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Maxon humbucker?

I thought it was going to be a straightforward pickup repair but is this pickup actually a Maxon humbucker?

As part of my work I repair pickups for luthiers. Most guitar repairers don’t wind pickups and even the ones that do often send me pickups to repair, it saves them a lot of time. One such repairer is Auckland’s Ramsay Phillips.

For me repairing pickups is a really interesting part of my job. I enjoy seeing how the basic concept of a magnet and a coil of wire can be made in so many different ways. Back in the 1990’s I first learned about pickups by repairing them and I don’t think that instinct ever leaves. Most of my pickup repair work is very straight forward but occasionally something interesting comes along. This is one of those.

So Ramsay sent me a bridge humbucker from this 1970’s Antoria to repair. I was expecting something like the classic Maxon U-1000 but there was a surprise.

Antoria with Maxon pickups

This is not the first Maxon Humbucker I’ve seen I’ve worked on a few old Maxon pickups in my time and they have always deserved their great reputation. So I had a good idea what to expect from this humbucker.

Maxon humbucker?

Maxon serial number dating

The number on the base plate of this pickup is a date stamp not a model number though it would be nice to have both.

So to translate the Maxon pickup dating code:

The first number is a production line code

second number is the year, so in this case 1974

third number, the month, so September

and the last 2 are the day, so the 17th

So that tells us its from Sept 17th 1974. I always wonder why manufacturers can’t just write the date plainly instead of a secret code but they all seem to do it.

Something unusual

But there’s something odd here. The pole piece screws don’t extend under the base plate. The 6 holes in the base where I expected to see the poles are blocked by something. Time to get the cover off and see what’s inside.

Maxon 4917 baseplate

What’s Inside?

This is exactly what was inside – a single coil disguised as a humbucker! So Maxon humbucker? Well, it’s a Maxon but not a humbucker.

Maxon 4917 inside

It has the typical floppy nylon bobbin I would expect to see in a Maxon but this one is sitting on top of a large ceramic magnet.

Maxon 4917 assembly inside
Maxon 4917 baseplate and magnet

My job here is to fix this pickup so I remove the bobbin and start to carefully remove the sticky old tape.

Maxon 4917 bobbin

I remove the hookup wires and try re-soldering them to the winding wire and the pickup comes to life. It was simply a dry joint. This one is showing me 8KOhms on the meter which is in the ballpark of a PAF though it would sound nothing like one.

You can see the metal plate mounted inside the bobbin that connects the short pole screws to the magnet.

Maxon 4917 bobbin with keep bar

So, Maxon humbucker? Well, certainly Maxon but not a humbucker. Beware – not all Maxon pickups are classics.

I’ve had a look on line and can’t find a model number for this pickup. It seems the only distinguishing feature from the outside is the lack of pole screws through the base plate.

If you are interested in vintage humbucker tones check out the Mr Glyn’s ‘Integrity’ humbucker. It comes in 4 flavours or both bridge and neck.

.

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updated July 2023

Maxon humbucker?

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P90 Pickup Height

Setting P90 Pickup Height is an essential part of your tone. More than any other pickup they really do like being up close to the strings. In this blog post I’m going to give you some measurements and info on how to measure pickup height. And there’s help for you dogear P90 players too. I’m going to give you some free dogear P90 height spacers.

How to measure P90 Pickup Height

The pickup height is measured from the top of the pickup pole (or cover) to the underside of the string when fretting the highest fret. Not easy to describe in words so here’s Roboguy demonstrating to clarify:

how to adjust P90 Pickup Height
Pickup Height Adjustment

Here is the P90 Pickup Height I suggest but I’d like to emphasise these are not set in stone, just a guide. P 90’s do like to be close to the strings but if you prefer the sound of them further away that’s fine – up to you and your ears. The closer a pickup is to the strings the louder it is. More importantly, the more dynamic and touch sensitive it is. So with the pickup further away, your sound is more compressed and less dynamic. There is no right or wrong here but especially for lead playing a P90 close to the strings gives a great sensitivity.

There’s also the matter of sustain. If the pickup is too close the magnetic field it produces can inhibit the vibration of the strings and reduce sustain. So it really is all about finding that sweet spot for you and your sound.

So start with this measurement and then find your sweet spot. I think the other important factor is that when you find what works for you, stop fiddling. It’s all about playing guitar . It’s easy to spend all your practice time adjusting things instead of playing – I’m as guilty as anyone of this.

P90 Pickup heigt measurements

What about dogear P90’s?

Now, that’s all well and good for soapbar or humbucker size P90’s but if you have a Les Paul Junior or an SG Junior with dogear P90’s it’s not as easy. Dogears aren’t height adjustable but don’t worry I have a plan.

As you can see below I’ve drawn some height adjustment shims for 3D printing. They have a few different heights and the taller ones are angled at 3 degrees to match Gibson neck angles. That way your pickups are kept parallel to the strings. A set of these should be all you need for a 2 pickup guitar. So this set should have you covered.

We don’t all have 3D printers but here in New Zealand larger libraries have 3D printers or there are many businesses offering printing services. I’m not sure how it is where you are but in most places it’s pretty easy to get things printed out. And, of course, having a Mate with a printer is ideal. It’s very easy to get done and it’ a way I can help you out without the delivery costs. I’ve sent this file to players all over the World for all brands of Dogear P90’s.

Dogear P90 height shims for free

If you want the file just get in touch with me and I’ll send it to you, no charge. You don’t have to buy my pickups (though that would be nice), I’m just happy to help out. simply email me at mrglynspickups@gmail.com

Dogear P90 spacers - Mr Glyn's Pickups

P90 Pickup Height

For pickup demos head to YouTube

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updated 3 April 2023

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Dirty guitar jack – don’t blame your pickups

Les Paul Jack

What could cause a Dirty guitar jack ?

The season is changing, old guitars are coming out of cupboards, if your electrics are crackly or your guitar keeps cutting out it might just be a Dirty guitar jack – don’t blame your pickups. At least not yet.

 It’s pretty simple really, if you’ve got a crackly guitar the jack may just need cleaning. Don’t blame your pickups straight away. Jack sockets, switches and pots are more likely to cause problems than your pickups.

Of course, when you eliminate all the other possibilities you might be needing a repairer. Here’s a list og repairers in NZ:

https://mrglynspickups.com/guitar-repairs-nz-directory-2023/

Incidentally, it’s an “output” jack, not an “input” jack – just a pet hate of mine.

You can see the jack in this Les Paul is looking a tad fluffy. This one isn’t very bad but it’s worth a clean anyway as part of a set up.

Dirty guitar jack - don't blame your pickups Mr Glyn's Pickups

I use 600 grade wet’n’dry paper used dry.

Mr Glyn's Pickups

I simply tear a piece off, roll it up and clean the jack out with it. A squirt with some contact cleaner can help. It’s good to keep a piece in your guitar case in case your jack goes crackly at a gig.

Dirty Jack  - cleaning

 You can see a fair bit of dirt can come off even this relatively clean jack. Just think what that was doing to your earth connection.

Dirty Jack - how to clean it

If a dirty guitar jackis really bad and you are gigging just replace it. It doesn’t cost much and it’s something you just can’t do without. If your jack stuffs up on stage it’s not a good look. I always have a small piece of 600 grade in my gig bag just in case.
   Cheers
       Glyn

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updated August 2023

Dirty Jack – don’t blame your pickups

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Hofner Pickup – an interesting repair

Hofner pickup toaster

I came across a blog I wrote in 2010 about a repair on an old Hofner pickup, thought you might be interested:

I had a visit from Paul Crowther the other day (always a pleasure to see him). He’s rather a legend for amongst other things his ‘Hotcake’ overdrive pedals and the ‘Prunes and Custard’ (my favorite for theremin).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emlyn_Crowther

 He wanted to know if my coil winding machine was up and running –  he had an interesting pickup for me to wind.

Early Hofner toaster pickup

 Its an old Hofner pickup which I guess is from the 50’s. The guitar has 3 of them and this one has a break in the windings so needs to be re-wound.
This would normally be a straight forward job except for the design of this pickup.

inside an old hofner

 This is the inside of it. The windings (around the outside) are not wrapped around a bobbin. They are just sitting in the pickup and have been wrapped in tape to protect them. In the middle you can see the magnets sitting in a hard putty. There are incidentally only 5 magnets.
 So the problem Paul left me with was how to wrap about 5000 turns of extremely thin wire into a coil and therefore make a pickup.
 After a long brainstorming session with Sheena we came up with a plan.

Very tricky re-wind, Hofner pickup



 We figured that the wire had to be wound around a bobbin and then somehow the bobbin removed.

repair hofner pickup

 So I made this bobbin. The sides are plastic from a Strat pickguard (white) and the centre has been carved from candle wax.

hofner bobbin

The bobbin bolts together and is attached to another plastic plate which in turn fits to the winding machine.
 The idea is to wind the pickup on this and then warm the completed coil up and melt the wax. The wax should seep into the coil thus potting it as well. Then the sides can be unbolted and voila a copy of the original coil.

hofner repair

 Winding the coil wasn’t any different from any other pickup – so now for the tricky bit.

hofner repair

 I warm the coil ever so gently with a heat gun. I put my free hand next to the work to judge the temperature – if it gets too hot the plastic will melt and I’ll be starting again.

hofner pickup repair

 When I see some wax oozing out I ever so gently remove the top plate.

hofner pickup repair

 With the wax exposed I can apply more heat and watch it flow into the coil and as it cools becomes solid.

hand made coil

Then I wrap tape around it to hold everything in place. I cannot emphasize enough how fiddly this is. There are a few stray wires and if any of them break I’m starting again.

 coil

It may not be much to look at but its taken hours of quiet patience. The slight curve is to match the shape of the pickup casing. I’ve tested it and I’m pleased with it at 5.5Kohms.
 In the background you can see the magnetic lugs – I had to dig them out of the putty.

pickup fix

 I put the whole thing back together using ‘friendly plastic’ instead of putty then fill the casing with wax, solder the back on and its finished.

 Its been quite a task fixing this old Hofner pickup but I’m happy with the result.

It was so satisfying breathing new life into this old Hofner pickup, it should be good for another 50 years.

   Glyn

Hofner Pickup – an interesting repair

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updated July 2023

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Pickup Phase Explained

In this short video – Pickup Phase Explained – I look at what phase is, what it isn’t and why you need to know.

I use a Strat to demonstrate the ‘out of phase’ sound and how it would sound if it really was out of phase. There’s no maths, no diagrams. Just a simple explanation with a guitar to demonstrate.

Pickup Phase Explained

Positions 2 and 4 on Strat switches are often referred to as ‘out of phase’ when they really aren’t. Those positions are the sound of 2 pickups in parallel (a humbucker is in series). Out of phase is quite different as you’ll hear in this video.

There is another video in this series explaining how to test phase – the easy way https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lhnCf4JIyw&t=3s

Pickup Phase Explained

Pickup Phase Explained

For more blog posts https://mrglynspickups.com/blog/

Updated July 2023

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

Les Paul Jr P90 from 1955

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updated 3 April 2023

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‘68 Telecaster bridge pickup repair

I repair quite a few old pickups and thought you might be interested this ‘68 Telecaster bridge pickup repair.

68 Tele Bridge Pickup. Fender Telecasterbridge pickup from 1968
’68 Tele Bridge Pickup

Assessing the damage

As you can see it’s looking pretty tired. I quite like seeing pickups like this – it’s clearly given great service for decades. This is just wear and tear and the sign of a happy life, and although it isn’t working now there’s no reason why it can’t be made good for a few more decades.

guitar pickup - Telecaster Bridge

One of the first things I noticed is the black tape. Underneath it is the original waxed protective string. I’m not sure why someone added that.

'68 Tele Bridge repair
'68 Tele pickup bridge plate

The plate underneath has aged fantastically but as you can see the earth wire is missing from it. I re-solder the connections just in case there is a dry joint but the pickup is still dead.

repairing a vintage telecaster pickup

I suspect this is the fault- the top plate has warped over time and the corrosion has got in and damaged the windings. That top plate looks like a skateboard deck – it should be flat! This ’68 telecaster bridge pickup is going to need a re-wind.

'68 Tele date

Removing the windings

With the back plate off you can clearly see the date.

vintege guitar pickup corrosion

And here it is, this is the problem. With the windings cut away you can clearly see that the corrosion on the pole piece has spread into the winding. There’s a bit of wax in there too from when it was potted originally.

So here’s the plan. I need to flatten that top plate back. Then clean up the pole pieces. I need to do something about the corrosion. And finally re-wind the pickup to original spec. And most importantly make it look like nothing ever happened.

Repairing this 68 Telecaster bridge pickup

pickup lacquer
Telecaster Bridge pickup

Cleaning the poles is easy, then I flatten the top plate and glue it in place with super glue. Originally it was just a push fit. Then I treat the rust with some anti rust stuff. Here you can see it masked off so I can give the poles a couple of coats of lacquer.

Tele pickup - rewind

Next I wrap the poles with thin tape. I want to protect the windings from future corrosion. I want this pickup to play hard for another 50 years.

Telecaster Bridge Pickup repair

Then it’s re-winding and wax potting and finally replacing the original string.

Of course, I forget to take a photo of it with the string on.

If you want a Telecaster pickup set similar to an old 68 Telecaster bridge pickup take a look at my “Silver Lady” set. The Silver Lady is wound to very similar spec to the old Fenders.

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‘68 Telecaster Bridge Pickup

Mr Glyns Pickups

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updated 3 April 2023

https://mrglynspickups.com/2020/03/29/silver-lady-vintage-telecaster/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W0b3oNSRvP0

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Gretsch FilterTron – a look inside

The Gretsch FilterTron is something rather special. Originally designed in 1954/5 by Ray Butts for guitarist Chet Atkins who wasn’t satisfied by the DynaSonic pickup he was using. It has become a classic but often misunderstood pickup.

It has left a distinct mark on the sound of Rock’n’Roll. It’s the sound of Malcolm Young, Brian Setzer, Billy Duffy and plenty more. That unmistakable ‘Clank’ on the attack of the note is the essence of the FilterTron.

I started playing guitar because of the sound of a Gretsch FilterTron. Listen to Malcolm Young on the intro to “Jailbreak” – that’s what I’m talking about. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRo2m6RYJpI

But you don’t only find FilterTrons in Gretches, there’s the rather cool Fender Cabronita Telecaster.

So what’s inside a Gretsch FilterTron?

So how does it make that distinctive sound? What makes it so different from a PAF?

Here’s a vintage Gretsch FilterTron from 1961, let’s take a look under the hood.

Gretsch FilterTron

With the cover off it looks quite different from a PAF. There are 2 rows of adjustable poles and they’re bigger than on a Gibson. The top of the bobbins are rather neatly hidden by a thin plate.

Filtertron with the cover off
Filtertron underneath
Gretsch FilterTron

Here’s where it gets really interesting. Those are very narrow bobbins and this one measures only 4.2KOhms. Not a lot of coil strength there but look what they’re sitting on. That is one fat magnet. It’s an Alnico V and literally twice the thickness of the Alnico 2 (usually) that you’d find in a PAF. So not only more powerful magnetic material but double the amount of it compared to a Gibson.

So that Gretsch FilterTron sound consists of a weaker, thin sounding coil so lots of highs and twang from the windings and getting the aggression, attack and ‘clank’ from the powerful magnet.

This is the original Gretsch FilterTron, the design didn’t change much through to the late 60’s although there are plenty of inconsistencies. They can have a dc resistance from 4KOhms up to 5KOhms.

By the 1970’s they had changed the design and really they just didn’t sound like Gretsch’s any more.

Bobbins

A lot of the modern ones are simply small humbuckers with cool looking covers and just miss the whole point of the FilterTron sound.

It’s all about those weak coils and that monster magnet.

Gretsch FilterTron

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Mr Glyns Pickups

My own version of the FilterTron is now available:

Feel free to get in touch for pickup repairs or new pickups mrglynspickups@gmail.com. 021 912 678 https://mrglynspickups.com/

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Yamaha SA30 pickup

Vintage Yamaha humbucker

This Yamaha SA30 pickup came to me for repair the other day and I decided to take some photos and share my thoughts on it with you.

Yamaha SA30 pickup - Mr Glyns Pickups

The Yamaha SA30 pickup is becoming a bit of a legend and getting rather sought after. Gone are the days you could pick one up cheap – the word is out. Thank you internet 🥴.

If you don’t know about them here’s some info: https://tymguitars.com.au/blogs/blog/1966-yamaha-sa-30t

This Yamaha SA30 pickup was sent to me with an intermittent fault. It would work if you tapped it but stop a minute later. That pointed towards it being an internal wiring fault rather than a broken coil, I needed to investigate.

Yamaha SA30 pickup - Mr Glyns Pickups
Yamaha SA30 pickup - Mr Glyns Pickups

With the cover off you can see the hook up wires – these were my number one suspects. Sure enough, there was a dry joint where one of them was soldered to the connectors on the base plate. Just to make sure I re- soldered all the joints and the pickup is fixed.

But that’s not the interesting part – look at those bobbins. They’re different sizes. They each measure in the 4.5 K Ohms range but they’re clearly wound with different gauge wire on each coil. These pickups are renowned for their clarity – so what’s going on?

The smaller coil on the left must be wound with thinner gauge wire and less of it than the one on the right. Thinner wire have a greater resistance for the same length.

The coil on the right looks like a conventional humbucker coil like an overwound PAF but the coil on the left would have a less full sound. It will have less bottom and lower mids and a lot less power. But that’s just the windings.

bobbins - Mr Glyns Pickups

Turn the pickup over and you can see a ceramic bar magnet but it’s how it connects to the poles that’s interesting. The bigger coil has a larger piece of steel coupling the poles to the magnet than the smaller coil. Measuring the strength of the magnetic field on the top of the poles the smaller coil is about 20% weaker. So this again gives the big coil an overwound PAF sound and the smaller coil still thinner.

 - Mr Glyns Pickups

So with the Yamaha SA30 pickup they’ve created that clarity by having one coil doing most of the work – 4.5k Ohms with a ceramic magnet has a bit more grunt than one half of a PAF. But the other coil on it’s own would have more of a weedy gold foil type sound. Then they’ve been combined in series as a humbucker. Smart stuff eh!

Feel free to contact me for pickup repairs or for a chat about my range of new pickups. mrglynspickups@gmail.com

And here’s a great site for all things Yamaha SA, heaps of information here https://www.thesupposedstringmeister.net/?page_id=644

https://mrglynspickups.com/

https://www.youtube.com/c/MrGlynsPickups/videos

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Fender Lead I Pickup

Fender Lead 1 pickup

I’ve been repairing a few pickups recently and I thought I’d share this one with you. It’s a Fender Lead I Pickup that was sent to me by guitar repairer Jeff Baker from Oamaru.

The Fender Lead I was one of those obscure models that never really caught on and the pickup reflects that. It’s a little unusual and that’s what makes it interesting.

It even looks different with those square topped bobbins.

Fender Lead I Pickup

Not only is it unusual looking from the top but turn it over and it shows what it’s really all about. Those are 12 big adjustable poles screwed into substantial steel blocks and coupled to a powerful ceramic magnet.

This is clearly not a typical Fender pickup, this was designed to ROCK.

Inside a Fender Lead I Pickup

So what were Fender thinking? Well, this was 1979, the DiMarzio Super Distortion had been around for 5 years and was becoming very successful. Fender had nothing to compete with it. Looking at the spec of the Fender Lead I Pickup it is remarkably similar to the Super Distortion. Fender were making a Superstrat and it wasn’t even the 80’s yet.

 Lead I Pickup underneath

Back to the repair – it came to me because it wasn’t working and typical for faulty humbuckers one coil was showing ‘open circuit’ on the test meter. In these cases I can use the good coil as a reference to what the faulty coil should be. It had a dc resistance of 7.61 KOhms. Wiki told me the final dc resistance of the whole pickup is approx. 13KOhms so that gave me a pretty good indication of how I should wind it. That’s a powerful set of coils to go with that magnet.

A bit of maths, plenty of experience and some intuition and I had a plan for winding it. Detailed information just isn’t available for the Fender Lead I Pickup.

humbucker bobbin

I stripped the bobbin and wound the coil.

pole pieces

I potted it very lightly because these bobbins are made of butyrate that has a lower melting point than most modern ABS bobbins – I didn’t want it to deform with the heat, I wasn’t going to be able to get another bobbin.

Here you can see the chunky pole pieces, they’ll guide a fair bit of that ceramic magnet’s strength up to the strings.

Fender Lead I Pickup

If you have a faulty pickup or are interested in my range of handmade pickups have a look at the website.

Here’s some more great info on the Fender Lead series: https://chrisandricktalkguitars.com/fenders-lead-series-cbs-era-gems/

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Mr Glyn's Pickups Roboguy

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updated 3 April 2023

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Gibson T-Top repair

Gibson T-Top pickup repair

I’ve been repairing a few broken old pickups recently so thought I’d share some pictures and thoughts on this classic old Gibson T-Top.

The T-Top is a fairly common pickup on my workbench. Not because there’s and common fault with them but simply there were so many made and they’re all getting quite old now.

The “T-Top” simply refers to the molding on the top of the bobbin. They were Gibson’s standard humbucker from 67/8 until around 1980 replacing the legendary PAF.

Mr Glyns Pickups Gibson t top
Gibson T-Top Mr Glyn’s Pickups

What is a Gibson T Top?

There were a few subtle changes from the PAF but enough to make a difference.

Although the bobbins look different the important dimensions were unchanged and they are still made of butyrate making it impractical to wax pot them. Butyrate distorts with heat.

The wire is poly insulated instead of the plain enamel used on PAF’s. Pretty much all T-Tops have a dc resistance of around 7.5 KOhms, neck and bridge the same. The coils are wound symmetrically and are unpotted so beware of squealing with high gain.

The magnets varied, often Alnico III, V or even Ceramic so not all T Tops sound the same.

T Top repair
Gibson T-Top Mr Glyn’s Pickups

This one came to me with a dead coil in need of a re-wind. the magnet is a rough cast Alnico V and from the good coil the finished dc reading I was after was 7.4 KOhms.

After the re-wind I gave it some new cloth tape so it looked the part and it was ready to ROCK.

T-Top repair
Gibson T-Top Mr Glyn’s Pickups

Get in touch if you have any old pickups in need of repair. Although most of my day is spent making new pickups I do enjoy repairing classic old pickups.

www.mrglynspickups.com

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updated 3 October2023

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‘78 Musicman Stingray Bass pickup re-wind

Musicman Stingray bass pickup

The Musicman Stingray bass is for me one of the top 3 basses ever – the Precision, the Jazz and the Stingray cover pretty much everything between them. A big part of what makes the Stingray so good is the Musicman Stingray Bass pickup.

It has such a distinctive sound. Once you’re tuned into it you can hear it on so many recordings.

This pickup is from 1978 (they started in 1976) and was sent to me from a customer in Christchurch. I thought I’d show you around inside it – these are really interesting pickups.

Music Man Stingray bass pickup
‘78 Musicman Stingray Bass pickup

The Musicman Stingray Bass pickup is by the look of it a big fat humbucker but there’s more to it.

Description of the Musicman Stingray bass Pickup

The magnets are big alnicoV’s, 3/8” diameter and 5/8” deep so a lot of the power and grunt comes from them. The 2 coils are wound with awg 42 wire and are around 4KOhms each (they vary). The poles on each coil have opposite polarity and the coils are wired out of phase electrically so they act as a humbucker. The really interesting part is the coils are wired in parallel, not in series like most humbuckers.

The sound of 2 coils in parallel is the sound of a Jazz bass with both pickups on or a Strat on switch position 2 or 4. It’s a very distinctive, clear tone with a very clear midrange and chimney bass.

So the distinctive Stingray sound comprises of fairly low powered coils in parallel to give plenty of clarity but with exceptionally fat magnets to give bass and grunty mids.

I haven’t mentioned the active circuit the signal goes through yet but that’s another story.

Music Man Stingray bass pickup, cover off
‘78 Musicman Stingray Bass pickup

A look inside

As you can see, under the cover it looks very similar to ‘Fender’ pickups.

Music Man Stingray bass pickup
‘78 Musicman Stingray Bass pickup

One coil was open circuit so I cut the windings out. There was tape wrapped around the magnets to protect the coil. I left that in. I love the way they staggered the pole pieces but kept the magnets the same size.

Music Man Stingray bass pickup repair
pickup re-wind

The original winding wire is insulated with red poly. Unfortunately I only had Poly insulation in the natural colour – that’s my coil on the right.

Music Man Stingray bass pickup
MusicMan Stingray Pickup

And there she is, all ready to go back in to the bass. https://mrglynspickups.com/

If anyone has a faulty pickup just give me a call 021912678 or email mrglynspickups@gmail.com

Take a look at my YouTube series “Mr Glyn Meets Your Maker” where I have chat with manufacturers of musical gear from around New Zealand https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcDggiRTQyFec5KAVHsC2xA

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Fender Wide Range humbucker

There’s a lot talked about the original Fender Wide Range humbucker especially now with Fender re-introducing these classics with vintage correct CuNiFe magnets.

For the full back story on what makes these magnets so important here’s a great interview on my favorite podcast with the man who brought CuNiFe back, Tim Shaw.

The Fender Wide Range humbucker was the invention of Seth Lover. He’d previously worked at Gibson and is responsible for the PAF Humbucker

In 1967 he went to work for Fender and was asked to make an equivalent to the PAF to compete with Gibson. He was still obliged under the PAF copyright (even though it was under his own name) to make something completely different and that’s what he did.

Original 1975 wide range humbucker - Mr Glyns Pickups

So why CuNiFe ?

Fender guitars are known for their percussive treble. A bit part of which is achieved by having the magnet located inside the coil unlike Gibson style pickups with the magnet outside. He was clearly keen to have adjustable poles too so that left the question of – how do I make magnetic threaded bar? The answer is CuNiFe. Other magnetic material needs to be cast where as CuNiFe – an alloy of copper (Cu), nickel (Ni), iron (Fe) – can be machined.

The primary use for CuNiFe at the time was in speedometers where this threaded magnet was used in calibration. But when the automotive industry moved on to better methods of measuring speed CuNiFe stopped being produced. So the traditional Wide Range ceased production in 1979. The re-introduced Wide Range humbuckers of the 1980’s have a Gibson PAF style bar magnet underneath the coils. They might look like Wide Ranges but they really aren’t.

Why is the Fender Wide Range humbucker so big?

CuNiFe does not make strong magnets and has quite a trebly tone. To offset this Seth needed to design powerful coils. The more windings on a bobbin the more power but also the more bass and less treble. The whole eq is shifted to the bass side. Compered to a PAF the Wide Range coils are very overwound. So much so the bobbins had to be made bigger to accommodate them and therefore the whole pickup is bigger. Wide Ranges are wound to around 10.6KOhms where as a traditional humbucker is closer to 8KOhms.

Then there’s the much ignored steel plate under the coils. Putting a steel plate under a magnet will help push the magnetic field up towards the strings creating a bit more power and a bit more bass. This works in the same way as in my Tui pickup – here’s more on that.

The result of all this is a clear, full sounding pickup loved by many.

Interesting eh.

Repairing a Wide Range

A while ago I had a faulty Fender Wide Range humbucker sent to me for repair and took the chance to take some pictures. This one is from 1975 as you can see from the last 2 digits of the serial number. From the underneath you can also see the sneaky way he used the threaded magnets fitting half of the upside-down.

1975 Wide Range base plate

With the cover off we get a good look at these unique bobbins. There’s a small metal tab at each end of them to help with connecting the winding wire with the hookup wire.

Wide Range bobbins - 1975

With one bobbin removed there’s that steel plate underneath directing the magnetic field and adding inductance to the coils. The black wire connects the 2 coils together in series and it’s tucked away between the coils when the pickup is together.

Original Wide Range repair

You can see that even though this is an oversized bobbin it’s full up with wire.

Fender Wide Range humbucker

Here’s a really interesting blog post on a Wide Range copy by Tym Guitars in Australia. You can see the difference between an original Fender Wide Range humbucker and what looks like an exact replica.

Roboguy Logo

Fender Wide Range humbucker

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updated 3 April 2023

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Fender Strat 62 re-issue from 1982

I’ve been doing a fair few re-winds recently, saving old pickups. This nice old bridge pickup had stopped working. It’s a Fender Strat 62 re-issue from 1982. You can see the corrosion around the pole pieces. This corrosion had spread through the pole and caused a break in the windings. I see this all the time with Fender pickups so this is a routine job for me, I must have re-wound hundreds of old Fender pickups.

Fender Strat 62 re-issue pickup
Fender ‘62 re-issue bridge pickup

Once I’d stripped the wire off and cleaned the rust away I lacquered the inside of the pickup and then wrapped a very thin tape around the poles to protect the new windings.

It was just a case of winding it with AWG42 plain enamel wire to the original spec, wax potting and testing it.

The Strat ‘62 re-issue was a great vintage voiced pickup and the guitars were pretty good too.

I get to repair a lot of vintage pickups in the course of my work. If you’re interested in a new Mr Glyn’s Strat Pickup take a look at the Bellbird vintage voiced pickup for Strat. If you like a bit more power then maybe the Tui is for you. It’s an over wound Strat pickup with a steel baseplate to give you a touch more grit in your Strat tone. You can find a full description, demos and sound samples on my website.

You can contact me on mrglynspickups@gmail.com

'62 re-issue strat pickup
You can just make out the year stamped on the back

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcDggiRTQyFec5KAVHsC2xA

Strat 62 re-issue

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Telecaster Elite ‘83 bridge pickup

I was sent an interesting faulty pickup the other day. It’s a bridge pickup from a 1983 Fender Telecaster Elite. Fender did a few unconventional things around that time and this is one of them.

Overview

The Telecaster Elite pickup is an unusual shape which means that it’s not an easy pickup to replace so I really needed to save this one.

Telecaster Elite pickup
Telecaster Elite ‘83 bridge pickup

What’s inside a Telecaster Elite pickup

Inside the plastic cover is a humbucker encased in some sort of resin. At least one of the coils is faulty so will needs to be re-wound. This resin is great until there’s a problem, I just had to dig the bobbins out. There was no way the coils were coming out undamaged so I gave the customer a call to explain they both needed re-winding. He was happy so I got on with it.

Tele Elite pickup bottom
Telecaster Elite ‘83 bridge pickup
Tele '83 elite
Telecaster Elite ‘83 bridge pickup
Elite Tele'83
Telecaster Elite ‘83 bridge pickup

It’s a pretty delicate operation to get the coils out without damaging them.

'83 Elite Tele pickup repair
Telecaster Elite ‘83 bridge pickup
Telecaster Elite pickup bobbins
Telecaster Elite ‘83 bridge pickup

Spec

Once they were out and cleaned up it was a straightforward re-wind. I matched the dc resistance to the original spec of 11.3KOhms and put it all back.

1983 Telecaster Elite pickup
Telecaster Elite ‘83 bridge pickup
Telecaster Elite Pickup 1983
Telecaster Elite ‘83 bridge pickup

If you have any duff pickups, get in touch. Most old pickups can be saved.

Pickup re-winds are a big part of what I do.

In the early days back in the 1990’s I re-wound a lot of pickups. It was an invaluable introduction into the inner workings of electric guitar pickups.

Back then there were a lot of 60’s and 70’s quality pickups around to practice on, they weren’t as valuable or sought after as they are now. Because of that I got to see how pickups were put together in the old days, the construction, the potting material…

There wasn’t much information available so experimentation was the only way to learn. I made so many bad pickups back then but made a note of every single one, how I’d wound it and what the result was. By using that method I got closer and closer to what I wanted. I also made a note of all the re-winds I did and the original spec if I could get it. I’m still writing in that note book to this day and it’s becoming a fantastic reference tool when I receive an unusual pickup repair from a customer.

I still really enjoy re-winding pickups, I think I have a strong instinct to fix things. I would much rather repair a faulty old pickup than sell a customer a new one. Sometimes, of course, the customer wants a different sound that the old pickup can’t give them and a new pickup is the way to go.

Please feel free to contact me about any faulty pickup by email (mrglynspickups@gmail.com) or by phone (021 912 678). https://mrglynspickups.com/

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcDggiRTQyFec5KAVHsC2xA

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updated 3 April 2023