I’ve updated my volume/tone control boxes. Both have a very convenient standard 1/4″ cable output jack. No more dongle hell!
Volume/Tone control box
The design now more closely resembles the original DeArmond Rhythm Chief boxes, with the omission of the “Rhythm” toggle button. To be honest, I’ve had ones with this button and I’m not really sure what it does. If it changes the sound, the effect is VERY subtle, though maybe mine was broken. Do comment if you know.
I can make them with a 1/8″ input jack for the pickup too, in case you want to add a plug to your pickup and make it detachable. Otherwise, you need to solder the cable directly from the pickup yourself. See picture below for an example using a Krivo pickup:
Note: this is not a super-easy soldering job. There are tight clearances and tricky angles. If you’re not experienced with this kind of work, you may want to seek an expert to help.
Pry the panel under the box off with a flathead screwdriver.
Strip about 3/4″ off the end of your pickup’s cable and separate the hot and ground wires. The ground wire is either the shielding wire woven around the middle hot wire, or it will be colored black.
Thread the pickup cable through the hole on the side of the unit
Solder the pickup to the correct terminals:
Tone/Volume box: You’ll be soldering to the closest potentiometer from the hole. Solder the hot wire to the furthest terminal on this pot (the same one as the capacitor), and the ground wire to the closest terminal. Do not solder anything to the middle terminal.
Volume-only box: Solder the hot wire to the closest terminal on this pot, and the ground wire to the metal back of the potentiometer or the ground terminal of the input jack (it is on the angled side of the black housing), whichever is easier.
Secure a ziptie tightly around the cable on the interior-side of the unit and cut off the extra tail of the ziptie. This will prevent the cable from putting strain on the solder joints when pulled.
Put the panel back on and press around the perimeter to snap it into place. (If it has trouble staying, you can also put a dab of glue on the black input jack housing to keep it in place.
If you’re here you probably just acquired an earlier vintage DeArmond Rhythm Chief (RC1000 or RC1100) archtop guitar pickup, got all excited to plug it in, then looked at the volume/tone control box thought, “huh? what the heck is this weird screwy connector?”
Well I’ll tell you what that is: it’s a very antiquated microphone jack that isn’t really around anymore. And to save you the time, the part number is Switchcraft 5501FX, and you can get them at Mouser, Digikey, or Angela Instruments. You supply your own guitar cable, chop off one end, and attach this instead. Done.
Well, actually it’s not that simple. It’s a very unconventional connector and not really a “unscrew some stuff, then solder two contacts” sort of affair. But I’ll get to how to install one of those in a bit.
Another option is to just buy the whole dang cable. Archtop.com has them here…. for $49 + shipping. And I see them on Reverb for more or less the same.
Now, I don’t know about you but something doesn’t sit right about spending over $50 on on a cable (sorry, readers who work for Monster). Sure, if you’re a busy multi-thousandaire you will probably think nothing of snapping one up, but chances are you’re a dumpster-diving jazz guitarist wondering if there’s an alternative.
So is there a cheapskate, DIY, stuff-around-the-house solution? Well, as it turns out… yes there is.
I started with volume/tone control boxes, then volume-only control boxes, and now it only seems natural to go the “purest” form: a simple 1/4″ input jack enclosure for the various pickups you might encounter. And if you’re like me, you no doubt have a dusty drawer full of them: Krivo, DeArmond, Stimer, Kent, and so on. Why do we do this? Who knows.
Edit: I have discontinued this model. See this post for the most recent version.
More news on the DeArmond control box front: I started making these more compact volume-only control boxes. Available in the store.
Why? The original DeArmond FHC pickups only had a single volume control knob. Minimalism at its best. After all, you can set tone on the amp. Personally, I don’t mess with tone much in the middle of my playing… too complicated. I’ll leave that sort of thing to Jerry Byrd and Danny Gatton.
I love DeArmond archtop pickups! DeArmond “Monkey-on-a-stick” pressure rod mounting brackets are my preferred removable way to mount them, but nobody reissues them. So I made one from scratch with the help 3D printing.
Update 5/8/2019:I now offer replacement top plates and thumbscrews for original vintage monkey-on-a-stick. See my store.
Back in the good old ’30s and ’40s it was unthinkable to put holes in that pretty handmade archtop of yours. After all, who knew if this silly fad of guitar “electrification” was going to last? And what if you wanted to pass that pristine acoustic archtop on to your grandchildren? Trad jazz and swing was surely due to make a comeback in about 75 years.