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1946 Fender Organ Button Model Lap Steel

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I want to extend my appreciation, and thanks to Mr. Josh Gravelin for assisting me in getting a family heirloom back in working order. I inherited this 1946 Fender Organ Button Model lap steel from my late aunt, who had inherited it from her uncle in the late 1960s. When I took possession it had not been played in some time, and needed a good deal of finessing to get back into playing shape. Most of that finessing was done by Mr. Gravelin who did an amazing job getting the unusual pickup rebuilt. The Direct String Pickup was the design Leo Fender had been using in the K&F lap steel guitars, and is an odd duck to say the least. The strings go through the middle of the coil using a plastic spacer and it has two giant magnets on either side of the coil. In my guitar's case, the plastic spacer had deteriorated to the point the coil had collapsed on itself. After consulting with Mr. Gravelin, I sent him the rather elegantly designed control/pickup/bridge assembly and he bravely took on the Herculean task of rebuilding a pickup that hasn't been produced since the late 1940s. I'll leave the details of that effort to him, should he want to share his side of the tale. He did a beautiful job rebuilding the pickup back to original specs, and managed to uncover a rather cool detail about this particular guitar. He found a handwritten date of 6-4-46 on one of the bobbins, indicating this was one of the earliest Fender branded guitars to come out of the factory after the switch from K&F. I was also quite amused at how the "routing" for the control assembly was done back in those golden days; it seems Fender had not yet invested in routing templates for that job, and were hogging-out the cavities with the judicious use of spade bits.

I only recently had time to get around to reassembly, and am quite pleased with how much fun this little piece of history is. I still have to fabricate the missing plastic "organ button" switch. It's a bit unclear what the effect actually does, but from what I can tell it's something of a "cocked-wah" kinda thing.





Edited by Keoghpjk
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Very nice piece of history there! I think Josh mentioned that rewind when we where fishing!

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48 minutes ago, Dutchman said:

I think Josh mentioned that rewind when we where fishing!

I can attest that he was not telling tall tales about the rewind, can't swear about any fish though.

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5 hours ago, Keoghpjk said:








I'm sure that will sound better than it was ever thought possible with Josh's magic added in.  Cool pics and story.

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That is one of the coolest things ever. And the fact that Josh took it on shows either his passion or that he's a certifiable nut case. Either way, congrats!

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Needs a Floyd.

Seriously, I’m impressed with the wide range of pickup-related weirdness Josh takes on.  He just wants to make it happen.

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It appears that Leo hadn’t quite gotten a router template together yet! Super cool restoration, how does it sound? Does the magnet just sit on top of the coil, and the strings pass through the opening? Also, where does the ‘organ button’ name come from?


Edited by topekatj
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On 1/10/2021 at 10:30 AM, topekatj said:

...how does it sound? Does the magnet just sit on top of the coil, and the strings pass through the opening? Also, where does the ‘organ button’ name come from?

I haven't had much time to play the guitar since reassembly, but so far my impression is that it is rather mellow, and warm. A far cry from the early '50s Fender Princeton lap steel I recently tried. According to my research, some of Mr. Fender's thinking in designing the Direct String Pickup was to minimize the "pick attack" when playing.

The pickup's coil is wrapped around a plastic spacer in the middle of the bobbin assembly (which the strings feed through), and there are two 1" square magnets to either side of the coil. The Organ Button Model name comes from the addition of the switch on the tone control that was supposed to mimic the sound of an electric organ, or muted trumpet. It's kind of a proto-wah effect. I'm currently working on fabricating a new plastic button for the switch based on the few photographs I've found

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