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How to add a “Dog Ear” P-90 Pickup to a Vintage Kay Archtop F-Hole Acoustic Guitar

by vaughn skow May 01, 2017 2 min read

Hey WGS gang! Earlier this week I had a sweeeet old Kay in the shop to have a pickup installed (could have just as easily been a Harmony, Silvertone, etc). We wanted the traditional P-90 in the neck position with a single volume and tone control. Cool … but, there are some problems with this. So how did I do it, well keep reading and learn!

The biggest issue was that a traditional P-90 is deep enough that it would require cutting a mounting hole in the guitar’s top, and that would be very complicated as we would have to cut through the VERY important top bracing on the guitar to do this. To me, that’s a “no-go”! I wanted what is in essence a surface-mount P-90 that only requires two tiny holes for the mounting screws and one small hole for the lead wires … what I wanted was, in essence a Jazzmaster style pickup in an arched-back dog-eared P-90 form. How did I do that? Well, here was the process in just a couple dozen quick photos, to see it in action, be sure to watch the VIDEO!

First I beveled the back of the P-90 bobbin and cover to nearly match the arch of the top of the guitar.

Sanding P-90 To Fit Archtop Kay, Harmony Silvertone


Cut AlNiCo 5 rods to the proper length to be magnetic pole-pieces (that don’t stick out the back).

Cutting Alnico Magnets for Kay, harmony, silvertone archtop pickup install


I drilled the P-90 Bobbin to fit the AlNiCo pole-pieces tightly.

Drilling P-90 Bobbin for archtop Kay, Silvertone, Harmony pickup installation

I wound the bobbin as if it were a vintage spec P-90, but also with a low-output tap.

Winding P-90 for Vintage Kay, Silvertone,Harmony F-hole pickup install


I magnetically charged and inserted the pole-pieces into the bobbin and added lead wires.

P-90 install in vintage Kay silvertone harmony archtop f-hole guitar

Took readings on the pickup to ensure it had the desired induction and resistance.

Pickup for F-hole archtop Kay silvertone or harmony

Next I carefully measured and marked the locations for all holes to be drilled and drilled them.

P-90 pickup for vintage archtop f-hole kay silvertone or harmony

I Fed the pickup lead through a small hole and mounted the pickup with two small aged screws.

pickup for archtop Kay

I made the wiring harness outside the guitar using vintage braided shield lead wire.

wiring pickup for vintage kay archtop f-hole silvertone or harmony guitar

And last, I installed the harness and gave her a quick test play.

Install pickup in vintage kay silvertone arline archtop f-hole

Then all that was left to do was ENJOY!  Took her to a Jam the next day and she was the Belle of the Ball!

Vintage archtop Kay with pickup added

If ya wanta see EXACTLY how it was done ... watch this here video ... it was a whole lotta fun!

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