Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hotrodding a Samick HJ-650 Archtop Guitar

Samick HJ-650 hollow body guitar
   Here's a rare bird for you. What's so rare about a Korean made jazz box? It belongs to me,marking the first time one of my guitars appear on Guitar Omnivore. It is also the first time in at least a year one of my guitars made it into the shop. Working on my own guitars means either 1) I'm ignoring a customers guitar (not going to happen!) or 2) I come in to work on my day off and skip some sort of menial household chore I should really be doing instead. I got this guitar new in the late 90's and I've always wanted to hotrod it. This is how I did it.

Read on as I trick out this hollow body Samick with new pickups,pots and tuners. Plenty more pictures too...

Don't forget the ground wire!

   I've already leveled the frets and made a bone nut for the guitar and now I want to change out the electronics and put on different tuners. I'll start by simply taking out the original parts through the pickup cavity. Be aware of the ground wire,grounded to the tailpiece. This can lead to some mystery buzz fun if you forget to solder it to ground!


The original import parts.
  The original pickups and pots,while inexpensive,were installed neatly and professionally,as is common on nicer Korean guitars. If you've ever wondered why these parts are sometimes called "the harness" perhaps seeing it like this will help it to make more sense. Because they did such a neat and clean wiring job,with little extra wire or slop,we can just copy their harness for our own.

The good stuff!
  Here's our new harness. A Switchcraft 3-way switch and 1/4" jack,CTS 500k potentiometers,Allparts .022 Vitamin Q paper in oil capacitors and a Seymour Duncan Jazz in the neck with a Seth Lover in the bridge. Mmm...

Toothpicks and Titebond. A classic combo.
  I'm replacing the original tuners with Grover Imperials. This mod is really more for looks,the originals were fine. The new tuners attach with a screw that is in a slightly different place than the old screws,so I'm filling the holes and re-drilling. In some situations,you really want to use a nice hard wood,sometimes going so far as to cut a small plug with the wood grain going in the same direction as the headstock. For something like this,regular old toothpicks and Original Titebond wood glue is my choice.

  My nice new CTS pots are bigger than the metric import pots they are replacing so I need to make the hole bigger. Most reamers are too long for this job,they'll bottom out on the back of the guitar. The short reamer that Stewart MacDonald sells for reaming a banjo 5th string tuner will work well but I really prefer a power drill for this one.The right size drill bit,run in reverse is gentle enough to get the job done safely.

My homemade "jack fishing" tool.
  All of our nice new electronics have to go back in the way they came out...through the pickup cavity. Oh joy! I'll start with my home made "jack fishing tool". Luthiers Mercantile sells a great one I usually use but in this case I like the flexibility of mine. It's made from one of the cheapo guitar cables they sometimes include with student guitars. You should be able to figure out how to make one just by looking at the picture,but maybe I'll do a "how to" some day. (Come to think of it,if you can't make your own based on that photo,please DO NOT rewire your own arch top guitar. Trust me.) That little bit of blue tape you see is keeping the ground wire at hand until it's time to solder him on to the volume pot.
In you go!
   I'll sneak each pot home by sending a bit of dental floss through the relevant hole.I'll attach the other end to the pot and (in theory) pull our boys on home. Another good tool for this is the tubing you get from pet stores used in aquarium pumps. This takes plenty of practice and patience. These guys behaved themselves and everything worked on the first try. It did take me a long time to get good at this.

Samick HJ-650 headstock.

   Here are the Grover Imperial tuners... Admittedly this is the one vanity mod to this venture but they do look really appropriate on a jazz box. Many of the famous jazz guitarists use mid priced guitars at the gig, leaving their five digit price tag guitar at home,so I'm in good company. Now,if I could just play as well as they do and get a $10,000 guitar to leave at home. One thing at a time.

All done!

   When I first started writing this article,I was dismayed to realize I hadn't taken any "after" pictures in the shop.  It was then I realized that the guitar,my camera and myself were all in the same building. I think I see a way out of this! Here's our finished guitar,all ready to go.If the bricks in the background look suspiciously similar to those behind my mug in the picture of me in the "About Me" page,there might just be a reason.



Marc said...

Grover Imperials are fine tuners, but they don't look good on the Samick. The headpiece is on the narrow side and th big Grovers stick out like ears that are way too big.

Phil Clark said...

Hey Marc! Thanks for taking the time to comment. I have to respectively disagree on the Grover Imperials though. Please,keep reading and commenting,even when we disagree. Imagine how boring it would be if we all liked and played the exact same guitar.

Unknown said...

Hello, I have the same Model HJ650. I love it...and it's all original.
But I have been searching to find out the date of manufacture. Would you possibly know, where I can contact? I have already sent an email over to Samick but have not heard back.
Thanks, Art

Phil Clark said...

As far as I know,Samick serial numbers aren't sequential.Hopefully,Samick will be more help than I was! Phil

Salvador Pérez Muñoz said...

Hi again, which capacitors did you use for the pots... are they for tone or volume... what characteristics do they have? Thank you for your blog... it rocks!

Phil Clark said...

Salvador,thanks for your kind comments. I used the .022 Vitamin Q capacitors from Allparts. They have a nice,smooth taper and don't get too muddy. The capacitor is used on the tone pot. Phil.

Salvador Pérez Muñoz said...

Hi again Phil, what do you think about this set from allparts for my guitar, which has the same hollow body as yours? Really appreciate your help...

Phil Clark said...

Salvador,that would be a good choice to upgrade the stock parts of your guitar.

Phillip Ford said...

Bought one of these today, haven't played much guitar in a long time but always wanted a nice big jazz box and boy is this that. I was curious about the serial number on mine and found the answer here: Mine is S6034058 which turns out to mean March 1996. Dunno what they did after Y2K. Thanks for this info on modding these things, too.