Just a fun little note. I just finished building the 440th FlatCat guitar pickup. Doesn't that make it a uh... FlatCat 440? ;D
Okay, bad musical pun. Still, it's a mini-milestone. Thought I'd write a brief article about the pickup itself. This isn't in the interest of advertising (although it may be perceived as such), but just of simple tale of a journey, of "what can happen if you stick with a goal".
An article about the FlatCat cannot be mentioned without speaking of Elmar's original FlatPups (I only realized a year later how similar the names were. The idea just never occurred to me. It's what happens when you get older). The FlatPups were an ingenious design. Similar had been done before, but not quite like Elmar did it. Wrapping two opposing coils around a sheet steel core and three disc magnets for the power field-- that was just unique. Total creds to the guy (and to the late Dan Sleep who made this concept widely available to builders everywhere.) There was a regrettable misunderstanding on CBN regarding that-- accusations of something that never even crossed my mind. It was a sad and wrongful situation. Despite that I moved on, my store moved on, FlatCats continued to be built and sold.
HOW IT HAPPENED: With all respect to Elmar, from the very first I saw potential design improvements in the FlatPup. These involved the way they were wrapped, materials used, magnetic concepts... as well as a potential to increase the power closer to that of standard pickups.
I built about 50 FlatCats before I hit the "eureka!" point. From the very first FlatCat the design was different-- more sturdy, more powerful, built differently. Over the next couple of years FlatCats went through seven generations of re-design until arriving at what the FlatCat is today: a pickup with all the volume of a full-size humbucker, and considerably richer, more unique sound.
* Rather than magnetic poles, the entire surface of the FlatCat is "active", balance-powered, picking up string vibrations equally across the breadth of the pickup.
* The CBG FlatCat boasts about 60% more power/volume than the original flat pickup design. The 6-string version provides 140% more power.
* The FlatCat is potted in polyurethane rather than more fragile wax.
* The tone is incredibly rich and improved... so much so that I use them on all of my personal guitars, be it CBG or 6-string standard.
* FlatCats are available in several colors and finishes; customers enjoy having a choice in appearance.
In short, the FlatCat isn't the FlatPup. It's a different beast entirely, from internal design to final finish. It always has been. Just as we take the designs of others in building our CBGs and add our own touches, flourishes and improvements... I worked toward improving the concept of the flat pickup from the very start. It's amazing what building over 400 of these things can do to increase one's understanding of the field. ;D
Generation 7. Each one is produced by hand, one at a time. I never thought I'd have the patience to do so, nor ever reach the 440+ mark... but here we are. I hope to continue producing them as long as my health and welfare holds out.
PAY IT FORWARD. The lion's share of my profits on FlatCats is donated to charity. I don't need a lot of money, have never been money-centric... and that's my way of paying forward the blessings God has granted me.
I'm not bragging in this. Instead, I encourage others to do what you can. Although we're by no means "rich" by American standards, many of us have been blessed with more wealth than other parts of the world. Even a 2-bedroom apartment seems like a mansion to many in poorer worlds. We can go out to eat at a nice restaurant, go to a movie, and yes, even buy parts and tools to build cigar box guitars.
If we can do so, by donations of either money or volunteer time, good charities need our help. There are people in severe need. If we can't do so financially or due to health limitations... then donation of an instrument here or there can be beneficial. Most of us can do something... and many of us do, regularly. People rarely hear about it, but there are "good Samaritans" among our community who silently work at making some part of the world a little better.
So, 440 FlatCats. Elmar, thanks for lighting the spark. I love the work-- which is amazing considering how tedious and nerve-wracking it can be (that teeny, hair-thin wire...). But I seem to never tire of making them. It offers me a purpose in my later years. May all craftspeople be as blessed.
Congrats on all of your personal and professional accomplishments, 'Finder.
IMO, FlatCat 440 represents a whole lot more than just a 'mini-milestone'.
A special thanks for sharing your excellent comments on compassion, giving, etc.!
Note to myself: it's not as easy/convenient, always, as donating to professional charities, but always be aware of individuals and families we can personally touch that can use help in all sorts of ways.
I thumbs up that sentiment Jim N. Sometimes just helping a neighbor or friend in need is the very best thing we could do. : )