1960s Yamaha Red Label FG-110 Flattop Guitar




Old, Japan-made, "Red Label" Yamaha flattops have that just a little something extra over the slightly-later, '70s Taiwanese Yammies. Don't get me wrong -- both eras are stellar works of mass-produced guitar design -- but the Japan-made x-braced guitars seem to give just a little bit more. To my ears that means they're a little louder, warmer, and more responsive. This 000-size box certainly has "that sound."

I'm not sure the exact year of manufacture, but I'd guess very late '69 through '70 judging by its label and general build characteristics. I couldn't find a serial number or date-stamp on it.

While it needed a bit of work, the end result is a great-playing, classic box. The FG-110s were a pretty basic model at the time and don't have the mahogany back and sides of the fancier models. The genius of the build, however, is not the material -- ply spruce top, ply (maple-ish?) back and sides -- but the design. These are lightly x-braced, the necks are medium-heft but comfortable, and they have truss rods that work the way they were intended to. They're also tough as heck, so even a guitar like this one -- which was clearly played a bunch -- still looks a lot younger than it is. I've seen plenty of three-year-old low-end guitars which have given up the ghost while this one was simply napping.

Repairs included: a neck reset, bridge reglue, fret level/dress, fill/redrill of the bridge pin-holes, new bone saddle, cleaning, and setup.

Setup notes: the neck is straight, the truss rod works, and action is low and on-the-dot at 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE at the 12th fret. I have it strung with 52w, 38w, 28w, 22w, 16, 12 gauges -- like a set of 11s with 16/12 on top. The smaller-body old Yamahas tend to sound better with lighter strings to my ears.

Scale length: 25"
Nut width: 1 11/16"
String spacing at nut: 1 7/16"
String spacing at bridge: 2"
Body length: 19 1/2"
Lower bout width: 15"
Waist width: 9 1/8"
Upper bout width: 10 7/8"
Side depth at endpin: 4 1/8"
Top wood: ply spruce
Back/sides wood: ply maple? or similar
Bracing type: x-braced
Fretboard: rosewood
Bridge: rosewood, bone saddle
Neck feel: medium C-shape, ~14" board radius

Condition notes: while there's plenty of scratches and small nicks/bumps to the finish throughout, it looks good overall. I had to move the bridge pins a little farther aft to compensate for my new, taller saddle, too -- to keep the break angle a little less severe. It's all-original save those alterations and a long-ago strap button installed at the heel. The fretboard extension drops-away from the rest of the fretboard just a little over the body.














Comments

Warren said…
Hey Jake, Nice work. Was that a traditional dovetail neck joint? Was curious about what’s inside red label FG neck joints. Thanks for sharing! Warren
Jake Wildwood said…
Yeah, they have dovetail joints.
Rich said…
Looks and sounds great, I like the old time looks of the bridge on the MIJ FG110.

I have a Taiwan made 110 black label and I like the way it plays and sounds, but it is close to needing a neck reset. Did you encounter any issues removing the neck (infamous epoxy glue)? Did you use the standard steam method or the new soldering iron heat method? Years ago I tried to remove a neck from a FG-75 with DIY steam setup but was unsuccessful and ended up doing a bolt on neck reset.