1940s Magnatone-made Oahu Lap Steel

A referral from Telluride Music Co sent this cute little bugger over here. It has the Oahu brand but is clearly a Magnatone-made instrument from the '40s. It has the early, "thin plate" pickup cover/control plate and the pearloid wrap is that funky forest-green stuff that looks oh-so-cool.

As usual, the original pickup was dead and after carefully extracting it, the reason for it was obvious -- the ground wire had come off of one side of the coil's wrap. Rather than get it rewound, I installed an Alnico Strat-style pickup (cut down to fit) in its place and rewired and cleaned the original pot/jack to get them going again.

Post-work it sounds a lot like what these do originally, though with a bit more bite/sparkle to the high end of the tone. It sounds, well -- a lot like a Fender steel, though the lightweight bodies of these give them a bit more mellow compared to actual Fenders. The owner has it strung with flatwound strings (with a wound 3rd) and I left them on it and knocked the polepieces up/down to favor that stringing so it sounds even.

The last bit to do was fit some new buttons on the tuners and clean it up. I love the old-fashioned Kluson Saf-T-String tuner shafts.

While the new pickup isn't hidden under the pearloid wrap like the original was, it only peeks-out a little bit from under the cover.

Here's the original pickup -- horseshoe magnet with a coil wrapped around non-magnetized poles.

Here's the original housing for the pickup...

...and here's the new Strat-style pickup fit in there. I only needed to take a tiny amount of material out of the rear of the cavity to get the Strat-style one to fit. Note that I've drilled a hole in the middle of the pickup's top to allow one-screw mounting of it. The foam is there to keep dust and grunge away from the pickup's lead wires.