Today is your Lucky Day! 3 steels with Orville Johnson!

Would you like your Lollar pickups on the veranda?

Would you like your Lollar pickups on the veranda?

¡Hola amigos! Today’s installment of Orville Johnson goodness features all 3 of Jason’s lap steel pickups, played clean and clear through a vintage Princeton. Complete with side by side comparisons, it’s a great way to find the version that is right for you. As always, if you have any questions or comments, please let us know!

206-463-9838 at the shop M-F, 9am-5pm PDT, or info@lollarguitars.com

¡Gracias!

Orville Johnson is right!

Jason Lollar’s Supro Repro and Orville Johnson’s hot licks! What could be better?

Lap Steel Modification for Lollar Supro Pickup

I have been using a very cheaply made lap steel that is available from several sources- you’ll see them on online music stores and eBay. The last two I bought were labeled “Rogue” and these came with screw on adjustable legs- I really like to have the legs as my first real non pedal steel was a 50’s Fender Stringmaster 8 string triple neck.

"Rogue" brand lap steel with legs

"Rogue" brand lap steel with legs

I got these from Musician’s Friend for around $80 each including a heavy duty soft shell case, the oldest one I have was labeled “Artisan” and it came with no legs but at any rate I extensively modified the guitars. The most important thing I did was I replaced the nut and bridge and I converted the guitars to a string through body like an old Telecaster. These cheap little lap steels make a useable rig if you take the time to set them up right and put a good pickup and electronics in them. If you can’t do this work yourself I suggest patronizing one of the many fine lap steel builders working in the USA today many of which offer my pickups as standard fare and are listed on my website. The quality of lap steels being made today by these small businesses can not be equaled or surpassed by these cheap import models and they often exceed the quality of the finest vintage instruments.

These lap steels originally come with a narrower spaced nut and bridge (the bridge is a standard guitar bridge which is too narrow). Wider string spacing makes bar slants and finger pickup much easier. For slanting the bar (a sort of advanced technique) wider string spacing makes it easier to play in tune and the wider string spacing makes it easier to bend strings behind the bar to get pedal steel type sounds. 

Angle iron nut on a modified lap steel

Angle iron nut on a modified lap steel

Look at the photos and you’ll see I just used some angle iron and I made a nut and bridge about 9/16″ tall.  Typical lap steel string spread at the nut is about 1-31/32 and at the bridge 2-3/16″ compared to on a guitar 1-5/8 and 2-1/16. 

Angle iron bridge and 1/8" spacer

Angle iron bridge and 1/8" spacer

I painted the angle iron with black “Hammerite” which you can get at any paint store.  The bridge and nut were 9/16″ tall, so the Supro® pickup needed a 1/8″ shim to be in proper alignment. 

Holes were drilled for new ferrules and output jack

Holes were drilled for new ferrules and output jack

As you’ll see in this photo, I also modified the guitar by drilling holes all the way through the body and put string ferrules in the back.

I also relocated the output jack to the side of the guitar rather than where it was originally located in the pickgaurd. This required a hole to be drilled for the jack and a new jack plate needed to be made.

I also routed the pickup cavity out so I could mount a variety of pickups.  This step is not necessary if you mount only the Supro®.

New plastic pickguard & fingerboard

New plastic pickguard & fingerboard

In this photo you can see I made a new pickgaurd out of plastic.  This turned out to be  much easier than working with the original metal pickgaurd.

I also replaced the fingerboard.  This was not a necessary step.  But I have the tools to do it, so I went ahead and put some lipstick on the pig – so to speak.

The only snag was only two of the 4 mounting screws for the pickup actually bit into wood – the two mounting screws closest to the fingerboard are machine screws which I made two threaded holes in the pickgaurd for them to tighten up against because the screws were located over the route for the original pickup which was quite deep. The pickup is mounted plenty solid this way.

To learn more about the Lollar Supro® lap steel pickup, visit our web site.

 

 

 

Supro®, and the “Supro Lightning Bolt design” are registered trademarks of Zinky Electronics, LLC.  Lollar Supro style pickups are a limited production, under license of Supro USA.

Lollar Supro Steel Guitar Pickup Now Available

We are making a reproduction of the old Supro® / Valco / Oahu “string through” pickup. This pickup was originally used on a wide selection of different lap steel designs made by different makers and they were used on a few electric Spanish guitars (regular finger style guitars) like the Supro Ozark. This type of pickup was also used on the first Ry Cooder “Coodercaster”.

Lollar Supro style pickup - bottom view

Lollar Supro style pickup - bottom view

This pickup is unusually clear and detailed in tone for how much output it has. I have made the pickup the exact same size as the original with the exception of its bottom plate which I have made smaller so it will fit on a variety of guitars and the bridge is not built into the pickup like the originals.  The pickup is meant to mount like any other typical guitar pickup rather than being part of the bridge and tailpiece like the originals are.

This pickup has two coils – one under the bottom three strings and one under the top three. The coils are wound so they dramatically reduce 60 cycle hum (humbucking) however the pickup still sounds like a single coil. In order for the pickup to work correctly and get good volume balance between the strings the coils are out of phase with each other- if we arranged the magnets so the coils were in phase with each other the pickup would give you bad string volume balance- some strings would be much louder than others so it’s the nature of the design that it works best with the coils out of phase with each other but because each coil senses different strings their phase doesn’t matter. HOWEVER this DOES present a problem if you install this pickup into a guitar with more than one pickup. If you combine this pickup (typically installed in the bridge position)  with a neck pickup or any other pickup in any position and you use both at once in combination half of the strings will be in phase and half will be out of phase. This is only a problem if you run two pickups at once.

Installation requires a route approximately 1/8″ deep to allow room for the pole pieces and screws that hold the pickup top plate to the bottom.

Lollar Supro spacer has a thickness of 1/8"

Lollar Supro spacer has a thickness of 1/8"

The pickup is shipped with a 1/8″ tall spacer that fits under the pickup that is routed for the pickup screws so combined with the spacer the pickup can be flush mounted on top of the guitar. A variety of spacer thicknesses are available if needed.  They vary from 1-32″ to ¼” thick and can be used for mounting the pickup on a variety of guitars.

Lollar Supro pickup with spacer installed

Lollar Supro pickup with spacer installed

Most guitars with Gibson style bridges will need the pickup shimmed up to align with the strings properly. On Fender guitars the pickup will likely need mounted onto the surface of the pickgaurd.

The strings run under the top metal plate so they sit between the top plate and the adjustable pole pieces. Ideally your strings will sit midway between the top plate and the pole piece.

For a radiused set of strings (most guitars except lap steels) you will need to set the lowest and highest strings about midway between the top plate and the adjustable poles, your center strings will be closer to the top plate so you will need to raise the poles so the strings are equidistant between the plate and pole.

Aligning the strings is important

Aligning the strings is important

It’s more important for the strings to line up with the pole pieces than on many other pickup designs, alignment and adjustment is almost critical.  The pickup is also shipped with a routing diagram.

The next blog posting will describe how to modify an entry-level lap steel, and give you some tips on installing the Lollar Supro style pickup.

Follow this link to learn even more about our Supro® lap steel pickup.

Supro®, and the “Supro Lightning Bolt design” are registered trademarks of Zinky Electronics, LLC.  Lollar Supro style pickups are a limited production, under license of Supro USA.