Well, here is the put up or shut up moment. After six months or more brewing away in my head as an idea, another couple months sourcing parts and researching construction techniques and spec … here is the first Oil City Buccaneer Wide Range replacement going into my business partner Tim’s Japanese Tele Deluxe reissue.
The original Fender ‘reissue’ unit: problem? It sounded nothing like a proper 1971 Wide Range pickup as designed by Seth Lover. Not an awful pickup, but muddy and a bit wimpish. The original Wide Range had a reputation for string definition, and a big, fat, rounded tone: plenty of highs and lows. Sadly Fender’s reissue only looks like the original on the outside … the guts are not much different than a standard humbucker.
So out with the Fender reissue: an issue sprung up at once. The reissues use bigger diameter metric mounting screws. Luckily I had a few of the proper diameter and thread in my ‘junk’ box. Oops three nickel plated and one gold plated. I used the old repairman’s dodge and ‘cleaned’ the gold screw head with metal polish … gold is plated on top of nickel … so a couple of rubs had stripped off the gold plating to reveal the nickel underneath (one reason I hate gold hardware … it never stays gold long!)
Soldering in the Buccaneer was the work of a couple of minutes. It’s four conductor – unlike either the original or the Fender reissues, so the green and white wires are soldered together and tied back.
I could have fitted a coil shunt on a push pull switch … but I was eager to hear the results, and it’s … er … not my guitar, so I'd have to consult Tim first! I was a bit shocked how cheap and weedy the original wiring was, but that will be taken care of later (for the reason why read on).
The Buccaneer uses the same size jumbo coils as the real 70s item, but not the horribly expensive and almost impossibl to get CuNiFe magnets like the original. Instead I have opted for Alnico rod magnets with dummy screw heads ... I mean who actually needs to adjust a humbucker's magnets ... honestly? I have also included the 'reflector plate' left out in the fender so called reproductions.
Buccaneer in place with a sticky clear film hiding it's virgin shininess mmmmmmmm shiny! Just like the 70s original there is only one string spacing between the bridge and neck versions, so the poles go a little off ... but hey, that looks 'original' and really makes no difference to the output.
Well, back together, and sounding like a Wide Range equipped guitar ought to. Gone is the smeary, slightly muddy grumble of the reissue pickup. In its place round, fat, bell like tones that break up well into really musical overdrive.
There is one issue that has to be addressed though; the power and fatness of the Buccaneer WR has shown up the asthmatic and weedy output of the bridge single coil. Worse than most Fender pickups I have tried, it is truly scrawny. Mixed together both pickups sound good, but flicking to the bridge is an exercise in disappointment. I’m judging the bridge resistance output to be about 6/6.5k and it’s not much surprise that it is marmalised by the mahoosive 11k neck pickup. So … back into Oily Towers winding dungeon I sidle … methinks an Oil City 'Diesel Tap' with dual 7.5k and 11k outputs should do the trick in the bridge position. Two push pull pots, one to shunt one of the Buccaneer coils, and one to switch outputs on the bridge PU. That’ll produce a versatile and punchy instrument from a bit of an ‘also ran’.
As a footnote Buccaneers are available to buy to special order at the moment. There is a month’s wait, but they are the least expensive WR replacement on the market …e mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a price and expected delivery date.