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Les Paul Jr P90 from 1955

When I was contacted about repairing a Les Paul Jr P90 from 1955 I was naturally very keen.

P90’s are very interesting pickups. They have a single wide flat coil usually of around 10,000 turns of AWG 42 wire but the really fascinating aspect is the magnets. They have 2 bar magnets underneath the pickup (a PAF just has one) causing a much wider magnetic field than other single coil pickups.

To put it simply – P90’s hear more string than other pickups. Hearing more string gives a fuller, fatter sound and that distinctive woody P90 tone. Not everyone likes them but those of us that do absolutely love them.

I make my own version of the P90 called the ‘Sassy’. It’s a full fat version of the P90 with alnico 5 magnets with all the warmth and plenty of grunt that you find in the old Gibsons.

So I’m always interested to have a good look at a genuine vintage pickup especially from a Les Paul Jr P90 from 1955. I’m a big fan of the Juniors.

Les Paul Jr P90 from 1955

The pickup was sent to me because it wasn’t working and both the customer and myself suspected it might need a re-wind but I never jump to conclusions. It could be just a dry joint on one of the hookup wires – always worth checking.

1955 P90 pickup underneath

As you can see the hook up wires look a bit scruffy so I re-solder and test, remove the wires and test, remove the tape and test – still nothing. The next step is to start removing a few layers of the winding wire just in case there’s a break. There was no obvious break. The problem was deeper inside the pickup – this one is a re-wind.

vintage guitar pickup. P90 1955

Now, I talked about magnets earlier, take a look at these two. Firstly they’re wonky. Some amazing Gibson vintage tonal secret or just being a bit sloppy in the factory? Probably the latter.

But for me the most interesting part is they’re rough cast alnico 2. For this era I was expecting Alnico 5.

Alnico rough cast P90

Alnico 2 have a smoother, purer sound than the more powerful rougher sounding alnico 5’s.

So after I re-wound this lovely old pickup I started experimenting. I started winding P90’s with Alnico 2 magnets and from that was born a new pickup set in my range – the “Cool 90″.

Vintage P90 plain enamel wire

It’s cleaner than the Sassy, less grunty but still full and fat sounding.

Ideas can come from anywhere. It reminds me of the quote from Picasso – “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working”

Gibson P90 vintage no cover
Roboguy Logo

Here’s the ‘Sassy” –

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updated 3 April 2023

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