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Thread: 1.94" steel spacers (screw keepers)

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    Supporting Member Corona Blue's Avatar
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    1.94" steel spacers (screw keepers)

    Hi everyone-

    I've just been making my first handful of PAF and early P90 sets, trying to get beyond some of the problems of the standard "off the shelf" parts available these days. I've been using mostly stuff from Mojotone, but I find that things like the 1.94" PAF/P90 steel spacer to be problematic. The spacer seems too lightweight and a bit too thin dimensionally (vertical height). This creates mechanical oscillations that I have to dampen out with tape shims or wax potting.

    I have read through a good many posts here, going back to around 2006 or so, when the now senior members were struggling with these same issues. I'm just wondering if anybody is presently making better quality metal spacers and base plates for the 1.94" spacing and if I can purchase a handful for my own uses. I'm a hobbyist, I don't make many of these, just a few for myself and friends, but I would really like to get it right! (I'm old enough to have owned a few guit's with these pickups, and remember their unique sound and feel... old enough to wish I never sold any of them!).

    Thanks in advance,

    Allen

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    Supporting Member Corona Blue's Avatar
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    Uh oh... did I say something wrong??? 48 views, no replies...

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    I can't suggest any other vendors but I will suggest not using the keepers. Not everyone uses them and they are not completely necessary. Not using one on a humbucker of course means using a slightly wider magnet. Of course a P90 doesn't have any such issue.

    Mojo offers a few different keepers. I have found the eight hole to be different material than the ten hole. You may want to try switching which one you use.
    Roadhouse Pickups

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    been there done that - hint: stewmac

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    ToneOholic! big_teee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lpone View Post
    been there done that - hint: stewmac
    The Stewmac Kits had a Keeper and Spacer the same thickness as the magnet they provided.
    So with other Keepers and spacers, unless you tape or add some addtl. thickness to what is supporting the edges of the bobbins.
    You end up with the magnet edge of the 2 bobbins higher than the outside edges of the 2 bobbins.
    Causing the bobbins to lean and gap. What do other Winders do to correct this?
    I end up shimming the outside edges to match.
    Terry
    Technicians Run the World, but Bankers, Lawyers, and Accountants, Take All The Credit!
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    Supporting Member Corona Blue's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by big_teee View Post
    The Stewmac Kits had a Keeper and Spacer the same thickness as the magnet they provided.
    So with other Keepers and spacers, unless you tape or add some addtl. thickness to what is supporting the edges of the bobbins.
    You end up with the magnet edge of the 2 bobbins higher than the outside edges of the 2 bobbins.
    Causing the bobbins to lean and gap. What do other Winders do to correct this?
    I end up shimming the outside edges to match.
    Terry
    Hey there T!

    Yes, this physical leaning is another symptom of the same problem. But when using say a rough-cast magnet from AddictionFX (which is also a bit taller like the old magnets I have seen), when you shim the outer bobbin edges on the screw bobbin (at the fence) you take a good portion of the bobbin's loading pressure off of the cheezy metal spacer and it will oscillate and cause the pickup to go microphonic. But I have had this problem with regular milled magnets as well. I have been fixing the issue by potting just the space below the bobbins, but it takes away a lot of the nicer harmonics too.

    I don't think Stewmac has the 1.94" (49.2mm) metal spacers for PAF bobbins.

    Allen

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    Senior Member LtKojak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Corona Blue View Post
    I don't think Stewmac has the 1.94" (49.2mm) metal spacers for PAF bobbins.
    mojotone.com have'em.

    http://www.mojotone.com/guitar-parts...ar-49-2mm-1-94

    HTH,
    Pepe aka Lt. Kojak
    Milano, Italy

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    Supporting Member Corona Blue's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LtKojak View Post

    Thanks LtKojak-

    Yes, I am presently using the Mojotone units. I'd like to do better, but looks like I'm on my own.

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    I use the Stewmac spacers with Mojotone 49.2 mm bobbins and baseplates, tightish fit but works for me.

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    Supporting Member Corona Blue's Avatar
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    PAF Spacers: The Final Frontier...

    This will be old news to the senior members who crossed this bridge many moons ago... probably reading this thread with some wry amusement. But since I know Mojotone has a presence here, and because there are some newer people who may be interested, I thought I would post a little "show and tell."

    I dissected a couple of PAF variants I had handy, just to see what is being used for a steel spacer. Apologies for the blurry picture, but I think it is clear enough. Here we have a WB "VTP" PAF and a Gibson "57 Classic" on either side of the Mojotone 49.2 mm steel spacer. The dimensions shown are the vertical height (the axis of the screw holes) X the horizontal width (axis where the magnet face makes contact).





    Not to belabor the issue, just for clarification of the problem: most of the 2.5" x .500" milled alnico humbucker bar magnets that I have measured are around .125" in vertical height. They all vary slightly, but that's a pretty good average number. I have measured some of the rough cast bars from AddictionFX as tall as .135" and have found them to vary more than milled bars but, as an average, the .125" number is in the ballpark for them as well.

    So assuming a magnet bar height of .125", with a screw keeper height of .115", this leaves a .010" gap somewhere under the screw bobbin and the keeper will likely oscillate if not potted or shimmed (and may still do so, regardless). It is interesting that the Gibson keeper is the correct height (.125") but the horizontal width is cut back to .190" (I forgot to measure the Gibson magnet to see if it was a bit wider). Also, both the Gibson and the WB bars have smaller holes and the steel seems different than the Mojo. I haven't weighed them, but that might be telling. The WB has a flat bottom and slightly rounded top, appearing to be stamped and sheared. The Gibson unit looks like it possibly was milled (very uniform).

    Yes, doing away with the bar would be the practical solution. Yes, potting or shimming might possibly mitigate the problem. But why even use the 49.2 mm bobbins if you're not going to try to go all out and make an "as built" PAF?



    Regards,
    Allen
    Last edited by Corona Blue; 08-18-2011 at 07:24 PM.

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    ToneOholic! big_teee's Avatar
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    Hey Allen:
    Either you are much pickier than these other Professionals, Or Mum is the Word!
    B_T
    Technicians Run the World, but Bankers, Lawyers, and Accountants, Take All The Credit!
    Keep Rockin! B_T
    Terry

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    Supporting Member Corona Blue's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by big_teee View Post
    Hey Allen:
    Either you are much pickier than these other Professionals, Or Mum is the Word!
    B_T
    LOL!! Yeah, you hearin those crickets chirpin too??

    Oh well no worries here.

    Allen

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    Woodgrinder/Pickupwinder copperheadroads's Avatar
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    I'm doing a rewind on a 1956 p-90 right now & its keeper is .130" thick & magnets are .133"

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    Supporting Member Corona Blue's Avatar
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    Thanks CHR-

    Better watch yer back... you've broken the blood oath!! Might find a horses head in your bed in the morning!!



    But thanks for being a stand up guy. Feel free to post pics, but you might want to do that ANONYMOUSLY... (nod nod wink wink)

    Best,

    Allen

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    Woodgrinder/Pickupwinder copperheadroads's Avatar
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    hAHa It has a turn per layer of 3+how much money is in my piggy bank & the magnets are gaussed 5000 a piece

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    Judging by the shape : WB = Stewmac IMHO

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    Supporting Member Corona Blue's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by copperheadroads View Post
    hAHa It has a turn per layer of 3+how much money is in my piggy bank & the magnets are gaussed 5000 a piece
    Cryptic code from the PAF underground... viv le resistance!

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    Supporting Member Corona Blue's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lpone View Post
    Judging by the shape : WB = Stewmac IMHO
    Hmmm... well I won't say no to that before I take a second measurement... but I did measure all the C to C's at .194" But it was a busy day... trust but verify...

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    ToneOholic! big_teee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by copperheadroads View Post
    hAHa It has a turn per layer of 3+how much money is in my piggy bank & the magnets are gaussed 5000 a piece
    That's Funny!
    B_T
    Technicians Run the World, but Bankers, Lawyers, and Accountants, Take All The Credit!
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    Terry

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    Supporting Member Corona Blue's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by copperheadroads View Post
    I'm doing a rewind on a 1956 p-90 right now & its keeper is .130" thick & magnets are .133"
    Hey CHR-

    How wide is the P-90 keeper... horizontal... and how about a measurement for the screw holes themselves? That may shed some light onto things. I'm wondering if the '57 classic unit (above) is at .190" width because the screw hole tolerances are tighter to the screws. The Mojotone keeper's screw holes are loose as one of your proverbial Canadian geeses! So they allow for the slop by giving us a wider dimension at .197". (just thinking out loud... not that anybody is listening of course... shhhhh... just me and the crickets).

    Last edited by Corona Blue; 08-19-2011 at 03:44 AM.

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    I don't think the Gibson keeper is machined. It looks like standard 3/16 flat stock to me, holes drilled. A couple of folks with "insider" information may correct me on that, but I'll leave it to them to do so. Your best bet to get what you want is to make them yourself. With a drilling jig and a chop saw, you can make much nicer keepers than the stamped junk at a lower cost per part. Ever now and again, one of the high-rollers here runs a batch of machined keepers and might let you in on the deal. For that, you'll have to keep watching the board and plan to buy in quantity.

    FWIW, I've never noticed an issue with keepers that are a bit thinner than the magnet in un-potted pickups. For reference, I always test them through a cranked Marshall full stack. Could be wire tension or other mechanical issues going on ... who's to say for sure.

    Sources for flat stock.

    Speedy Metals - 3/16" {A} x 1/4" {B} Cold Finished 1018
    Speedy Metals - 3/16" {A} x 1/2" {B} Low Carbon Grnd Flat
    Metric Metals - Metric Cold Finished Flats

    Try not to over think things. YMMV on all of this.

  22. #22
    Supporting Member Corona Blue's Avatar
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    SkinnyWire-

    Thanks for the most excellent reply and links as well.

    I agree... it wouldn't be too difficult to make a better keeper than the slop the regular retailers offer. I was hoping I wouldn't have to re-invent the wheel when I started this thread. But it's ok.

    I test my pickups the same way as you, with a cranked Mesa Boogie or my modded '66 Bandmaster and 2 x12" rig... cranked. HA! Fun!!

    I have pretty much narrowed it down to this Mojo spacer being the problem. I can take a microphonic pickup and pot just down below the bobbins on the screw side and things will get better. I just have never liked loading my pickups up with potting. A little is ok.

    But yeah, it's easy to start over-thinking problems like this, I grant you. True words.

    I'm going to check out your links.

    Thanks,

    Allen
    Last edited by Corona Blue; 08-20-2011 at 07:00 PM.

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    ToneOholic! big_teee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Corona Blue View Post
    SkinnyWire-

    Thanks for the most excellent reply and links as well.

    I agree... it wouldn't be too difficult to make a better keeper than the slop the regular retailers offer. I was hoping I wouldn't have to re-invent the wheel when I started this thread. But it's ok.

    I test my pickups the same way as you, with a cranked Mesa Boogie or my modded '66 Bandmaster and 2 x12" rig... cranked. HA! Fun!!

    I have pretty much narrowed it down to this Mojo spacer being the problem. I can take a microphonic pickup and pot just down below the bobbins on the screw side and things will get better. I just have never liked loading my pickups up with potting. A little is ok.

    But yeah, it's easy to start over-thinking problems like this, I grant you. True words.

    I'm going to check out your links.

    Thanks,

    Allen
    When you pot the baseplate, I would try putting a couple of blank Bobbins on it before potting.
    Then when it cools take the bobbins off and it shoud be a nice wax fit!
    Then just put your bobbins on top of the formed wax. Should work Maybe
    B_T
    Technicians Run the World, but Bankers, Lawyers, and Accountants, Take All The Credit!
    Keep Rockin! B_T
    Terry

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    Supporting Member Corona Blue's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by big_teee View Post
    When you pot the baseplate, I would try putting a couple of blank Bobbins on it before potting.
    Then when it cools take the bobbins off and it shoud be a nice wax fit!
    Then just put your bobbins on top of the formed wax. Should work Maybe
    B_T
    Too much potting for my tastes... but you raise an interesting point:

    I have observed that Seymour's vintage tele neck pickups (str-1?) come with a pre-formed parafin wrapper that is cut to just the right shape. The coils are first taped with a unique kind of clear vinyl tape which is pretty thick... maybe 10 mil... then the parafin wrap is applied. The cover goes down with just the right about of clearance.

    It makes for a muddy sounding neck pickup IMO, but it never went microphonic on me even under high gain. When I started winding my own pickups, I dissected the Seymour and was astonished at the way they did it.

    But it makes me wonder if Gibby, say with Burstbuckers, doesn't do something similar. Use a parafin peel-away sheet that is die cut for the baseplate at just the right thickness. There isn't much potting on most of the Burstbuckers I have seen and most was on the baseplate and spacers. But this method makes perfect sense from a production stand point. No extra time involved in cleaning up wax residue before soldering on the covers, etc. In fact, the covers would probably be soldered on first, and then the baseplates would be warmed slightly to flow the parafin and the bobbin screws snugged up at that time.

  25. #25
    ToneOholic! big_teee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Corona Blue View Post
    Too much potting for my tastes... but you raise an interesting point:

    I have observed that Seymour's vintage tele neck pickups (str-1?) come with a pre-formed parafin wrapper that is cut to just the right shape. The coils are first taped with a unique kind of clear vinyl tape which is pretty thick... maybe 10 mil... then the parafin wrap is applied. The cover goes down with just the right about of clearance.

    It makes for a muddy sounding neck pickup IMO, but it never went microphonic on me even under high gain. When I started winding my own pickups, I dissected the Seymour and was astonished at the way they did it.

    But it makes me wonder if Gibby, say with Burstbuckers, doesn't do something similar. Use a parafin peel-away sheet that is die cut for the baseplate at just the right thickness. There isn't much potting on most of the Burstbuckers I have seen and most was on the baseplate and spacers. But this method makes perfect sense from a production stand point. No extra time involved in cleaning up wax residue before soldering on the covers, etc. In fact, the covers would probably be soldered on first, and then the baseplates would be warmed slightly to flow the parafin and the bobbin screws snugged up at that time.
    Everything I sell is Completely Wax Potted.
    I Dip it for 10-15 Minutes take it out squeeze off the excess in a paper towel.
    My own stuff I have both ways, some waxed, some not waxed.
    I have never ran across the Microphonics issue your having with Humbuckers.
    If you tape the coils well, and everything under neath is tight, no problems.
    If I put a Metal cover on, I melt a little wax in the bottom of the cover before I Install the cover.
    Some People put tape over the slugs before they install the cover.
    I just do the wax and no tape.
    Good Luck,
    T
    Technicians Run the World, but Bankers, Lawyers, and Accountants, Take All The Credit!
    Keep Rockin! B_T
    Terry

  26. #26
    Supporting Member Corona Blue's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by big_teee View Post
    I have never ran across the Microphonics issue your having with Humbuckers.
    If you tape the coils well, and everything under neath is tight, no problems.
    T
    When I finish my wind, I brush down my paraffin solution while the bobbin is still on the yoke. This permeates into the coil a few layers. Then I tape up to my pigtail and then do the soldering (using a technique a dirty old phone man once showed me) and then finish the tape. Then sometimes I brush a light coat of paraffin over the tape just to seal things from moisture.

    .010" of rattle room with the Mojo 49.2 mm keepers (more if using the rough cast magnets) plus the size of the holes around the screws on those same keepers... too sloppy. I can see where Lpone has something when he says use the 50mm Stewmac keepers. They would go down so tight I can't see how they would oscillate. I may try it.

    But to clarify: In my case, I don't think it's the coils because I have been able to mitigate the problem with just potting the air space UNDER the bobbins. Therein lies the problem. I just did a set for a 335 and, knowing I was going to cover them, I potted the air space. Covers on with NO POTTING under the bell, and the pickups don't squeal at all. Was able to stand in front of my 2 x 12" cab with the amp gain at 10 and a TS-808 cranked in front. No squeal... and the tone... Thor's Hammer! LOL!!
    Last edited by Corona Blue; 08-20-2011 at 10:37 PM. Reason: clarification

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    Quote Originally Posted by Corona Blue View Post
    .010" of rattle room with the Mojo 49.2 mm keepers (more if using the rough cast magnets) plus the size of the holes around the screws on those same keepers... too sloppy. I can see where Lpone has something when he says use the 50mm Stewmac keepers. They would go down so tight I can't see how they would oscillate. I may try it.
    I'll also say that the stewmac keepers are to my ears much better for the tone than the mojo. They seem transmit the magnetism more and are of a very soft alloy (does that make them low carbon?) that you can pretty much bend with your hands with a bit of effort. In my research in these forums I came across the theory that the old PAF keepers were made of some alloy called electrical iron. Maybe the Stewmac is closer to this so called electrical iron than Mojo and Gibson who knows. Maybe its all placebo but I have found the stewmac keeper tone to be better than Mojo and probably better than Gibson. Give it a try with your WB and Gibson keepers and let us know what you think.

    I found out about this stuff after reading Dave Stephens' posts about alloys and also having the experience of buying a handwound humbucker that sounded harsh until I exchanged the mojo keeper, screws and slugs to those of an old Seymour Duncan - much better, creamier tone. That made me a believer about the metals.

    PS I like Mojo screws and slugs, definitely not the keepers. All the ones I had were thrown in the trash!
    Last edited by Lpone; 08-21-2011 at 02:28 AM.

  28. #28
    Supporting Member Corona Blue's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lpone View Post
    I'll also say that the stewmac keepers are to my ears much better for the tone than the mojo. They seem transmit the magnetism more and are of a very soft alloy (does that make them low carbon?)
    Yes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lpone View Post
    I found out about this stuff after reading Dave Stephens' posts about alloys and also having the experience of buying a hand-wound humbucker that sounded harsh until I exchanged the mojo keeper, screws and slugs to those of an old Seymour Duncan - much better, creamier tone. That made me a believer about the metals.
    I remember that discussion too. Electrical Iron is old school nomenclature for soft, low-carbon steel. So that would include, for example 1010 and also 1018 steel, right?

    I'll be in the shop tomorrow and I will take a closer look at those other spacers. Maybe weigh them out.

    Lpone, what magnets do you use for PAFs? Have you used the rough-cast A2 from AddictionFX? Just wondering because they tend to be >.125" in vertical height. Unless the keeper you use is also in the same ballpark, there's still going to be some gap under the screw bobbin.

    I think it's real compelling that CopperHeadRoad measured his '56 P-90 spacer at .130" and its rough-cast magnet at .133" See, THAT is in the ballpark to my thinking, and that's where I would like to get to, even if I do have to make them myself. Seems like that's looming as the probable option.

    Thanks for the informative post.

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    Yes, my Addifx mags are 1.33. I exclusively like to use the Afx mags, the A2, A4 and unoriented A5 all rough cast, The stewmac height seems adequate even though the mags are a little higher than the spacer, maybe there is some elastic deformation of the baseplate to take up the slack when assembled?

    I notice with the Stewmac spacers the tops of the bobbins are in the same plane when assembled - with the mojos, there is a slight and ugly downward tilt of the bobbin top when assembled.

    I wish Dennis of Afx would release some vintage correct spacers. Hint!

  30. #30
    Supporting Member Corona Blue's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lpone View Post
    Yes, my Addifx mags are 1.33. I exclusively like to use the Afx mags, the A2, A4 and unoriented A5 all rough cast, The stewmac height seems adequate even though the mags are a little higher than the spacer, maybe there is some elastic deformation of the baseplate to take up the slack when assembled?
    Yes, and/or some minor crush in the bobbin plastic.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lpone View Post
    I notice with the Stewmac spacers the tops of the bobbins are in the same plane when assembled - with the mojos, there is a slight and ugly downward tilt of the bobbin top when assembled.
    Yep... When I first got started doing 'buckers, I wrote Big_Tee and said "hey wtf, over??" He found my innocent dismay entertaining...

    Quote Originally Posted by Lpone View Post
    I wish Dennis of Afx would release some vintage correct spacers. Hint!
    I have written to him a couple of times about this and other things. I'm sure I'm not the only one to do this. He knows the problem I'm certain. Though he never responded, I suspect it's just a matter of return on investment.

    I've got friends in low places who make these kinds of things... I have contracted to make other items in the past. Right now, I've got several hundred nickle plated brass string ferrules for Tele's and hard-tail strats in a box somewhere in my shop. All original 50's spec. I wanted 'em for a Tele project and nobody had the real deal... so... I had a friend make up 100 sets for me. Keeps me out of prison is the way I look at it...

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    "Yep... When I first got started doing 'buckers, I wrote Big_Tee and said "hey wtf, over??" He found my innocent dismay entertaining..."
    Yep I said and or thought a few swear words myself!

  32. #32
    Supporting Member Corona Blue's Avatar
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    UPDATE:

    Just a couple of pics to freshen up the thread.

    I snapped these pics over a month ago and meant to post them. Out of curiosity I dissected an old Japanese PAF clone taken out of my first electric guitar, a bolt-neck SG "Kopy Kat" from 1975. This was the bridge pickup, DCR 7.6K. Nice, bright, clear sounding PAF clone (I replaced it in '78 with the then popular Dimarzio Super Distortion). The Japanese PAF isn't all that rich or complex sounding, but it's not bad sounding. I later ran it as a neck pickup in one of my Paul's and it kinda found a home there for a long while. Anyway, this pic really illustrates the point of our thread... take a good look at the keeper where it meets the underside of the bobbin... notice the gap? The magnet bar measured .125" in height... To be honest, the pickup never had a feedback problem while in the neck, but in the bridge it tended to be an issue.






    And here is the Japanese keeper along with our previous three...





    Thought this would be of interest to some of you.

    Best,

    CB

  33. #33
    Old Timer RedHouse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Corona Blue View Post
    Not to mention the nice plywood spacers, the "correctness" mojo peddlers (not MMS) would have a field day with a pickup like that.

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    ToneOholic! big_teee's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RedHouse View Post
    Not to mention the nice plywood spacers, the "correctness" mojo peddlers (not MMS) would have a field day with a pickup like that.
    I'm pretty sure if You started UnTaping Everybody's Humbuckers there is no telling what all you would UnCover and Find!
    Hi Brad!
    Terry
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    Quote Originally Posted by big_teee View Post
    I'm pretty sure if You started UnTaping Everybody's Humbuckers there is no telling what all you would UnCover and Find!
    Hi Brad!
    Terry
    Edit Note*
    Mine Included!
    AFAIK, usually everyone uses either plastic or wood, some splash-out on maple but most use those 1/8" (bar-stock) wood pieces from Michaels/BenFranklin/JoAnnes and other arts-n-crafts sources. I'm ok with plastic as it makes zero difference to the tone of a pickup what the spacer is made of.
    (unless it brings in some microphonics)

    Back in the 70's we got some real surprises from Japan, they were using all kinds of weirdness inside those old Teisco pickups.

    Hi back at'cha Terry.

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