Trade Secrets!

It's a crime to cut pickup leads this short!

Issue 100 November 12, 2009

Image: crime scene tape
Photo: vintage humbucker
It’s a CRIME to
cut pickup leads
this short!

Here’s how I salvaged a valuable old pickup long after the crime
had been committed.
Erick Coleman, November 12, 2009
Photo: Erick Coleman
Photo: parts drawer This classic 1960s humbucker was knifed and left in a junk drawer! But with a bit of easy soldering, this freebie is again worth some real $$$.
I was looking through this parts drawer in Dan Erlewine’s shop; it’s a Pickup Graveyard, with discarded pickups dating back over forty years!
That’s where I found this 1960s Gibson humbucker. It’s not a holy-grail PAF (Patent Applied For) pickup, but it’s almost as good: a patent-number version made right after Gibson got the patent. I've seen these selling on eBay for $300-$400 bucks.
Long ago, somebody (I’ll bet it was Dan) yanked this out of a guitar by snipping the braided lead right next to the pickup. That made it easy to solder a new pickup to the old wiring harness, but it trashed this great old humbucker. What a crime! I'm going to restore it by giving it a full-length hookup lead again.
Photo: wires inside the humbucker The connecting wires coming off the bobbins are really fragile, and with such a valuable old pickup the last thing I’d want to do is loosen one of them. I decided to leave the braided stub intact and splice a length of new shielded wire onto it. Humbucker Hookup Wire
Photo: soldering Step 1 Push back the braid and insulation on both the old and new leads to reveal the center wire.
Step 2: Push those center wires together, end to end, and solder them.
Keep the solder joint small so you'll be able to slide the cloth insulator over it. If the joint makes a big lump, your braided lead wire is going to look like a snake that swallowed a rat.
Carefully work the cloth insulation back over the solder joint until it’s completely covered up.
Portable Digital Multimeter
Photo: after soldering
Image: Golden Age Pickups logo
Photo: Golden Age Humbucker
Image: Golden Age Pickups logo
Exclusively from StewMac. Individually wound for that sweet, smooth sound.
Photo: Golden Age Single-coil
Overwound Humbuckers
Photo: wrapping the solder joint Step 3 Wrap the joint with paper pickup tape and carefully work the braided shields together to cover it.
Just pushing the outer braids together without solder creates electrical continuity according to the multimeter, but to be on the safe side a tiny dab of solder connects the two braided shields for sure.
Pickup Coil Tape
Photo: soldering the braid
Photo: heat-shrink tubing Step 4 The solder alone will hold this repair together, but for added protection I put a small piece of heat shrink tubing over the repair.
Image: officer ErickA quick check with a multimeter showed that this pickup’s output is great. Crime solved!
Don’t be a criminal! When you replace a pickup, remove the old one with its leads intact. You might want it back someday when it's become vintage!
Image: Erick Coleman signature
Heat Shrink Tubing

Don't miss an issue!

Get Trade Secrets delivered to your inbox. Only from StewMac.