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Stealing Magic


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Today while Gilliangirl was out riding her horse, I snuck in and stole Magic! [blink]


Ok, I lie. :^o


But Magic IS in my possession and is currently on the operating table. I'm installing an LRBaggs iMix pickup in her for Karen. You should have seen her face when I said I'd have to drill Magic to put the endpin jack in. OMG! [blink]


I'm going to do a photoessay on the install, which is already half complete. However, I while I was putting the iBeam part of the iMix into Magic, I inspected the bridge plate as I had during the install on my Songwriter. I found the exact same half drilled hole in front of the bridge pin holes that I found on my SWD. So this is not just an accident. This must be a registration point for bridge plate placement. Since the two best SBT pickups I know; the iBeam and the K&K Pure Western Mini, both use this location, you'd think Gibson would find some other, less instrusive place to put a registration hole. Perhaps a small (1/16th) hole would suffice?




So I'm going to fill the hole like I did for my SWD, let it dry overnight and sand it flat in the morning.


Stay tuned....a half step down... ;)


PS: The good part is that Magic's bridgeplate is a solid piece of maple. :)

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That's the most vicious-looking drill bit I've ever seen.


That's a Forstner bit.


They are THE bit you want to use when drilling for an endpin jack. The other method is to use a reamer. I have this bit specifically for endpin jacks. I sharpened it up nicely for Magic and it went through the tail block like a hot knife through butter. The Forstner will cut through wood in any grain orientation so they are perfect for laminates' date=' or in this case, finish, wood veneer and then the tail block. They have to be sharp and you have to clear them out every little bit you drill.


I released the strings from the bridge and held Magic by the soundhole and braced my drill against my shoulder to get a steady even and straight pressure. Worked like a charm!




Read about Forstner bits

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The wood filler on the bridge plate dried very quickly so I completed the install of the LRBaggs iMix on Magic. I took photos all along the way so here is a little photoessay on the project for your edification. I'm going to provide links to the photos so I don't spam the thread with graphics.


The iMix is a wonderful pickup solution that blends the best of both an undersaddle pickup (UST) with a soundboard transducer (SBT). The UST (Element) is a wire braid that sits under the saddle in the saddle slot and the SBT (iBeam) is a microphone type device that affixes to the underside of the bridge plate just to the neck side of the bridge pins directly under the saddle.


To start the install I put Magic on my operating table and removed her strings. Here's a tip for those of you that need to get into your soundhole but don't want to remove the strings from the headstock; don't do it! Loosen the strings, remove the bridge pins and take the bass side three strings out and give them a loop on one side of the neck and then the treble side three strings with a loop on the other side of the neck. Then when you want to put them back, just slip the ballends back into the bridge and replace the pins making sure the ballends are secure under the bridge plate.


Magic's Strings Partially Removed


GG's Bone Pins Labelled with String Placements #-o


Magic didn't come with a pre-drilled hole for an endpin jack, so the strap button needs to be removed and a 1/2" hole drilled in its place.


Magic's Strap Button


Strap Button Removed


Placing masking tap over the area to be drilled reduces the chance of chipping or crazing the finish.


Ready for Drilling


I used a 1/2" Forstner bit to drill the hole. As I said above, the Forstner will cut precise flat bottomed holes in woods of any grain orientation and so it perfect for drilling through the wood of the body and the tail block. The Forstner needs to be very sharp so I used my trusty carbide tip sharpener to prepare the edges before surgery.


Sharpening the Scalpel


Magic Survives the Surgery


Here's a great tip for dealing with putting an endpin jack in an acoustic; get yourself a telescoping magnetic probe. They are dirt cheap and can be obtained at any hardware store. I slide the probe into the hole, but the jack on the probe and the magnet holds it there while I fish it out through the hole. Getting the exact placement of the inside nut so the strapjack cap can screw on properly is a process of repeatedly putting it in and taking it out to adjust it until it is perfect. The magnetic probe makes this simple.


Magic Gets Probed


Here's another great tip for working inside the dark interior of an acoustic. Get yourself a fluorescent light bulb that will slip through the soundhole. They don't create a lot of heat and provide great light in which to work.


Fluorescent Light


After the drilling, there will be a lot of sawdust inside the guitar plus some good sized chunks of the tail block. I placed my central vacuum cleaner against the hole I had created and blew into the soundhole. Most of the sawdust is sucked out through the 1/2" hole. For the remaining pieces, I put Gorilla tape over the end of the vacuum and fed plastic fishtank air tubing down the suction control vent and taped it in place. Then it was a simple process of feeding the narrow tube down inside the guitar to grab all the bigger chunks. This tubing comes in handy when needing to fish volume and tone pots in and out of semi-acoustic guitars with F holes. You just attach the tubing to the shaft of the pot and drag it up through the pot's hole in the body. Works like a charm!


Vacuum Contraption


Endpin Jack Installed


Gibson helped out a little by predrilling holes in each end of the saddle slot to accomodate the installation of UST pickups. If they weren't there, I would have to drill a slanted hole in the corner of the saddle (usually on the bass side) and fish the Element UST through the hole. Finding the hole is easier with the fluorescent light inside. Sticking a toothpick in the hole helps find it too.


Predrilled UST Hole in Magic's Saddle Slot


Before putting the Element in, I traced a line across the saddle flush with the top of the bridge. This will be a reference for when the saddle is installed over the UST. The end 1/8" of the Element isn't active so I measured this distance and made a mark to indicate it. If the saddle didn't have enough clearance past the high E string, another slanted hole is drilled in the treble end of the slot to allow the UST's active area to rest under the high E string.


Both Saddle Heights Marked


Marking the End of the Active Area of the UST


The Element installed, I turned my attention to the iBeam. The iBeam attaches to the underside of the bridge plate with double sided sticky foam. This makes it easy to remove and/or reposition it without damaging the guitar. Baggs has a very efficient system for putting the pickup in the right place. They supply a plastic "fixture" or "jig" that allows you to position the iBeam before you put it in the guitar. The "fixture" is just a piece of plastic which holds the iBeam in place with sticky tape and a couple of rods that you use to guide the fixture with the iBeam attached through the bridge holes from underneath.


iBeam Prepared on the Fixture


The bridge plate must be smooth and flat for the iBeam to work properly. I discussed above how I repaired Magic's bridge plate. Here is a photo of the plate after being filled with wood filler and then sanded flat.


Filled Bridge Plate


Filler Sanded Flat


I positioned the iBeam on the fixture over the saddle by looking down through the clear plexiglass of the fixture. Once it is directly over the saddle, it is pressed down with the top of the iBeam sticking to the fixture's doublesided tape. Then the whole thing is lowered into the soundhole, the pins are lifted up through the bridge holes and the fixture pulled up so the double sided tape on the iBeam will stick to the bridge plate. Having done this a few times, I have found that making the iBeam VERY loose on the fixture is important. Then just pull up on the rods so the iBeam touches

the guitar enough to make the tape on the iBeam stick a little so you can put your hand inside the soundhole and push on just the iBeam to make it fast. Then you can wiggle the fixture loose from the iBeam. If the iBeam is stuck really well to the fixture, you can't get the fixture off of it without dislodging the iBeam from the guitar.


iBeam Installed


The placement of the iBeam relative to the Element is also important. You should take care not to cover the hole the Element is going through. That's why installing the Element first is a good idea.


I then gathered the wires from the pickups and from the endpin jack and tied them together with small "Zap Straps" to make the whole thing neat and easy to handle and attached the wires to the iMix preamp.

Cables Tied and Attached to the Preamp


The adhesive backing is removed and the iMix preamp is attached to the guitar's back. I placed it so the mini pots can be adjusted without removing the strings. I then installed the battery bag to the neck block and attached a 9v Duracell. I removed the adhesive backing on the remote volume and mix contol and mounted it just under the bass side sound hole.


Preamp Installed


I reinstalled the strings, taking care to assign GG's bone pins to the right strings, tuned it up (1/2 step down), plugged it in and played it for about 30 minutes. Lovely guitar and a lovely amplified sound. A Collosi bone saddle will arrive in a few days and I'll do a saddle setup on Magic with the pickup installed.

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That's why I never let people watch me work on their guitars. Sometimes you half to be part chiropractor, part logger. I'm happy to post pics and tell the tale after the fact but if they were watching, I would definitely screw something up.


A local dealer had a new J200 in stock in the early 90s. He installed an endpin jack for the buyer and instead of using a reamer or progressively larger drills he went "right at it" with the final drill size in one pass. Split the living snot out of the end block and surrounding rim wood. I've never worked up the nerve to ask how he dealt with that one.


Karen, notice I waited until AFTER the operation was done before I mentioned that?

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...and instead of using a reamer or progressively larger drills he went "right at it" with the final drill size in one pass. Split the living snot out of the end block and surrounding rim wood.


I never realized that was SOP. I've just "gone at it" twice and apparently got lucky!

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And that's why I use a Forstner bit. You get a perfect sized hole with a bit that centers itself. You just have to go at it a little bit (pardon the pun) at a time, clean out the debris, let the bit cool, and do a little more etc. If you go gentle and let the bit do the work, you won't punch out chunks of end block on the inside when you break through.


It also helps to put masking tape on the bit at the point where the bit will hit the end of the block. This gives you a visual as to when you are about to breakout so you can go real slow and gentle.

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Thanks Buc and Paul! [rolleyes] I really enjoy doing this type of work.


Magic is in great shape. The pickups are in and they work fine. I've left the saddle tall and will adjust the Collosi bone saddle when it arrives.


I've played Magic all morning with her in Eb tuning with double dropped Db on the 1st and 6th strings as I am learning "Tangled Up In You" by Staind. She sounds totally amazing! Throaty as H E double hockey sticks!


Here are my SWD and Magic together. If I leave them alone overnight I might have a ukelele by morning! [biggrin]



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Great job' date=' Drathburn! Question for you and Karen- how about that truss rod cover on Magic? That's not stock, is it? I don't think it is, but, I LIKE IT! A LOT! I want one! Talk to me!!!! [/quote']


No it isn't stock. It is speeeecial! Because Karen is speeecial!


I'll let her tell you about it. Very cool.

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Here are my SWD and Magic together. If I leave them alone overnight I might have a ukelele by morning! [angry]




I know that works for horses but I'm not sure about guitars? :-k

Oh I'm so relieved she is doing okay. It's like waiting for your kid to have surgery to have her ears pinned back; it's not necessary surgery but you know it'll be worth it. Still' date=' the wait is agonizing LOL


Thanks for taking such good care of her Doug! She looks like she's enjoying herself there with the SWD! Have fun with her..... I'm bonding with Lily [angry


Larry, you have a pm.......

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