Monthly Archives: March 2011

Fitting a 1961 Gibson PAF Humbucker in my Tokai Les Paul

The Tokai LP with its original chrome covered pickups

The victim

The Tokai Les Paul that my wife bought me back on 2005 is a glorious instrument. I have a nice set of guitars; even a “vintage” 1970’s Goldtop, but I always return to my Tokai. It just feels right. The neck is quite fat, and the frets low, but not too low. And the flame maple top underneath a beautifully sprayed cherry-sunburst is simply beautiful.

With all that in mind you’d wonder why I’d ever want to change anything, right? Well, I’m a tinkerer that just cannot leave things alone. Also, I have old bits of guitar hardware laying around and it’s always fun to try new things.  So I decided to take out the stock Tokai humbuckers and fit two pickups that I’ve had laying around for  a very long time. A Seymour Duncan JB (SH-4) and an honest-to-goodness PAF from a 1961 ES-335.

Work begins

I knew in advance the problem was going to be the old PAF. It seems to be quite fragile, and what’s left of the braided wire is very short. Luckily I had some RG-174 left over from building my amplifier, so I grafted some of that onto the old cable.

Old Tokai hum buckers. Look at that curly maple!

But before I could fit the ‘new’ pickups I had to remove the old ones. That proved to be very easy as there’s only two conductors from each pickup, so it took longer to remove the strings and screws than it took to de-solder them.

More luck; I didn’t think I had the right screws to support the PAF in the surround. Gibson pickups from the 60’s use “imperial” threads; Tokai pickups from 2005 use metric. So far so good, but the other pickup…the JB…also uses metric, despite being made in the US. Over the years I have accumulated lots of pieces and parts so it took only 5 minutes of searching in my old parts cabinet and I was rewarded with the appropriate screws. I bet I bought them years ago for the PAF and promptly forgot. The soldering part was trivial. I even replaced the dodgy looking caps with some Mallory 0.022uF ones. Why not? I was already in the guts of the thing.

I am now the proud owner of a Tokai Les Paul with an odd pair of pickups. Now its looks have changed….much more like the one Clapton played in the 60’s.

Here’s an MP3: CLICK HERE

Look at how gorgeous she is:

Job complete...looking cool

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TS Overdrive – new enclosure & sound samples

Old enclosure ready for tear-down

Old enclosure ready for tear-down, next to the new one.


When I built my first Tubescreamer clone (built with a great circuit board from DIY Effects) I was very pleased but left with a few issues that at the time I could not be bothered to fix.

Firstly, the paint finish I used on the enclosure did not turn out very well. I used Rustoleum, and sprayed it on way too thick (because I was impatient…lesson learned). It looked cool, but it didn’t wear well.

Secondly, the DC power connector I originally bought for it turned out to be the wrong size. I only discovered this when I got hold of a power supply, and it didn’t fit. In fact, it was at this point that I tried to use what I thought was an adapter for a smaller power connector. Little did I know that although the adapter fit, it was actually a polarity inverter too; so I blew up 3 JC4558 chips in the process.

So I decided to try an enclosure from Mammoth Electronics, who can provide a painted an drilled enclosure for around $10. Ridiculously cheap.

Wires for the LED "off-board"

Wires for the LED "off-board"

Getting on with it

The rehousing process was very easy; mostly a case of taking the old one apart and carefully assembling it all back into the new enclosure. I did have to redo the LED as the DIY Effects PCB allows you to solder it directly to the board, and let it just stick through the enclosure. I couldn’t do that with the new enclosure and still have it line up with the hole, so I attached wires to the LED and then soldered those to the board. Nice and easy.

The shiny copper on the MOSFET clippers

The shiny copper on the MOSFET clippers

Clipping with MOSFETs

Months ago, after I built my OD2 which uses plain diodes for clipping, I decided to change this OD to use MOSFET clipping. SLW had mentioned it in the excellent PDF file that lays out instructions for building the pedal, and he rated it highly. I was able to purchase the parts easily, and after doing the necessary physical modification (i.e. cutting off most of the mounting lug) the mod was trivial. But what a result in terms of sound! You’ll hopefully hear in the MP3 file below that it has a wonderfully soft clip. It’s as if it has rounded edges. Like an overdriven Marshall, but without the harshness. It does definitely get harsh if you turn the tone all the way up, and responds very well to tone adjustments on the guitar itself. In the clip you’ll hear a variety of pickups and guitar tone control settings (and sadly a lot of repetitive playing).

The setup was:

  • My own build of an AX84 P1 Extreme, with a 6V6 for the output section.
  • Tokai Les Paul with a 1961 Gibson PAF in the neck, and a modern Seymour Duncan JB in the bridge.
  • 2×12 cab with Celestion G12T-75
  • SM57 microphone
  • Recorded in Logic on a Mac. And a touch of reverb in the master output channel.

Click here for the MP3

Almost done

Almost done

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