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Thread: Tim Shaw PAF reissue interview

  1. #1
    Pickup Maker David Schwab's Avatar
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    Tim Shaw PAF reissue interview

    I have an '81 Tim Shaw humbucker home I'm rewinding for a friend of mine (after discovering I had an '83 Shaw in my parts box that I promptly sold to him), and I decided to look up some info on these pickups.

    I found this on Gibson's site.

    It's an interesting read. He seems to have gone through some lengths to research the original PAF's, and had to work within the current limitations at the time.

    Whether it was rivalry between plants or increased market awareness, the Nashville plant jumped into the reissue action in 1980. By this time, one of the most glaring deficiencies of new Les Pauls (compared to the originals) was the humbucking pickup. In preparation for its first attempt at a reissue, Gibson assigned engineer Tim Shaw the job of designing a reissue of the original Patent-Applied-For humbucking pickup-within certain restrictions. "This was 1980 and Norlin was already feeling the pinch," Shaw said, referring to Gibson's long decline through the 1970s and early '80s. "We weren't allowed to do much retooling. We redid the bobbin because it was worn out. We got some old bobbins and put the square hole back in. We did it without the T-hole, which stood for Treble."

    To replicate the magnets, Shaw gathered up magnets from original PAFs and sent them to a lab to be analyzed. "Most were Alnico 2's," he said, "but some were 5's. In the process of making an Alnico 5, they stick a magnet in a huge coil for orientation, but an unoriented 5 sounds a lot like a 2. They started with Alnico 2 and then switched to Alnico 5."

    Shaw discovered that the original magnets were a little thicker than 1980 production magnets. "Magnetic strength is largely a function of the area of the polarized face; increasing the face size gives you more power," he explained. So he specified the thicker magnet for the new PAF.

    Wiring on the originals was #42 gauge, which Gibson still used. However, the original wire had an enamel coating and the current wire had a polyurethane coat, which also was of a different thickness or "buildup" than that of the original, which affected capacitance. Norlin refused to go the extra mile-or extra buck, as it were. Enamel-coated wire cost a dollar more per pound than poly-coated. Shaw could change the spec on the buildup without additional expense, so the thickness of the coating was the same as on the original wire, but he was forced to use the poly coat. The difference is easy to see: purple wire on the originals, orange on the reissues.

    Shaw later found a spec for the number of turns on a spec sheet for a 1957 ES-175. "It specified 5,000 turns because a P-90 had 10,000 turns and they cut it in half," Shaw said. In reality, however, originals had anywhere from 5,000 to 6,000 turns, depending on how tight the coil was wound. Shaw later met Seth Lover, who designed and patented Gibson's humbucker, at a NAMM show. Lover laughed when asked about a spec for windings, and he told Shaw, "We wound them until they were full."

    The spec for resistance was even less exact, Shaw said. The old ohmeter was graduated in increments of .5 (500 ohms). Anywhere between 3.5 and 4 on the meter (3,500 to 4,000 ohms) met the spec. Consequently, Shaw pointed out, there is no such thing as an exact reissue or replica of the 1959 PAF pickup. There can only be a replica of one original PAF, or an average PAF. As Gibson would find out in the early 1990s, the same could be said about the entire guitar.

    Shaw's PAF reissue debuted on Gibson's new Nashville-made Les Paul Heritage 80 in 1980. Compared to anything Gibson had previously made (which is to say, compared to nothing), it was an excellent reissue of a sunburst Les Paul Standard. It had a nice top, thin binding in the cutaway, nickel-plated parts, more accurate sunburst finish and smaller headstock, but the body shape, body size and three-piece neck, among other details, were just regular production. It appears that Gibson still didn't understand the demand for an accurate reissue, because Gibson accompanied the Heritage 80 with fancier versions: the Heritage 80 Elite, with an ebony fingerboard that had no relevance to the reissue market (although it did have a one-piece neck) and the Heritage 80 Award, with gold plated hardware that also had no relevance to the reissue market.
    I found it amusing that the patent number stamped on the bottom of these pickups is still not the humbucker patent, but is instead Les Paul's patent for the trapeze tailpiece/bridge!
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    Senior Member madialex's Avatar
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    See I knew it was something with the magnet

    Although not the whole story a big part.

    Possum you were very right. As far as I know Tim was and may still be the top dog on PAF re-creations and he would know as well as anyone what made them tick.

    Oh well, back to the old drawing board to find the magical wind that will compensate for the magnet face height or lack there-of on the new mags out there today.

    Hey, maybe we can all get together and talk with 1 magnet maker and get the specs of the originals made, could be a good thing for us and them.

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    Senior Member madialex's Avatar
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    Oh yeah

    Thanks for that enlightening article David, mucho appreciated.

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    Old Timer Possum's Avatar
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    Shaw

    yeah thats a good one to read, I have one shaw pickup a neck one, neck spacing so they used shorter magnet in it. They did the magnets right in those things, pretty sure they are A2. Not having examined any magnet wire from a real PAF I can only guess if they got it right, but suspect that magnet wire in those years varied alot too. The wire he used measures .00275, usual is about .0027 so you can see where they added insulation thickness. Or maybe its bull too, hard to get consistent measure in magnet wire from batch to batch sometimes. The unoriented A5 magnet thing is quizzical, I've ony asked one magnet supplier about this and they said they couldn't/wouldn't make any like that, not to mention rough cast magnets either. I'm still unconvinced that the magnets are the "magical" ingredient, still think its a synergy of parts, alloys, magnet wire and wind etc. etc. blah blah.

    I heard a Herbie Hancock tune think it was called "Push Push" with some guy on guitar doing classic Duane Allman PAF tones, if anyone knows what album thats from let me know, whatever it was its what I call good tone!
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    Pickup Maker David Schwab's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Possum View Post
    yeah thats a good one to read, I have one shaw pickup a neck one, neck spacing so they used shorter magnet in it.
    Did they make neck and bridge spacing? The one I had was from my '83 Les Paul Standard, which I no longer have. I didn't notice a difference on that guitar... but that's not to say they didn't do it on others.

    My buddy has like 7 Les Pauls, including one with an Explorer headstock! At least one of them had the pickups replaced, so he's trying to restore them to period specs.

    So he had one Shaw that's dead, and I'm going to rewind it.

    From what I remember, they are pretty nice sounding pickups.
    It would be possible to describe everything scientifically, but it would make no sense; it would be without meaning, as if you described a Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure. Albert Einstein

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    Senior Member madialex's Avatar
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    Yay

    Quote Originally Posted by David Schwab View Post
    Did they make neck and bridge spacing? The one I had was from my '83 Les Paul Standard, which I no longer have. I didn't notice a difference on that guitar... but that's not to say they didn't do it on others.

    My buddy has like 7 Les Pauls, including one with an Explorer headstock! At least one of them had the pickups replaced, so he's trying to restore them to period specs.

    So he had one Shaw that's dead, and I'm going to rewind it.

    From what I remember, they are pretty nice sounding pickups.
    Take lots of notes Bro.........

  7. #7
    Pickup Maker David Schwab's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by madialex View Post
    Take lots of notes Bro.........
    I'll even take pictures...

    I just sold him one... I took DC resistance readings off it... but just to verify it worked... I didn't write them down.

    I'm wondering how the different build wire I'm using will sound....
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    Old Timer Possum's Avatar
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    notes

    yeah measure the wire O.D., its poly wire, and count turns per layer to try to replicate the original wind...
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    Supporting Member JGundry's Avatar
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    I would be curious to know the number of turns per layer for the Shaw. You can be sure it was done on a winder that did the same number of turns per layer for the whole bobbin.
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    Old Timer Possum's Avatar
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    turns

    odds are if the Shaw pickup is busted its just a problem with the leads coming off the coil, I bet he's already destroyed the original coil before reading any of this:-) Hope not...
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    Senior Member NightWinder's Avatar
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    Awww,Dude thats bad asss!!! Schwab!!! Nothing like a room full of Pauls!!! Just thinkn back, you got a photo memory, you know the DCR!!! Thanks for sharin'.........

  12. #12
    Pickup Maker David Schwab's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JGundry View Post
    I would be curious to know the number of turns per layer for the Shaw. You can be sure it was done on a winder that did the same number of turns per layer for the whole bobbin.
    I wasn't going to do all that... but I will diligently unwind the coil and write it down, and post my info here. My friend was more interested in having a working pickup than to recreate it exactly... but that's what I should do of course.

    Quote Originally Posted by Possum View Post
    odds are if the Shaw pickup is busted its just a problem with the leads coming off the coil, I bet he's already destroyed the original coil before reading any of this:-) Hope not...
    No, I haven't touched it yet! I also thought it was the lead wires. My friend did check those out, as you can see in the photo... they are all sticking out. With the holidays here and all, I haven't had a chance to sit down with it. I want to take my time disassembling it. The first thing I'm going to check is the leads.

    Quote Originally Posted by NightWinder View Post
    Awww,Dude thats bad asss!!! Schwab!!! Nothing like a room full of Pauls!!! Just thinkn back, you got a photo memory, you know the DCR!!! Thanks for sharin'.........
    I wish they were my guitars! I would be happy with the Black Beauty in the back. I don't remember what the DCR was... but I do remember it was in the typical range for a PAF style humbucker. I'll get the pickup back and take a new reading. I think it was 7.68 or something...

    Those are all my friend's guitars. Incidentally, the silver Jackson looking guitar, as well as the Rickenbacker styled guitar to the right of it were both built by my friend John... who is the "G" in "SGD Lutherie." That makes me the "S" ...

    I can see the third from the left Paul has a Duncan in it, so that's likely what he's replacing with the one I'm rewinding. He just wants to get them all stock again.

    That explorer head Paul is just weird!
    It would be possible to describe everything scientifically, but it would make no sense; it would be without meaning, as if you described a Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure. Albert Einstein

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    Supporting Member JGundry's Avatar
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    Cool David. Also see of the slugs are in contact with the base plate.
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    Old Timer Spence's Avatar
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    Call me a Philistine , but I just can't feel all warm inside about a Tim Shaw PAF. It's so inaccurate. Just look at the photo and that's before you get to the wire etc... The Les Pauls though, yup I can get misty eyed over those; especially the Black Beauty. Still miss my old '74. I parted with that because I couldn't face the price of a refin back in the mid 80's.

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    Old Timer Possum's Avatar
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    Shaw

    I've only heard one set of Shaw pickups in an 80s SG and have to admit they sounded pretty darn good. I haven't put the one I have in anything before so not real sure what it sounds like. No the slugs don't touch the base plate, there is a tiny gap there, but the slugs aren't flush with the top of the bobbin either. Shaws aren't authentic PAF tone they are just Shaws, some like them some don't.
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    Pickup Maker David Schwab's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spence View Post
    Call me a Philistine , but I just can't feel all warm inside about a Tim Shaw PAF. It's so inaccurate. Just look at the photo and that's before you get to the wire etc... The Les Pauls though, yup I can get misty eyed over those; especially the Black Beauty. Still miss my old '74. I parted with that because I couldn't face the price of a refin back in the mid 80's.
    I had an '83 Les Paul Standard. I thought the pickups sounded ok, but I did end up replacing the bridge unit (I think with a 70's DiMarzio Super Distortion, just because I had it laying around). The only reason I don't have the guitar anymore was it suffered a fall, and the neck came off. That wasn't a problem, I glued it back on, but the neck also suffered a long fracture, from the side of the nut, to about the 12th fret. I reglued that too, but the guitar just wasn't the same after that... so I traded it for an Oberheim Matrix-6.

    My friend doesn't really care what the pickups sound like, although he doesn't think they sound bad. He's more interested in getting the guitar back to correct period hardware. I suppose the Shaws were an improvement over the Gibson pickups at the time. It's also apparent that he really didn't have much to work with at the time.

    Seems both Gibson and Fender like to say they have reissues, but they never get the small details just right, especially the pickups.
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    Old Timer Spence's Avatar
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    You're dead right there. I toyed with the idea of investing in one of the Clapton blackie replicas. They're so inaccurate it makes me sick listening to the bollocks about how much effort Fender have put in. They've put in slightly less than the bare minimum.

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    Seems both Gibson and Fender like to say they have reissues, but they never get the small details just right, especially the pickups.

    Yeah, not many of the older guitar maker companies have a good product at heart anymore it seems, at least unless you pay through the nose. Fender has done a pretty good job distributing Gretsch, and Fred Gretsch has made sure to get some moderately accurate reissues. The other good one is Rickenbacker, which never really stopped making their older guitars, although they did change some things over the years like the pickups. Their newer C-series guitars are probably the most accurate reissues of a vintage model around.

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    Senior Member NightWinder's Avatar
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    kudos here. The wire just can't be replaced with solderon or poly. What a biff! T.S very well may make decent pickups.....but when you have issues with your work dieing......MAkes one wonder. Surely ALL the proper components are the magic cheezewhiz!! Hogs ass on the magic magnets.....When theres things like protools and repeatable clips with the exact same equipment, exact mic placement etc, just swaping magnets out of the same bucker with change the Eq, but the character of the tone of the humbucker is relatively the same. Coil shape and material are the best research...........

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    Pickup Maker David Schwab's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by soundmasterg View Post
    [I]Fender has done a pretty good job distributing Gretsch, and Fred Gretsch has made sure to get some moderately accurate reissues. The other good one is Rickenbacker, which never really stopped making their older guitars, although they did change some things over the years like the pickups. Their newer C-series guitars are probably the most accurate reissues of a vintage model around.
    I agree! Rickenbacker has changed a few things, like the truss rods, but that's a good thing. As the owner of two 1972 4001 basses, I didn't like the changes they made in the 4003's... the bodies where different, and of course they changed the pickups and got rid of the checker binding even before that.

    But their reissue basses are very nice... except for the horseshoe pickup.
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    @Possum:

    Are you sure you mean Herbie Hancock?

    I have an album from Herbie Mann called "Push Push" that features Duane Allman. Very nice!

    Cheers,

    Dominik

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    Old Timer Possum's Avatar
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    f*king cool, thanks!!!

    Damn, thats gotta be it!!! No wonder that guitar sounded so familiar, do you know what year it was done? I'll look on amazon too, man what a distinctive tone that guy had, I wonder what amp he was using?
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    Hi Possum,

    it says 1971 on the album. Cornell Dupree and Duane Allman on guitars. The great Richard Tee on keys. And not to forget Bernard Purdie on drums.

    A great album.

    Cheers,

    Dominik

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    Senior Member madialex's Avatar
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    Hi Possum

    I think the song you are talking about is what'd I say. or it's at least one of them.

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    Old Timer Possum's Avatar
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    found it.....

    found it on Limewire (naughty naughty...) yes its called Push Push, Duane's solo is tasty nothing spectacular but love that tone, no wonder my ears perked up when that song came on the radio, good ol' Duane tone. He actually recorded this as session guitarist right before they became famous. Any idea what amp he was using in '71? 50 watt Marshall? You can hear him switch from neck to bridge and back, sometimes his bridge pickup was kinda shrill on the video I've seen from the Fillmore. Cornell, eh? Thought I heard another picker in there somewhere, didn't sound like Duane. Thanks for the heads up....
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    Pickup Maker David Schwab's Avatar
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    updates...

    OK, I spent a few minutes with the pickup today, and here's some info and pictures.

    First, someone asked if the slugs touch the baseplate. Yes they do. And of course they touch the magnets.

    In the first picture, you can see a side view of the pickup before I took the slug coil off. The slugs are on the left coil, and look like white plastic, and in fact, from the side I had no idea what they were, until I took the bobbin off. It turns out they have oxidized.

    Below either coil is a white plastic spacer. It looks like poly-styrene. It was just bent and snapped off to length.

    The magnet has a rough finish except on the faces where it touches the keeper and the slugs.

    The screws are threaded into the baseplate.

    Both coils read open on my meter. The hookup wires were still connected to the magnet wire. The paper tape was very dry, and pretty much impossible to peel off without breaking. Also, either peeling the tape broke the coil, or it was broken under the tape. I suspect the former.

    The '83 Shaw pickup I had read 7.62K.

    I was interested on how the hookup wires were done. You can see in one of the pictures that they did not leave them under the wrap of the coil. They ran a length of magnet wire out and after the coil was wound, tucked the hookup wires on the outside of the coil, under the paper tape.

    The last pictures is the coil with the tape removed.

    I'll see if I can borrow a digital mic to try and measure the wire. I don't have a gauss meter, so I wont be able to take a measurement of the magnet.
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    Old Timer Possum's Avatar
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    cool....

    well your pic doesn't actually show the slugs touching the baseplate the pickup is tilted up too far to see that. The Shaw I have there is a tiny gap between the slugs and baseplate. Don't forget to count winds per layer. Those magnets are cool wish we could get similar, those were alnico II in the Shaws pretty sure. If this isn't neck space would like to know the magnet length used as well as the other dimensions. Mine is neck spaced so the magnet is shorter, the thickness is more than 1/8" as he mentioned in the article and I also found this in most 50s alnico bars too.
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    Old Timer Possum's Avatar
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    forgot...

    I forgot to mention it might be possible to steam old paper tape like that off without damaging it. RiteAid has these "as seen on TV" small electric steam cleaner things kinda a cheap version of what jewelers use to steam clean jewelry, the steam would soften the adhesive and paper enough probably for it to come easily off and be reused.
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    Old Timer Possum's Avatar
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    more PAF tone recordings....

    I listened to some Michael Bloomfield on the radio last nite, he has a similar tone to Duane's but I think he used a different kind of amp but you can plainly hear the classic PAF thing happening. Also heard the original version of Black Magic Woman with Fleetwood Mac and Peter Green on guitar. This is the first time I really recognized a good recording of him playing in the out of phase position because of his reversed magnet in the neck, pretty cool tone. I goofed on a test bucker in my LP and left it out of phase for a couple jams, liked that tone alot in that guitar.....
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    Supporting Member JGundry's Avatar
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    Thanks David! I think the slug info is very useful.

    I did the magnet flip on the neck pickup of my Les Paul last week as well as switching the wiring over to 50's specs.. The 50's wiring makes a big difference in how clear the humbuckers sound when you roll the volume back. The out of phase sound is also very useful as you can blend it in and out with the bridge or neck volume pot. One great tone is to have the middle position on and back the bridge pickup back a bit to retain some honk but increase the volume as the neck pickup becomes more dominant. The middle position ends up louder than the bridge but with the 50's wiring you still have a very clear sounding bridge pickup with the volume rolled back. I can't believe I didn't switch it over earlier. I think a big part of a good Les Paul tone is 50's wiring.
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    50s wiring....

    Wow, Jon that sounds cool, do you have a wiring chart or link to how they were wired? What tone caps did they use?
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    50s wiring....

    found this easy to understand wiring guide for 50s les pauls:
    http://www.dominocs.com/ToneWorks/mod50s.html
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    Supporting Member JGundry's Avatar
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    That diagram is correct. I just used the capacitor that was already in the guitar which is a .022 uf cap. If you search wiring library at the Les Paul forum you will get a thread with several diagrams of 50's and modern wiring as seen from the control cavity. The magnet flip and the wiring switch is a pretty dramatic change for the better IMHO. It's an easy mod to do. Also make sure your pots in the guitar are 500K. I think some older Gibson Les Pauls and Epiphone Les Pauls have 300K pots.
    Last edited by JGundry; 12-31-2006 at 03:58 PM.
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  34. #34
    Pickup Maker David Schwab's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Possum View Post
    well your pic doesn't actually show the slugs touching the baseplate the pickup is tilted up too far to see that. The Shaw I have there is a tiny gap between the slugs and baseplate. Don't forget to count winds per layer. Those magnets are cool wish we could get similar, those were alnico II in the Shaws pretty sure. If this isn't neck space would like to know the magnet length used as well as the other dimensions. Mine is neck spaced so the magnet is shorter, the thickness is more than 1/8" as he mentioned in the article and I also found this in most 50s alnico bars too.
    Yeah, you cant see the slugs touching in the photo... but they were. That was the best photo I got after trying a bunch of shots. I could also see them from the bottom of the baseplate, since it has two sets of screw pole holes, but they looked like some kind of white plastic spacer, since they have oxidized... They really look like shiny plastic! I guess depending how how thick the magnet is, or the two plastic spacers, would determine if they touch or not (assuming they are long enough).

    Both the pickups on my '83 Les Paul had the same spacing... what year is your pickup? I'm going to have my friend measure his Pauls... I'm curious how many had different spaced poles for Neck and bridge.

    Thanks for the tip on steaming the tape. I started thinking along those lines... hadn't thought of steam though. I used to have one of those portable clothes steamers.

    The tape is no longer sticky after removing it, so I'll be replacing it with new tape.

    I'll probably get to it next weekend...
    It would be possible to describe everything scientifically, but it would make no sense; it would be without meaning, as if you described a Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure. Albert Einstein

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  35. #35
    Old Timer Possum's Avatar
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    >>>>>>>

    Don't forget I never actually tried steaming but don't see why it wouldn't work pretty well.

    Jon: I read that 50s wiring if you have the switch in the middle and turn the volume down you lose both pickups all the way down, did you have anything like that happen with this wiring?
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