c.1982 Daion L-99 000/Slope Shoulder Guitar

The Japanese-made Daions are some of the best bang for your buck on the vintage market these days. They weren't made for very long but every one I've played has been an excellent instrument (well, once they're setup properly... most old guitars tend to be a little rough around the edges). This L-99 is no slouch. It has a "blended" sound, sort of like a slope-shouldered J-45/50 and sort of like a Martin 000 or D-18. It's got a 15 3/8" lower bout and a body length that reminds me more of a J-45 but the scale length (25 1/4") and neck shape (bigger shallow V which is odd for the 80s) are straight out of a late-50s, early-60s Martin playbook.

At any rate, I worked on this for a customer and that included a new bridge, light fret level/dress, a hairline crack cleat, cleaning, and setup. It has a great feel and I especially like the sound for fingerpicking or old-timey flatpicking.

Update: wood info updated per comment below. The top is solid cedar and the back and sides are ovangkol. I'm fairly sure it's laminated judging by the interior looks, but I'm not certain. Both the top and back edges are bound and the "vintage sunburst" sort of finish looks pretty slick on it. It gives the guitar a friendly sort of look off the bat.

Rosewood headstock veneer with the "embossed" Daion logo. I re-used the original bone nut (which was chipped out at the fretboard edge) by sanding it down and then shimming it up and reslotting. Recycle, recycle!

Radiused, bound rosewood fretboard. Note how the "snowflake" inlay is installed just like they did it in the 1920s... drill a hole and fill in around it!

I want to point out that the slop around the (new) rosewood bridge is none of my doing. I tried to remove as much as I could but it was pretty well stuck to the finish and I didn't want to take too much of it up. When I first strung it up I had a bone parts-bin saddle in here that sounded pretty decent (the original was too thin to re-use) but I figured I could coax some more warmth out of it. I had some of the GraphTech saddle blank material hanging about so I used that. Not only does it look cool (like an ebony saddle) but it also coaxed a bit more warmth from the guitar which is appreciated for E and G chords.

Here's how the guitar's bridge was when it came in... yikes!

Apparently this lived in Sweden for a bit (where it was sold)!

The original Daion tuners work just fine, though my preference would be to replace these with something like butterbean-style Grovers for lighter weight at the headstock.

What's interesting about this design is just how well-thought-out it is: you get a big full sound from the wide lower bout but the body thins much more than usual (back to front and side to side) at the upper bout which makes it a lot more comfortable to hold vs. a dreadnought or J-45/J-50 style guitar which the sound of this guy roughly approximates.

New plastic endpin... which is "Good enough for gov't work," as my Dad would say.


Anonymous said...

Very nice work on a nice guitar. I picked up an L-99 last year on EBay. I found old Daion catalogs and specs on the web and this model actually has a solid cedar top and ovangkol back and sides.

Keep up the good work!

Jake Wildwood said...

Thanks so much... will update that info!