Tag Archives: les paul

Guitar Fetish “Gold Foil P90 Humbuckers” – in a Les Paul

My Gold top

My Gold top

I’ve owned my Gibson Les Paul Deluxe (made somewhere between ’75 and ’77) since about 1991. It came with P90 pickups, which sound glorious. They’re definitely thinner than your regular humbuckers, but thicker than Fender single-coils. I don’t like mushy tones, so this combination is great for me. The only trouble is, they are really noisy. This is exacerbated by the modern world, which is full of computers (and phones) and Compact Fluorescent bulbs, which all put out a lot of RF interference.

One possible solution was to fit normal humbuckers to my LP, but that would require destructive routing. I chose to go for some P90 sized humbuckers instead…..some of these from Guitar Fetish. They’re the right size, and they’re humbuckers!

Fitting them was relatively easy, just a 20 minute job. The only problem that presented was that the new covers didn’t want to fit inside the old routes, so I tried the old covers and they fit over the new pickups perfectly. So now I have retained the look of the originals.

Some observations:

  • These are very quiet P90-like pickups
  • The P90 style pole pieces are just for show. These humbuckers have blades inside the coils.
  • As you can see from the photos, the gold foil isn’t visible due to my use of the old covers.
  • The neck pickup is very loud, whereas the bridge pickup isn’t so much. Time will tell as to whether this is an issue.
  • I’ve yet to compare them to my Telecaster, but is suspect these gold foils are louder.
  • I need to replace the potentiometers as they’re quite corroded. Time to get some CTS pots, or perhaps splash for an Emerson set.
Original P90 neck pickup

Original P90 neck pickup

Original P90 neck pickup and new Gold Foil

Original P90 neck pickup and new Gold Foil

Gold foil cover doesn't fit, so here's the old cover on the new pickup

Gold foil cover doesn’t fit, so here’s the old cover on the new pickup

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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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