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Thread: Gibson ES-5 wiring

  1. #1
    CNC Trial by Fire kayakerca's Avatar
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    Gibson ES-5 wiring

    A local vintage guitar dealer came by to pick up the bridge I rewound for him from a '66 Hofner bass. He surprised me with a couple other guitars to talk about their pickups a bit (triple P90 setup). One was a '49 Gibson ES-5 and the other a '53 Gibson ES-5. They have one master tone and a volume pot for each of the 3 P90's. He thought they were suffering from low output. I measured the magnet strength compared to some other P90's in the shop and they all seemed OK. Also seemed OK when I put them both head to head against a Casino I have on the test guitar rack. Again, volume levels very comparable.

    Here is where the volume thing got a little weird. So the bridge volume pot turns clockwise to increase volume when the middle pickup volume pot is dialed back. But when you dial up the tone pot for the middle pickup, the tone volume for the bridge pickup operates in the opposite direction (e.g. 1 is full volume; 10 is no sound, so sound level increases as you move from 10 - 1 and decreases as you turn from 1 - 10). Again, that reverses when you dial back the middle pickup volume pot. He didn't have time to mess around with it any further as his wife was patiently waiting in the car.

    Anyone experienced this "change in direction" wiring setup before on one of these?

    Just curious. . .
    Take Care,

    Jim. . .
    ____________________________________________________
    In the immortal words of Dr. Johnny Fever, “When everyone is out to get you, paranoid is just good thinking.”

  2. #2
    Senior Member Jim Darr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kayakerca View Post
    A local vintage guitar dealer came by to pick up the bridge I rewound for him from a '66 Hofner bass. He surprised me with a couple other guitars to talk about their pickups a bit (triple P90 setup). One was a '49 Gibson ES-5 and the other a '53 Gibson ES-5. They have one master tone and a volume pot for each of the 3 P90's. He thought they were suffering from low output. I measured the magnet strength compared to some other P90's in the shop and they all seemed OK. Also seemed OK when I put them both head to head against a Casino I have on the test guitar rack. Again, volume levels very comparable.

    Here is where the volume thing got a little weird. So the bridge volume pot turns clockwise to increase volume when the middle pickup volume pot is dialed back. But when you dial up the tone pot for the middle pickup, the tone volume for the bridge pickup operates in the opposite direction (e.g. 1 is full volume; 10 is no sound, so sound level increases as you move from 10 - 1 and decreases as you turn from 1 - 10). Again, that reverses when you dial back the middle pickup volume pot. He didn't have time to mess around with it any further as his wife was patiently waiting in the car.

    Anyone experienced this "change in direction" wiring setup before on one of these?

    Just curious. . .
    Weird. I have seen only a few of these a long time ago and don't recall any issues with the volume reversing. But they may have been the later "Switchmaster" version with separate tone controls for each pickup. I can't really recall as it was such a long time ago.

    Is it wired correctly? ...maybe someone modified the schematic. Did both the '53 & '49 do the same thing?

    Here is a link to the wiring diagram for the ES-5.

    http://archive.gibson.com/Files/schematics/ES5.PDF

    Looks like all three volume pots should be wired in the same rotational direction.

    Let us know what you find out.
    Last edited by Jim Darr; 11-25-2017 at 04:08 AM.
    =============================================

    Keep Winding...Keep Playing!!!

    Jim

  3. #3
    CNC Trial by Fire kayakerca's Avatar
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    Thanks for the input and wiring diagram Jim. We didn't have time to pull everything out the f-holes as Mike's wife was waiting patiently in the car. on the surface, the 3 way switch was wired as follows. . . position 1 - neck only; position 2 - middle and bridge; position 3 bridge only. Without the switch incorporated into the ES-5 wiring diagram, it makes it a little harder for me to see what could cause the alternating direction of the volume pot on the bridge pickup depending on where the middle pickup volume pot was set. Mike is going to do a little research on the issue as well. Hopefully he'll pull the electronics out of the guitar to visually see how it is wired. I'll definitely report back on what he finds out if anything. Not sure he wants to leave a $10k+ instrument at my shop for me to pull apart as my interest dictates. We didn't have time to put the '49 through the same check for the way the pots/switch interacted, again, because his wife was patently waiting in the car.

    Edited................

    As I look through more images on the internet of early '50's ES-5, 3 P90 guitars, I don't see a 3 way switch on any of them. I assume the switch must have been an addon and originally which pickups were active must have been controlled solely by the 3 volume controls.
    Last edited by kayakerca; 11-25-2017 at 04:43 AM.
    Take Care,

    Jim. . .
    ____________________________________________________
    In the immortal words of Dr. Johnny Fever, “When everyone is out to get you, paranoid is just good thinking.”

  4. #4
    Senior Member Jim Darr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kayakerca View Post
    Thanks for the input and wiring diagram Jim. We didn't have time to pull everything out the f-holes as Mike's wife was waiting patiently in the car. on the surface, the 3 way switch was wired as follows. . . position 1 - neck only; position 2 - middle and bridge; position 3 bridge only. Without the switch incorporated into the ES-5 wiring diagram, it makes it a little harder for me to see what could cause the alternating direction of the volume pot on the bridge pickup depending on where the middle pickup volume pot was set. Mike is going to do a little research on the issue as well. Hopefully he'll pull the electronics out of the guitar to visually see how it is wired. I'll definitely report back on what he finds out if anything. Not sure he wants to leave a $10k+ instrument at my shop for me to pull apart as my interest dictates. We didn't have time to put the '49 through the same check for the way the pots/switch interacted, again, because his wife was patently waiting in the car.
    Jim,

    Now I am a little confused....I thought you were talking about the early versions that had only 3 volumes, one master tone control, and NO switch which should be consistent for the years you mentioned.

    However, you mention a three position switch???? I thought when they went to the "Switchmaster" in "55 the switch was a 4 position switch. Could the wiring be heavily modified?

    Can you clear up my confusion?
    =============================================

    Keep Winding...Keep Playing!!!

    Jim

  5. #5
    CNC Trial by Fire kayakerca's Avatar
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    I had the wrong guitar. He did bring 2 Gibson's, but the second was a '48 L5. They were both triple P90 setups (hence my excuse for my brain fart on which was which), but the L5 was the one with the volume control issue. The wiring diagram you provided would be bang on for the ES-5 with 3 volume pots and a master tone pot.

    Here's a link to the L5:

    1948 Gibson L-5C

    Again, when the neck volume was turned up, the bridge volume pot would get louder as you turned it down and vice versa. I wish he had left it with me to pull the electronics out so I could figure out what is happening, but at the value of the guitar, I get why not.
    Take Care,

    Jim. . .
    ____________________________________________________
    In the immortal words of Dr. Johnny Fever, “When everyone is out to get you, paranoid is just good thinking.”

  6. #6
    Supporting Member Steve A.'s Avatar
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    Perhaps you could schedule a longer appointment where you could pull out all of the wiring. If parts had to be ordered I would carefully wrap the pots, etc., in a towel and have the customer take the guitar home until I could schedule another appointment to complete the repairs.

    F-hole access to wiring plus customers' wives waiting outside in cars add up to a very stressful situation!

    Steve A.

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