1981 Tokai ES-100
Click on main image for full size pictures
In 1981 Tokai introduced a new ES line of semi hollow body models built to be as close to the original ES-335’s as they were able to. To accomplish this, Tokai closely studied original ES-335’s made from 1959 to 1964, characterizing their research as ‘exhaustive’. This SA 100 is the result of their hard work and attention to detail.
The body is perhaps the most critical part of a semi-acoustic guitar and here Tokai followed the earliest models with three ply laminate top, body and sides. The top and back using maple in all three plies, and the sides maple and mahogany. The center block, the very heart of a semi acoustic, follows the originals using a solid maple block sandwiched between pieces of kerfed spruce which attach to the top and bottom, and running the full length of the guitar. The bridge and tail piece mount directly into the maple block to deliver sustain like a solid body. The pickup guard is a five ply long style, the same as would be found on a 1959 ES-335.
Following the originals, the neck is one piece mahogany with a rosewood fretboard, fret edge binding and mother of pearl dots located in the exact same locations as the originals. Per Tokai, the neck profile ‘remains absolutely faithful to the production cut on guitars made in ’59 and ‘60’. Since this is a high grade Tokai model, and true to the originals, the guitar is finished in a beautiful black sunburst lacquer.
If you like the idea of a vintage guitar that is true to an original ’59 335 and built to the highest standards, this almost forty year old Tokai delivers in spades. These guitars are quite rare, with the ES models disappearing completely from the Tokai catalogs between 1985 and 1986. This guitar is in excellent overall condition given its age, with scratches and dings one would expect in a vintage guitar. There are some cracks in the finish between the binding and at the neck joint which are shown in the accompanying photos, but don’t show any issue other than at the finish.
The 1981 ES 100 came in Rock and Jazz versions, the difference being pickups installed. A prior owner swapped the original pickups with Gibson 57 Classic and 57 Classic Plus in the neck and bridge respectively. These are an excellent choice for this guitar. Per Gibson they are made to the exact specs of the original PAF humbucker with the plus version providing a hotter output. These pickups retail for $165 and $175 each.
Two other things a prior owner changed were the tail piece mounts which are locking pieces and the tuners have been replaced with Kluson Deluxe tuners, where the guitar originally came with Tokai copies of Kluson’s.
The guitar plays and sounds fantastic, with a true to the original neck profile that is a pleasure to play.