Saturday, February 9, 2013

1982 Yamaha SJ-180

The Yamaha SJ-180 ("Semi Jumbo") was made between 1981 and 1985. Yamaha no longer provides the specs on this model beyond listing a Spruce top and Mahogany back, sides, and neck, but I measure this model with a lower bout width of 15.5" and depth of 4.25" and a narrow waist at 9.625", which puts it between an OM (Orchestra Model) and a 0000/M Grand Auditorium size. If you like a smaller guitar than a dreadnaught this could be a good inexpensive choice. Although it is an all-laminate construction, this vintage Yamaha model has a devoted following, especially with fingerpickers.

This guitar was another inexpensive eBay find in good condition. Besides needing a good cleaning, one of the tuner covers was bent such that it would not tighten cleanly to the headstock. As it happens, I already had another SJ-180 that I bought cheaply more for its case than for the guitar, which was so beaten up the fingerboard was separating from the neck at the cracked headstock.  I cannibalized the identical tuner off the first guitar and replaced the bum one on the clean SJ-180. After putting on extra-light Martin strings, I now have a great little finger-picking travel guitar that should be good to go for another 30 years.


  1. I put DR mediums on the one I just picked up for 55 dollars at a garage sale. It has stickers all over it , high action mostly because the trussrod was completely backed off. It took me a few hours to fix it up but it's a very nice older Yamaha. Real Martin OM sound

  2. Man, nice to see you appreciate these too.

    Sitting in my office right now are a SJ-180 with a bone nut and saddle, 2013 Gibson LG-2, a 2006 Martin D-28, a 61 Harmony Master, and a few "Mid Level" acoustic guitars that rotate in and out of my collection.

    I would say I play my SJ-180 for two hours to every hour I play something else. There is a little magic in these little Yamaha guitars. When setup well with lights they play incredible and for an all laminate "cheap" guitar it has a remarkable soul. I would even say it has a little bite to it.

    If my house catches fire I'm leaving with the SJ in one hand and the D-28 in the other. The rest are replaceable. I would sell a child before I sold this SJ-180!

  3. I have one of these.. I am reworking the action and I came across a snag. I tried years ago to replace the nut with bone and I got the string spread all haywire.. anyone know what it's suppose to be? I found some notes that indicated that the nut was 1 11/16 and I found a Martin nut on Stew-Mac that would fit but I am a bit gun shy about the spread at this point.. Thanks for any help..

  4. The SJ-180 was made prior to 1981. My brother and I got guitars for Christmas in 1979. I received a Yamaha FG-331 (which I still have) and my brother received a Yamaha SJ-180 (which he still has). Both of these guitars were bought for us by our Mom and Dad, and they were slightly used but in like new condition.

  5. Thanks for the info! Official Yamaha records are notoriously incomplete.