PICKUP THE PHONE
A Les Paul-style guitar pickup from a
salvaged cordless phone. By Thomas Arey
Photograph by Sam Murphy
We in the maker world stand on the shoulders of them up and see what treasures were inside each.
giants. Last year I had the opportunity to attend a Curiously enough, other than the parts related to
lecture given by the great guitarist Les Paul. RF signal transmission, both units were very similar
While he did talk about his music career, in this inside. The circuit boards in both had a fair amount
setting he concentrated on how he came to develop of small surface-mount technology (SMT) parts and
some of his inventions. These included the modern proprietary integrated circuits, but there were still
solid-body electric guitar and multitrack recording. dozens of through-hole parts that could fill my parts
It was clear that Paul was not only a true maker in bins for future projects (Figure B).
every sense of the word, he was also a true scrounger. After stripping the phones down to their circuit
His first functional electric guitar was made from boards, I harvested all the parts I could with my
a telephone handset microphone and the audio trusty shearcutters. I use Xcelite 170M cutters but
amplification components from a table radio. any side cutters with blades thin enough to get
I had Paul’s use of telephone handsets in mind under the components and still leave enough lead
when my regular trash day scrounging route turned length to work with in the future will do.
up a pair of well-used cordless telephones. The first run-through turned up 7 LEDs, a 4MHz
It was interesting to find both an older 49MHz and crystal, a 5V voltage regulator, 5 trimmer capacitors,
a more modern 900MHz phone tossed into the same an electret-style microphone, 2 earpiece speakers,
trash can (Figure A, next page). I was curious to open 3 antennas, and a fistful of small Phillips-head screws.