Presenting the Epiphone Wildkat. One of Epiphone’s (relatively) NEWER original designs, not just a copy of a Gibson original, nor is it a reissue of any sort. It’s one weird guitar, and it’s named quite appropriately.
From its looks, it echoes that of the big hollowbodies, with the round shape and a single soft cutaway on the lower side, but with a much thinner profile, like most of semihollow bodies. But unlike the semihollow guitars, it’s smaller, so it’s a lot less unwieldy when playing standing up or sitting down.
The pickups used were of the more traditional P-90 dogear kind, but in chrome metal, much like the Casino. Measured with a meter, it clocks in at around 11k ohms for the neck, and 12k ohms for the bridge – quite hot, when a traditional vintage P-90 specs are in the 7-8k ohms range.
It uses a bigsby for some trem action, and the controls have a MASTER volume on the lower bout cutaway.
What makes the Wildkat curiously different from a regular semilhollow body guitar is that it’s NOT a true semihollow. Whereas a semihollow guitar has a solid block of wood running down the middle from the neck ot the bottom bout (which counters pickup feedback), the Wildkat is fully hollow under the pickups – the solid block only runs from the edge of bridge pickup closest to the bridge going down the bottom bout. If anything the tone is closer to that of a hollowbody casino and yes, it’s one reason it can (and WILL!) feedback more than your usual semihollow guitar. Keep that in mind when thinking fo getting this axe.
One complaint that most people have is that the pickups sound muddy for P-90, and keeps blaming the chromed metal covers of the P-90s, insisting on replacing them with either plastic, or true nickel/nickel-plated metal covers. The real contributor to the muddy tone is the very high output itself – at around 12k ohms, the pickups tend to lose some definition with the high frequencies, thus making it seem darker, which to some people equate to muddiness.
There are ways around this – get another set that’s underwound, or wound to vintage specs (8k is already considered ‘hot’, vintage would be around 6-7k). The chrome covers may also have something to do with it (though i think to a lesser degree than the actual number of windings) so change those too to nickel (or even plastic, as pastic has little to no effect on the signal itself), or if you are adventurous enough and have the equipment and know-how, underwind the stock pickups down to 8k! There’s a good chance you can ruin the pickup and render it dead, but it can save you the cost of getting a new set, and you more or less keep the guitar stock, with a more usable set of P-90s.
That’s what i’m about to do. 😀
While i’m at it opening up the pickup and unwinding a bit of the copper wire, i may also want to replace the magnets themselves. Though the preferred magnet is already on there with the AlNiCo V bars, originally the magnets used on older P-90s were AlNiCo II or AlNiCo III. ALniCo V were introduced for a stronger output, and later on ceramics were the norm for their crispness and stronger output, and the fact that they’re less costly to manufacture.
Yes, i do have AlNiCo II AND III magnet bars lying around. 🙂
The unwiding of the copper coils to vintage specs and the use of weaker magnets is a sure recipe for lower output, but the point is to get the vintage tone, not just the vintage vibe the guitar exudes. This will help get more clarity with the tone. In a way, it may even be less prone to feedback, as there’s not much strength compared to a hot pickup, so less signal can bounce back to it. Then again it also willd etermine how hot you run your amplifier. And you ARE using a tube amp with it, aren’t you? No? to which i ask, why not??? so many affordable (and dare i say, CHEAP) reliable great-sounding tube amps nowadays, it’s tough to ignore them for (gasp!) solidstate amps. Anyway, that’s just me being a tube amp snob – to each his own, if you like the sound you’re getting, no matter how or where you’re plugging in, and you’re happy with it, that’s all that matters.
(but seriously, get a tube amp – your guitar will thank you for it)
I brought up this article to note the changes i made since scoring a Wildkat for cheap. I mean seriously cheap. Reason being that it had a crack on the neck. where the nut is. WHen i got it, it had to look real hard to figure out where the crack was – it was that tiny! i did find it, and talk about a hairline crack. it was small enough that i didnt even have to bother with it – the way the crack was running , then string tension is holding it firm shut. But nothing like a simple wood glue would fix. had to get seriously small syringes (ones used for insulin) to even get any glue in. overnight it cured and was even stonger if it hadnt had any crack at all. a light buffing and the neck is good to go.
I really have been looking at the Wildkat for a while – i always did like the natural color of it. Plus it was very affordable! But to be honest about the purchase, i didn’t care about the body, i wanted to mine the “broken” guitar for its parts, namely the chrome hardware to put it on the Riviera P93 (to replace the gaudy easily-tarnished gold parts- never did like them). And man, do the chrome bigsby look GREAT on the Riviera!
Now, having “fixed” the broken neck, i found the the Wildkat to still be playable as hell, and doesn’t go out of tune at all! man, this was a keeper, and a great one at that. I had initially decided to simply swap parts – chrome on the Riviera, gold on the natural-colored Wildkat. But i ended up NOT putting the gold hardware anywhere – yeah, i really do NOT like gold hardware. I had enough parts to keep the wildkat with chrome parts. I even had an extra chrome bigsby (though it was shorter and was for a totally different brand, possibly a D’aquisto). In the end, decided to use NO bigsby on it, and instead use a stop tailpiece, albeit on a funky angle (using the same screw holes where the bigsby anchored on the body top). the wild is back on the Wildkat!
On to the pickups – i ended up taking them off and putting them on another project which i called the Poor Man’s Casino. It’s basically the red 335 copy from the 70s (really a lawsuit guitar). It was fully hollow like a casino, and has a trapeze like a casino, and shaped like a casino, why don’t i just make it copy a casino? all it needs are the chrome P-90s, which the Wildkat had, and i’m set!
But that was before i found out the semi-full hollowness of the body. Now i want to use the sexy natural body of the Wildkat for something else other than a wall art or sell it off. Like i said, i’ve always had my eye on one, and now i have one that’s still very usable. hell, the poor man’s casino is built less beautifully (though it is from the mid70s, almost 40 years old now), i sure can still use the wildkat body.
right now, i’m leaning into using mini-humbuckers, seeing as the only other guitar i have that has a mini-HB is the firebird, and that’s on a solid body. Minis on a hollow/semi/whatever body should sound different and interesting. Yeah, the Wildkat has given me two wonderful guitars from its parts, and it’s not giving up on me. I sure as hell ain’t giving up on it!