Monday, December 20, 2010

2010 - Tokai Hummingbird

Recently I picked up one of the coolest shaped guitars on the planet.
It's like an evil Mosrite. German carved and all pointy horned. I first became aware of this guitar via Guitar Nerd

The guitar came in the original brown leather/vinyl gig bag from the late 1960's.
As far as I can tell, the guitar dates back to 1968. Unfortunately there's no serial number on it as back then, they were just stickers on the back of the headstock.

The guitar is in ok condition for its years, but far from perfect.
Fortunately the neck is nice and straight, only one minor ding on it near the headstock, which is barely noticeable. At some stage the original vibrato has been removed and three of the holes have been filled with dowel, but not painted over. The original tuning machines are long gone and the nut seems to have been replaced as the current nut needs some filing down to get the strings sitting on the zero fret.

The neck is made from five or six pieces of timber laminated together. It looks like the neck has been refinished as the joins in the timber seem to be rather dirty, it looks well used.

The pickups appear to be of the same vintage and measure approx 6k. They have a nice meaty p90esque sound. But I don't think they're original. Looking at the pick guard, it looks like someone has done a real hatchet job getting the pickups in there. Under the pickup rings, the plastic is very rough and the pickups themselves are misaligned when compared to the routing. Screws to hold the rings down are too long and appear to have come from a hardware store bulk pack. The body has had some wood removed where the screws protude under the scratch guard.

I suspect that the pickups which were originally installed were more like the typical Teisco variety.
There's also extra routing under the scratchplate where a switch is likley to have been placed, I might add one back in there as a matter of course, either a kill switch or a low cut.

The vibrato assembly is kind of weird. It's like a half Bigsby with provision to accept a stat style bar.
Where the bar is attached, the metal is cracked, but I suspect that it will be strong enough to handle any of my whammy antics. The unit does look the part of a vintage guitar so I'll probably leave it as is. A full bigsby just wouldn't do the guitar justtice, however a Gibson Maestro might!

So the guitar needs quite a bit of T.L.C.

My plan is to replace the scratch guard with something of my own design. it's something I'd prefer to have done with a CNC Mill, but I'm sure with a few practice runs on thin MDF it's not too far outside of my skill level. Maybe some tortoiseshell or a dark pearl. The plan is to try to cover up the holes from the previous vibrato.

The pickups are nice sounding, but don't really suit the look of the guitar, so I'm toying with the idea of installing jazzmaster pickups with cream covers to match the body.

The Hummingbird has promise to be a  unique beauty once it's restored, even if it's not restored to it's original glory. I'll be taking my sweet time with this one and update whenever I get a chance.
Photoshopped overlay of pickguard and routing.


  1. I found more pictures via these links, they show that the original guard had some extra switches and thumb wheels.

    Hummingbird 1

    Hummingbird 2

    Hummingbird 3

    Hummingbird 4

  2. I'll do a blog story on mine with plenty of pics if you want man ? Tim.