Trade Secrets!

This eBay pickup's a bargain, if you do a bobbin transplant

Issue 79 January 22, 2009

Broken humbucking pickup This broken pickup
is worth good money.
(If I can fix it, that is...)

I clicked “Buy It Now” on eBay, gambling that I can cure what ails this mid-60s humbucker...

Erick Coleman, January 22, 2009
Erick Coleman
Bobbin transplant!
This calls for a bobbin transplant!
This old “patent sticker” Gibson pickup had a super low price. These were made from around ’62-’65, following on the heels of the highly revered and expensive PAF (Patent Applied For) model. These days, PAFs sell for thousands, while these “patent sticker” models are going for the low hundreds. They’re climbing in price, though, and they sound great!

The price was cheap because this baseplate is damaged beyond repair. In this condition it can’t be installed easily in any guitar. But the eBay auction said it was still working, so I took the gamble and clicked Buy. A few days later, the pickup was knockin’ at my door.
Damaged pickup
New pickup baseplate
The plan is to transplant the coil bobbins onto a new humbucker baseplate so I can install the pickup in one of my own guitars.

Humbucker Baseplate
Gibson patent sticker A little history and gossip: The patent stickers on these old pickups say 2,737,842. This is the wrong number: it’s really the number for a Les Paul bridge/tailpiece patent. I’m told Gibson did this on purpose: a sly move to throw off anybody seeking technical info about their new humbuckers from the U.S. Patent office. The actual number was 2,896,491. Look it up!
Removing the bobbin
First, I loosened up the adjustable polepieces so they clear the baseplate, then I removed the bobbin screws. Our humbucker baseplate is nearly identical to those found on the original PAF pickups. They even have many of the same tooling marks. After taking detailed specs, I determined that our plate is a direct fit for this project — no modifications required.

Guitar Tech Screwdriver Set
Opening the humbuckerThen I opened the up the pickup, exposing the ground wires soldered to the plate. Be careful! This is a delicate operation. I’d hate to pull any of the hookup wires loose from the coil wire!

Hookup Wires
Tinning with solder
After unsoldering the grounds, I tinned (pre-soldered) the replacement baseplate to match the original connections.
Resoldered pickup
And reconnected the ground leads.
StewMac humbucker kitCheck it out!
It’s easy to make your own pickups!
We’ve got the parts you need for humbuckers and single-coils: bobbins, wire, magnets, pole slugs, covers... and a pickup winder for customizing your hot-wound or thin-wound sound. The easy way to get your feet wet: start with our pickup kits.

Repaired humbucker
As expected, the vintage bobbins were a perfect fit. A successful vintage repair! This pickup’s ready for a cover.

Humbucker Covers
Gibson Les Paul goldtop
Now the pickup lives in my Les Paul R4 goldtop. It sounds great, and I got it cheap: the low eBay price plus about 7 bucks for the baseplate. And my bobbin transplant took less than a half hour. This was an inexpensive way to score a great old Gibson humbucker.

I’ll keep the original baseplate in a safe place. I always hang on to the original parts, in case I sell the guitar on down the road.

Erick Coleman signature

Humbucker Parts

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