Gibson 57 Classic Pickups Repair
This article was featured in the Finger Lakes Guitar Repair Newsletter. Sign-up for the free Newsletter today! Just type in your email and press Go in the left hand sidebar.
Click Images to Enlarge
This is a Les Paul black beauty copy. The 57’s are an upgrade over this guitar’s original pickups. The pickup installation leaves a lot to be desired; two of the pickups simply fell away from the adjustable screws, the neck pickup ring has a burn mark from a soldering iron and there is a pretty deep scratch from a screw driver in the bridge pickup ring. I’ll pull the pickup rings in order to see what the problem is.
The standard 3-48 machine screws that set the pickup height won’t work because the holes are stripped.
Someone enlarged the threaded hole in the ear of the pickup’s baseplate. A repair was attempted; they soldered the set screws in place then neatly sanded the solder flush to the baseplate. The results are predictable, the soft solder couldn’t take the tension of the springs that ring the set screws and the pickup eventually fell down into the pickup cavity. Two of the pickups were damaged and “repaired” in this fashion.
This is the middle pickup that wasn’t damaged. At this point, I have two options. I can replace the baseplates of the two damaged pickups or I can drill out and tap the baseplates to accept slightly larger machine screws. I’ll go with the latter because: 1) the base plates are already damaged, 2) this guitar isn’t collectable, 3) the owner of this guitar is a working musician and wants his guitar back in time for an upcoming gig.
I’m using a 7/64” drill bit and a cordless electric drill to drill out the solder and enlarge the hole for the new 6-32 machine screws that I picked up at the hardware store for this project. A thin hardwood block protects the guitar from the tip of the drill bit as it passes through the baseplate. I’m being careful to drill the hole plumb.
I’m tapping the baseplate to accept the 6-32 brass machine screws. A little sewing machine oil helps the tool cut smoothly. I’m having a difficult time keeping the tap plumb because the baseplate isn’t thick enough for the tap to register plumb.
A stainless steel screw cleans up the threads and gives me the leverage I need to slightly bend the ears of the base plate so that the screw threads into the baseplate plumb with the pickup.
I have to slightly enlarge the pickup rings to accept the new machine screws. The slanted pickup rings keep the pickup running more or less parallel to the bottom of the strings. That’s why it’s so important that the pickup set screws are plumb (perpendicular to the to the top surface of the pickup).
I’ll reinstall the pickups using the old springs.
The hardware store screw heads are pretty big compared to the originals but they work well. Someday these pickups may be installed in a more collectible guitar. At that time, the baseplates can be replaced if the owner wants them to accept the standard 3-48 screws that Gibson uses.