I think I have enough progress now that I can share it.
My friend and I often get together and jam and his dad has quite a few guitars lying around. A few years ago his dad asked me if I wanted this one electric guitar that he had but never played that he got at a yard sale several years back. It was a quirky looking short scale guitar made by a Japanese piano company - Kawai.
The pickguard wasn't pretty, the pickup selector knob was seized, the tuners looked really cheap, the bridge wasn't adjustable, and the tremolo bar was missing the nut. That being said, it had a truss rod, and the body and neck had a beautiful fade finish, so I decided it was a free diamond in the rough so I took it.
I took it home and tried it out and it turns out the intonation was way off and the electronics didn't work. Taking a look at the bridge I saw that it was a cheap, non-adjustable tune-o-matic style bridge.
Obviously that would have to change if I wanted it more playable, but I also didn't want to spend any money one it. Well, some time after that I was at my friend's house again and I saw an adjustable tune-o-matic just sitting on a shelf. He had no idea where it was from so he agreed to give it to me. It didn't have the proper installation posts but I was able to track down the right parts eventually using the parts number on the bridge. It basically looks like this guy:
They were cheap enough that I decided to commit to the guitar and buy them. I took it to a guitar tech still knowing nothing about the guitar to see if he thought it was workable. It turns out he sees these old Japanese every now and then and they're great fun when you adjust them a bit and get them playable. Since I didn't have the money at the time to get the bridge installed (it required drilling holes and I didn't want to mess up and old guitar) I decided to put it on the back burner for a while.
Well, lately I've been doing some stuff on a laser cutter and I realized I could make a killer new pickguard for my Kawai. I also wanted to learn how to use vector drawing programs so I decided to make a design to engrave in the pick guard. I decided to go with a Sheridan style prairie flower design with a two-piece black and white pickguard. This is the design that I came up with on Inkscape:
And here is a bad photochop on the Kawai:
My original plan was to use gloss black acrylic that engraves gold for the main guard and white acrylic that engraves black for the control guard, but I haven't quite decided yet because I only want to buy acrylic once. By the way I am probably going to get my materials from here:
Around that time my friend gave me a bunch of old plexiglass because I designed some logos for a speaker cabinet he built
so I went ahead a laser cut a test pick guard
And I have started experimenting with the colors, and that's where I am right now with the pickguard design.
In parallel to the pickguard I also changed out the tuners.
Again, these tuners are from the same friend. Several years ago my friend and I helped another guy put a Jackson neck on his American strat. In exchange, he gave the strat neck to my friend, who had a Japanese made Bradley strat. We put the Fender neck on the Bradley, which can be seen here:
Well, the Bradley tuners were still pretty good, but the Kawai tuners weren't, so he gave me the Bradley tuners. They are at a funny angle because I use the stock Kawai holes. I think it adds to the character of the guitar so I'm going to keep it like that.
As for the history of the guitar itself, it turns out these guitars were made in the mid 60s and sold in department stores. They are hit and miss in quality, but the good ones are great. One bit of added credibility is that Hound Dog Taylor, a fantastic blues player, played a four-pickup Kawai from a similar vintage:
And, luckily for me, these guitars really do sound fantastic in a dirty, bluesy kind of way.