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More of My Story

Creating New Designs...

When making pickups, I feel it is VERY important to first truly understand why a certain pickup has stood the test of time: why it WORKS, and of course why something does not work. Once I feel I fully understand the original pickup and how it was made, and can accurately recreate it, I then move to tinker and modify that design. If you don't first fully understand the original design, you end up "improving" something that did not need to be improved.

Fender Custom Colors...

Back in the 80's, trying to do authentic vintage restorations was tough. There was no Internet—well there were the News Groups. But there was really no central source to find the OEM info required.

I used to do a lot of repeat cold calling to the various guitar manufacturers, in hopes of catching one of the "old timers" who had not retired yet and were shuffled out of the main stream of the company. These people were a wealth of information and loved talking about the "old days."

I then spent untold hours at a local auto paint store that still had all the old Duco paint chip books and could still mix the old paints. From that information and research I made my color blocks.

Pickup Winding Process...

In the process of researching the OEM vintage colors, I also collected a LOT of information on process for winding pickups. As luck would have it, I met a true mentor a few years later. With his guidance, and from the wealth of info I collected, I built my winder. I modeled it after the one Leo designed and used for production of his pickups.

I studied and perfected my hand guided winding pattern and tension to the point that I could accurately reproduce that vintage tone. Later I bought a COWECO cam driven auto winder and began to wind pickups with it. But for what ever reason that special tone was LOST.... so it now sits up on the top shelf in my shop.

Now I only use my hand winder. The process is MUCH slower, and requires my full undivided attention to YOUR pickup.

About My Mentor...

Born in the early 1900's, my mentor's father was a patent attorney in New York City during the Industrial Revolution. His father regularly brought home gadgets and new inventions for him to learn from. As a boy in New York City, he strung wires from building to building so he and his friends could communicate. He soon got his nickname of "Radio Robert" due to his fascination w/ amplifiers. He also invented the first portable radio and it was displayed at the New York State Fair.

Dyslexia and other learning disabilities kept him from pursuing an advanced education past high school, and from exceling in the corporate world. But his sheer genius propelled him to success in the spheres of invention and design.

During the War years he worked for Sperry Gyroscope Company as an electrical engineer where he was credited with many patents. Quite often he would be asked to solve unique problems. In one typical example, he was asked to create a device to accurately measure magnetic pull. With a list of requirements, he built and later patented one of the first, if not the first, tube powered Gauss meter.

When he showed me the device and the patent, it was listed as a Flux meter, I asked him why he called it a Flux meter and not a Gauss meter. Rather embarrassed, he replied that not having had a formal education he did not know the technical difference between Flux and Gauss. He lemented how his colleagues with their science and engineering degrees used to tease him over that. But he said all those men with ALL their degrees, and knowing the proper terminology, had not a clue how to make it.

From the 1920's well on into the early 2000's he was quite active in his true passion of making and perfecting tube amplifiers. A tour of his home and shop was like being in a time warp back to the golden age of radios and amplifiers. For him this was a world he never left, and for me it was a wonderland of how things were once made in America, how problems were solved, and how challenges were overcome with a free thinking can do spirit. And it changed me forever! This experience was the "Yin" to my modern high tech Math and Computer Science "Yang" background.

Curtis Novak


My passion for pickups and how it grew from a hobby to a life-long obsession and business...

Curtis Novak Guitars and Pickups Inc. Copyright 2008 All rights reserved.
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