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Thumb Prototype?

Discussion in 'Bass Guitars' started by kimgee, Jun 1, 2018.

  1. kimgee

    kimgee Wenge Taste Tester Supporting Member Good Vibe Sponsor

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    I would have to agree with you on that Gnermo. I am waiting to see what is actually under that bridge cover before I decide in what direction to go with the electronics, but I don't think I will do any kind of pick-up routing at all. I would like to go with a piezo setup, I think. My research indicates Graph Tech has some interesting hardware in that area, but the amount of modification required depends on what kind of bridge is under that cover. It looks like a Roland synth setup would be an easy way to go and I already have most of the synth hardware, including a GR-55, so I may try that first. I should receive the bass today, and will decide how to move forward after I check it out. I must admit though, if routing is the only way to make it a functional instrument, I will probably leave it non-functional and consider it a collector piece. It just looks so cool and unique with no pickups showing. Plus, the wood is just so pretty! I never had any oil finish guitars before I got into Warwick, and now that is all I want. There is just something about the feel of naked wood that I have come to love.
     
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  2. carvello

    carvello

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    You should write to Wilcox guitars and see if they know anything about it! Their website says they made the light wave system so they might be able to help you refurbish it.
    Regardless this is a very cool bass. I also vote to never route pickups in it. :)
     
  3. SynapticGroove

    SynapticGroove Good Vibe Sponsor

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    Too bad Fishman doesn't make a Triple-Play for bass...you could (non-destructively) install that to use it and keep everything else the way it is for a collectability factor.

    Awesome find!
     
  4. kimgee

    kimgee Wenge Taste Tester Supporting Member Good Vibe Sponsor

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    I received the Thumb late yesterday, but had little time to check it out. I will go over it this weekend and post some photos. It appears to be in quite nice condition overall. A couple things I did notice right off were, first of all, it balances perfectly, which is not what I expected from a Thumb. I always heard they had noticeable neck dive, but I did not detect a hint of it. Second, the electronics and bridge are not like anything I have ever seen. There is a large PC board in the electronics bay and the bridge assembly is very exotic looking. I am not sure if it is an extensively modified Warwick bridge, or an entirely fabricated assembly, or what exactly. I didn't even have time to take off the cover, but it looked like little arms were attached to the saddles, and on the end of the arms were little loops toward the neck side that the strings passed through and then ran over the saddles. It looked very interesting, to say the least.
     
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  5. kimgee

    kimgee Wenge Taste Tester Supporting Member Good Vibe Sponsor

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    Here are pictures of a very strange electronic system. I have no idea how it was supposed to work, but it appears overly complicated and probably didn't result in enough of an improvement, if any, to justify the complexity. On the plus side, for me, it looks like it will be easy to install a piezo system due to the modifications made to the bridge. The best part of the modification is the bridge cover, which fits perfectly and is of high quality. I may attempt to install a piezo and synth combination, but I am going to contact Graph Tech and talk to them about the various options they offer before I make a decision. I would like to find some compact pickups to consider that I could mount to the front of the bridge or possible to the underside of the bridge cover. I have an Epiphone Zenith bass that has a tiny pickup made by Shadow Electronics that is very compact and mounted at the end of the fretboard. Something like that would be perfect to try, but I can't find anything like it for sale anywhere. If anyone knows of anything like thatm let me know.

    Before disassembly:

    20180609_161156.jpg 20180609_161256.jpg 20180609_161317.jpg
     
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  6. kimgee

    kimgee Wenge Taste Tester Supporting Member Good Vibe Sponsor

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    The electronics bay:

    20180609_161432.jpg 20180609_161649.jpg 20180609_162135.jpg
     
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  7. kimgee

    kimgee Wenge Taste Tester Supporting Member Good Vibe Sponsor

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    There was a small green plate with 2 leads, with a small piece of clear mylar? insulation under it, under each saddle, but all 8 leads terminated in only 2 leads:

    20180609_163848.jpg 20180609_163917.jpg 20180609_165527.jpg
     
  8. kimgee

    kimgee Wenge Taste Tester Supporting Member Good Vibe Sponsor

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    The weird loop thingies and re-assembled bridge:

    20180609_164849.jpg 20180609_165109.jpg 20180609_174338.jpg
     
  9. Hoggles

    Hoggles Supporting Member Good Vibe Sponsor

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    Wow, that is crazy. And awesome. Crazy awesome.

    Wonder if there is someone local who can do some tests to try to find out where the fault(s) is?

    Not necessarily someone in the guitar bizz. Just some electronics wiz.

    Of course try it first. Maybe the guy was wrong and it works :eek:
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2018
  10. jester

    jester Moderator Moderator

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    Crezze. A bit unsightly too, therefore bridge cover. I would for sure wait to hear what @golem has to say about this and your options. Is that a regular sized Warwick bridge?
     
  11. SynapticGroove

    SynapticGroove Good Vibe Sponsor

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    If you are at all confident with a soldering iron, then:

    A. Use a multimeter to check the signal between pads (this will ensure that you don't have any broken traces)
    B. Reflow the solder where the components terminate and where the wiring terminates.

    Given the age, it's likely that a cold solder joint might be the only thing causing the board to not function correctly.

    On the upside, at least it's all through-hole components and (looks like) pretty off-the-shelf stuff from the images.
     
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  12. SynapticGroove

    SynapticGroove Good Vibe Sponsor

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    Will you flip the circuit board and take a picture of the underside of it? I just want to see if there are any noticeable broken traces on it.
     
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  13. SynapticGroove

    SynapticGroove Good Vibe Sponsor

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    Those are LDR's and that is certainly an early prototype/DIY optical pickup system. Hence the cover and the electrical tape to keep things dark.
    Wow, man, you got a hell of a score there!!
    From a collector's POV, I'd re-assemble it and keep it 100% like it is. If you can get the optical system to work, that's a huge bonus.
     
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  14. golem

    golem Philosopher King

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    `


    Open up the OTHER backside cover. I expect you will
    find a nicad cluster in there. There should be 2 jacks
    on the exterior of the body, one for the amp cable and
    the other for recharging the nicads.

    Nicads do not take kindly to being left idle. They tend
    to die of boredom. I bought a new pack from Wilcox
    and feared it would cost dearly, but it was only $23 :)

    I would expect a tiny hole in one of the backside covers
    that allows an LED to shine thru it, red while charging,
    green when charge is complete.

    If there is only one jack, the amp cable jack, and none
    for recharging, look under that other cover anyway. If
    you find a nicad pack, there must be some method for
    charging it .... either [easy ?] removal to some kind of
    external charger, or the solitary jack somehow serves
    both purposes [not impossible].

    My own more modern version allows playing powered
    by the charging cable, while simultaneously charging
    as well, and can play via the external power cord, even
    if the nicad pack no longer takes or holds a charge.

    If Wilcox has no documentation for ancient versions, I
    recall that before Lightwave was selling complete axen,
    they sold systems, for installation by custom builders.
    I don't recall which ones, but if google can find any old
    info, custom luthier pages mentioning the option, then
    perhaps contact the luthiers to ask if they could offer
    any ancient documentation ... or possibly even a repair.

    `
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2018
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  15. golem

    golem Philosopher King

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    `


    BTW, if you're considering reverting to a simple
    piezo system, don't overlook Warwick's own. I've
    got an older Vett with piezos. Has EMGs as well,
    but I love playing it piezo-only cuz acoarst it's FL.
    The piezos are fitted into a normal Wick bridge.


    `
     
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  16. kimgee

    kimgee Wenge Taste Tester Supporting Member Good Vibe Sponsor

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    The implementation of this system was quite crude and I don't think it would produce a quality signal with any reliability. Also, there is no battery pack, or power source of any kind. If you look at the electronics bay photos you can see that in 2 of them the extra cover has been removed. The extra routing was to make room for the circuit board. The seller stated that the guitar used an external power supply and seemed to know little else about it, other than it was non-functional. I think the prototype electronics have little value other than as a curiosity, and possibly, some historical significance. I will contact Wilcox guitars to see if they know anything about this guitar. Who knows, it could represent an important step in the evolution of optical systems. I have already removed the sensors from the bridge and the circuit board from the electronics bay. I will save the prototype system, but doubt I will re-install it. I think piezo is the way to go on this beautiful, and very little played, guitar. I would like to add a magnetic pickup as well, if I can figure out an elegant way to do so, without drilling or routing on the body. I think the additional acrylic piece over the electronics bay would be e good place to mount adjustment pots to balance the string output for a piezo system. The bridge is a modified Warwick bridge, so if they still offer a piezo bridge, it shoudl fit right in. But, I didn't see one on their store page. All I could see were piezo saddles. However the modifications to the existing bridge should make installing piezo saddles pretty easy.
    Here is an image of the back side of the circuit board as requested:
    20180610_203739.jpg
     
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  17. SynapticGroove

    SynapticGroove Good Vibe Sponsor

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    @kimgee Thanks! Hand-drawn circuit boards are always fun. Where it was clipped to fit into the cavity...wow, completely cutoff traces, etc.

    If it wasn't so crude, I'd almost think the blue wire was a jump for a blasted trace, but that's probably not the case.

    If you can find a piezo system from a Parker Fly bass (it'll be Fishman) I bet that would do that beauty justice.

    Good luck with the build and please keep us all updated as this is really exciting!
     
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  18. kimgee

    kimgee Wenge Taste Tester Supporting Member Good Vibe Sponsor

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    I contacted Warwick Nashville, and they no longer make a piezo bridge. They only offer the Graph Tech stuff. Also, Craig said it very likely was, in fact, a Lightwave prototype since the Warwick distributor was located in the same town as the Lightwave guys at that time. Unfortunately, I have sent emails to both the support and info addresses Wilcox lists on their website, and both were kicked back as undeliverable. I have been unsuccessful at reaching them by phone as well. Not a good sign for Wilcox Guitars.
     
  19. golem

    golem Philosopher King

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    Lightwave has never been a resounding success. Their
    market impact is a raindrop into an ocean. I've always
    assumed that someday I might be doing what you are
    about to do. Glad you like/love/admire Thumb basses,
    cuz that makes your conversion project worth the time
    and money. Likewise I find my LW ax so comfortable
    and easy to play that I'm quite OK with going to a new
    piezo system if the existing LW-piezo combo were to
    fail. There are already piezos in my bridge so I expect
    they can be connected to an electronics package from
    Baggs, Fishman, etc. There is certainly plenty of room
    under the hood !
     
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  20. SynapticGroove

    SynapticGroove Good Vibe Sponsor

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