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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6 thoughts on “Fitting a 1961 Gibson PAF Humbucker in my Tokai Les Paul

  1. Ewing says:

    Hi from Barcelona, just a little question. I have a ALS-48 Tokai Les Paul Standard Model. And I want to change the pickups for a pair of Seymour Duncan SH-1 ’59 Vintage Blues neck & bridge set .
    Do you know if the sizes is standard? My fear is buy the set and have problems with the sizes.

  2. I do not think you will have an issue with sizes. The old Gibson pickup and the modern Seymour Duncan JB-1 fit perfectly in my Tokai. In fact, since this post I bought some proper curved-bottom pickup rings, and they had no problems either. If you still have doubts, I am sure you can find engineering specifications on the SD website.

  3. Ewing Jesús says:

    Thanks for you replay. What do you think about this configuration for my Tokai:

    – Four Pots: 500k Audio Pot, CTS (.375″ Bushing; Split Shaft)
    – Two 022µF Capacitor (Orange Drop).
    – Jack, Switchcraft, 1/4″ Mono, Short Bushing
    – Wire, 4-Conductor
    – Pickup Bridge: SEYMOUR DUNCAN SH-4 JB
    – Pickup Neck: SEYMOUR DUNCAN SH-1N ’59

  4. Mark says:

    That’s a nice Les Paul. I’d really like to hear you play it. I bet you can make that baby sing. And also I guess I’m new or something but I never heard of a Tokai LP …are they expensive? fill me in

    • simonallaway says:

      She is a beauty isn’t she? I’ve always loved a nice flame-top cherry-sunburst. There are a few audio clips laying around on this blog, but here’s the one I did right after I switched the pickups:

      [audio src="" /]

      Tokai have been around for quite some time, and are famous for their shameless ripoffs of classic American guitars. Have a look at this:

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