1965 Victor Hawaiian guitar pickup repair

I've written about Victor/NIVICO a few times before and people who follow me know how much I love this short lived Japanese brand. I own and have owned quite a few of these wonders but this is the only Victor branded slide guitar I've seen. It's always great to see new and exciting vintage Japanese guitars. 

I don't really do a lot of pickup rewinds and repairs as it's a very time consuming and thankless task but if someone contacts me with something interesting that you can't just buy a replacement part for, I'm always open to repairing it for them.

This customer from down south contacted the shop and said he had a Victor slide guitars with one dead pickup so .... my interest was grabbed immediately.

He had found my blogs on the guitars and thought I was probably a good place to start to see about getting it repaired, or replaced. 

He shipped the entire guitar up so I could fix the pickup, and fit it and check the electronics afterwards. It really is a beautiful slide guitar in great condition with it's original hardcase. I'm not sure if he has the chrome legs, that fit into the section of the case bedside the guitar and screw into the bottom plates, but they can be made if he doesn't.

 

As soon as I opened the case and unwrapped the pickup it was obvious these were exactly the same pickups and the guitars. As I've explained in previous blogs, while Matsumoku is believed to have made all the woodwork on these guitars, all the hardware including the pickups were built in house by Victor and don't appear on any other brands.

The pickup is very Fender in design but construction is quite different. It has a hard ABS bobbin with holes for the thin alnico slugs to slide into, so the wire isn't just wrapped around the magnets. It's also a very tall bobbin and is packed with lots of wire which is one of the things that gives these guitars such a great sound.

I started by trying to repair the original pickup but although I could find exposed wires, nothing measured across them. The coils are covered in a thick lacquer much like transformer windings and it proved almost impossible to "peel" this away to get to the coil.

I cut the coil off and measured the wire hoping it wasn't some weird appliance wire used by Victor for other products they made. It turned out to be standard enamel coated AWG42 wire which is pretty common and I keep lots of it here. The original had a red insulation coating so I rewound it with a red enamel coated wire.

The good pickup measured at a healthy 9.4K so I judged how big the coil was and set to work. After winding for a while I stopped at 13,500 turns, which looked about right for the size of the original coil. I took it off the winder and measured it at 9.6K. 

Now, reading vary depending on temperature and 0.2K is more than close enough for both tone and humbucking when both are run together so I left it there and gave it a few coats of clear to seal it up. 

I assembled it back into the cover and into the guitar and cleaned and tested all the electronics. Everything looked great so it all went back together and got some strings.

 

There's not really a lot of "set up" work you can do on these and this one, like many, has a simple bar bridge so once I set the string height to be parallel with the fretboard and balanced the height of the pickups it was ready to go.

 

I tuned it to open E and .... well, I can't really play slide so I just made sure everything worked and sounded good. 

 

This was a fun project and we managed to resurrect a vintage guitar with the original parts (except wire of course) and keep it vintage correct, which is nice for a guitar over 50 years old in this condition.

Back to it's owner next week. 

 

Oct 04 2019 Written By: Tim Brennan