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.
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.
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.
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 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″.
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”
Here’s the ‘Sassy” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jcspPYHKE_c