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  1. #1

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    Ok, here goes. Normally I can figure these things out, but I'm having some trouble this time!

    I have what I believe is an original Gibson JS pickup on my L-5CN. The polepiece for the B string is missing. The pickup sounds great, and is balanced really fine, so it's just an aesthetic thing to me. I bought a set of new JS polepieces from AllParts so that I could replace the missing one, and I'm having a dilemma:

    It won't screw in. (Yeah, that's what she said.)

    I can shine a flashlight into the hole but it's really hard to see because of glare and my own inability to focus my eyes on the spot. I simply can't tell if there is even a threaded insert into which the polepiece would go. It just hits a hard surface and doesn't "take" when I try to screw it in. It eventually tilts to the side and I have to pry it out.

    I could remove one of the other polepieces and see what's under it, but now I'm afraid that it's not trivial to put one back in (based on the B string). Does anyone have any experience with this?


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  3. #2

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    have you tried taking out one of the others and see if it fits/
    this should at least tell you if the new screw is the right size or if the threads in the pu are stripped [which may indicate why there's no screw in there now]

  4. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by wintermoon
    have you tried taking out one of the others and see if it fits
    Thanks - I already alluded to that:

    "I could remove one of the other polepieces and see what's under it, but now I'm afraid that it's not trivial to put one back in"

  5. #4

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    I would call Joe at and ask him. He will know the answer and he is a very nice guy.

  6. #5

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    Thanks Darwin. I bought it from him. When I asked him about it before committing, he told me that it doesn't seem that a polepiece was ever there. However, I highly doubt that, as that is not how any JS pickup - original or repro - is constructed. Joe is cool but he glosses over certain things.

    I guess a follow up question is: Is there a concern or a trick to removing and replacing a polepiece? Does something "close up" when the thing is removed or is it just a simple screw like I always thought it was?

  7. #6

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    you said you could remove another to 'see what's there' but did you try to put that screw into the B string slot?

  8. #7

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    If my memory serves me correctly I think the poles were removed on purpose ?

    early JS dont have any screws so just holes thats how JS used himself

    On many older ones you will find only the b pole is missing

  9. #8

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    Roger, have you tried wrapping plumber's Teflon tape around the pole piece? That could just make it sit snugly in the hole without it tilting.

  10. #9

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    Thanks for the comments, guys. I realize that this whole thing sounds pretty stupid. I mean, just put it in there and see what happens, right? But that's the problem: If you stick the polepiece in the hole, it hits something solid rather quickly - right where I'd expect the threads to begin. (Teflon tape won't help as the issue is not that there's a loose fit.)

    Maybe I'm actually wrong and the B pole was literally never there, by design, as fws6 says. I may end up leaving it alone and filing these in my endless parts drawer with dozens of orphaned knobs, screws, springs, tuners, bridge parts, pickups, etc. etc. etc.

  11. #10

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    Kinda like a notched B pole that you find on some pickups, including the Charlie Christian?

  12. #11

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    Go visit the closest reputable tech and let him do it, can't be that expensive , least you know that it's done right and you have a comeback if you have any issues later on, good techs are worth every cent

  13. #12

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    Thanks Keira. But I do all of my own work except for frets. I would trust nobody better than myself to take the pickup and pickguard apparatus apart. I would go to the "closest reputable tech" for my Tele, but not for my vintage Gibsons.

  14. #13

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    It sounds to me like you may have one of those earlier pickups like Frank mentioned. He's got his history down pretty well. If it were me and I had that pickup, I'd pretty much leave it as it is. If it's balance and sounds good, sticking something in there may change the way it sounds, possibly interfering with the magnetic field of the pole area.

  15. #14

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    Yeah, gonna leave it alone I guess. Damn polepieces cost $20 bucks! I would love to see a picture of another one like it. So far, I can't find one. Thanks all.

  16. #15

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    Roger . . . I took the liberty of calling Aaron Cowles to discuss your dilemma. Aaron worked at Gibson from 1962 to 1983 . . . so, he's pretty much seen it all. He said that he did install quite a few of those JS pick ups on the Johnny Smiths and on the L5Cs. He said that early on he recalls seeing quite a few with no poll on the B position. He indicated that on the JS pups and on the P90s the B string was always very hot for some reason. When the pole piece was in them, they were usually screwed way down as low as possible to try to balance it out. People eventually started to just remove them and he said he believes that Gibson, for a while started to make them with no B position pole piece in them. Then, when they were able to better balance the pups out, they went back to making them complete with all pole pieces. He recommended taking the pick up off of the guitar and see if the bottom of the pup is covered with a small piece of faux tortoise type of plastic.

    He said he'd be happy to discuss it with you directly if you wanted to call him with any questions. But, it appears that Joe V. might have been pretty accurate . . . "might have been" . . . when he said he thought it might have never had one to begin with.

    Anyway, if for no other reason than the fact that your very guitar might have passed through his hands at one time . . . it might be good to have a brief chat with him. If you do decide to do so, his number is 269-649-3929. I told him you might be calling him he said that would be just fine. He loves to talk guitars and his days at Gibson.

  17. #16

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    You're the best, Patrick! Thanks. Only here could I get that kind of info...

    I was able to take a photo of the pickup with my iPhone and then blow it up nice and large. I did this with the sun shining right on the surface so that the hole was illuminated. Visible inside the hole is a threaded object running perpendicular to the plane of the polepieces. Yes... a threaded rod is underneath the casing running directly under the polepiece holes. It is not possible to screw a polepiece in there, so it must be original and correct. I assume that the other polepieces screw into holders that are mounted to this rod, but there is no such holder on the B string.

  18. #17

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    You already have the story behind this. Indeed taming the B is tricky sometimes - it has more steel than the E or G so excites the PU disproportionately.

    If you are happy with the string balance (note that the other coil does not have pole pieces, and thus is over-B'ed a bit due to the flat bar inside the other coil) then I assume you want the screw in there for aesthetics?

    If so, then you will need to flip the PU over and report what you see (or post a pic.)

    EDIT: I missed your post above. I have not run into the rod you mention, can you post the pic? Can you flip the PU over as well?

    Last edited by PTChristopher; 10-05-2012 at 02:27 PM.

  19. #18

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    Here's somthing I found interesting . "Gibson Electrics , The Classic Years " by A.R. Duchossoir . .... " the early Smiths usually feature a pickup with non-adjustable polepieces, since a small piece of tortoise plastic is inserted between the top of the coil and the pickup cover(!). This plastic was removed in early 1962 to make the poles fully adjustable ." Patrick 2 is right on .
    Last edited by bigdaddyguitar; 10-05-2012 at 03:25 PM.

  20. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by bigdaddyguitar
    "the early Smiths usually feature a pickup with non-adjustable polepieces, since a small piece of tortoise plastic is inserted between the top of the coil and the pickup cover(!). This plastic was removed in early 1962 to make the poles fully adjustable."
    Kinda. Well, he's certainly right on. But I don't have a pickup like that. The polepieces are completely adjustable except for the missing B string unit, which - as noted at length - cannot be fit into the pickup.

    Photos are helpful here. It looks like a screw (threaded rod) is mounted transversely within the pickup:

  21. #20

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    Great pic Roger; never seen that before.

    I can imagine (so I am making stuff up now) someone trying to put a magnetic material (like a steel screw) in that area to make for a much lower "pole piece" for the B. But who knows?

    Do the threads have a clear pitch? The pic is at an angle and I can not see that the apparent threads form a helix.

    Thanks for posting this.


  22. #21

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    It looks like somebody broke off the screw head and stuffed that piece of screw down into the recess to me also. Chris, you may be correct on that.

  23. #22

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    But how the heck would you do that?? Breaking the screw head would involve a ton of force exerted with small tools on a very small area, and never while it was in the pickup - that would be devastating for the guitar. So why in the world would it ever happen? Ugh. Now I have to see if I can take this apart and solve the mystery.

  24. #23

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    Roger, judging by your photo it sure loos like a threaded piece of something in there! Weird. I'm curious, is a JS pickup similar to humbucker in that the cover is soldered on? If so, are the solder joints intact or does it look like it's been opened. My thoughts are if it appears that the solder joints are untouched I'd be inclined to leave it. As you have mentioned the pickup is nicely balanced.
    My other thought was to send an email to either Jason Lollar or Lindy Fralin, both of those guys are great to deal with and have seen it all when it comes to pickups. When I was working on restoring an old LP jr I was able to get Lindy on the phone and he talked to me for about 20-30 min figuring out the my situation and then he made me a killer P90 for the guitar. They might be able to give you some good advice.

  25. #24

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    >>> Now I have to see if I can take this apart and solve the mystery.

    Roger, if I may suggest:

    - Do not de-solder the cover, it takes quite a bit of heat.

    - Cut most of the existing solder with a Dremel narrow stone cut-off wheel.

    - Once most of the way trough the solder, stick a screwdriver in the cut slot and twist very lightly to break the small amount of remaining solder without de-forming the cover. This is all easier to do than it may sound.

    - When re-attaching the cover use a 40 watt OR MORE soldering iron. This may seem counter-intuitive, but a hotter iron gets the job doe while keeping the PU cooler. A low wattage iron is not up to the job and requires long time in contact with the PU. A 40 watt (or more) iron gets the solder spot very hot very quickly - so you "get-in, get-out" with very localized heat.

    All in my opinion. I have opened and closed quite a pile of PU's over the years.


  26. #25

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    You guys and your soldering irons... And Dremels! Hah. (But i surely do appreciate the tips.)

    The mystery is solved.

    I took the pickguard and pickup off the guitar. Turned the pickup over - yep, there are six holes on a metal plate. Five were blocked by pole piece ends. The B string one was open. So I stuck a straightened paper clip in there, and with the help of a little gravity - voila! Out pops a screw head from the top hole! It had fallen in there and was on its side. I pried/screwed it out. It is actually shorter than the rest of them (I took another out to compare). It also does not fit the threading of the bottom plate, although it looks just as old and tarnished as the others. So it had probably "capsized" and was left for dead.

    Annoying is the fact that the new pole pieces from AllParts are too wide to thread in! So I ended up propping the B unit in place and putting it all back together. Weird stuff.