When I was 17 years old, I had already become bored of the same-old, same-old approach to guitar design. My jaded teenage eyes were already sick of seeing Strats and Teles over and over and over again. I thought these were grandpa guitars, and I yearned for something new. Then I discovered the Parker Fly, and knew instantly that I had to have one. So I scraped and saved every penny I earned from my fast-food job, and eventually earned enough to plunk down $1,700 on an emerald green Parker Fly Deluxe. This was my first (and last, actually) high-end electric guitar I ever bought, and I was ecstatic. My Parker is long gone, but every once in a while one comes into the shop for repair, and rekindles my fascination with them, and reminds me of what a brilliant and difficult guitar a Parker Fly can be.
Ken Parker is a genius guitar builder, but sometimes I think he errs on the side of being overly clever, and as a result his guitars are not easy to work on. Replacing the output jack on a Parker Fly is no easy task, even though it’s an easy job on most other guitars. Even though Ken Parker doesn’t seem to build his guitars with serviceability in mind, we are in the business of fixing things, and we rarely shirk from a challenge.
The difficulty with replacing the output jack on a Parker Fly is… well, this:
The Parker Fly is a electric/acoustic guitar, with both piezo and electric sounds passing through an active preamp system and then out through a single stereo output jack. Every component is attached with ribbon cables, and the output jack itself has five soldered connections. The stereo output jack has been modified, so that both electric and piezo sounds can be routed separately, which also engaging the battery with a switch that has been added to the output jack’s housing. It’s a brilliant idea, but it does making what would be a routine repair somewhat complicated.
The first difficulty to overcome is to remove the ribbon cable without destroying it. Fortunately I’m pretty good at the game of Operation, and with a soldering iron, solder sucker, and a bit of patience I was able to remove all five solder joints without melting the ribbon cable.
The next step was to remove the battery switch. This is epoxied onto the jack, which I carefully melted off using a soldering iron while slowly working the switch free. Since the switch is made of plastic, it would be really easy to melt it and ruin it, so delicacy was key. Here you can see the switch removed, revealing the modified jack:
We oftentimes say “ain’t nothing simple” around the shop, and the Parker Fly output jack proves our idiom apt. Even the way the jack attaches to the body is complicated. The end has been filed down, to accommodate the jack’s screw on cap. There’s a tiny hole on the outer edge, which is designed to allow a small tool to spin it free (a task easier in theory than in practice).
The jack is out! Here’s the original modded jack and battery switch:
Now it was time to make my own Parker Fly output jack. I used a Switchcraft stereo endpin jack, cut down the end, and filed through the housing to install the battery switch. Cutting into the side of the jack requires critical measurements – too deep will prevent the guitar cable from being inserted, and if not placed correctly along it’s length the cable won’t engage the battery switch. I’m sure Parker guitars had a standard jig set up to do this, but since we do this about once every 10 years or so, I just have to take careful measurements and take it slow and steady.
The last step was to epoxy the battery switch in place on the newly installed output jack, and resolder the connections to the ribbon cable without melting everything.
With a new output jack, this Parker is ready to Fly again! I really enjoyed getting my hands on a Parker again after so many years. They’re great guitars just as long as you don’t have to work on them!