evening after dinner in the fall of 2018, my wife said, “I would
like to get rid grandma’s Cedar Chest,” a chest that had been
handed down, was beaten, ugly and had block nailed to one rear corner
where a foot had departed years ago. I replied that I had no
suggestions but I would think about it. Next day, having forgotten
all about it, Kat asks, “Could you make me a guitar from grandma
Lilly’s Cedar Chest?”
So I set about drawing pictures, surveying the chest, taking it apart and sawing the chunks into workable blanks and began building a guitar. The chest was made of Cedar planks of various widths and lengths and therefore not applicable for an acoustic guitar. The design I came up with was a product of Kat telling me what she liked and she chose the wood blanks which made the body. The final plan is a solid body Archtop with dual humbuckers. She will have a Cherry neck, Rosewood fingerboard and bone nut.
start by sawing out the body shape and sanding the edges to size.
Now I use the plane routing jig and create the neck and pickup angle
planes. Though the body shape is different from other models I have
built, I am still able to use the same layout template for the neck
pocket, pickup cavities and the hardware mounting holes. When the
routing is done there is plenty of final carving and sanding the top.
Next step is binding, then more sanding. At this point the body is
ready for the neck.
neck is made of Cherry with a two-way truss rod, Rosewood headplate
veneer with logo and MOP inlay. I’ve already checked my tenon fit
prior to attaching the fretboard and just need to final check and/or
adjust befor gluing. It’s very important to…. Nope it’s
imperative to check the bridge location before gluing. Just to be
safe. Now it’s just a matter of sanding and sanding and sanding
and getting it all smooth and clean for lacquer.
So the other side to the story is Walter, Grandpa Walter. There was plenty of “Frankenwood” left around so I made Walter from my design. He is a Fender style with dual humbuckers and double cutaway with streaks of gold.
I’m pleased with how these turned out. Another great idea from Kat, the marketing dept.
Much too far back in time I began building a second Ham Jones Archtop Mandolin with Walnut back and sides, a Red Spruce top, plus a Flattop Mandolin with figured Sapele back and sides, Spruce top. It was January , and I should’ve had these finished mid-April but life gets in the way of things at times and here we are almost mid-July telling the tale.
start with the Archtop which I have built and covered here before.
This one was made with the same piece of Walnut as the first. Since
I’ve posted this type build before I’m just gonna cover the basic
plan and any things I did different. This time around the bending
went a little better with experience and the rim came together
without issue. I decided it was best to have the top on before sawing
the neck pocket so at this point I moved on to carving the top and
Carving the plates by hand with convex finger planes takes a lot of time but if I want to say ‘hand-made’…. Right? I start with a large flat hand plane to knock the outer edge down, cut the shape out at about an eight inch over size and begin carving. The upper surface of the top is carved first and then the inner. On the inner side I do use a drill press jig to drill a series of holes to facilitate wood removal. When the top is ready it is glued in place and the edge is trimmed flush to the sides once the glue is dry. At this point I finish carving the backplate and make and install the two tone bars for the top.
the neck, finger board, headplate, and frets same as before except I
built the fingerboard extension into the shaft and eliminated the
extra part. When the neck is finished, including fingerboard and
fret work I can move on to fitting the neck joint.
I am not going go into detail about fitting the neck but it goes like this, I slip the finished neck into the pocket and let it go where it wants to go. Now check, the fret plane height at the bridge location, the center line of neck is center line of body, and fretboard is 90* to sides of body. If it looks good then I got lucky, if not I adjust.
the neck glued in and locked, the back plate can be installed,
trimmed and final carved along with the top. Before routing the
binding slots there is sanding required to get the top and back flush
with the rim for a nice clean channel. After the binding is glued in
there is lots and lots of sanding.
Prep for lacquer includes some grain filler, especially with rosewood headplate. I really don’t like to use grain filler unless it’s necessary. If I didn’t say it already, lots of sanding, this time with fine grit paper. I start with 100 grit after binding, then 220, 320 and 400 then 600 to 1000. After lacquer there is more sanding, gently with 400, do not to remove all sparkle, then with wet sand with 600, 1000, 1500 as needed. Then buffing and polishing.
For about a year I’ve had it in my head that I wanted to build a Flat top Mandolin. Not having built one before and this being a prototype I used the same mold as for the Archtop and build the rim, using figured Sapele this time.
the same Sapele I made the back halves and joined them using a
redwood center strip. I braced the back similar to guitar bracing
with a spine and three ribs. It looks to me as if the bracing is too
heavy but when done, the weight of the finished instrument was the
same as the Archtop, for whatever that’s worth.
the top I’m using Ukulele size Sitka Spruce with ‘H’ bracing
which looks heavy to me, same as I felt about the back bracing. I
have at the time of this writing strung it up and I am pleased with
the sound. I calculated the size for the circular aperture and after
the two top halves were glued I installed the rosette. Next I
position the rim to the top and mark the bracing layout. When the
braces are glued in place they can be carved, tapered at the ends and
then locked into the rim.
neck joint on this is done the same way but there is some adjustment
needed to get the correct neck to body angle due to the lack of an
arch. Once the finished neck is fitted to the pocket the neck can be
glued in place. The back is positioned and it’s braces locked into
the rim then glued in place. What follows is lots of sanding, binding
installation, lots more sanding, more sanding then the finish and
Now I have two new Mandolins ‘Windy’ and ‘Skinny. They both play and sound great, of course.
See these and all the other fine instruments for sale at hamjonesguitars.com
I often wonder, if every guitar purchased was properly set up, how many more guitarists there would be, and how many fewer guitars would be hanging in pawn shops. Getting beyond the initial soreness of the fingertips on the fretting hand is most likely the number one cause of attrition among beginners and 100% preventable.
Guitars come in all shapes, sizes, styles, materials and construction techniques. This is great and lends to the lure and romanticism we have for our instruments. The crux of this biscuit however is that if the thing isn’t playable, then it becomes a wall hanger or firewood. Unless your able to wrestle the music from a hard to play guitar.
The key elements are; the Fretboard/Neck, Frets, Nut and saddle. The key measurements are; individual string height at the first fret and twelfth fret, and neck relief and intonation. The techniques used and measurements desired can be found online and I will include some links as well.
Once your guitar is strung and tuned we will begin by measuring the neck relief. Have the guitar vertical to the bench, (gravity), and depress the sixth string at the first and fourteenth frets, (use a capo at first fret). Check the height at the seventh fret and record it. (writing down these measurements will aid in understanding the process and intent). The neck relief measurement should be .008” to .012”, if less than .008” a truss rod adjustment could be necessary, especially if you hear string rattle, (depending on playing style), if over .012” a truss rod adjustment would be necessary for lower action. To adjust turn (normally), clockwise to tighten which will flatten the upbow in the neck and reduce your measurement. I’ve seen this done with the strings tuned vs. loosened. Safer to de-tune, relieving tension, turn the truss rod a quarter turn or so then re-tune and re-measure. Do this gently and in small increments and recheck until you get the correct measurement. I recommend you recheck the neck relief in at around two weeks, after the guitar has settled in from the adjustment. Now check string height of each string at the first fret using a feeler gauge set of your choice. ( a note on feeler gauge: a longer angled blade works well for me. Short blade gauges make it difficult to reach center strings. I’d stay away from gimmick tools made for this. A feeler gauge is best.) When making initial measurements write them down. I have the guitar flat for the first fret measurements and the hold it vertical again to check the height at the twelfth fret.
We set the distance between the bottom of the string and the top of the first fret. These measurements will vary between types of guitars, electric vs. acoustic vs. classical, bass, etc. and personal opinion. On acoustics I aim for .024” on strings 5&6, .018” on strings 4&5, .011” on strings 1&2. If your measurement is higher than your target you will have to remove material from the nut slot in order to lower the string. This is normally done with a fret slotting file, or you can improvise one edge of the appropriate thickness of feeler gauge blade. Do this by filing ‘teeth’ in the edge of the feeler blade. It is certainly ok to stack the feeler gauges to get the desired thickness for measuring. As for the actually cutting I would recommend slotting files. Buy the ones you need. The slot should be wide enough to let the string lay on the bottom and move back and forth freely. Once your are removing material from the slot let the fear sink in. The fear of going too deep.. then you’re screwed. Seriously, I am always very cautious, using just 2 to 4 strokes of cut before resetting the string, bringing it up to pitch and measuring only to have to loosen it, remove it from the slot, and file 2 to 4 more strokes. This is very tedious work and should be approached with calm reserve. I can assure you that one does not want to ruin a nut and have to start over. Measure, loosen string and move aside, cut the slot, replace the string, tune the string, measure, repeat, repeat, repeat. If you are making a new nut, compare your measurements each time and count the strokes of your file to learn how much you are cutting. Do this consistently for better results.
Congratulations, you’re string heights at the first fret are correct and it’s time for the easy part. Adjusting the string height at the twelfth fret. On acoustics you will generally have to loosen all strings enough to remove the saddle and remove material from the bottom to ‘lower it’ . On electrics there are a variety of bridge/saddle styles, but generally the adjustment is simply turning a screw or screws. The target measurement here can vary also and can be more of a ‘feel’ adjustment than a hard number. Either way if your first fret heights are correct the next step is to re-measure the string heights at the twelfth fret. Now subtract your twelfth fret target from your current measurement. Double this number. The answer is the amount of material you will need to remove from the bottom of your saddle or lower the saddle(s) on an electric. Yes! It’s geometry. Since twelfth fret is the center point between the nut and the saddle that’s where we measure. Therefore, in order to lower the string 0.010” at the twelfth fret, requires lowering the saddle height 0.020”. The target height I start with here is .093″ E string 6th, .078″ at E string 1st, on acoustics. My personal set up is .080 at sixth string and .068 first string. Depending on the integrity of the fretboard, neck relief and playing style lower numbers can be achieved without buzzing. Striving for this magic lowest action is easily done on an electric guitar because if you get the saddle too low, simply raise the saddle back up. On an acoustic if you go too far it’s not that simple. The saddle of an acoustic flat top guitar should be flat on the bottom and have an arc on the top which matches that of the fret board. Most archtop acoustic guitars have a thumbscrew adjustment similar to electric guitars. On acoustic saddles you can always put a ‘hard’ shim beneath the saddle to raise it up. Apply super glue to the bottom of the short saddle and firmly place it onto a rectangular piece of shim material about a 1/16 “ wider and longer than the saddle. When it dries trim the excess. Assuming you’re .010” to low, use a .020 to ,030 thick shim and remove the material from the bottom for proper height.
I have finally gotten the Jr. Grande complete with a LR Baggs Lyric Microphone pick up and nestled into a custom fitted hardshell case. The idea of putting a longer neck on the Terz body went out the window with the longer scale length because part of that Terz punch is due to the short scale and increased string tension. Also the body is a bit larger equating to a 14% increase in the air chamber. The result is more standard dreadnought sound until you move up the neck. There the higher pitch of the string begins to work with the small body and the tone and drive increase.
The initial plan included some type of pickup which I didn’t decide on until after the guitar was finished. In the end I chose the “Lyric” pick up simply because of it’s mictechnology and the hope that it produces a more authentic acoustic sound as opposed to an under-saddle or magnetic field type which typically sound like an electric guitar. The install was fairly easy and you’ll notice that I did not incorporate the jack into the endpin hole. This another suggestion from my friend Neal Crowley, which I totally agree with. I’ve tested it and adjusted the ‘presence’ control for optimal sound and am well pleased with the result. In my opinion an acoustic instrument should always be mic’d, especially in the studio, however that isn’t always possible onstage so this is a great alternative.
Overall this is a sweet little guitar, it has a clear even tone, a great pickup to utilize, and it also looks cool! See it on the website at hamjonesguitars.com
This build started after a conversation with the infamous string plucker, Neal Crowley of Asheville, NC. Neal was playing one of my HJ Jr. guitars, discussing it’s attributes when he stated that he sometimes wanted more neck. The result is a guitar with a slightly expanded Terz body, a 24.9 inch scale length with the neck to body at the 15th, fret. Similar to a Martin 0 Concert model.
The woods I used are figured Sapele for the back and sides, Sitka Spruce for the top and a quartersawn Sapele neck. For the binding and other trim I chose Rosewood and Maple. The Rosette is purchased from Duke Luthier, http://www.dukeluthier.com/. They offer beautiful rosettes, MOP, and other inlay products.
I began by making the back and side pieces. I re-saw each side and back piece from their respective blanks, the back pieces go to the jointer and get glued with the back center strip in place. then thickness sanded to .140” which leaves room for finish sanding to .125” +0/- .015”. The sides can be closer to .100” for easier bending. The tops I order come as two pieces which go to the jointer, get glued together and thickness sanded. I can’t specify top thickness, although I do measure during the process, feel is the determining factor and each top will yield a different measurement. With the top as one piece and thicknessed it’s time to inlay the rosette and next rout the aperture.
Top bracing is done after the rosette is installed and the aperture cut. I make my own braces which I glue in as a rectangle shape and then I carve them once they are glued in place. Same with the back braces. Side braces are generally a strip of wood made from the cut ends of the side and glued vertically between the kerfing above and below the waist . All of my side braces are cowboy boot shaped. When all braces are in and carved it’s time to make the box.
I now have top, back and bent sides ready for assembly. The sides go into the body mold so I can cut the ends to fit tightly end to end with no overlap.
The next step is gluing the heel and tail blocks to the sides while in the mold. While these items are drying I make kerfed lining for gluing the top and back. The kerfing glues in the sides top and back just a little proud of the side which aides in sanding the rim in later steps. Wooden clothes pins are used to hold the kerfing in place.
Sanding the rim (sides with heel and tail blocks, side braces and kerfed lining) is done by sanding the top on a flat surface square to the side at the heel and tail, then the back of the rim is sanded in a dish to match the curve desired on the back of the body while in the mold at all times. I use a 24ft. Radius dish. The sanding is done when the surface is being sanding at every point on the circumference. Use caution not to sand the top in the dish or the back on the flat surface. You will not be happy.
It’s time to assemble the top and back to the rim. I do the top first because I like to see it inside one last time. I don’t think it really matters. When the top and back are glued to the rim the box can finally come out of the mold. After trimming the excess on top and back I route binding channels, install the end graft then binding. Now, when the binding glue is dry, the real fun of scraping and sanding begins. Scrape/ Sand, REPEAT.
The neck, this is the part that started it all and more of it. I had fun trying calculate and decide how I was going to make this long neck fit this small body while maintaining some critical measurements. Two things to note: this 24.9 scale is a half inch shorter than the dreadnoughts I build, and I was able to use the same truss rod which didn’t require a special order item. I build a stacked heel neck with a scarf joint which in my opinion is the only way to do it. The process re-enforces the wood and one piece neck can break and deform much easier.
I make the dovetail joint using LMI template and home made jig. It works like a dream, especially the more I use it. Final fitting is always done by hand and has become pretty easy for me by now. When I am sure it’s like want it and know that it will glue in correctly I can locate and drill for tuners, route for and install truss rod, locate the front of the nut and locate the 15th fret and add 5/8” , cut the neck shaft/ heel at this mark then cut the dovetail in the body, then the neck, leaving the neck a little proud (1/16) max for final fitting.
Next step is fretboard, frets, carving the neck and assembling the two. After slotting the fretboard I mark a center line then mark and saw the taper on a bandsaw, true it up on the planer, layout and install pearl dots, and sand the desired radius along the length of the board. Finally I install side dots on the board. Frets go in next and then final fitting of the neck before I glue the fretboard to the neck shaft. This is done by aligning the desired fret at the end of the shaft where it contacts the body.
With neck fitted and the fretboard glued on it’s neck carving time. I’ve learned not to rush this step and to be sure the neck is carved to satisfaction and sanded before assembly.
When the glue is dry there is endless sanding and prepping for lacquer and then more endless sanding. Finally buffing and the reward.
Time to talk about the lap steel project. More fun every day. My friend Neal reminded and suggested, I incorporate my signature Cowboy Boots, ( inside all of my Dreadnoughts), into this design. I listened, made some Pearl Boots, and placed them on either side of the fretboard beyond the twelfth fret. Because when you get up there, you’re Kickin’ It!
It has been one long winter and I have had no time since mid-December to even think about an instrument build. I keep a list of things I want to build and when it’s time I choose randomly from that list as rule. Recently from the list I heavily favored an Octave Mandolin and a pair of “Ham Jr.” aka “Hambone” guitars from Sapele. Then, while searching my lumber pile I found a nice plank of Walnut. It was quarter sawn, 8/4” X 8” about six feet long. I had used part of this piece for a couple of mandolin necks. I thought of using it for an electric guitar body and that’s when it hit me. Lap Steel.
This piece looks perfect to me. Quartersawn dead center on the heart of the log with a perfect circle at the tail. After sizing this chunk of wood via planer and bandsaw I began to layout the body shape and consider other design elements such as fretboard wood, pseudo fret material, inlay and trim. I did a lot of research, reading everything from forums to product pages covering construction and playing techniques as well as a myriad of individual preferences, in order to determine exactly what I wanted based on which design elements are necessary to build a precision instrument and which ones allow me to be creative.
As with any guitar, the bridge/saddle and nut placement are critical, yet the scale length or distance between the two can vary as long as fret placement is correct. However the hardware required is, or can be quite different. Most notably, is that due to the string height, the bridge/saddle and nut heights are quite a bit higher that a standard nut and saddle. In order to help facilitate this I made my fretbaord 3/16”, used a top mount hardtail bridge and made the nut from 1/4” X 1/2” cold rolled steel. With that figured out I designed the body shape, placement of hardware, trim, inlay type and placement.
The overall plan is done and I have my hands full at first trying get this board shaped and the headstock formed. What I have is a one piece Black Walnut body, Maple fretbaord, Maple nut backer, Maple binding, Maple headplate veneer, MOP inlays, Golden Age overwound bridge pickup, CTS 500k pots, Gotoh tuners, wood purfling for frets. It is 39 inches long, has a 25 inch scale and although most lap steel’s are 22.5 inch scale some are like mine, the same as a standard steel guitar which just makes it seem correct to me.
Once the body is shaped and sanded I rout the pickup and control cavities, create a wire tunnel between the two and pre-drill for the control shafts. Drilling the tuner mount holes was again a bit tricky clamping and holding this thing in place on the drillpress. Before drilling the jack mounting hole I will rout for and install binding. This was a lessoned learned while building my second electric years ago. It’s not nice to guide a router around an edge with a large hole drilled in it.
After successfully installing the binding and drilling the jack mount hole I am only several sheets of sandpaper away from spraying on sealer coats. Prior to spraying I will locate and fit all hardware including drilling pilot holes and inserting screws temporarily.
Body : Black Walnut 39” long
Fretboard : Flame Maple 2.750” x 19.5” x .187”
Binding : Flame Maple
Pick Up Ring : Flame Maple
Headplate Veneer : Flame Maple
Inlays : Mother of Pearl, Thanks to Neal Crowley for suggesting the boots.
Pick Up : Golden Age Overwound Bridge
Bridge : Golden Age top mount
Tuners : Gotoh enclosed mini
Pots : CTS 500k w/ .022 cap
Nut : Cold Rolled Steel .187: x 2.750” x .562“
Strings: .013 to .038
Now that I have finished the Lap Steel it’s time to admit I was wrong first time around on string choice. Something I read made me think a heavier string would give me a meaner growl and that may be true to some degree with a shorter scale length, but with 25” the sixth string, (lowest) was so slack it would rattle under the slide. If I raised the pitch to suit a different tuning then my third string would likely break before reaching pitch. More research, some strings added, some moved, success.
During my many years of taking things apart, putting them together and making a lot of the ‘things’ needed along the way, I’ve had the need to make or modify a tool. I could say I get this from my Dad ‘cause he does it as well, but I think it goes much further than that. Perhaps some of us are more inclined to this way of life but I think most of us have it. That being said, I wanted to share something I came across in one of my Dad’s toolboxes.
At first glance I thought it was just a flexible screwdriver made by any major tool company. With a closer look it’s clear that is not the case. It has a wood handle which didn’t seem odd since most of this stuff is more than four decades old. From the wood handle is actually an 1/8” aircraft cable inside a precisely fitting clear vinyl cover and welded to a 3/16” ball end hex key which has been cut to about ¾ “. It’s very well made and the aircraft cable allows for pretty high torque.
It was most likely made for a specific need at one time, a certain automobile or other piece of equipment which is probably long gone. But, if you need an 8” flex driver for a 3/16” socket head screw then I have the tool you need.
In a previous post, “ A Special Gift” , I wrote about repairing a guitar that a friend had given to me. Recently, that same friend asked me to check out a Morgan Monroe mandolin with some badly worn frets and one tuner that seemed stripped. I happily accepted and brought it to the shop to look it over.
Starting with the broken tuner, I quickly realized that things weren’t what they seemed here and that this was actually an easy fix, provided I could locate the correct tuner button. It was obvious that the tuner button was broken, yet when you tried to turn it the shaft seemed to move. Once I removed the retaining screw and the button it was obvious the sleeve over the actual shaft was turning, not the shaft. An ‘Optical Illusion’ or, as a friend’s young child once said, “Hoptical Disillusion”. The only button I found to fit the shaft wasn’t a perfect match, however the customer is fine with it so I bought a spare. I did have to counter-bore the new buttons for the screw head using the drill press and a brad point drill. Tuner repair is done.
The frets were worn so badly in the most often played positions that it was impossible to play these notes without buzzing. I failed to get a true ‘before’ picture but I do have one showing the worn spots during the ‘re-dressing’. At first glance I was sure some of these frets would have to be replaced. Again, looks can deceive. I began by marking the top of each fret with a permanent marker. Using a flat sanding bar and 1000 grit paper I sanded the frets enough to see how they were laying. Then I checked the fret board for level and adjusted the truss rod as needed. After sanding again with 600 paper until all of the tops were level there was hope that maybe these frets would clean up. Next I re-marked the tops and used a diamond fret dresser to round and level each fret, followed by sanding each fret with 600 and 1000 grit papers respectively, to polish them. This is where I cleaned up the last traces of the deepest worn spots. After all of that I marked the tops again very lightly and sanded lightly with 1000 grit paper checking for any high frets. Dressing out the worn spots makes the fret shorter and the rest of the frets must be taken down to the same height. When I think it’s ready I string it up and see how it plays and listen for buzzing.
I found there was a buzz on the 13th fret at the G and A strings. I add-DRESSED the culprit, tuned it up and worked for a while on the action which had to be lowered as well. I spent a good hour working the nut slots to get the proper string height at the first fret. The twelfth fret height is easily adjusted at the bridge.
This repair turned out really well. No major surgery required and it’s good as new. One thing I am not sure about is the back side of this instrument. This Mandolin has a gold marble sunburst front and back. On the back it appears to have had a “dam” around the sunburst and a weird greenish epoxy-like material. Not sure if this was unfinished in the factory or if this was done later. All the images I’ve seen of this model have the same finish front and back. Whatever the story this is a really good sounding instrument.
Previously on “Electric Juniper Mandolin” I reported poor results for my home made pickup. I am happy to announce today that the second pickup I made has proved successful. I made the second one from the same design. The one difference being that I was actually able to accurately count the number of turns on the coil itself. Easily done with a cheap electronic calculator and a magnet switch, plus some ingenuity. In this case I was shooting for 6500 turns however coil was closing in on my connecting pins so I stopped at 5500. One thing I learned along the way was that apparently most pickup manufacturers use the 6500 based on the theory, that the resulting larger coil gets too far from the magnet itself.
So with the newly made pickup and a set of nickel plated strings it tested positive. The pickup is hearing all sets of strings evenly with no excess volume from the A strings as before. There you have it, the mysteries of science. The first pickup had as few as three thousand turns based on my guesses vs. the actual count. I had phosphor bronze strings on before. Of these few differences something worked.
I will fine tune this and get some audio posted and list it for sale soon.
Nothing to do? Why not use another piece of the Juniper to build a Mandolin, make it electric, build your own pickup and maybe learn something…. Well, I learned a lot, but there is more to learn, apparently.
The Juniper mentioned above is the same piece of wood I used to build the electric guitar in my previous post. Western Juniper which was once a hat/coat rack. It also has holes and natural edges which I left untouched except for a lacquer finish. This wood, surprising to me was very effective on the guitar, so why not for the Mandolin.
After planning and laying it all out on paper I started out building the neck shaft from Walnut. The fingerboard I ordered pre-slotted along with tuners, fretwire, tone and volume controls, jack and jack plate. Once the neck was complete, I re-checked my layout and neck angle, then routed the neck, pickup and control cavities. For the sting keepers I used 1/8” Brass rod and a Rosewood plate attached to the top. To ground the strings I used conductive copper tape on the body, placed so the Brass pins would penetrate it and make contact via a ground wire which ran through the pin hole and was soldered to the tape. The Bridge is a flat piece of Rosewood with screws and wheel nuts from and old Archtop guitar bridge. The Saddle is hand carved from Rosewood.
The mystery seems to dwell in the magnetic pickup which I made myself for the first time. The actual making of the pickup was not difficult, however making it correctly while guessing at the number of turns when winding the wire, has been.
Once I had it put together and during the set up process I got a feel for how it played and sounded, (unplugged) and was very optimistic about how it would sound plugged. Sad to say it sounds great if you want to play on on the A strings. Otherwise, there is very little pickup of the other strings in comparison to how the A strings sound. There is no notable volume on the other strings. I realize my pole pieces aren’t exactly aligned under the pairs, however they are equally ‘off’, so why isn’t the D pair equally as ‘hot’? I’ve read about a few things to try, like depressing the string at the nut or behind the bridge/saddle, the headstock is tilted and the break angle at the bridge is surely sufficient and no these were not the problem. In fact I am convinced the problem is the pickup, the magnetic field, plus the size and composition of the strings. When it’s played unplugged, it sounds perfectly as it should and all string volumes are equal.
At this point I am going to remove the pickup and check that my magnets are installed correctly. I am sure they are correct side to side but I may have the end poles set wrong. I plan to build another pickup with more coils and proper alignment. I also have some .012 strings to try for E’s, and Nickel wound G and A strings which I will try eventually as well. I will update here asap.