Caring for your Little-Jake pickup

Over the years I’ve sold a great many Little-Jake pickups to players all around the world. On occasion I find out one of them fails or breaks and I repair them at no cost but the shipping. There are two ways that I typically see the Little-Jakes fail, and there are ways to prevent both from ever happening in most cases. Here are some things I do to prevent damaging my own pickups.

Failure possibility #1

Most commonly the problem I see with a Little-Jake is that the screw strips out of the housing, usually when removing the pickup from the bocal. Since I don’t have access to plastic molding facilities the screw is added to a housing in a way that will always be possible to break (you could always rip it apart with a pliers), however I’ve made some changes to my building process over the years to try to make this as difficult as possible. The #1 cause of this is build-up of gunk in the threaded part of the bocal, or in the threads of the screw on the pickup itself.

You should be cleaning your bocal regularly anyway, but in addition to scrubbing out the tube of the bocal, also clean out the threads of the pickup adapter with a small brush. A great thing I’ve found that works well is a brush designed to apply mascara. It’s small enough to get in there but has stiff enough bristles to clean the threads. Soap and water is good.

Bear in mind, the screw is made of a pretty soft nylon material, and if you find it very resistant to screwing into the bocal you might have it at a bad angle, which can catch the threads in a way that will promote ripping the screw out of the housing. If you encounter resistance screwing in the pickup take it out and try finding the right fit for the threads.You can visually inspect the pickup threads to make sure you haven’t damaged them by trying to force the pickup in incorrectly. Assuming you haven’t done this, a little scrubbing with the same brush to clear out the threads will keep it easy to screw into and out of the bocal.

Important note:

If you do pull out the screw from the housing, you can temporarily put it back in and get through the gig, but be very careful not to screw it in all the way. When I repair these, they always come back with the screw having been put back tightly into the housing, which means the element inside has been crushed, which will result in the pickup not working at all in most cases.

Failure Possibility #2

The second place that the pickup might fail is if the wire coating pulls out of the housing. This doesn’t happen often, but it’s usually caused by extraneous stress on the pickup when it’s put in the bocal. If you find yourself tugging at the cord frequently when you have everything plugged in, try adding a strain relief to the cord at the metal band on your bell. Paul Hanson has done this for years with his FRAP pickups. This shouldn’t be necessary unless you have some constant tug on the cable. [This, by the way, is the main reason why I use such a thin and light cable on the pickup. A heavier cable would be more prone to failure as it would put more stress on the pickup housing and on the bocal adapter. While it’s counter-intuitive, the thinner cable is actually more robust because gravity isn’t working to destroy it]

I’ve come up with a good solution to the issues of cable length that I get frequent complaints about. While the pickup is designed to have the preamp attached to the player, I recently found a product that you can easily attach to your bassoon balance hanger that you can also mount the preamp to. This means the entire system is pretty well regulated to the instrument and there’s no issues with pulling on the cord.

You can prevent this and other possible damage to the cable by storing your Little-Jake in a firm case. I had this plastic case lying around, I think a pair of swimming goggles or something came in it. I think another Altoids tin would probably work just as well.

IMG_20181022_084335[1]At any rate, I don’t suggest storing your Little-Jake in a ziploc bag folded up and scrunched in your gear bag. You’ll probably be crimping or kinking the cable over time, which will possibly cause a short in the long run (although I’ve never actually seen this problem).

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