the bridge,14" lower bout, 10 1/2" upper bout, and 3 1/2" side depth at its deepest. The neck has a medium-big, C-shaped rear profile and a ~12" radius to the fretboard. The neck seems to be some sort of poplar/maple-like material while the fretboard is some sort of stained hardwood and the bridge is actual rosewood. It's a lightweight instrument and handles nice and cozy in the lap.

Sound-wise it has a tone like a gutsier, more-open, more-fun ply Kay archtop from the '50s. It's got a good mwah lower-mids crunch right out of the gate and the short scale and round soundhole gives it a bit more of a relaxed vibe that suits fingerpicked country-blues and folksy stylings just fine. So, sure, I guess it fills a role like a Gibson L-1/2/3. Sort-of!

Isn't that finish wild? It's like a "sponge-paint" sunburst.

The pinstripes are all paint but the little "claw" is all inlaid, pearloid plastic. This does have real top, back, and fretboard binding, though.


Robert Gardner said…
This is one for the Museum of the Strange and Obscure Guitars for sure. And you are right about that sunburst. As if Gibson had hired an alien from the planet Mongo on the finish line.
Jake Wildwood said…
Mongoloids everywhere resent that comment! :)
Jake Wildwood said…

...that moment you realize you've pulled an Archie Bunker.
Jake Wildwood said…
(by which I mean -- sorry)
jim gager said…
Good to know you're human!
Jim Gager