I dislike pickups that requires cutting into the side of guitars or ukes. They make the whole instrument look unpleasing to the eye. Not to mention the problems you would face when the electronic parts breakdown. If you’re lucky, it’s a straight swap. But if the pickup or preamp model is discontinued, you’re in trouble.
I selected the JJB Prestige 110 because of its small footprint. Upon installation, you wouldn’t even see that any work has been done save for the input jack at the tail end. Jessie Vallad is a great guy and I must commend him for his service and advice given throughout the purchase.
Fast forward to the installation job. My fave uke Blackie needs a pickup because there may be an opportunity to do a few songs at a friend’s party. 🙂
Blackie got his name because the bass side of his solid engelman spruce top has turned black. Not stain, the wood just started turning black. Maybe there’s fungus attacking the wood. I think it’s gross but it sure adds character.
The uke already has a hole in its tail end because I previously had a strap pin installed.
So now I use a step drill bit to enlarge the pilot hole to 12mm. The step bit drill is essential for safe drilling for this project. We cannot risk splitting or chipping the wood.
It’s a slow and steady drilling process, so lots of concentration here. I put some masking tape to prevent chipping.
OK we got a 12mm hole for the pickup. Some reaming or filing is usually needed to ensure the pickup goes through smoothly.
Installing the jack end or end jack. Whatever you prefer to call it.
Before installing the Prestige 110, plug in the pickup to an amp and gently tap the shiny side of transducer to test if it’s working. If there is no sound, I am sure JJB will replace your unit.
Next, I used the uke string that I just removed to act as a “fishing line’ for me to feed the pickup from the inside of the uke. This is not easy because the soundhole is small and the uke is thin unlike a guitar.
The string goes through the slot from outside. Then I attached the tip end of the jack and pull through from the soundhole.
All right it got through nicely. The ideal length to be outside the uke is shown here. The smaller screw tip is almost flush with the uke’s body.
Screw in the end cap of the input jack. Take care not to crack or mark the wood during tightening. Wombat comes by to inspect.
Installing the transducer under the bridge plate
Moving on to sticking the transducer under the bridge. Guitarbear must apologise for not taking pictures here because both hands are needed for this work and uke is actually on my lap.
To summarise, the transducer needs to be stuck under the bridge plate using superglue gel. Although there are many variations for the best positioning, Jessie of JJB has informed that “right in the middle of the bridge plate” is good.
Borrowed from JJB website, this photo shows the transducer. The gel glue is applied to the shiny side and gets in contact with the bridge plate. Gel glue is preferred because liquid type is too runny and sets too fast.
Be careful of dripping glue onto the uke when doing this. Also send a few dollars more to get superglue that is gentle to the skin. The excess glue burns your fingertips. Ouch!
Sorry for this weird photo. It shows Guitarbear wrestling with a concert size uke, trying to press the transducer against the bridge plate as the glue sets. Uke was really on my thigh here.
The transducer got fixed within a minute.
Almost done here.
Some periodic maintenance.
I took some time to give Blackie my Bearclaw Special.
First is oiling the fingerboard and lightly polish the frets with 0000 steel wool. This uke got some nice snowflake inlays.
Then I went on to clean up the body and machine heads.
Finally restring with D’addario Titaniums.
All good. Wombat gave his approval.
A parting shot. Blackie wants to show his back. Zebrawood and spruce makes a cool uke.