Just got a Kay electric in that I'm guessing is from the early 60s. It has 3 speedbump pickups, chicken head knob, replacement Bigsby, the usual Kay stuff.
The problem is that it's not loud at all. The pickups seem to be not putting out. I've adjusted them very close to the strings and no dice. It doesn't make any difference what the switch position is in, all the pickups are very quiet. I mean I have to crank a 100 watt amp to play along with others.
The fact that all the pickups are uniformly quiet makes me think it is a switch or wiring thing rather than the pickups being bad. Wishful thinking, maybe...It's gonna be a bear getting this thing apart.
Anybody have any experience with these things? Any ideas? Thanks.

Rev George

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May I suggest a few checks..

1, Check resistance of coils one at a time if you have a multimeter.
2. Clean connections and/or resolder cold solder joints.
3. Burnish the output jack so that a good electrical connection is made with the instrument cable.
4. Check the output volume pot by shorting from one end of the pot to the other to eliminate problems in the pot.
5. Use jumper wires to connect directly to the wires from the pickups to an instrument cable thus eliminating the pots, volume and tone, bad connections, or anyting that has decreased resistance fo the signal wire to ground.
6. With the guitar and amp hooked together tap on the coils with a piece of metal. With the volume control up all the way switch between the pickups. I would expect they should all give about the same signal strength.

Now that I look a this list I would most likely accomplish (5) and (6) first but the checks do not need to be in any particular order. Use the checks that make it easy to eliminate the problem. I would not think all the pickups are bad but depending on how they are connected and switched only one could cause a drop in the signal. I have seen a bad cap and post of the tone circuit drag the signal down.

Hope this helps,

Are there any odd capacitors or resistors in the circuit? A photo of the wiring would be enlightening, unless, god help you, this is a hollowbody...

Otherwise, ditto Cody's advice, below.
Jeffrey and Cody,
Thanks for the replies. God help me, it's a hollowbody. With only one segmented F-hole! I figure I'm gonna have to fish everything out through the pickup holes. At least there are 3 pickup holes and they are large. I will definitely accomplish 5 and 6 on your list first. The jumper wire is a great idea, Jeffrey. Thanks again, guys.

Rev George
I have seen this before , on a Gibson and in that case it was caused by the output wire being crushed between a pot body and star washer . This worked like a capacitor and robbed all the tone and most of the volume . If this is the case on yours you might see it witha mirror ond not need to pull the guts out , just let it free . Len
Thank you Len. I really, truly hope yours is the right answer! As you can imagine, what with 6 pots and a 3-way rotary switch, the wiring looks like a bird's nest. I'm thinking of rewiring the whole thing like a Strat, disabling 3 of the pots and just wire it volume, tone, tone. It's my guitar, not a customer's, so doing that is no big thing. It's not like I'm desecrating a '59 Paul or a pre-war D-45. I just want the thing to be usable. Thanks again for the replies.

Rev George
If you still have low output from the pickups after following the other suggestions and you still have low output, the pole pieces may need recharging. Here is a link to Stew-Mac on recharging pickups. Hope this helps.
George ! how did you go ? It's always nice to know the outcome , helps educate all of us . Len
Thanks for the replies guys. I've got the Kay on the bench right now. I just finished the banjo I've been building (it was a commission so it took priority) and the Kay is up next. Like I said it is my guitar so I'm setting it up to suit my playing. As a long-time Strat guy I love the simplicity of that control set up. One thing I've always hated about Les Pauls is that stupid toggle switch on the upper bout that I always whack with my right hand on the upstroke, slamming the pickups into the neck position. No prob with the Kay as it is a rotary switch and is much lower profile. The other thing about Pauls that bug me is the relatively complex knob set up. With my Strats I've always kept the tone knobs wide open and used the master volume and pickup selector switch for tonal and volume variations. When I'm on stage rocking out the last thing I want to worry about is knob twiddling.
So, if the pickups on the Kay aren't toast I plan to wire it like a Strat and have 3 of the six knobs disabled. They look cooler than hell, but I don't want to have to mess with them.

As an aside I've been watching a pair of these 'speedbump' pickups on ebay and the auction is over today. They have a bid of over $100! I gave $150 for the whole guitar! Hell, the Bigsby has gotta be worth $100!
I probably should sell the damn pickups and stick some P-90s in the thing and be done with it. Nah, I like the tone and looks of those speedbumps. There is also a Kay-Harmony rotary switch on ebay that is the same one as is on my guitar so I may bid on that just to have another one in case.

Thanks again for all the help and I will definitely report on my progress (if any..). I've learned so much from this forum! Ya'll are the best. Thanks for the link, Ryan. I've never done any pickup rewinding or recharging and this guitar might be the perfect test subject. Well, I'm off to start disassembling the old thing, so wish me luck.

Rev George
Update on the Kay - I got all the electronics out in one piece through the middle pickup hole. Nasty old wiring strung with cobwebs and covered in uspeakable filth. The pots all checked out with the V/O meter, but the ground wire was disconnected. I've had ground wires come off before and they never resulted in a volume loss, just a nasty buzz and occasionally getting shocked when touching a microphone and the neck at the same time. None of the pickups are dead, so....
The guy I got the guitar from - one of my guitar students - had a great idea that I might try. Since the guitar is not original - replaced tuners, non-original Bigsby, non-original bridge etc. I'm thinking about making a FrankenKay out of it. He has a couple of cream P-90s from an old Les Paul that he wants to donate(!) to the cause. I'm gonna refinish the whole thing, put a new rotary switch, new pots and new output jack (all from Stew-Mac) and, like I mentioned in a previous post, disable 3 of the six pots and wire it up like a vintage Strat - rotary switch feeding 3 pickups - the P-90s in the neck and middle position and the best of the original speedbumps in the bridge position. I'll wire the pots V-T-T just like a vintage Strat and have no tone control on the bridge speedbump. I figure I might as well put a new bone nut on it and I have a set of old Kluson Deluxes in my plunder that would add a nice touch.
It's not like this thing is a '59 Paul or a '57 Strat or something so I don't feel any twinges modifying the guitar. And I'll keep all the original parts just in case. As far as refinishing, it now has a pretty worn two-tone burst and I'm thinking maybe a Gretsch-type sparkle finish. Since the Bigsby is virtually brand new it won't look out of place with a new finish. I think it'll be a hell of a hillbilly blues machine.

Anyway, thanks for all the advice and listening to my long-winded description here. Time to fire up the soldering iron....

Rev George
We would like to see progress photos. I have never regretted taking the time to document stuff like that. Besides, you can get some pretty cool shots for later. See below.


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