6/14/2012

Workshop: Floating Archtop Pickup Install


Here's a shot of a Kent Armstrong "Slimbucker" I installed on my Kalamazoo KG-21 just the other day. I love the acoustic sound of this guitar as well as the sound I get from the already-installed K&K Big Twin, but after owning and "letting go" a number of electric archtops over the past few years I really had the hankering for one to keep in the stable.

So, it struck me -- why not just add one to my Kalamazoo? The trick is to make this useful acoustically as well as electrically since I'd want to use it for both as I love the acoustic tone of this instrument to death.

This bridge-area mounted one is completely contained on this (spare parts) pickguard from a donated (front porch wallhanger advertisement) Harmony-made "Buckaroo" archtop from 1947. The pickup is suspended in the air and aside from a very small pad of foam to help support the pickguard, near the top of the treble f-hole, there's no top muting. I tend to plant my finger on the pickguard which has to be supported by foam because of that anyway, so I'm noticing no reduced acoustic volume. When I first came up with this project for myself I was going to add tone & volume controls with shallow potentiometers, but since I manipulate tone mostly at the amp I skipped that, instead wiring the pickup directly to the jack. I also have a ground wire that runs through the treble f-hole and out the end-block to the tailpiece.

For strings I popped on Thomastik flatwound (nickel wrapping) electrics in 53w-12 gauge. Because they're Thomastiks the acoustic tone is still excellent and the feel is of course fantastic. Electrically, this sounds really cool -- like a hybrid between a jazz box and a rockabilly machine -- exactly where I like it.

So -- wanted to share -- because for archtop owners who play mostly acoustic but want to record or gig once in a while with their "main squeeze" -- this makes an excellent alternative to top-installed  or stick-on pickups.

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