DeArmond pickups from the 50’s are considered the sweetest sounding transducers ever made for jazz guitars among many musicians. The pickup came in many variations and sometimes I get them in the workshop for repairs. Most common is the famous “Guitar Mike”.
This Gibson L5 is fit with a model 1000 “Rhythm Chief”. My job was to re-install the pickup permanent on the instrument without the sliding attachment and the volume and tone control. To do so, we decided to drill a bigger hole in the tailpiece to fix a Switchctaft output jack / strapholder combination. The pickup would be fixed on the body with double sided tape. A piece of very sensitive masking tape would protect the guitar finish.
I tested the pickup, fixed the new output jack, removed the controls from the pickup, connected the pickup and…no sound! I called the customer to tell the bad news and we decided to open the pickup – at the customers risk. DeArmond pickups have been made with extremely thin wires and because they are almost 70 years old, the insulation around the wires can be dry and easy to damage. Some pickups just die when you look at them.
After opening the pickup I connected a temporal connector, and the pickup just worked. After closing the pickup – no signal. After a close look and some physical tests ( pressing here and there, moving the cable) it seemed to be a thin wire got disconnected after pressing the side of the pickup. Because the pickup has been waxed (probably not original) we decided to leave the pickup and make the cover a bit wider so it would not clamp the side too much. I made a small piece of brass to slide in the side to keep the cover on the pickup. This worked. After attaching the pickup secure to the Gibson L5 the customer has a semi-permanent fixed system in wich he doesn’t need to be afraid of broken cables, another common problem with older DeArmond pickups.
This operation shows how careful you have to be with the pickup and how sensitive the material is. To rewind the coil is another problem; most pickup builders refuse them as it takes sometimes over 10 tries to make a new one.
Here is a 50’s DeArmond Guitar Mike, I had to replace the cable. When replacing the cable (original 50’s too) the insulation within the cable just came out like powder, making the cable worthless. To replace the cable, you have to careful open the pickup. This one has not been waxed, and makes it possible to re-solder the wires directly to the coil. This is still a tricky job, if you damage them or if you are shakey with the soldering iron it can end up in the trash bin.
This morning I met Stephanie Lollar shortly in the workshop. She visit Amsterdam just a few days. We had a relax talk about kids, travelling and of course her husband Jason Lollar and the Lollar pickup company.
The company just moved last summer to a new building. The new building has more work space and more daylight. Although it was a big step to move, it seems to work out very wel.
Later Stephanie went to visit some musea and I went to spend the rest of the day with my son, the reason the shop is usualy closed at Mondays.
I now stock Jason Lollar’s take on the legendary Gold Foil pickup. Hyped by Ray Cooder, Jason already started to produce a Supro Steel pickup, now you can complete your “Coodercaster” with a Gold Foil neck pickup… Or just buy a bridge – neck set. Or just buy a three pickup set with RWRP middle pickup to make a Gold Foil Strat!
Jason’s pickup is made as a very sturdy, long lasting pickup; it does not have the microphonic feature like the original. Shims are available that matches the bottom plate of the pickup, to adjust the height, like a P90 dogear. A version to screw directly on the body (photo), and a version with a side mounting plate to connnect to a scratch plate and float on the top are available, nickel and gold. All variations can be ordered.
One of the first questions we get asked when we meet guitar pickers is – “Do you make Gold Foil pickups”?.
Well, we finally took the hint, and spent the time (two years of R&D) to get it right. We use custom made parts, built to our specs. We hand stamp the foil inserts, one at a time – even the rivets holding the pickup together are custom made. As with all the pickups we make, every aspect of the design has been scrutinized and tested – to sound right and last a lifetime.
Our Gold Foil is a single coil pickup with unusual clarity and power. Expect crystal clear top end with lots of in-your-face harmonic overtones, and a wide dynamic range that can make a typical tube amp give up the dirt – while retaining all the detail and “3D” you expect from a Lollar. Rubberized ferrite magnet with 44 gauge wire. Single conductor only. Neck 6.2K, Middle 6.8K, Bridge 7.25K
Gold Foil pickups can be found in the webshop here:
To complete Fern’s full stock of Telecaster pickups, I added the new “Royal T” neck pickup and the new “J-Street” bridge pickup.
The “Royal T” is basically a strat-style neck pickup dimensioned to fit in a standard telecaster neck routing. For some people, including me, the standard telecaster neck pickup is not working great. I like to fit in P90’s, Wide Range humbuckers, Charlie Christian pickups, or what so over in the neck… This pickup is plug-and-play. No routing required. It looks cool too!
Jason Lollar about the “Royal-T” neck pickup:
We love Teles. But every once in a while even the most die-hard Tele-philes want to channel their inner Jimi. Don’t feel bad. We don’t blame you. We are here to help. You don’t need to carve up your pickguard. You don’t need to hack up your guitar. You just need some “Royal T”…
Our newest neck pickup for Telecasters! We’ve had many requests for a Tele neck pickup that really sounds like a Strat. Done! Combining a custom nickel pickup cover (we designed and had made in the US), a special selection of magnet type and length, and coil wire that would typically be used on a Strat pickup (42 gauge heavy build), the results are a deeper, clearer, glassier and punchier tone. Stratty! Think “Blonde meets Blackface”… Vintage style cloth covered lead wires, Alnico 5 magnets.
Available in the webshop: http://www.fernsguitars.nl/shop/shop_nl.php?item=1016&cat=15&pg=0&nr=308
The “J-Street” is a hot bridge pickup with an output to match a P90 or humbucker type of neck pickup. Not a vintage Telecaster sound, but still Telecaster-like!
Jason Lollar about the “J-Street”:
Long part of the Lollar “secret menu”, the J Street is now online! A hotter, fatter version of our popular Special T, the J adds more low end and upper midrange, with a top end that leans more towards the P90 and humbucker world. It pairs really nicely with our Regal humbucker, or any fatter, hotter neck pickup. Flat pole design with graded Alnico 5 magnets. Vintage style cloth covered lead wire. Wax potted.
Available in the webshop: http://www.fernsguitars.nl/en/webshop/webshop.php?cat=157