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  1. #1

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    Loving the look and feel of the EXL-1 I just picked up but thinking maybe I could get closer to the tone I’m after by dropping in a HB instead of the floater. I’ve spoken with KA and Biltoft and have had the VV CC and KA PAF floater on my mind for a few weeks. However, this guitar being laminate, I can’t shake the feeling that putting a mounted HB would really get me in the darker/fatter sound territory that I wish the guitar had.

    I’ve researched and came up empty with any examples of anyone carving up this model to drop in a HB. Can anybody advise me about any possible pitfalls of taking on a routing job on the EXL-1? I don’t want to cut through any bracing, obviously, so I need to know what I might be carving into.

    If I do it, it will be by hand- not mechanical router. Using a drill and dremel/saw method.

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    The Jazz Guitar Chord Dictionary
     
  3. #2

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    I'd sell it and buy a model w a built in p.u.

  4. #3

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    As long as you don't route a bridge pickup it should be fine in my opinion. A hole in the bridge position will weaken it structurally if it's not braced for it but neck pickup position should be presumably safe.

    I would still poke a mirror and see whats going on under the hood in that area for braces, extended neck support block etc.

  5. #4
    I’ve watched a tutorial on this method of routing for just a neck PU on an Epi Regent. Some other reading indicates that the Regent and EXL-1 might share very similar bracing as the they’re likely built in the same factory to very similar spec. It doesn’t SEEM to be too big of a job as long as you’re careful and dodge the braces. I’ll be inspecting with a mirror to check for potential structural problems.

  6. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by wintermoon
    I'd sell it and buy a model w a built in p.u.
    Wintermoon is right! That's sage advice. No need to butcher an archtop. Unless you're into butchery! IMHO.

  7. #6

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    Wintermoon has it perfect do not do this just sell and buy what you need.

  8. #7
    Is it that likely that I’ll botch it up? In the vid I watched, the guy removed the floater, created his template, drilled corner holes to start his cuts and then made the cuts for the Humbucker legs. It all looked straightforward. There was clearance for the left and right braces and the neck block. But, I don’t wanna dive in too confident and ruin the thing. I’ll defer to those who have driven this road before and heed your advice, even though I think the guitar would be sweet with a mounted Seth.

  9. #8

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    I have done various customizations to some of my guitars, it's usually not a rocket science if you do your research and have some experience with this sort of stuff. That said I've never routed an archtop for mounting a pickup.

    I know Pat Metheny did exactly that to his ES 175 as a kid which he used most of his career. It was even actually a bridge pickup. He didn't end up liking the bridge pickup and removed it.
    Last edited by Tal_175; 07-07-2020 at 10:17 PM.

  10. #9
    Here’s the vid that I referenced.


  11. #10

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    To me 'route' means use a router with a template for a professional job. Cutting a hole in an archtop with hand tools is no more 'routing' than 'planing' is a single sheet of sandpaper and one's fingers.

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Esport
    Is it that likely that I’ll botch it up?
    The guy that I apprenticed to 40 years ago said something about fret-jobs which has proven true about everything else: "Sam, the first two hundred are the toughest."

    Can you do it perfectly the first time? Sure. Measure twice; cut once.
    Can you literally trash your guitar trying it? Sure. You're one unlucky sneeze away.

    It's your guitar. It's a nice guitar but it's not a car's-worth of guitar. You can only go so far wrong. Have at it if you want to.

  13. #12

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    I have so wanted to try this. Good luck!

  14. #13

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    You got a steal on that guitar price wise. Resale value may decrease due to the mod if that is a concern.

    I would have no problem consider cutting a hole in a mass produced made in Indonesia or China laminate archtop. If you are unsure, you could always contact Carter Vintage or Corner Music and inquire what they would charge to do the route. If you decide to give it a go, keep doing some research, go slow, and measure twice. The main concern I would have is determining the proper placement for the pickup.

    Perhaps one of these would help...
    Pickup Routing Templates for Humbucker | stewmac.com




  15. #14

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    It ain't rocket science. If you have average experience with hand tools, it's possible. Just be slow and careful, measure 3 times, cut once. It will probably be a good learning experience. If it were me, I would put a DeArmond Rhythm Chief on it and get close to the same sound with little effort, but it's not me. Have fun with it, and I wish you good luck with the project.

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell
    ... If it were me, I would put a DeArmond Rhythm Chief on it and get close to the same sound with little effort, but it's not me...
    Great idea there too.
    For a visual reference, a quick Reverb search found this one that sold about two years ago with a DeArmond Rhythm Chief.
    D'Angelico EXL-1 Blonde | Taylor's Boutique | Reverb



    Found this on YouTube... Incredible playing through a sweet sounding guitar/pickup combo.

  17. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Z
    Good idea there too.
    A quick Reverb search found this one that sold about two years ago with a DeArmond Rhythm Chief.
    D'Angelico EXL-1 Blonde | Taylor's Boutique | Reverb



    Found this on YouTube... Incredible playing through a sweet sounding guitar/pickup combo.
    I saw that same video and agree, great sound and excellent playing. A Rhythm Chief is not out of the question. Gotta make my mind up.

  18. #17

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    Here's my exl-1 with a Biltoft VV CC floating pickup

  19. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by don_oz


    Here's my exl-1 with a Biltoft VV CC floating pickup
    Nice!

  20. #19
    I’ve got quite a lot of experience with leather work and have made everything from wallets to watch straps so I’m comfortable with precise cutting with hand tools and delicate measuring. However, if your skiving a leather band to 24mm and cut in too much, it’s easier to lay out another strip of hide and have another go. No such grace after a bad cut on a guitar’s top.

    I don’t think I’d ruin it. It’s a simple series of scores and cuts. After that, I’d probably send it to my local guy to wire it up...my last wiring attempt ended pretty miserably and he had to redo the whole affair. If I do cut in for a mounted HB, I’d like to use Schattens for the minimal look or replace the pick guard mounted pots.

  21. #20

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    why not try the R.C. first and see if you like it. once the hole is cut it's cut.

  22. #21

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    Disclaimer: I’ve never cut a hole in a guitar top (yet).

    But, if you’re comfortable with the risks and are cautious and methodical in your approach (which it appears you are), I say cut the top and mount a Gold Seymour Duncan Seth Lover humbucker on your EXL-1. It will sound deliciously fat and warm.

    I’ve owned three guitars built on the Incheon, Korea production line where the nicer EXLs are built (two D’A EXL-1s and one Epiphone Emperor Regent), and two from the Indonesian factory and I wish I would have tried this one one of them. I might have kept them. While nice guitars, as they were, I never really loved the plugged-in tone of any of them.

  23. #22

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    FWIW, I have cut a top for a humbucker. I wanted a set humbucker in my 18" Wu, so I insured the bracing was X, there was plenty of room, and cut a hole for a humbucker. I put in a Benedetto A6, and I like the sound a lot. But if I had it to do over, I would use a Rhythm Chief. I just didn't know enough about them at the time. On my second Wu, I have a Rhythm Chief with Blu-Tack between the pickup and the top, and it sounds very much like a humbucker, darker than my other guitars with set humbuckers. I'm sold on it. But you'll learn something by installing a humbucker in the top. It might be good or it might be bad, but you're guaranteed to learn. If that's the main goal, by all means go ahead. If the main goal is just to get a good sound from the guitar, then it's easier by mounting a Rhythm Chief with Blu-Tack. You can get all the putty you will ever need, and more, for very little money, from Amazon, Ebay, or local office supply stores. It couples the pickup to the top rather efficiently, and also securely attaches it so the mounting rod is optional. I use Schatten thumbwheel controls, which can be mounted under the pickguard or in the treble f hole with supplied mounting tape, so there is no need to make holes for them. If you go the "cut the hole in the top" route, remember that the top is relatively thin, and under tension from the arch, so take your time. Measure and remeasure before you start any holes.

  24. #23
    After reading, watching videos and thinking it over a bit more, I think I’m gonna go with the RC 1100 reissue. I can’t afford to ruin the guitar and I’ve really started to dig the sound of the 1100. Since there are already tone and volume knobs, I think I’ll forgo the Schattens and replace the mini pots with something more substantial since I’d rather not replace the pick guard or try to hide the holes they would leave if I removed them. Undecided on 250k or 500k. Looking for a darker sound so possibly 250k. Still putting a list together.

  25. #24

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    Another option, of course, would be the Kent Armstrong handwound floating PAF or floating single cool which is tapped for the DeArmond type sound versus a P90 type sound. I've never tried the latter. I have used the Armstrong PAF and a Pete Biltoft neck-mounted CC style pickup. Both sound great, I prefer the Biltoft just a bit (sounds more like the guitar itself), although for fun I have tried putting the Armstrong back on using Blu-Tack and have been enjoying that a lot. The Blu-Tack makes it just stupidly simple to mount, holy smokes...

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cunamara
    Another option, of course, would be the Kent Armstrong handwound floating PAF or floating single cool which is tapped for the DeArmond type sound versus a P90 type sound. I've never tried the latter. I have used the Armstrong PAF and a Pete Biltoft neck-mounted CC style pickup. Both sound great, I prefer the Biltoft just a bit (sounds more like the guitar itself), although for fun I have tried putting the Armstrong back on using Blu-Tack and have been enjoying that a lot. The Blu-Tack makes it just stupidly simple to mount, holy smokes...
    The Blu-Tack doesnt do anything to the finish? Has anyone ever kept it on for a year or so and was there an issue? It seems surprising it wouldn't ever have an effect.

  27. #26

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    I have only had it on for a couple of weeks. But the finish on my guitar is a water-based epoxy type stuff of some sort which is extremely hard and I doubt would be affected. I got the idea of Blu-Tack from sgosnell who's been doing it longer that me. The pickup does seem to respond more like a routed-in setup; I have had my KA mounted that way and also to the pickguard. Seems like there is more lower-mid content to the tone when stuck to the top than when mounted as a floater.

  28. #27

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    Can anyone here describe the differences in sound between
    these Dearmond pickups ?

    1 rhythm chief 1100
    2 rhythm chief 1000
    3 FHC pickup

    i know the specs , I just want impressions of the different sounds ....

  29. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell
    On my second Wu, I have a Rhythm Chief with Blu-Tack between the pickup and the top, and it sounds very much like a humbucker, darker than my other guitars with set humbuckers. I'm sold on it.
    hi sgosnell,
    did you use a 1100 ?

  30. #29

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    Yes, I have the 1100, because I wanted the adjustable polepieces. I've had it on for going on two years, and I can see no effects on the finish. I removed it recently just to check, and to adjust the orientation slightly by changing the amount of Blu-Tack under each end, and the finish looks exactly the same under the pickup as it does in other places. I suppose that there might be a change in color eventually, since you see it under bridges sometimes, as the nitro ages and darkens from light, but stays the same under the bridge. I don't know of a way to prevent that, though, since it's caused by UV or the absence of it. I think it would be the same without the Blu-Tack. So far I've seen no downside. I think I got the idea from someone here, but I can't remember who, or in what thread. Seeing it being used by Whit Smith on his vintage Gibson convinced me to try it, and so far I like it.

  31. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by sgosnell
    Yes, I have the 1100, because I wanted the adjustable polepieces. I've had it on for going on two years, and I can see no effects on the finish. I removed it recently just to check, and to adjust the orientation slightly by changing the amount of Blu-Tack under each end, and the finish looks exactly the same under the pickup as it does in other places. I suppose that there might be a change in color eventually, since you see it under bridges sometimes, as the nitro ages and darkens from light, but stays the same under the bridge. I don't know of a way to prevent that, though, since it's caused by UV or the absence of it. I think it would be the same without the Blu-Tack. So far I've seen no downside. I think I got the idea from someone here, but I can't remember who, or in what thread. Seeing it being used by Whit Smith on his vintage Gibson convinced me to try it, and so far I like it.
    Do you have a picture of the pickup/Blu-tack?

  32. #31

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    There isn't much to see. The Blu-Tack is underneath the pickup, and only visible if you look underneath the pickup. I installed a rod before I found the Blu-Tack, so it just looks like a normal 1100 installation. My original concern was that I didn't want a pickguard on the guitar, but the pickup flops around without one to hold the treble side down. With the Blu-Tack, it stays in place without a pickguard. The better tone is a bonus.

    Well, I decided to take some pix anyway, FWIW.
    Thinking of routing my EXL-1 for a set-in-img_20200711_144329-jpgThinking of routing my EXL-1 for a set-in-img_20200711_144350-jpgThinking of routing my EXL-1 for a set-in-img_20200711_144313-jpg

  33. #32
    Which brand of mini pots are popular? I’ve used CTS and see Bourns used frequently. Gonna go with 250k with whichever PU I choose.

  34. #33

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    Quote Originally Posted by Esport View Post
    I saw that same video and agree, great sound and excellent playing. A Rhythm Chief is not out of the question. Gotta make my mind up.
    i wholeheartedly agree with the Rhythm Chief suggestion - that is actually my guitar from the reverb listing

    i have also put the RC on a Dangelico style b reissue and also an Epiphone Zenith Masterbilt

    its an awesome pickup that nails that 50s era jazz tone. Even on a laminate box it works great