‘52 Tele meets ‘55 Les Paul Jr. meets ‘57 Les Paul Standard

JohnnyCrash

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Starting two builds, this one and a baritone B-Bender (to be posted later, probably next week).

I had a Gibson ‘57 Classic Plus from the bridge of my 2001 ES-135. I later replaced it with a chrome GFS Mean-90 (AlNiCo V P-90 in a humbucker shell) to try to brighten it up (now it has a Seymour Duncan custom shop Dynasonic pickup in a humbucker shell). All these years later, both pickups needed a home, so I started this project.

Butterscotch blonde, rear routed ash Telecaster body with two humbucker routes.

The ‘57 Classic Plus (AlNiCo II 8.3k) is going in the bridge (with a black pickup ring) and the Mean-90 (it was a bridge version, clocking in at 8.6k) at the neck, in the pickguard.

Two concentric dual 500k stacked pots wired ‘50s Les Paul style (I loved it on my ‘57 LP Custom, since I blend pickups a lot and like the interaction).

3-way Gibson toggle switch and washer.

Wilkinson style short three-saddle bridge plate with brass saddles (I’ll be using it as a top-loader).

Just used a file and sandpaper to modify a cheap Merle Haggard style 3-ply pickguard and gave it an old ‘50s Gibson style wide bevel for a sharper white border. Black pickguard screws. I was kind of going for a ‘55 Les Paul Special double-cutaway pickguard mixed with the straight bottom of a ‘52 Tele blackguard.

Why not? I love Gibson’s TV yellow Juniors and Fender’s butterscotch blonde and they both fit the two classic color schemes.

Still waiting on the neck: maple with a rosewood fretboard, parallelogram inlays, binding, and a Tele shaped headstock.

I found some “green” style Kluson tulip tuners like Les Paul Standards use, except they’re in-line.

Foregoing an electrosocket and will instead use a black Les Paul jack plate.

I’ve been a sucker for P-90 LP Jrs. (and Telecasters, of course), and I dislike dark neck pickups, so this thing is a real hybrid Frankenstein.

It’s got design elements from ‘52 (Tele), ‘55 (Junior), ‘57 (AlNiCo II PAF bridge pickup), ‘60 (stacked pots like the original Jazz Bass), and ‘97 (i.e., the modified Merle Haggard thinline style pickguard).

The pickguard-mounted chrome humbucker-sized neck pickup will probably also give it a Keith Richards’ “Micawber” vibe.


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BB

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As one who loves the look of the Hybrid pickguard, I believe your pickguard surgery was a total success. It looks awesome!

The Merle Tuff Dog p/g's are just a bit different than Warmoth Hybrid. Anyway, great looking stuff!
 

JohnnyCrash

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Progress!

I somehow, amazingly, wired the pickups in proper phase on the first try.

However, I, for some reason, wired the front pots to the back/bridge pickup and the back pots to the front/neck pickup. I’m leaving it as-is.

The Zero Glide nut is too shallow for the existing nut channel and the g-string pops out of its nut slot. Note how close the B-E string tree is to retain a sharp downward angle on the other side of the nut (for the same reason the g-string pops). I’m waiting on another string tree to solve that problem with the g-string (and to give a more even string tension by pulling down that d-string’s angle).

Otherwise, I just gave it a setup and adjusted everything (except the tross rod could probably use a quarter turn tightening — I’ve got 11 gauge strings on it, like I usually use with my Gibson scale guitars)… haven’t played it at much volume yet (other than quietly verifying the pickups were in phase). It is acoustically loud. Plays well without any buzzing. Can’t wait to plug it in tomorrow.


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JohnnyCrash

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Plugged it in.

The ‘57 Classic Plus sounds fantastic. Very old school PAF sound with a touch more.

I’m always happy with the ‘50s Les Paul style wiring for blending the bridge and neck together in the middle position.

I’m rarely a fan of neck pickups (they’re usually too muddy and dark for me). The Mean-90 pickup (it’s a bridge version) sounds OK, not as glorious as the Gibson Classic Plus, but it does exactly what I want out of a neck pickup in a rock guitar.

I am surprised at how much of a rock machine this thing is!
 

JohnnyCrash

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On most of my guitars I play with a good bit of relief on the neck. I straightened this one out just a hair shy of dead flat. Even with the elevens on a 25.5” scale, I don’t even notice the string tension. It plays like butter. I actually enjoy playing this guitar.

How’s that for a $70 unfinished neck (I taped off the bound rosewood board and applied four very very thin coats of gloss wipe on poly, and the fretwork is amazing and straight right out of the box — all it needed [badly] was a new nut [the factory nut was just plain evil])?

I raised the pole pieces on the low and high E/e strings considerably to compensate, since they don’t line up well with the Gibson pole spacing, and I will probably fine tune both pickups (I’m going to crank up the neck pickup’s height, and balance output in the bridge’s poles).
 

kiwi blue

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I’m rarely a fan of neck pickups (they’re usually too muddy and dark for me). The Mean-90 pickup (it’s a bridge version) sounds OK, not as glorious as the Gibson Classic Plus, but it does exactly what I want out of a neck pickup in a rock guitar.

I use a bridge Mean 90 in the neck of an LP copy. Sounds fantastic. AFTER I modded it. Before that I found it quite lifeless and meh. I got a lot more clarity out of it by swapping the plated brass cover for a nickel silver cover. While I was at it I also swapped out the under-size A5 magnets for full size A2s.

Did the same mods on the neck Mean 90 and used that in the bridge of a HH Tele. Makes a great bridge pickup.
 

JohnnyCrash

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I use a bridge Mean 90 in the neck of an LP copy. Sounds fantastic. AFTER I modded it. Before that I found it quite lifeless and meh. I got a lot more clarity out of it by swapping the plated brass cover for a nickel silver cover. While I was at it I also swapped out the under-size A5 magnets for full size A2s.

Did the same mods on the neck Mean 90 and used that in the bridge of a HH Tele. Makes a great bridge pickup.


I’ve never swapped magnets before. But I’ve been wanting to. Now I will.

Is it difficult to swap them?

My favorite P90s are the AlNiCo II Toneriders. I’ve been finding a lot of A2 pickups that I prefer to their A5 counterparts, but especially P90s. They just tend to seem more clear in the mids and bright on the top end without being nasal or harsh.
 

kiwi blue

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I’ve never swapped magnets before. But I’ve been wanting to. Now I will.

Is it difficult to swap them?

My favorite P90s are the AlNiCo II Toneriders. I’ve been finding a lot of A2 pickups that I prefer to their A5 counterparts, but especially P90s. They just tend to seem more clear in the mids and bright on the top end without being nasal or harsh.
It isn't difficult. I think swapping the cover probably had a bigger effect than the magnet swap, although I did both at the same time so there's no certainty there.

Try removing the cover first and listen. If you like the sound, go ahead and put a nickel silver cover on. A nickel silver cover only reduces the highs a little compared with an uncovered pickup, but brass covers reduce a lot more highs.

If you like it, go ahead and swap the magnets. You just undo a couple of screws and pull it apart. You may also have to remove some wax in the process.

You need to be careful to put the new magnets in with the same polarity as the magnets you take out. A bar magnet has North and South poles at opposite ends, and also North and South on opposite long edges. So if the original magnets have their long edge South poles facing inwards towards the polepiece screws, you need to do the same with the new magnets. If the North pole at the end is facing you as you work on the pickup, you need to make sure the north end of your new magnet does the same.

I use a marker pen to run a line along the inside edge of the old magnet nearest the screws so I know which way the magnet was placed. Because opposite poles attract and like poles repel, I then check which edge of the new magnet repels the edge with the marker on it. I then mark that edge on the new magnet and put that edge alongside the screws. Use the same process to work out the polarity on the ends. That way, even if you don't know which is north and which is south, you do know you've oriented the new magnet the same as the old one.
 

JohnnyCrash

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Swapped the mags.

Some wax flaked off when I pried the old magnets off (one of which broke… cheap ass magnets!).

I replaced them with two AlNiCo II bar magnets in the proper magnetic polarity.

The change in tone allowed for more clarity and open upper end — and the loss of a tight wax seal made the pickup slightly more microphonic. The pickup itself doesn’t squeal, but mechanical noise (e.g., my pick hitting the cover) is slightly louder than it was before.

I think this saved the neck pickup from being a muddy, never-used, shiny accessory to a pretty splendid sounding neck pickup!

It sounds brighter and clearer, but not harsh. This has been my typical experience with average/modest output A2 pickups. Very clear, even almost bright, but never harsh or shrill (A2 mag pickups seem to have a warm, bell-like top end to my beatup ears). Much better string separation.

Since it’s in the neck position, this translates to clarity, but it’s still up in the neck position, so it’s never bright, just much less smudged. With a little pushing of the amp, it is vocal and singing. Warm and reedy.

The middle position is a really nice combination and the neck pickup output almost seems to have balanced better with the (also AlNiCo II average/moderate output) ‘57 Classic Plus in the bridge (before, the neck sounded slightly louder). Can get some nice soul chords out of the middle position. Good jangle. The slightly longer Fender scale is psyching out my ears — there’s a higher tension and brightness to the tone, but the pickups all pull my ear to the familiar sound of any of my Gibson guitars.

I also find myself wanting to ‘50s wire my other Gibsons. Like my ‘57 reissue LP Custom, which I used onstage all the time, I find myself playing in the middle position with the neck pickup dialed ever so slightly down. There’s a sweet spot in there, with both pickups blended via ‘50s wiring, that sounds both clear and fat — and perfect for rocking rhythm guitar tones (or leads).

New photo to show the second string tree:

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crazydave911

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I have taken to almost never hooking the tone pot to the neck pickup for the same reason. I put it there to hear it, not darken it. The bridge pickup is pretty much all that ever needs that 😉
 




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