Dan's '58 Gibson 335 Comes Back to Life!

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After selling his beloved 1958 Gibson 335 over 50 years ago, Dan is reunited with his favorite old guitar - but it needs some major TLC to get it back to playing great again!

Video Transcription

[on-screen text reads: StewMac]

Dan's first fixes

Dan Erlewine: Recently an extraordinary thing happened to me. I was reunited with an old friend. There she is, my 58' ES335 Tobacco Sunburst, beautiful guitar that I sold to my good friend Al over 52 years ago for $225. I was surprised to find that Al had made a few modifications over the years, namely removing the humbucker covers on these rare and precious PAF pickups and leaving them filthy, splitting the coils on the bridge pickup, and then drilling a hole in the body for the coil cut switch. He added a varitone switch too and dug out a large chunk of wood in the cavity to stuff it in. It's going to take a lot of work to get this beauty back to how she looked and played back then, but by the end of this video, we'll see if we can get her there.

Fix the celluloid binding

So welcome back to part two. And if you haven't seen the first one, click here and check it out because it'll help you understand this one better. While we've been gone, I've been doing a lot of restoration on my 335. First I needed to fix the celluloid binding that was falling off the fretboard and in a very fragile state. I think Al had attempted to put it back on with some rubber cement, which unfortunately is one of the worst glues you can use for this kind of job. I had to spend an hour very carefully scraping off all the old dried glue from the fingerboard channel. The binding itself had a lot of the dried rubber cement, and I very carefully dragged that over a smooth mill file. Once the binding was clean and the channel was clean, I glued it back on with StewMac Fish Glue [Dan applies the fish glue to the channel with a brush and presses the binding down into the channel]. I like fish glue because it's an animal protein glue and it's water-soluble. It's very strong and it does bond plastic and wood quite nicely, so now it's looking pretty good and it feels good.

Clean the PAF humbuckers

The second thing I did was to clean those precious PAF Humbuckers. They were really dirty because Al had removed the covers and after years of playing and oxidation and dust, they were filthy. To some of you, it might seem gross, but saliva is one of the best cleaning agents you can use for a job like this [Dan uses a long cleaning swab and some spit to clean the surface of the humbucker]. I'm not a scientist, but I know from experience that saliva will dissolve and lift things off a finish that naphtha and a number of cleaners won't. Of course, these humbuckers need a lot more attention than a little bit of spit. The real problem is that at least one of them has been opened up for the coil cut switch, had some wiring done and then taped up with electrical tape. That's not a good thing, but more on that later.

Patch the hole

The next thing I wanted to take care of was that hole that Al drilled. Even though it's going to have the long guard on it, which will probably cover it entirely, I still want to patch it. I kind of like the idea of using an old Gibson trick that I saw coming out of Kalamazoo. If they had extra holes because something got moved, they filled it with a big pearl dot. So as a challenge to my high school apprentice Seal, I asked her to see if she could make this happen. Seal's headed to Lutherie school in the fall, and I thought this could be one final project before she leaves my shop. It took her about two hours to fasten this by turning a brass bushing on a lathe and inserting a pearl center. This is the perfect size to just press fit into that hall so it's easy to remove later if I want to, and I think it's really classy [Dan presses the brass bushing with pearl insert down into the hole].

Fix blemishes on the peghead

And there were a couple other blemishes that I had to take care of. A cigarette burn up here on the peghead. That's right where the guy's playing a solo sticks a cigarette under the low E string, not thinking about it, and it keeps on burning and it scorched the edge right there. First I scraped off the burnt wood. That's actually what it was, it was all charred like charcoal. I did it with an X-ACTO knife until I hit clean wood. Next, I mixed up some 24 hour cure epoxy. I added some black pigment to it so I'd have black epoxy. Then I put a piece of tape along the edge of the peghead as a little dam so that the epoxy won't run over the edge when I drop fill it. It's very important to keep the peghead level when you're doing this kind of touch-up, otherwise, whatever you're touching up with is going to run to one end or the other.

Once that had hardened, I scraped it with a razor blade using a tip that I learned from my old buddy Frank Ford. Wrap a piece of cellophane tape over a razor blade and leave only one edge exposed. So as you're scraping the surface, you're going to come within 0.002 of an inch. That's how thick the tape is. Great trick. Once the surface was pretty much level, I used another trick from another friend, Chelsea Clark. I sprayed some black lacquer on a plastic bag. Once it's dry, you can peel that lacquer off and you have piece of black lacquer. Then I put a little solvent onto the area that I had the epoxy on and set that layer of black lacquer down into it, and it builds up quickly that way, and you're not having to spray. And eventually fine sanded and polished it out, and it was looking pretty good.

Now I'm ready to hand this off to Gene Imbody. He's the best pickup winder I know and the best wiring man. And since the last video came out, somebody saw that and called me up and said, "Hey Dan, I have two bumblebee caps from that same year." See, I was going to use these bigger ones that I got online. They do have the same reading and they even look the same, but they're pretty big and they're not the real thing. So I think these bumblebees will help get this 335 back to sounding like it did when I had it.

(phone rings)

Speaking of Gene. Guitar shop.

Humbucker surgery

Gene Imbody: Hey Dan, it's Gene.

Dan: Hi Gene.

Gene: Listen, I've got some bad news here, man.

Dan: What?

Gene: Well, I'm looking at these PAFs and I'm not getting a DC resistance reading out of either of them.

Dan: What?

Gene: Yeah, so we've got some dead coils or a short. And I'm looking closer here, this is my first time kind of getting up close on these, and there's electrical tape around both of these and an added wire on both of them. So he's been into both of these.

Dan: I just sort of unwired them and set them in that box. Yeah, well, there's a lesson for me.

Gene: I'll pull them apart and do my best here and see what we can find and hopefully it's something that's easily repairable.

Dan: Keep me informed, man. Geez.

Gene: We'll get through it man. I'll get into these and I will let you know what I find.

Dan: If anyone can fix that, you can do it. Thanks.

Gene: All right, Dan. Okay, when a pickup isn't reading any DC resistance, we have a break somewhere. We have something that's not allowing us to read from one end of this lead to the other. That could mean a variety of things. We have a bad solder joint somewhere in here, we have a wire that's come loose. Worst case scenario, there's a nick or a gouge or some sort of break to the coil wire in one of these two coils or both of these coils. You can see I have some formvar wire here. This is finer than human hair. There's thousands of turns of this wire inside of here, and if you just break one of these, you'll shut the whole pickup off. So we're going to take these apart. This is a really special occasion because it's rare to be able to take a PAF apart and see what makes it tick.

So I'm pretty excited about this. Like I said, a bit of an unknown here. Let's dive in and see what we find. Let's start with this one. This is the one that Al has put a three conductor lead on here. What that means is I have a ground, a hot, and then the third wire is the series link. That's the union of the two coils. So since we're not getting any DC resistance, that means somewhere in that chain, we have a break. So let's get into this and see how easily this tape comes off. I'm hoping this is not a problem [Gene slowly removes the electrical tape from the humbucker]. Okay. So far so good. Making sure I don't see any coil wire inside of here. If I see a piece of coil wire caught in here, I might stop. So far we're looking good here though. This is coming off pretty easy. Oh, look at that.

See this? There's another surprise. That's not original, that's some shielding tape that's been added in here. By shielding, I mean something that's shielding the pickup from noise interference. So somebody's come back in here and added some internal shielding around these coils. My guess is in an attempt to keep them a little more quiet, but that kind of defeats the purpose of taking the cover off. You're adding back some shielding. Not quite sure what the reasoning was on this, but here we are. This is what we found. We've got some shielding tape going around both of these coils and then that explains what this extra wire here is. In order to make shielding effective, it needs to be connected to ground. So he soldered a wire to the shielding tape and connected that to the back of the cover. I'm going to go ahead and cut this ground wire out of here. I'll worry about cleaning up this solder and getting this off of here later. I don't want to get this pickup hot yet.

All right, so now we need to get this shielding tape off of here. I can cut it right here. You have to be extremely careful. The last thing I want to do is pierce this and cut into the coil wires if it hasn't already occurred. So we're going to get more and more delicate as we get into this. Here we go. I'm seeing what appears to be the original tape Gibson would've used to wrap these coils, so that's a good sign, and that points that Al never got that deep into this pickup. All right, that's out of there. Okay, right here. Here's our series link. This is what I was talking about earlier.

Okay. Oh, wait a second. All right, so check this out. Look how big this magnet is. This is not the original magnet. And look at these two wooden spacers. These are not original spacers. Hold on here, I've got some good reference. Let's check this out. This is an amazing book, the Beauty of the Burst. It has great detail on vintage Les Pauls, but it breaks it down all the way to the PAF. So I brought this today just in case we needed it and we do now. There's some good pictures of what you'll see inside of a PAF. You can see the side view right here is not what we're looking at, that does not appear to be the magnet. Quite a bit of difference in height and spacers. The original Sandcast magnet, I happen to have a good collection of those because I like doing a lot of this work and I like collecting old parts when I can.

So here's a 50's era Sandcast long magnet. This is the magnet you would find in a 50s era, P90 or a PAF. You can see there's quite a bit of difference in thickness. All right, well let's get further into this. I think what I'm going to do now is just cut this lead off of here. I don't want it, we're going to get rid of it anyway, and let's take this thing apart. Let's see what else we find. We got some rust going on in here. It's not unusual, especially when they've had the covers off of it. I'm not worried about that, we can clean those up a little bit. Very cool to see these old parts though up close. It's really neat when you get to see the original parts compared to the aftermarket parts we all get to work with these days. They're not usually identical.

It's also really cool when you can look at these and note minute details that make you good at identifying PAFs, potential forgeries, because these are very valuable pickups. You can find little things like tooling marks that are unique to PAFs and corner radii. Just tiny little details. Okay, see what we find under here. This should tell us a little more. That's an original keeper bar, that looks good, but we have a ceramic magnet. Ceramic magnets are very powerful. A stronger magnet would've been put in to get some more power out of this pickup, to get some more grit, some more mid-range, more bass response. You generally find these and hard rock heavy metal kind of pickups. You definitely don't find them in vintage PAFs, so we're going to get rid of that. These are some mahogany spacers that somebody has made. These are not original either, so we're going to get rid of these.

These are our original slugs. That's good, and our original pool pieces and spacers as I said. So let's get back into figuring out why there's no DC resistance to this. The DC resistance measurement has nothing to do with any of this other stuff we found. Now what I want to do is take the leads from these coils, the start and finish, and see if I can get a reading from one or both of these. Ideally, we check these and we do get a reading and we know we don't have any sort of tear apart of these coils. It gets confusing as far as start and finish of each coil, so let's see if I can clear this up a little bit. So we have the start of one coil. The start comes in and we wrap around our bobbin going clockwise, right clockwise this direction [Gene draws a diagram on the workbench paper]. That wire then has a finish.

So we went clockwise and came to a finish. We have another coil identically made. Has a start, it's wound clockwise, and then it has a finish. Start, finish. Okay. So one of the criteria we need to meet is opposite travel between the two coils. So when one coil, if we start and we connect this to positive, we're going to head in and we're going to go clockwise, and then we head out our finish. So if I go from finish to start in the next coil, we're going to go clockwise again and we're going to have a pickup that's out of phase. It's not going to be humbucking, it's going to sound thin and nasally. So what we need to do is we need to connect, finish to finish. So the end of one coil connects to the end of the other coil. If we do that, we make this connection here with a solder joint and suddenly we're going in clockwise. We leave that coil and hit the end of the other coil and now we're traveling backwards, going counterclockwise to ground.

Okay, so that's just a little aside here about coil winding direction and starts and finishes of coils just so you understand what we're looking at a little better. Let's get back to the problem at hand. So here's an important thing I'm noticing, this series link is original, this has never been un-taped. What that means is there's no way that Al was doing a coil cut here as we originally thought. He had something else in mind and it really doesn't matter what that was, but I'm going to use that same principle of a coil tap in order to check these coils individually. If I can check between these two and get a resistance reading, then whatever problem we were having was isolated in that lead we cut off, or in the connections to these coils, and that would be ideal.

All right, so this should measure somewhere around 8K, a little less, a little more [Gene hooks up the humbucker to a digital multimeter . Wah wah [Gene laughs]. Sorry, I was just really hoping that was going to read something. Okay, so the fact that we didn't get a reading here indicates that either there's a break in this series link, which is our next option. That would be ideal. Okay, here's the solder joint. That's the union between the two coils, the series link, nothing there.

All right, 4K, 4K OHM's. Finally, a little bit of good news. So our screw coil is good. We have one good coil, we have one bad coil. So before we go any further, let's look at the second pickup. Let's take the parts we've got here from our first one and set them aside and go through a similar process for this one. So let's get the tape off of this one and see what surprises Al left for us here. I think it's important to not be too hard on our friend Al here. At the time that all of these modifications would've been done, very few people understood the impact these guitars would have on history and how valuable they would be someday. Al was a tinkerer, and this is the kind of thing tinkerers do. I don't begrudge Al for any of this. If he had done this last month, I probably would. Dan's calling me. Hey Dan.

Dan: You guys still shooting?

Gene: Yeah, I've got you on speakerphone here.

Dan: I'm sorry I interrupted that.

Gene: Oh, no problem. On the first pickup, one coil is dead and one coil is good. Once I got the tape off, it didn't look right to me and I got to look, and I'm like, "Oh, these aren't the original magnets and he's put-"

Dan: So we're going down to the bare bones.

Gene: Yeah, we're down to the heart of these pickups. The good news is I'm such a nerd that I collect vintage Gibson magnets, and I happen to have 2 50s era long Sandcast magnets. So hope is-

Dan: So it's going to be a total rewind, isn't it?

Gene: I don't know that yet. I may be able to repair the broken coil. We'll find out in a little bit. I'm into the second one right now.

Dan: We have the right man for the job. Okay.

Gene: All right buddy, I'll talk to you soon.

Dan: Thanks, bye.

Gene: All right, bye. So we've got the same thing here. We've got two spacers where there should only be one, and they're both taller to compensate for a higher ceramic magnet. So this is original Gibson work, these solder joints, this tape job, the way this wire is run and attached. That's all good news. Let's pull these spacers out, ceramic magnet. All right, let's see if we can figure out which one or both of these coils is dead. So here's the union between the two coils. So between the series link and the base plate, I should get a reading. And I don't, so this coil's dead. Okay, see what the slug coil is telling me. So let's check that.

And it seems to be dead too. So we've got three bad coils out of four, not great. We're going to have to get inside of the coils that are dead and not reading and see if we can figure out where it's broken. Hopefully it's not too deep inside of there. It's very delicate work, but these pickups are definitely worth it, so let's get in there and see what we find. And we'll turn our attention back to this first one and pull open that dead coil and hopefully we have a little bit of good luck and the break is right at the end, and it's superficial and easy to repair. Let's cross our fingers here. This old tape gets very dry and brittle, and it's not always easy to get apart. I want to carefully peel this off [Gene slowly removes the electrical tape from the humbucker]. The last thing I want to do is bite into these wires and create even more damage.

So very slowly, we're getting down to the coil wire. I can see it. Right there, so there we're almost there. I can see the coil wire now. Let's see if we can get a little bit of naphtha in there. Naphtha is great for loosening tape residue and it's not going to hurt anything else on the pickup. I don't want to drench it, but... Oh yeah, that's way easier. All right, save this tape here. Okay, so here is our finish lead connected to that fine coil wire. Could breathe on this and break it. What I wish I had found here is that this was disconnected. That would be ideal at this point because then I'd know that perhaps reconnecting that might solve our problem here. This isn't likely to show us anything, but let's just check [Gene hooks up the humbucker to a digital multimeter]. Yeah, nothing. Okay, so we keep getting more and more bad news here. We're going to have to tear into this. I'll have to talk to Dan and kind of see what he wants to do about all of this. I'll confer with him and then we'll get back to this.

Well, what do you want to do about the pickups, man? So we've got three dead coils, one working. I could start tearing into them and see if I-

Dan: Do that. Go as far as you can.

Gene: Okay.

Dan: Because you might find a break and go, "Ah, I can fix it."

Gene: Right.

Dan: And you have my respect as a pickup maker, so do what you want.

Gene: Okay, well-

Dan: If you want to cut the wires off and start rewinding, cool. We still have the frames, the [inaudible 00:18:47] sticker, the bobbin, the pole pieces.

Gene: I've got a set of magnets we can use.

Dan: There we go.

Gene: A real set. I'd rather not do that, but let's tear into it and see. If it seems like it's going to waste a bunch of time, we will just rewind the dead coils. But let's try to fix them first and we'll see where we get from there.

Dan: I'll be happy with any pickup you make, man.

Gene: All right man, we'll do it.

Okay, here we are back at the bench. You might remember here we have the screw coil, it was good. We're still reading 4K on this one, so I'm going to set it aside and concentrate on the dead slug coil. Best case scenario here, I find the problem within the first 50 to 100 wraps. Okay, so here's my finish lead. First thing I'm going to do is just disconnect this thing from the finish lead. This is very delicate. What I would like to see here within the next couple of unwraps is a break, just for this thing to come apart somewhere. Best case scenario, I find that, I strip back a little bit of the enamel and we check and suddenly this pickup is working. That would be fantastic. This is very tedious and time-consuming, but this is all worth it. And then the cool part about doing this kind of work when we start restoring pickups like this is I get a very intimate look at how this pickup was put together to begin with, how this wire was put on the bobbin.

One of the big concepts that people kind of talk about is scatter wind or how this wire was put on this bobbin having a big effect on the tone of this pickup. I don't agree that there's any real voodoo going on here about how Gibson put this wire on to begin with, scatter wound or any sort of tricks. They were stacking wire quickly and neatly and whenever I pull one of these apart, that's always what I find. I'm not finding a bunch of wires crossed over one another, I'm not finding any purposeful evidence of scatter winding. Most of the wire I've taken off of this has been isolated to the bottom portion of the bobbin. I can watch it getting skinnier right here. I'm starting now to work my way back up to the top, and I'm getting to the point where I don't want to waste any more coil wire than I already have.

So I'm going to pull a couple of more wines here just to make sure that I've taken one full pass through the whole width of the bobbin. Let's just see. Maybe we'll get lucky, you never know. So I'm just going to take about an inch or so space of this wire and use the 600 grit self-stick paper. I just like to stick it to my finger and gently pinch the wire and pull it through. It doesn't take much to get that old enamel off of there. Sounds like they're here to pick up this dead pickup. So let's see how we did here. Nope, it didn't really help, but I don't want to waste any more of this coil wire. I think what I'm going to do is take the slug coil from my other dead pickup and let's get into it. Maybe I'll get lucky and I'm able to repair this slug coil.

If I'm able to do that, I can take this coil and combine it with the other good coil to make one good pickup. That will keep at least one of these pickups that much more original. Just like last time, I'm trying to go carefully and neatly as I can [Gene slowly removes the electrical tape from the other pickup], for one, in case I want to reuse this tape. But mainly if I see a piece of coil wire trapped between layers of tape, that's a lot of times where your break will be. Okay, so now I've exposed coil wire here, so I have to be even more careful. And there we are, the finish wrap coming apart. There we go. There's our finish lead. Let's expose this solder joint here and see what we can find.

[Gene connects the pickup to the digital multimeter]

Okay, it's what I expected. So now we need to just start on unwrapping this one. Hopefully we'll find a problem in the first 50 to 100 winds. This one's wound a little differently, which is just further evidence that they didn't have a set pattern that they were trying to go for on any of these coils. I don't think we've discovered anything yet, unfortunately. Check a clean spot here.

[Gene checks the digital multimeter reading again]

Nope. Okay. Well I think what I'll do is I'll just spend a little bit of time doing the same thing to our last bad coil, just to make sure there's nothing hidden under this tape that's causing this one to not work. Just a repeat of everything we've done here, one more time. Still no success. Let's turn our attention back to the original one that has one good coil. I think I'm going to do one more thing here. This is kind of crazy. I think I'm going to take this dead coil and this empty spool and I'm going to get comfortable and by hand I'm going to see if I can unwind this coil completely. The rest of these we're just going to cut those down, rewind those with fresh 42 gauge enamel wire just like the original. But it would be really cool, a good surprise for Dan maybe, that we reused all of the original wire on at least one of these pickups.

So this is going to take a while. Why don't you go check out what Dan's doing, I'm going to spend a little time doing this and see if we can't pull off something kind of cool.

New nut and pickguard

Dan: Poor Genie he is having a lot of trouble with those pickups, and poor me too. Meanwhile, while he's working on those pickups, I'm back here on the shop and I made a new nut for this guitar. I replaced the old nut because the slots were kind of crooked on it. It was made out of bone. Nothing wrong with bone, but this guitar would've had a nylon nut on it, that's what they used back then. So I found a piece of nylon online that's the exact same stuff and made a nut for it.

So I'm about to slot the nut, and what I'm going to do is use this tool. It's the industrial drill press for small machine work, and this little sled rides back and forth on these bearings. Originally it was made to hold the bridge pins so we could slot our own bridge pins, and it's killer for working on the nut because nylon isn't that easy to use a file on it. It just wants to skid across it. This is going to cut the slots, then I can clean them up later. Now that's starting to shine up and look like the top of an old Gibson nut from the 50s and 60s.

So now it's all shined up and ready to go when you're ready to put the nut on it. Another thing I've been working on is the new pickguard. If you saw part one, remember the short guard that I'll put on this so he could have room to drill a hole and put the switch on it? Originally this was a long guard. I got this one online from a friend of mine that makes pickguards. When I got it, I compared them and there were things that didn't match up.

So let's check out the difference between this old guard and the new one. This is off of Gibson ES-V from 1955. The first thing I see would be the color of the whites. This is all yellowed and this is bright white. Then I notice that the points like this, you could cut yourself on that. These are rounded just a little too much, and on this pickguard, the angle is so shallow where they beveled it compared to the more steep angle here that the bottom black line is showing.

I used a scraper to scrape off the little layer of black plastic on the bottom, and as I did that, I sharpened the corners. I then used some ColorTone Liquid Stain, the straw color and some acetone to yellow the white plastic on the edges of the bevel, making it look older and more at home on the guitar. So this is ready to put on, but I'm not going to put it on now. I'm going to wait till Gene wires it up. Speaking of Gene, I wonder how those pickups are coming.

Winding fresh pickups

[Gene is shown winding the pickups everywhere he goes]

Speaker 3: (singing)

[on-screen text reads: 2 Days and 4,947 winds later...]

[Gene is using a pickup winding machine to wrap the coil wire onto the pickup]

Gene: I just broke the coil wire. We're at 4,700 turns right on the dot and we didn't have much to go, but I really, really wanted to get all of what I had back on there. But let's see where we're at. We've done what we can do. Let's strip this wire back and test it and let's hope we get a number on this meter. Yes, 3.6. 3 6 still is within the range of a normal PAF. This coil is alive, it lives again, it's got all of the original wire back on it. One of our pickups is going to be almost totally original. Once I put the right magnet back in, it's got the right wire, it's going to read right? So the reason this coil wasn't working is that I found multiple breaks along the way. At different depths, different layers, I would come to a spot where the wire would just come apart.

So in order to fix that, I take some 600 grit sandpaper and remove the enamel as I did earlier, twist the two halves together and solder them and cover them with tape. So that's all that was really required. These breaks needed to be repaired, and if you solder them, well you cover them with tape, they should be good to go indefinitely. So let's get this wrapped up, literally. We'll get the finish lead attached and we'll tape this coil up and we're done. Now for the final cherry on top, let's take our original tape and the last couple of wraps, we'll use it to give this more of an authentic look here. It's lost a little of its stickiness, but that's actually fine. It kind of makes it look more authentic. Okay, there you have it folks. Two almost original 58 PAF coils. Here's the screw coil that was working from the start. Let's connect them together and see what our final output is going to be.

Now I know this still works, but it's still kind of nerve-wracking. And yes. All right, 7.7K, I will definitely take that. Let's build on that success and get to winding the two other coils that we stripped down. This should go a lot smoother than what we just did. So when you're doing a job like I'm about to do, which is wind a fresh coil, you need a coil winder. Coil winders come in a lot of different variations. Something simple that you can make at home with a hand drill all the way up to very complicated computer controlled machines like you'd find at Seymour Duncan or DiMarzio or one of the big manufacturers like that.

I'm using this Schatten Pro Pickup Winder we sell. I like this one a lot because it's very simple. All it does is spin and count, and it gives me the ability to easily turn by hand as well. So this crank handle, I actually made myself. Pretty simple, but I just brazed a brass rod onto a collar and attached it to this side so I can use it as a crank. Let's start with the screw coil. So I'm able to just tape these bobbins as is right on the side of this machine. I want to make sure I don't have a bunch of this tape sticking out the edges that might catch this wire. It's very fine and very delicate. The wire I'm going to use is the same exact wire that came on it originally. This is 42 gauge enamel coated copper coil wire. I want to get my start lead attached to the coil wire. This is the original one from this bobbin soldered onto the end of this fresh coil wire.

Good clean soldering iron. That's all it takes. Okay, let's get this taped up. I'm going to do it exactly like I saw on the coil that I unwound by hand. I got a really clear view of how they attached this lead wire. So let's get this wire put in here and heading the right direction. That means if I'm going to wind clockwise, I'm flipping this machine to counterclockwise. It will turn this way, which means the wire will go on clockwise. So I just need an inch, inch and a half or so sticking out here. The rest of it's going to kind of strain relief on the inside of this. And we're just going to use that little tag of exposed tape to hold us in place here. We're going to pile about 5,000 turns of coil wire over this, and that's going to hold it down good and tight.

Now we are ready to make some turns. I'm going to take my spool of coil wire and I'm going to set it on the ground like this [Gene holds the spool flat in his hand]. It's logical to think you would want the spool of wire to sit like this so it unwinds [Gene sticks his fingers in each end of the spool laying on its side], it unspools. That would be a great way to just end up with a bird's nest. If this thing starts spinning faster than you're putting winds on here, it's just going to bird's nest before it gets a clean wrap. So if you set it this way, the wire comes off nice and easy above the spool. So let's just set it down here on the ground. The first few winds I am going to do by hand just to get it started and to get the wire secure. We're going to turn it on real slow and I like to start slow and just get the feel. And as I get more comfortable, I'm going to turn it up.

So I'm moving slowly left to right. We'll stop every now and then and make sure we don't have any bulges anywhere. We're not packing too much wire in one spot, but I'm just going back and forth just trying to put some neatly onto the bobbin. See how we're looking here. So that looks really good. It's all going on there really neatly, evenly. We're about halfway through now, so let's get this machine back on and maybe this time we can even speed it up a little more. Okay, let's attach our finish wire and tape it up. Test this out. And look at that. We've squeezed 3.8 solid out of it. I'm pretty happy with that. Okay, so that went really well and we've got one more coil to go and we'll have two functioning pickups. While I get this on the machine, how about checking on Dan and seeing how he's doing?

Which knobs?

Dan: Okay, I'm ready to take this down to Gene and drop it off so when he's ready, he'll have it, except for one little detail and it's all the little details that make the difference in a restoration. It's deciding what knobs will I put on it. When this guitar was built and when I got it had these knobs on it, the Top Hat Knobs. However, before I got this guitar, I had a 54 gold top Les Paul that I got from Mike Bloomfield, and these were the knobs on that old gold top [Dan sets old gold speed knobs down on the body of the guitar], speed knobs and I loved them, because you can wrap your finger around it. It's harder to do that with this because there's nothing to grab this. Your whole finger can roll it. So when I sold that gold top, I took the speed knobs off of it and I put them on this one.

Probably shouldn't have done that in today's vintage world. When Al had this, all these knobs were set aside and he lost them. He had one knob left when I got it back this year, it was all dirty and moldy. So in keeping with the nostalgia of this whole thing, I'm going to go with the old speed knobs because that's what I had on it. That's a little unorthodox, but that's what I want, one of the old and three new ones. Most people couldn't tell the difference. There's the old one, a little bit darker than these, but that's a heck of a good replica. So let's get this old 335 down to Gene and ready to wire it up.

Intro to wiring

(upbeat music playing)

Gene: Okay, our pickups are all done. It's time to wire this guitar up. So obviously on a 335 it's a little more difficult because we can't wire inside the guitar. We have to wire up a harness first that will then fish through the F-holes and connect the pickups. Here's a harness I've wired up for practice so I can make sure that I have all the lengths I wanted, and then the wires are all heading the direction that Gibson would've done it. A template like this is really easy to make. This is just some thin eighth inch plywood. You could even use cardboard. I took a piece of wax paper, I laid it over top of the guitar and I took a pencil and I poked through and marked the center of all my different holes. Then I took that, laid it onto my plywood or your cardboard and transferred those locations onto it.

Relicing tutorial

Okay, let's start with our pots here. So these are the four pots that I think turned out the best that I've aged. They look really close to the original. Let me take you through real quick how I did that. First thing, I'm going to disassemble the pot into four separate components. Let's focus on relicing the cover first. On a vintage pot, you won't see any of this lettering on the back of the cover, you only see writing on the side. So I'm going to use a belt sander to sand all of this off in a straight line. If you look at an original pot, you'll often see long straight streaks, and I reinforced those straight lines by dragging the cover across some sandpaper on a flat block.

So this looks pretty good, but let's make it better with some tarnish. I'm going to use ferric chloride or etchant solution for this. It works great. I'm going to dab some all along the cover and then in straight lines again on the back, and we're going to wash it all off and make sure it's clean, and then repeat this process on the top plate and threaded collar. It's not going to be exact because this collar is brass, but it's going to be close and at least it doesn't look brand new. Next I work on the printed circuit card on the inside that contains the resistive strip that makes up this pot. You'll notice that the new circuit boards are more of a tannish yellow color, whereas the old ones were more of a dark brown, reddish color. We're going to use a red mahogany touch-up marker, it's perfect for this. The color matches really well. I'm going to take a glue looper and carefully spread it all around the circuit card. After it dries, I'll come back through and remove the gloss so it has a matte patina just like the original.

After all this, I'll come back through with some micro mesh pads and put some shine back in some strategically placed areas. If you look at our pot compared to the original, we've got some of that same shine right on the edges. So after thoroughly washing and drying all of these separate pieces and removing any trace of acid, we need to put them back together with some grease. This extreme pressure lube is what we use in our own shop when we make tuners and it works great for this, but any sort of thick grease or Vaseline would work fine too. We're going to grease any friction point inside of this pot, even the shaft inside of the threaded collar, which they don't do originally. When we're done, this pot will turn smoother than it did when it was new.

My process for aging bridges and humbucker covers is a little bit different. You're going to need to do this outside because we're going to be working with some really nasty acids. The first thing I'm going to do is take this muratic acid. I'm going to put this in a little cup with some cotton balls. This will help the acid defume faster, but it's also going to keep me from spilling this acid when the inevitable point comes that I knocked this cup over.

So here's a jig I made that has four different sets of tunamatic posts on it. I like to do these parts in groups because it's not an exact science and all the parts don't come out looking the same. So when I do a batch, I get to choose from the parts that I want. So I load my bridges onto my jig. I put that into my plastic tote with my acid and close it back up.

Next I'm going to take some humbucker covers and some soapy water, and I'm going to just lightly spritz them. The soapy water speckles are going to tarnish at a different rate than the metal around it, and it's going to create more of a natural look. Then I put my humbucker covers in the container with my acid and my bridges. I put the whole container out in the sun and let it cook for a couple of hours. At this stage, I'll take my humbucker covers and put them in this humbucker routing template. This is going to simulate a humbucker pickup ring. The other thing this jig does is simulate the shadowy string lines you often get from an old humbucker that's been living under dirty strings for decades. Then I'm going to take a mixture of my Etch-It solution in a spray bottle, one part acid to four parts water, and then I spritz the whole thing, let it sit for a few seconds, pull it back out and wash the cover off and judge how my string lines look.

At this point, I might be ready to just stick it back into my box and let it fume for a few more hours. If I don't like the look of my string lines, I might put it back in and spritz it again. Like I said, this isn't an exact science, use your best judgment and have in mind what look you're going for. So I load everything back up into the box and from here on out I check it every couple of hours. Eventually I reach a level of tarnish that I'm after. I make sure I wash all the acid off and dry all the parts. You could stop here and depending on what you're after, this may be good, or you can take this up another notch and do things like buff out certain parts or reshape areas that are worn from playing over the years. These days, aged hardware is readily available. So if working with a bunch of acid is more than you want to deal with, no problem, you can easily find what you need. But let's get back to wiring this guitar.

Wiring and installing the hardness

So I've gone ahead and installed all my parts onto my template. I've got my pots, my jack, and my switch. We're all ready to go. So check this out, this is super cool. This may be the only spool of original Gibson braided shield wire in existence. Dan got this in the 60s when he did Gibson warranty work, and I got to imagine that there aren't many, if any others, that have survived this long that haven't been used or gotten rid of. You can still get this wire and the new stuff looks just like it, but this is really the actual wire that would've been in this guitar, and we're going to use this to wire up our harness here. We also have the caps that were generously sent to us, which is great. So we get to use those.

So there are a couple of different ways to wire a circuit like this. We're going to do it exactly how they did it in the 50s.

(upbeat music playing)

[Gene wires and solders the circuit] 

Okay, so there we have it. There's our completed harness. I'm going to clean my bench now, and I'm going to prep the guitar and get ready to put this in.

(upbeat music playing)

[Gene installs the wiring harness and pickups]

And the cherry on top is Dan's pearl dot to cover that excess hole. So this is the moment we take a big deep breath. Everything's in place. I've tested it with my meter. I'm seeing all the numbers I want to see. Oh, one second. I just realized I put this pickup in backwards. No big deal. And we're just going to flip this around real quick. If this is the worst mistake I've made so far, then I will still call this a major success. So we just passed a major milestone in the restoration of this guitar, all the wiring work is done. Let's get all the knobs and the hardware put on it. We'll get this back to Dan so he can finish it out and get some strings on this thing. I'm super excited to hear how this sounds.

[Dan re-strings the guitar]

Dan's demo

Dan: Ooh, buddy.

Gene: Yeah.

Dan: Well, it's time.

Gene: Oh, boy. Moment of truth.

Dan: You've tested this?

Gene: I've tested it. I know it works. I have not listened to it. I want you to be the first one to hear this.

Dan: You did a killer job on that antiquing.

Gene: Thanks, man. I see you kept the original truss rod cover. I like that.

Dan: I decided to keep that because Al put it on and it just belongs there. Pickguard's not original, but what do you think?

Gene: It looks good. You did a good job aging. It matches the truss rod cover pretty well.

Dan: That's what I'm thinking.

Gene: It hides your pearl dot here, but that's all right.

Dan: Yeah, I couldn't just leave a hole in it.

Gene: Should we man?

Dan: Can we?

Gene: You want to hear it?

Dan: Let's hear the pickups.

Gene: That's it, let's hear them.

Dan: Here's your neck.

Gene: That's the one I hand wound completely.

Dan: Awesome. And you used the original wire that you unwound?

Gene: Yes. It's almost entirely original, yeah.

Dan: And put back on. Middle.

Gene: Middle.

Dan: That's with both pickups on. Ooh, I like that, clean.

Gene: Yeah.

Dan: And the bridge.

Gene: Bridge is the one I rewound here.

Dan: Whoa. Sounds like T-bone Walker, man.

Gene: It sounds good.

Dan: God.

Gene: Nice, nice.

Dan: Thank you so much.

Gene: Hey.

Dan: Haven't heard that sound in 57 years.

Gene: I'm excited, man. This sounds great.

Dan: I can even remember the smell.

Gene: They do have a smell.

Dan: Let's play this thing.

Gene: Why don't you give me one of those lessons you used to give Al?

Dan: Let's do a blues in A.

Gene: All right, let's do it.

[Dan plays and sings a blues song with Gene]

Dan: I really love my Gibson, that's a natural fact. I'm going to play my guitar, you can have yourself a Strat.

Thanks man.

Gene: Yeah, we should start a band. Congrats man.

Dan: You made it happen.

Gene: That sounds awesome.


Dan Erlewine and Gene Imbody

StewMac Guitar Repairmen and Techs

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