Kauffman Vibrola Revisited (reissue)

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abluesky
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Kauffman Vibrola Revisited (reissue)

Post by abluesky »

Ok, I will admit straight up that I am still a naive newbee relative to this forum (even though I've been a member for a couple years). EIther way, a very special c58 325 (mkII) made it's way to the home just this week. Opened the case, played a couple chords and then went to the arm and found it wouldn't really operate (at all). So I added a little more pressure to the custom arm and watch the strings shift up and fall out of tune. The movement was so tight that I surely felt something was a wrong (tension, etc) with the reissued vibrola.

I then found the "The Kauffman Curse" thread.

Bottom line, has anyone had any success in loosening/working the poor tension and action with this assembly? Should I simply just give it up? I am not looking for Van Halen action...just a little color. Ironically, my original Kauffman assembly off my Gibson archtop works beautifully.

Thanks for any advice.
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deaconblues
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Re: Kauffman Vibrola Revisited (reissue)

Post by deaconblues »

Does that guitar have the aftermarket larger vintage-correct bracket like this?

Image

I have heard that sometimes the standard tailpiece used on the c58s can cause the springs on the unit to bind up against the wood.

But mine has enough clearance and still doesn't work. It does seem strange that the c58 unit is universally awful when many vintage ones work at least to some degree.
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abluesky
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Re: Kauffman Vibrola Revisited (reissue)

Post by abluesky »

Thanks Dan. Yep, same one and I do have some clearance bewteen the springs and wood. You hit the nail on the head with the comment "It does seem strange that the c58 unit is universally awful ". Perhaps disassembling (the kauffman) and streching out the springs might help. I don't know.
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leftybass
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Re: Kauffman Vibrola Revisited (reissue)

Post by leftybass »

deaconblues wrote:Does that guitar have the aftermarket larger vintage-correct bracket like this?

Image

I have heard that sometimes the standard tailpiece used on the c58s can cause the springs on the unit to bind up against the wood.

But mine has enough clearance and still doesn't work. It does seem strange that the c58 unit is universally awful when many vintage ones work at least to some degree.
Actually, the guitar in question still has a factory Kauffman tailpiece claw......I have never researched Chip's claw, does it have taller hooks..?
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deaconblues
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Re: Kauffman Vibrola Revisited (reissue)

Post by deaconblues »

leftybass wrote: Actually, the guitar in question still has a factory Kauffman tailpiece claw......I have never researched Chip's claw, does it have taller hooks..?
The top of the bracket sticks up past the end of the guitar a little further than the normal trapeze bracket. Of course, that would affect the spring break angle to some degree. But it would also keep the springs and other mechanicals from digging into the ramp like they do on some c58s.

The clearance on my (stock) c58 Kauffman is just a few sixteenths of an inch.
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Re: Kauffman Vibrola Revisited (reissue)

Post by deaconblues »

Here's v86. I don't know if this bracket is a replica or a vintage part. At any rate, the screw holes are reportedly in the same place.

http://williamyoungguitars.com/files/V8626.jpg

I'd be interested to hear of a fix for the Kauffman if you find one. IIRC, John Hall once said that it rattles when it's loose and detunes when it's tight, with no happy medium.
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Re: Kauffman Vibrola Revisited (reissue)

Post by deaconblues »

I have an update for the (surely tiny) group of people who will be interested!

In the course of customizing and setting up my '58 spec 325 (pictures over in the vintage 325 forum), I switched from .011 Chromes to .012 gauge T.I. flats. I also added a vintage-correct tail bracket.

The Kauffman never stayed in tune before with even mild use, but now it...does. I can get a slight Bigsby-ish shimmer by moving the handle side-to-side, and the strings barely go out of tune after several uses -- certainly it works well enough to be practical. I'm sure the solution had something to do with the tension on the strings finally falling within the parameters of the unit.
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Re: Kauffman Vibrola Revisited (reissue)

Post by antipodean »

deaconblues wrote:I have an update for the (surely tiny) group of people who will be interested!

In the course of customizing and setting up my '58 spec 325 (pictures over in the vintage 325 forum), I switched from .011 Chromes to .012 gauge T.I. flats. I also added a vintage-correct tail bracket.

The Kauffman never stayed in tune before with even mild use, but now it...does. I can get a slight Bigsby-ish shimmer by moving the handle side-to-side, and the strings barely go out of tune after several uses -- certainly it works well enough to be practical. I'm sure the solution had something to do with the tension on the strings finally falling within the parameters of the unit.
Back in the day even .012 gauge strings would have been though of as "light"! Glad to hear it's working!
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Re: Kauffman Vibrola Revisited (reissue)

Post by rmeade »

Does anyone know where I can pickup a left Handed Kauffman Vibrola?? Thanks!
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Re: Kauffman Vibrola Revisited (reissue)

Post by albertgen »

Did they reissue that Kauffman vibrola, and if so where do they sell them? Thank you, Al
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Re: Kauffman Vibrola Revisited (reissue)

Post by libratune »

You can only find the Kauffman vibrola on 325C58 reissues (no longer being made by RIC) or a pre-1961 vintage Rickenbacker guitar. They were never sold separately by RIC. The Kauffman units from the C58s sometimes come up for sale on ebay, as some folks convert their C58s to "Lennon spec," which includes replacing the Kauffman with the proper Bigsby.
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Re: Kauffman Vibrola Revisited (reissue)

Post by NathanPollard »

Do you think they’d reissue the Kauffman? I mean, they are garbage mechanically, but I think they look pretty cool. If they raise it from the bottom so it doesn’t leave dents in the guitar, the springs were upgraded and there could be maybe other one but a compression spring instead of tension one. I’d love to see them on guitars again. Couple of mods and I think you could make a decent vibrola out of it. Just my opinion
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Re: Kauffman Vibrola Revisited (reissue)

Post by sloop_john_b »

NathanPollard wrote:Do you think they’d reissue the Kauffman?
I highly doubt it at this point.
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Re: Kauffman Vibrola Revisited (reissue)

Post by NathanPollard »

does anyone know anywhere I could buy a Kauffman Vibrola? I've been searching for quite a while now and I can't find one
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Re: Kauffman Vibrola Revisited (reissue)

Post by jingle_jangle »

Reading all of these posts, I can't help but think that, while the usual helpful spirit and intentions to assist stand out in bold relief here, nobody's hit the nail EXACTLY on the head, yet.

Let's consider the history of the Kauffman, first--

This was a unit created to add "shimmer" (mechanical vibrato) to the sound of an amplified horizontal console steel guitar, which stood in front of the player on three legs, and was played with both hands.

So, how did the vibrato unit work, then? Well, it was driven by a motor, via an eccentric tab on the motor's output shaft, and a rod link to the actual Kauffman mechanism (which was almost entirely similar to the guitar version, except the eccentric and linkage arm were replaced by a handle which clamped into place, using one of those universal thumbscrews as seen in strap anchors and bass mute elevation screws.)

Back to function--the motor which activated this device on a console steel was small. I've only seen one in photographs, but it's as small or smaller than a sewing machine motor: were we to horsepower rate it, it would be classed as "fractional", and I'd go one further and propose it to be about 1/20 hp.

This powerhouse (ironic words, there) did not generate a whole lot of torque. Do you see what I'm getting at here? The old, horizontal console steel Kauffman HAD to be verrrry easy to shift back and forth, in order to allow the smallish motor to motivate it. Then there's the issue of springs. I suspect that the original Kauffmans had lighter-gauge springs than the guitar version.

The conclusion here (and we can all verify this from observation and use!) is that the reissue Kauffmans are stiff as heck, all things considered. This is partially due to the springs, but mostly due to the riveted construction.

My experience with these on guitars was mostly involved with tightening the rivets so they wouldn't move a-tall, so the guitar could hold tune. Loosening them is a less-common request.

It's possible to loosen them by drilling out the rivets and replacing them and very carefully fine-tuning the amount of friction in each rivet. This would take several hundred words to explain, even to the initiated who own the proper tools to accomplish this, but for most of us, it's definitely NOT for the faint-hearted. Done properly, the springs can be left alone.

With Kauffmans, there is the ever-present risk of the guitar never returning to pitch, which was less of an issue with a console steel, which was supposed to be regularly oiled, and which moved several hundred times per song in many cases, causing it to "work in" nicely. Early models fitted to console steels often stopped in an out-of-tune place, but this was corrected in later models.

I guess this doesn't help much from a practical standpoint. I wouldn't call them "junk", but rather "poorly adapted for their second home" (the smaller Capri and C58.)
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