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Replacing a FET-3 pre-amp with an Op-Pro....the HARD way.

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Patch
Posted 2018-01-25 10:34 AM (#540923)
Subject: Replacing a FET-3 pre-amp with an Op-Pro....the HARD way.



Joined:
May 2006
Posts: 4102

Location: Steeler Nation, Hudson Valley Contingent

I realize I have some very nice and unusual Ovations to play with, but my sentimental favorite will always be my trusty 12-string Custom Balladeer that I bought new in 1987. It has been through my entire adult life with me, and has enough memory played into it that I consider it irreplaceable.

So imagine my disappointement when its pre-amp started to give out. Finding a replacement Fet-3 turned out to be prettty much impossible, and I eventually contacted John Budny for an Op-Pro. But as many of you know, the "kidney can" does not sit in the same place as the old rectagnle-style boxes from the 80's and 90's, so I had a bit of a challenge ahead.

So here is the process for your perusal. Some of my ideas worked perfectly, some not so much. But in the end, it all worked out.

There are quite a few pictures, so I'll spread them over several posts.

First, I needed a model to make a template. So here are the two guinea pigs; my 1755 and my 1718-X Koa Elite (which has the Op-pro already).

Taking a look at the factory installation of the Op-Pro in the Elite gives me some direction on which way to go later with the Custom Balladeer.

So I removed the Op-Pro from the Elite and used painters tape to make a template for cutting the hole on the Balladeer. The tape will use the edge of the top and the heel of the neck as reference points.

And finally, I take out the old Fet-3.

 

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Patch
Posted 2018-01-25 10:43 AM (#540924 - in reply to #540923)
Subject: RE: Replacing a FET-3 pre-amp with an Op-Pro....the HARD way.



Joined:
May 2006
Posts: 4102

Location: Steeler Nation, Hudson Valley Contingent

Now comes what I thought would be the scariest part. (I was mistaken.) Still, I had a definite case of nerves as I took out the Dremmel to cut a large hole in my baby!

I used my tape template to place a rubber guide and trace the hole to cut. As it turns out, the rubber piece was superfluous for my intentions, so I jsut traced the inside of the tape template instead. (I also forgot to take a picture of it when it was in place. Sorry.

Here is the rough cut and the first edge cleaning of the new hole.

With this test fit, you can now see what would turn out to be the bane of my existence...er...what turned out to be the hardest challenge of the project; how to fill the hole. I actually thought filling and levelling the hole would be easier than matching the finish. The finish was tough, but the fill had other ideas.

 

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Patch
Posted 2018-01-25 10:49 AM (#540925 - in reply to #540923)
Subject: RE: Replacing a FET-3 pre-amp with an Op-Pro....the HARD way.



Joined:
May 2006
Posts: 4102

Location: Steeler Nation, Hudson Valley Contingent

Packrat that I am, I scrounged around and found and old wall/clip mount for a cordless phone. I used this as a pan for the open space in the hole and used screws to fit it after cutting it to size. I also forgot to mention that I yanked the mounting screw for the battery box as well.

 

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Patch
Posted 2018-01-25 10:59 AM (#540926 - in reply to #540923)
Subject: RE: Replacing a FET-3 pre-amp with an Op-Pro....the HARD way.



Joined:
May 2006
Posts: 4102

Location: Steeler Nation, Hudson Valley Contingent

So here's where things went pear-shaped. I've never had any issues filling and sanding wood before, so I naively assumed this would not be much different. Since it was a small hole, I actually just used spackle instead of epoxy. I would then use flat black paint in layers until the seam dissapeared. Then I would work on matching the textured finish.

I never made it to steps 2 and 3 because, for the life of me, I could not get the seam to disappear.

FWIW, after these steps, I could have hooked everything up and the instrument would have sounded fine. But...well...you know....

If nothing else, I was proud of the perfect fit when I dropped the new kidney-can in.

This was the best I could do......

Me not likey....

 

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Patch
Posted 2018-01-25 11:19 AM (#540928 - in reply to #540923)
Subject: RE: Replacing a FET-3 pre-amp with an Op-Pro....the HARD way.



Joined:
May 2006
Posts: 4102

Location: Steeler Nation, Hudson Valley Contingent

I spent some time doing research online trying to figure out the best way to go. I went to a variety of shops thinking grandiose thoughts like epoxy and fiberglass fillers. But the truth is, I no longer entirely trusted myself to do it right. I asked John Budny if he could help, and he said of course, but they were WAY backed up and it could be quite a while.

Then I remembered something else John said, but many years ago. I was at the factory and we were talking about repairs and he mentioned that "working on Ovations was half luthiery and half auto-body," depending on which part of the guitar you were messing with. Now I have a good relationship with the owner of Vince's Auto Body, who happens to be a pretty good bass player and loves to talk gear whenever I or my wife have needed work done over the years.

I also drive by his shop whenever I have to get my kids at school, so it was easy to stop in and see what he thought.

He took a quick look at it and said, "No problem, just leave it here. Take out that stuff you put in, and we'll fabricate a metal can and fill it with epoxy. I can finish it for you too. I have to work it in between jobs here though. Can you leave it with me 'til next week?

(It helps to read all of the above in a NY accent BTW.)

Sure I say. What'll I owe you?

"I dunno." he says, "Maybe 20 bucks?"

"See you in a week." I say.

He calls me the next week and tells me it's ready. So I go by with my kids after school that day. Here's what I found.

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arumako
Posted 2018-01-25 11:23 AM (#540929 - in reply to #540923)
Subject: Re: Replacing a FET-3 pre-amp with an Op-Pro....the HARD way.



Joined:
October 2012
Posts: 782

Location: Yokohama, Japan
Ouch... to the west coast for some Savage magic perhaps?

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moody, p.i.
Posted 2018-01-25 11:25 AM (#540930 - in reply to #540923)
Subject: Re: Replacing a FET-3 pre-amp with an Op-Pro....the HARD way.


Joined:
March 2002
Posts: 15209

Location: SoCal
Very cool and with a happy ending to boot!
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Patch
Posted 2018-01-25 11:29 AM (#540931 - in reply to #540923)
Subject: RE: Replacing a FET-3 pre-amp with an Op-Pro....the HARD way.



Joined:
May 2006
Posts: 4102

Location: Steeler Nation, Hudson Valley Contingent

I showed it to several people all through the holidays, and they have all said that if I hadn't told them to look, they would have never known that the Op-Pro was not original. And now I have a built-in tuner, which is never a bad thing to have on a 12-string guitar.

And oh yes, it sounds incredible coming through an amplifier!

So here you have the before and after pictures. I even saved the "attitude" sticker my father gave me back in the 80's. ("Sometimes you need to adjust yours." he snarked at the time.) It makes me think of him and of home.

BEFORE

AFTER

And before I finish this, I'd like you all to meet someone:

Thanks for the help Joe!

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Patch
Posted 2018-01-25 11:31 AM (#540932 - in reply to #540923)
Subject: RE: Replacing a FET-3 pre-amp with an Op-Pro....the HARD way.



Joined:
May 2006
Posts: 4102

Location: Steeler Nation, Hudson Valley Contingent

Ah man, I wasn't fast enough. You two got in before I fisnhed the last post!

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arumako
Posted 2018-01-25 11:52 AM (#540933 - in reply to #540923)
Subject: Re: Replacing a FET-3 pre-amp with an Op-Pro....the HARD way.



Joined:
October 2012
Posts: 782

Location: Yokohama, Japan
Oh WOW! Now that is a cool story! My heart was breakin' for you Patch! I'm so glad it ended well! Sheesh...so as I read your post prematurely, I kept thinking, "He should post this in the BFLG..." Well, a good warning for guys like me, I'll definitely think twice before I tackle a bowl with my Dremmel!
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Patch
Posted 2018-01-25 12:02 PM (#540934 - in reply to #540923)
Subject: RE: Replacing a FET-3 pre-amp with an Op-Pro....the HARD way.



Joined:
May 2006
Posts: 4102

Location: Steeler Nation, Hudson Valley Contingent

One final thing, when I reached for my wallet, Joe shook his hand at me and said, "Don't worry about it. It was fun to do something different."

He's a good guy.

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DanSavage
Posted 2018-01-25 12:14 PM (#540936 - in reply to #540932)
Subject: Re: Replacing a FET-3 pre-amp with an Op-Pro....the HARD way.



Joined:
June 2012
Posts: 1797

Location: Lake Forest, CA
Nice job, Patch.

The trick to patching the finish (no pun intended) is to stipple the paint on with a small piece of terry cloth towel. I use epoxy tinted with dry artist pigment.

The factory uses a spray gun adjusted so it spits out small blobs of paint, but this can be duplicated by hand.
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Patch
Posted 2018-01-25 1:53 PM (#540937 - in reply to #540923)
Subject: RE: Replacing a FET-3 pre-amp with an Op-Pro....the HARD way.



Joined:
May 2006
Posts: 4102

Location: Steeler Nation, Hudson Valley Contingent

I was thinking along those lines Dan. But when Joe offered to do it, I figured I would leave it to the experts.

A man's got to know his limitations eh? (Which I probably shold have thought of before cutting into my guitar. )

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Love O Fair
Posted 2018-01-25 5:08 PM (#540940 - in reply to #540923)
Subject: Re: Replacing a FET-3 pre-amp with an Op-Pro....the HARD way.



Joined:
February 2016
Posts: 894

Location: Spin axis of a California map
Pleasant ending to a scary beginning. A good body man will consider themselves as an artist first and a mechanic second.. and Joe is clearly one of those.

And Dan... thanks for the tip on the terrycloth and epoxy!




Edited by Love O Fair 2018-01-25 5:10 PM
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Mark in Boise
Posted 2018-01-25 5:49 PM (#540941 - in reply to #540923)
Subject: Re: Replacing a FET-3 pre-amp with an Op-Pro....the HARD way.


Joined:
March 2005
Posts: 12623

Location: Boise, Idaho
I love guys like that, whether you call them craftsmen or artisans. And don't anyone dare to call it a gift or talent. That skill comes from a caring person who devotes a lot of time to his craft. (Sorry to sound gender-biased, but I don't know any "body women" at least in this context.)

Edited by Mark in Boise 2018-01-25 5:50 PM
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titti
Posted 2018-01-26 3:46 PM (#540948 - in reply to #540923)
Subject: Re: Replacing a FET-3 pre-amp with an Op-Pro....the HARD way.



Joined:
January 2011
Posts: 321

Location: Italia, Zianigo di Mirano (Venezia)
I am from Italy. I will not ship my Ovation anywhere. The OP 24 on '87'C works well. if it should have problems it would be easy to fix it. But I'd like to change it with a more modern preamp. The main problem (in addition to prices that have gone crazy lately) . The main problem is the shape, from rectangular to ... bean . Solution : John Budny ... come to Italy ... Venice ... Mirano ... I offer you a fish dinner (if you like it)


Edited by titti 2018-01-26 3:50 PM
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DetlefMichel
Posted 2018-01-27 6:38 AM (#540951 - in reply to #540923)
Subject: Re: Replacing a FET-3 pre-amp with an Op-Pro....the HARD way.



Joined:
May 2011
Posts: 505

Location: Muenster/Germany
I know projects like this too well. But now this guitar has become more "YOUR" guitar,or not?
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Patch
Posted 2018-01-27 6:54 AM (#540952 - in reply to #540951)
Subject: Re: Replacing a FET-3 pre-amp with an Op-Pro....the HARD way.



Joined:
May 2006
Posts: 4102

Location: Steeler Nation, Hudson Valley Contingent

DetlefMichel - 2018-01-27 7:38 AM I know projects like this too well. But now this guitar has become more "YOUR" guitar,or not?

If an instrument can be a friend, then this is the best one I've ever had! It's been through too much with me, and every instrument I own would go before this one did.

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tpa
Posted 2018-01-27 7:33 AM (#540954 - in reply to #540923)
Subject: Re: Replacing a FET-3 pre-amp with an Op-Pro....the HARD way.


Joined:
December 2004
Posts: 429

Location: Denmark
Congratulations with the succesful upgrade, Patch.
Do anyone have a dysfunctional FET/FET3 they want to part with for the shipping? It could be fun to try to repair it.
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red-twins
Posted 2018-01-27 8:25 PM (#540960 - in reply to #540954)
Subject: Re: Replacing a FET-3 pre-amp with an Op-Pro....the HARD way.



Joined:
February 2013
Posts: 165

Location: Cologne/Germany

Well, Patch has one, I guess 

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red-twins
Posted 2018-01-27 8:30 PM (#540961 - in reply to #540923)
Subject: Re: Replacing a FET-3 pre-amp with an Op-Pro....the HARD way.



Joined:
February 2013
Posts: 165

Location: Cologne/Germany
Interesting and well done. Good to know people in the car business....

For a longer period already, I have been anxious what to do when one of the older Ovation preamps (incl. OP-X) gives up... I still don’t know, but I sure know what I am not going to do....
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Patch
Posted 2018-01-29 1:03 PM (#540982 - in reply to #540954)
Subject: Re: Replacing a FET-3 pre-amp with an Op-Pro....the HARD way.



Joined:
May 2006
Posts: 4102

Location: Steeler Nation, Hudson Valley Contingent

tpa - 2018-01-27 8:33 AM Congratulations with the succesful upgrade, Patch. Do anyone have a dysfunctional FET/FET3 they want to part with for the shipping? It could be fun to try to repair it.

You can have mine, but I have no idea what shipping to Denmark would run.

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Mitchrx
Posted 2018-02-01 1:46 PM (#541038 - in reply to #540923)
Subject: Re: Replacing a FET-3 pre-amp with an Op-Pro....the HARD way.


Joined:
December 2003
Posts: 1070

Location: Carle Place, NY
Great outcome to a challenging problem. As for fixing old FET's, does anyone know if they can be converted to a passive piezo?
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tpa
Posted 2018-02-01 1:50 PM (#541039 - in reply to #540982)
Subject: Re: Replacing a FET-3 pre-amp with an Op-Pro....the HARD way.


Joined:
December 2004
Posts: 429

Location: Denmark
Patch - 2018-01-28 8:03 PM

tpa - 2018-01-27 8:33 AM Congratulations with the succesful upgrade, Patch. Do anyone have a dysfunctional FET/FET3 they want to part with for the shipping? It could be fun to try to repair it.

You can have mine, but I have no idea what shipping to Denmark would run.


Thanks - I'll send you a pm.

Edit - I might have been a bit overenthusiastic. I need to find something reasonable transfer. UPS or USPS are quite expensive :-(. It will cost 5 times up what I gave for shipping from Stewart-M or something like 1.5 times what a new OP24+ will cost. I will reconsider.

But thanks anyway, Patch.

Edited by tpa 2018-02-01 2:17 PM
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bvince
Posted 2018-02-01 4:36 PM (#541042 - in reply to #540923)
Subject: Re: Replacing a FET-3 pre-amp with an Op-Pro....the HARD way.



Joined:
September 2005
Posts: 3487

Location: GATLINBURG TENNESSEE :)
WOW!...Great job Patch!
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