This may be a case of "I'm the slow kid" (again). but I recently started installing magnetic pickups (both single wound and humbucker) in my CBG builds. I like the warm, clean tone, but I cringe every time I have to deface a nice cigar box top.

I was sitting at the bench this afternoon staring at a gold single-wound pickup and wondered if it were mounted under the box top (no cut out) would it work? I noticed that the humbuckers have screws in the coils, so I wondered if the single coils may do the same (under the gold cover.

A few quick plucks with the needle nose pliers and the gold cover came off easily to reveal the six round slugs, but no screws. I tried to gently tap them out, but no luck. Then I noticed small holes between each slug. I wondered......

I checked my hardware drawers and found some finishing nails that fit snugly into the holes. I touched one of the nails with the tip of my screwdriver and it was magnetic (interesting..........)

I cut the nails off and ground the tops flat then slid them into the pickup. Next, I took a small piece of 1/4 ply and drilled small holes that aligned with my nail heads, then mounted the pickup to the ply with the nails sticking through the holes.

Using some jumpers, I connected the pickup wires to an audio cord running to my amp. Now, I needed strings. This was getting a little complicated, so I went to plan B. I turned on the amp, the sat one of my regular players on the bench. Holding my pickup rig in hand, I carefully positioned it so that the nails were about a 1/4" above the strings. Then I gave the guitar a pluck.

Wow! It picked up the strings in the nail heads and came through the amp clearly. By this time, I'm running out of hands, but my initial thought is that if I used some dense piano wire instead of nails and finished the ends cleanly, I might be able to mount a mag pickup completely in the box then just let the thin rods protrude through the box. If it worked, I would not have to feed guilty for hacking up a nice box.

So, is this common knowledge and I'm just slow on the pick up?

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Photos of the crude original test coming.............

Okay, for better or worse, here are some photos of the rig I put together this afternoon.

Regular old single wound pickup.

Pickup with gold cover popped off. Notice the holes nest to each slug.

Regular old bright finishing nails.

The shortened nails fit snugly in the holes. I picked the three center holes that are about 10 mm apart.

I drilled holes in a piece of 1/4" ply.

Mounted the pickup on one side of the ply and installed the nails through the ply. The two spacers on either side hold the nails about 3/16" above the strings.

The rig mounted on one of my regular players. Used jumpers to connect the pickup to my amp.

The nails can be seen above the strings.

So, that's the setup. The pickup caught the strings pretty well. Volume was totally acceptable. I figure the overall sound and volume could be improved if everything was carefully set up instead of rigged.

For me, this holds a lot of promise for using mag pickups in cigar boxes without doing so much cutting of the box lit. I figure that if the nails were painted to match the lid, they would be all but invisible. Pretty cool.

That totally makes sense.  (Let me go back and channel my college physics professor...)

The strings interrupt a magnetic field.  That field is projected by the metal bars (which are steel...)  as the magnet is stuck to the bottom of them...  

It makes sense to me that the nails work.  there may be some effect by how long they are, diameter, metal composition, but then it's a CIGAR BOX...  You might be able to get away with 3 poles, as long as they span the strings, and if they're even, you can just stick them to the existing poles...

Keep experimenting!

By adding the nails you effectively extended the magnetic field upward. Clever. This in itself is why it worked. The fact is that the further you move the pickup away from the strings, the less affect the strings movements will have in creating a signal. Move the pickup closer, the greater the response. It makes no difference if the pickup has a 2k, or a 15k output. 

a few  folks  have  done    things  similar  here ..  depending on  the   thickness  of the  wood  etc,  and   distance from  the strings   ,  you  can  get away  with   a few  options   .

including ;

-mounting   the pup     in  the  box  with  no holes  or  any protrusions .. the mag  field will  go  right through the (thin)  box

(in some cases  ).

-mounting   a pup    inside the box    beside   the  neckthrough  ,  and have a  thin  piece  of metal  go from  across  the    poles   up and  through  the box  and under the  strings .      ______,----------     

use same   idea  to  make a rail  pup. (extended )

-drilling 3   pole   holes      in  lid . to  pup  inside .  (option  of  dropping in  short  screws  to extend  closer to  strings  ) 

-or cutting  the  box  out  .  but saving the  cutout  and   using   it as a pup  cover  .  etc  

-even    reading the  box...  instead of the  strings  ..  

ie  : on  skin    resos  etc  ..  cut   off a small  piece  of  guitar  string  (half  inch long  piece   or  less  )   and    tape  it to  the  underside  of the  skin  ..mount pup    under  it  to  read the   string  piece   vibrating    with the skin.   (best  on  one stringers ) 

on metal   boxes  .. mount  pup      inside  with a  small space  (almost touching  the   inner  lid )  to  read  the  whole top    vibrating  . 


cant  get  inside a box ?   no  problem.. a  pup  don't  care   which side  of  the strings  it  reads 

mount  a  pup  OVER TOP   of the strings     outside the  box  .   like a  bridge  or  over  pass  .

a one stringer ?  ..  even  beside  the string outside .

  etc etc ..   ;-) 


Yeah I used to do this a lot before I made puckups, cept i'd make a 'fake bobbin top' for those nails to poke thru.
Nice one *****

You can do it with a 'blade' type pretty easy too, sandwich a little bit of sheet metal between to bits of scrap and polish it up..
You can even take a thin (say 1/8") piece of steel, lay it across the top of your pup (it will stick) and butt that up under your box lid, no holes needed. You will extend the mag field substantially. Same principle as a blade, without the cutout.

Share your results. I'll do the same.


I'll give that a try this evening. I have the strip cut and ready.

Id be more looking at putting the steel 'pole extenders' outside the box, (and under the strings) so that they snap onto the pickup (which is on the inside)  You're right tho, you don't need holes in the lid..

you can also put a wee little neo disc for each string, they'll snap on and line up with the hidden pole pieces real good ;)

so.. to do this just cut a cavity in the thru neck so that the pickup can flush mount into the neck, coming quite close to the lid if not touching it, close the box, use the magnetic field to snap a bit of steel or other magnet on the outside, thereby extending the magnetic field toward your strings and hiding redundant pole pieces..

Snapping some of those small disc magnets on the outside to extend the field makes a lot of sense. I guess I'll be prowling ebay for magnets. Thanks for the suggestion.


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