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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Installing the Barcus Berry Insider: The good the bad and the ugly

This posting is how I installed the Barcus-Berry Insider pickup and should give you an idea on how to approach the installation project.  I assume since you bought the Barcus-Berry pickup that you are on a budget so I built the tutorial with that in mind.  The directions that come with the pickup are very poor but do get you started.   I will show you how I installed it and the lessons I learned. I am sorry for the ugly photos but all I had with me was a very bad cell phone camera.

Tools Needed
  • 1/2 Inch Drill bit - be careful here.  I used a standard wood 1/2 inch power bit but I would recommend you go with a better bit such as the brad bit.  They sell them at Steward MacDonald but I could not find them locally.  http://www.stewmac.com/shop/Tools/Drill_bits/Drill_Bits,_Brad_Point.html?actn=100101&xst=3&xsr=1333
  • 1/4 inch wooden dowel rod cut to 18 inches.  You can find them at Lowe's in the molding aisle.
  • 5/16 inch slotted screwdriver - it is important that it is 5/16.  We will use this to hold the end pin while we tighten it with a wrench.
  • Solder iron - I can't believe I had to do this but my pickup did not come soldered even though it showed it that way in the picture.  I may have an older model.
  • Solder
  • Good set of channel lock type pliers.
  • Towel - used to keep the guitar from being damaged while laying on the kitchen table :)

Step 1 - Removal of the factory end pin.

Your guitar will most likely have a plastic end pin which is installed from the factory.  It should look like the image below.

If you don't care about damaging the cheap end pin which you probably won't since you are installing a new one then take a pair of good pliers and pull and twist back and forth until it comes loose.  There is no simple way to do this.  I have heard some people say that you should apply heat to it with a solder iron but if it is plastic it will melt it.  Below is the picture after I pulled it out with pliers. Note that I placed some low stick masking tape on the guitar just in case the pliers slipped.  That way it won't scratch the finish.

Ok, now you have a nice little hole in your guitar.

Step 2 - Drilling out the hole for the new end pin.

This is the part I worried about most and if you are at all worried about this step or think you can't handle it then take the guitar to someone who doesn't mind drilling a hole in it. :)
Make sure you have a sharp drill bit and a good variable speed drill.  My drill seemed a bit underpowered so when in doubt, go with more power.  You will need to drill completely though the finish and the end block of the guitar.  Ready, set , go for it!

Notice how my drill bit did not do a very good job.  If you look closely even in this bad pic you will see where the banding material or whatever that black stripe is kind of curled up as I drilled.  I supposed you could sand this down a bit and make it look better but it will be hidden under the washer so it isn't too big of a deal.  That said, I was the most dissapointed here.  I cannot say this enough.  Get a good bit and a good drill.  Ok, the scary part is over.

Step 3 - Solder the pickup wires to the end pin jack.  

Hopefully you won't have to do this but if you do, here is what it should look like when you are finished soldering.  If you don't know how to solder, then take it to a person who knows electronics and they can help you.

Again, I don't think you will have to do this but just in case.

Step 4 - Position the end jack.

  • Unscrew the end cap from the Fas-Jac.
  • Slide the wood dowel into the newly drilled hole in the guitar until you can see it in the sound hole
  • Stick the 1/4 inch wood dowel cut to 19 inches into the end of the Fas-Jac where the end cap was. If it doesn't fit tightly you may have to remove the dowel and put some masking tape over the rod to make it thicker.  Oh and don't forget to loosen your guitar strings.  It should look like the image below at this point.
So the whole point in doing this is you can't reach your arm all the way back to where the drilled hole is so you need the dowel to act as a guide to pull it through. You can think of it like pulling cable through a wall.
  • Now simply pull the dowel from the end of the guitar through until it is visible through the drilled hole.  See the pic below.

Simple, right?  Well kind of.  You have to fiddle with the nut on the end jack pin to make sure only about 3 or 4 threads are visible through the hole.  Once you get the adjustment right, simply slide the washer and the Fas Jac over the dowel and tighten slightly.  You won't be able to tighten it all the way since it will just turn and the dowel will come loose.

  • Now remove the dowel rod, insert the screw driver into the end of the Fas Jac and use a wrench to tight it into position.  This may take several tries to get right but just hang in there and it will happen.
  • If everything went right your guitar should look similar to the photo below.
You can breathe again, we are almost done.


Step 5 - Installing the transducer

I don't have any pics for this but I will try to walk you through it in words.  You can get fancy here and create a jig which can be used to position the transducer or you can wing it. I did the later because well I just wanted to. The transducer has a sticky pad on it so you need to remove the sticky pad's protective paper then stick the pickup right in front of the bridge pins.  Pretty much it ends up being in between the saddle and the bridge pins.  Take your time and go by feel.  If you get it wrong, you can scrape off the old sticky pad and put another one on.  They come with several. Its easy to get it crooked so like I said: If you are a perfectionist then make a jig.

Well that is about it.  Plug it in and see if she works!  I know this was not an exhaustive tutorial but hopefully it will answer some of the questions I had when I started this process.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks, This was a big help. I just put one of these in a cheapy Aria Gypsy Jazz guitar (http://www.musiciansfriend.com/guitars/aria-gypsy-d-hole-acoustic-guitar). It was tricky, but your blog pointed me in the right direction when the included instructions did very little.

    -Willie TheGaltLineBand.com

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