My Les Pauls

DarrellV

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Mods, Fixes and Experiments I've done to my 3 Les Pauls that anyone can do using only basic hand tools on the kitchen table.

Index of mods at the bottom of this page for quick navigating! :thumb:

Meet The Victims...:naughty:

These pics are all post mods...


2018 Classic Player


2018 Studio Deluxe IV


1982 Standard


All of my mods are done with an eye toward preserving original cosmetic appearance, and are reversible if desired.

I consider these player mods, so if you are a collector or worried about resale value, you won't want to do some of them.

Bridge conversions, Shielding, Magnet swaps, Pickup change-outs, harness and pot replacement and more..

I'm not aiming this topic at the pro's... They've already got this down. :cool2:



I'm hoping to show anyone who is curious about altering sound or hardware of their LP, but is a bit scared to delve under the hood.

I'd like to illustrate, with pics, how I did it, to help alleviate the fear of messing something up!

And to show that it can be done with reasonable care, and without specialty tools or particular guitar building skills.

Basic soldering skills will be necessary for some of them..
.


Original parts from the 82 Standard.. They went to a good home!

INDEX:

2018 Classic Player introduction and OEM features and drawbacks
https://www.mylespaul.com/threads/my-les-pauls.430822/post-9245852
2018 CP Cosmetic Mods (Plastics)
https://www.mylespaul.com/threads/my-les-pauls.430822/post-9245863
2018 CP Polish of Satin finish to gloss
https://www.mylespaul.com/threads/my-les-pauls.430822/post-9245878
2018 CP Pickup swap for ZhangBucker P-90s
https://www.mylespaul.com/threads/my-les-pauls.430822/post-9245948
2018 CP Foil Shielding entire guitar
https://www.mylespaul.com/threads/my-les-pauls.430822/post-9245974
2018 Studio Deluxe IV Introduction and features
https://www.mylespaul.com/threads/my-les-pauls.430822/post-9246075
2018 SD 4 Cosmetic Mods
https://www.mylespaul.com/threads/my-les-pauls.430822/post-9246092
2018 SD 4 Foil Shielding
https://www.mylespaul.com/threads/my-les-pauls.430822/post-9246104
2018 SD 4 Nashville bridge conversion to Guitar Fetish XGP
https://www.mylespaul.com/threads/my-les-pauls.430822/post-9247046
1982 Standard Introduction, Features, and teardown
https://www.mylespaul.com/threads/my-les-pauls.430822/post-9251276
1982 Standard Shaw pickup rewinds and Pictures
https://www.mylespaul.com/threads/my-les-pauls.430822/post-9256166
1982 Standard Pickup test fit
https://www.mylespaul.com/threads/my-les-pauls.430822/post-9256195
1982 Standard Pots and pickup rings replacement and fitting to curved top.

https://www.mylespaul.com/threads/my-les-pauls.430822/post-9256393
1982 Standard Caps and Switch wiring install.
https://www.mylespaul.com/threads/my-les-pauls.430822/post-
9257214

1982 Standard Control Cavity and Jack wiring
https://www.mylespaul.com/threads/my-les-pauls.430822/post-9257315
 
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DarrellV

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INTRODUCTIONS:

I'll start with the 2018 Classic Player. This is how it came on my NGD!

It's a Limited Edition in Orange Sunrise Burst.


From what I can gather this series was Gibson's answer to making an affordable, bound body Les Paul that resembled the Standard, but without the price tag.

These are no doubt aimed at the 'old school' players who liked the way Gibson used to make them.
So why they haven't really caught on is a bit of a mystery to me.



It has most of the important features that were lost after the pinnacle of Golden Era of 'The 82'.

You can read about that here...

https://www.mylespaul.com/threads/the-magical-mythical-1982-les-paul.426194/

I got this for right around $1200 in like new condition with the case.
I considered it a good price as I wanted an affordable P-90 guitar to add to my sound arsenal.

What I didn't know was it was built very closely to my 'Hallowed 82", LOL!

Features include:

  • No Weight Relief in the body! That's right, no Swiss cheese or chambering on this. It weighs 9lbs!

  • Hand Wired, no PC Board.

  • Orange Drop Caps

  • What feels to me to be a baseball bat neck (it's the thickest of all of them)

  • And the biggest surprise to me was that they brought back the Norlin Shield plate for mounting the controls!

Check it out!


The Satin finish was one cost cutter step, but it was still nicely done.. not complaining.

This model also has a Richlite board and Cryogenic frets.

But I found that some of the other money saving features were in the hardware and the plastics.

The plastics were, to me, very flimsy and thin. The lettering on the chip was cheap and kinda blurry.

And the Nashville bridge on it was a disgusting mess!



The pickups were stock Gibson P-90's.

These were Reverse wound - Reverse polarity for hum reduction in the middle position.

Otherwise, they are the same wind and magnets.



This resulted in a neck pickup that was pure mud! Darker than night!

No need to even use the tone control as there were no highs at all to even take down.

So the five things I set out to address on this one were:


The pickups had to go.

I prefer creme plastics, so the black flimsy stuff had to go.

That crummy Nashville has to go. (the replacement is currently on back-order, so I'm still waiting on this part).


I'd like a glossy finish.

After the pickup swap it became obvious that I would have to shield this guitar. P-90's do bring a buzz along for the ride.
 
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DarrellV

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2018 Classic Player - Cosmetic Mods

I had ordered from Philly Luther in the past, so they were my first go to for new parts.
https://www.philadelphialuthiertools.com/

I find the plastics to be of good quality and color (not pink).


I went with Amber knobs for this because I thought they would go nicely with the orange flame top.


Covers..


I ordered brown plastic covers for the back just because it would match my '82.


It was as i was installing the covers that I noticed another 'cost cutter' mistake!

I don't understand how this can happen in the age of CNC machining but there it is!

And no, it's not the new cover. The original one has the gap too.


So parts in hand we begin...

Pickup covers came off fairly easy and the new ones went on without incident..


Same with the new chip and switch tip. I had Philly Luther make me custom chips for all my guitars, just because..


Completed!


It was here that i remembered that i had forgot to order a pick guard! :doh:

I got this one from Amazon. Made by Allparts in Japan! I was surprised it wasn't China, and the quality is really good!


Much better now!!!


My friends in the Heresy thread have nicknamed it the Cream-sickle!

 
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DarrellV

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2018 Classic Player Polish

I would like to shine at least the top but wasn't sure about how to go about it.

I considered a clear coat at first, but I have never done any type of spraying on any of my guitars and wasn't keen to try.

Then my buddies in the Heresy thread strongly suggested I try something called Virtuoso guitar polish..



Never heard of the stuff, but that doesn't mean anything.

It's a two step process. First using the cleaner, and then the polish.

The results were pretty impressive, at least to me..

First step was to completely gut the guitar to get everything pokey out of the way.

Warning: You will need solder skills for this part!




Starting with the cleaner only, I've taken some shots of the progress along the way.
It is hard to catch with a camera, but the difference is there..

Top mid section so far..


Getting there!


Did the satin back and neck too. Neck feels much slicker now!




Finally the next day after finishing with the Polish..




 

DarrellV

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2018 Classic Player Pickup swap

While I had the guitar apart (gutted) I started looking around for some different pickups.

I found all the usual suspects, Seymour Duncan, Bare Knuckles, DiMarzio, etc.. but they were pricey.
No doubt they are worth it, and if money were no object I probably would have just grabbed a set.


I wanted to start cheap as I had no idea what I was looking for in P-90's except I would like a cleaner more toneful neck pickup and a hotter bridge for obvious reasons.

Then these caught my eye...


Yup, a pair of black P-90's , so what? Glad you asked!

I got this set used off of Fleabay for 85 bucks!
I figured if they stunk, I wasn't out too much money.. But there was more that intrigued me about them.

Everyone knows it is near impossible to judge a pickup's sound quality on the internet from words alone.
So it was more his design approach that tickled my engineering side that sold me on them.

They are made by ZhangBucker.
I had heard of him since joining here, never before.. looked at his site a couple times..

http://www.zhangbucker.com/

Turns out I have his Cherrick neck pickup and his Blues 90 bridge.


What I found interesting was his approach to the design of the different pickups, each tailored to its placement on the guitar.

The bridge pickup - the Blues 90 (top of pic) was wound a bit more than the neck (bottom), and used bigger magnets for more 'grunt' as he says.
That was what I was looking for, so far so good, but the neck pickup was something different.

The bottom pickup is the Cherrick neck pickup.
It has a smaller winding and smaller bar magnets to help lower the output. This helps clean up the neck position into something more sweet sounding and usable.

You can see the size difference in the mags and coils in the pics above, or better from this end view.

Neck on right


So, feeling pretty good about this i set to go about installing them!

Warning: Soldering skills needed ahead.

Obviously, placing the new covers on them and mounting them was not difficult, so not a lot of pics.

However, I wanted to point out the reason I removed the metal plate in the bridge cavity.
This will make pulling the switch and neck pickup wires through the body easier.

I put the Tailpiece studs back in at this point so they could take the weight off of the pickups when i flipped the guitar over to do the wiring.


Switch back in place


Wires all pulled through the body and pulled aside to put the control plate back in.
Twisted wiring on left side comes from the switch, jack is hanging out the bottom for now.
Bare ground wire to tailpiece is sticking up with a glob of solder on it, and the new pickup leads are the braided metal.


Soldering the pickup leads in place.

EDIT: A sharp eyed fella pointed out another mod i did in the wiring that I had forgotten to mention. :facepalm:

I soldered the new pickups to the center lug of the volume pots, along with the caps, and moved the switch leads to the outer lugs.

This shows Gibson factory wiring as it came.. Pickup and Cap leads on outer lug of volume pots.... switch leads on center lug.


How I wired it...

Pickup and Cap leads moved to center lug of pots, and switch lead moved to outer lugs.

This stops the rolling off of either volume control from killing the signal from both in the middle position, and allows me to use both Volumes as Blender Pots in the middle switch position.


Finish soldering the switch wires and tidying up the extra braided lead. Jack is in place.

I soldered the extra lead from the bridge pickup to the neck pot to secure it so it doesn't short anything out.

I also left the ground wire looped out on top to make it easier to remove that plate again in the future.


After getting it together to this point I took it over to my amp and plugged it in.
I wanted to test for function before i got it all the way back together.


Using just a screwdriver i run through the switch positions and tap the poles of the pickups to see if they are on and off as they should be.
Then I check the volume and tone pots the same way to ensure they are working too.


Ready for tuning

 
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DarrellV

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2018 CP Noise Shielding
What's the Buzz?


I found the ZhangBuckers to be amazing since I first started pulling the strings up to pitch after the re fit! :shock:

I tuned with the neck pickup and was so floored with the rich tone of it, i forgot to even check the bridge pickup till almost a half hour later! Wow!

IMO his design nailed it perfect for what I was looking for, I really got lucky on this find..:thumb:

In a recent trip to Parkway Music I brought it along to show it off and try it out on the Magnatone amps they have there.

I was lucky in getting one of the owners, Matt to help me demo it through an amp.
He is a way better player and plays jazzy stuff i don't know yet, so I got to just listen.

He played it through this amp, actually.. It's listed on Reverb ATM.


To me its sounded really good. Clear, fat and full, as Matt said, 'like a Strat on steroids'.
As he closed his eyes and ran it through its paces, testing the different pickup positions he stopped for a moment and exclaimed, 'Man! This thing sounds great! It's just inspiring me to play!'

The man owns a music store and more vintage gear than i ever will, so I'm happy to take his word for it as well as my own ears.

But while sitting there in between jams there was the familiar 60 cycle hum.....

These are not RWRP pickups..

So while i was there I bought a couple sheets of adhesive copper foil and decided to try my hand at shielding.



Some folks in other threads have asked if i only did the pickups, or the whole guitar.
I got the idea to do the whole guitar after seeing how Norlin shielded my 82 with steel parts.


Shielded Jack in a can!


I found that a sharp pair of scissors, a sharp knife, a half inch nut driver that i used to remove the pot shaft and jack nuts with, and a pen were about all I needed to do this.

I wanted to make sure there was full contact between all the pieces, and avoid patchwork as much as possible.
So with this in mind i set out to make each piece fit in with a bit of overlap all the way around.
This way i could press the side sheets right up against it for full contact. Kind of like flashing a roof.

Pickup covers were done by tracing the outside of the cover and cutting out.
I then pressed it into the cover and using the hex end of the nut driver, pushed it down flat and folded up the sides evenly.

Once this was done, I pushed the foil out of the cover to remove the paper on half of it. This let me press the papered side down in and get things centered before pressing the sticky side into place.

I took the nut driver again and pressed the foil flat into the cover and pressed the overlap into the sides.
I removed the paper and flattened the remaining sides and edges.

Then I measured a some strip as tall as the sides and pressed them in, covering the overlap on the bottom, and coming up flush with the sides.

I was very frugal and used small pieces of foil as much as I could on the sides of things. I only had a sheet and a half.

I used the point of a sharp knife to poke out he pole screw holes and trim off the extra.

To help ensure that the grounded pickup base contacted the cover i put a tab of foil on the pickup and folded it up against it when i put it together.


I then did the pickup routes the same way. I removed the steel plates first.
Later those plates will transfer the ground from the metal pickup springs to the foil.
The foil also touches the metal braid of the pickup lead.




At this point I had to remove all the components out of the control cavity, and the jack plug and plate.
Nothing had to be unsoldered except the ground wire to move stuff out of the way.

For the control cavity floor I traced the outline of the plastic cover.
I found that it gave me enough extra to create the overlap onto the sides i wanted.

Here again, fitted with paper on first, then a lot of working it around and patience to get it centered and pressed down.
Once again, the nut driver was ideal for smoothing the bottom and pushing the foil in flat against the curved corner pockets.

Start on one side only! smooth into the wells along the sides and flatten between them as you go. Work around the edges of the perimeter to stretch the foil into the sidewalls, then flatten the floor.

Move the ground wire out of the way, flat against the side for now.
The controls are laying outside on the back ATM. Nothing had to be unsoldered except the ground wire.


Sides going in. OK to leave a little extra sticking out the top on these. You'll see why.


Everything covered and that ball point pen comes in handy for knocking out the control shaft holes.

Don't worry about trimming the copper in the control holes. It won't show and it will give a little extra ground contact.
In the lower right side you can see the jack tunnel opening is still covered over. We'll get that next.


Take your knife and cut a cross shaped opening through the center of the jack tunnel and cut out to the edges.

Fold the foil inward with your finger and press tight to the sides of the opening.

From outside it should look something like this.


Now measure the full depth of the tunnel from outside to inside the control cavity and add a little extra.

Take a scrap of foil or a piece of paper and roll it up into a tube.
Push the tube into the tunnel opening and expand it till it touches all the way around the tunnel opening.
Hold that measurement with your fingers and pull the paper out of the tunnel.
Add at least 1/2 inch to it and that's the length of your strip.

Now cut a strip of foil as wide as your first measurement (the depth of the tunnel) and add a half inch.

Cut it as long as your second measurement (the circumference of the tunnel) and add a half an inch.

Test fit. You should have enough to extend out both sides of the tunnel, and enough to overlap inside the tunnel.

Outside

Inside


Pressed in against the cavity shield


Outside I left the little extra to contact with the jack plate.


Extra ears on top to contact the foil on the cover, which was boring so i don't have a pic of it!


The switch cavity was similar. I used the cover to trace the size for the floor piece.

I then folded it over the handle of the nut driver till it looked like a peanut butter cup.
Removed the paper and carefully pushed it into a centered position, using the nut driver to push it flat against the sides and bottom of the well.


I used a lot of scraps for this part, but it worked. Nut driver to press into the sides, leave extra at the top to contact the cover which is also foil lined.


Finished mess!!!
 
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Mockbel

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The “Red” lover is owning a blue Les Paul :eek2:

Just kidding... nice work and beautiful Les Pauls... I did some mods -not by myself- on few of my guitars but the Les Paul’s are remaining 100% stock
The Trad should get some mods to look more like an R7 but I don’t have the time to order parts and get them installed

81573926-C325-485B-B355-F248E9997CD0.jpeg
 

DarrellV

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The “Red” lover is owning a blue Les Paul :eek2:

Just kidding... nice work and beautiful Les Pauls... I did some mods -not by myself- on few of my guitars but the Les Paul’s are remaining 100% stock
The Trad should get some mods to look more like an R7 but I don’t have the time to order parts and get them installed

View attachment 403792
HA! Yeah, imagine that!

Funny part is, I originally bought that blue one for a 'cheap' beater guitar to put some pickups in I had laying around.

Turns out it was neither cheap, nor a beater, a Limited edition I had never heard of.... so I left it alone! :laugh2:

I love the sound of it, it's got tons of split options and gee whiz controls i never had before, and the neck is my favorite of them all.... :dunno:

But you bring up a good point....

That's why i said in my OP that these were intended as player mods, not something you would likely do to a collectible Les Paul.

I'm hoping to help the guys (and gals) who are curious to try, but think its too hard to do.

Also to show what's under the hood so they know what to expect.

One of the things that makes a Fender design so great is you can easily mod the snot out of them and change nearly everything.

A Les Paul is a lot more fixed and finite in what is doable by the average person.
 

DarrellV

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more to come...
 

DarrellV

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2018 Studio Deluxe IV Midnight Caribbean Blue
turned out to be another Limited Edition :dunno:
This might even have been a Guitar Center deal originally, not sure.

Introduction..
As it sat on the counter before the sale. I sent this pic to my wife on my cell phone to see the reaction...:Ohno:

She replied with 'Oh, that's pretty!' I took that as a yes! :dude:



Never owned a newer Gibson before! It even had the case candy, baby pic, and plastic fret board protector!


Features:

Burstbucker 2 and 3 in the neck and bridge, respectively.
The Burstbuckers are not potted, are unmatched wound and are splitable.

This one is weight relieved

Hand wired, no PC Board

Rosewood neck with Trap inlays

No Binding, although some Studios from this year DO have binding...Grrr:mad2:

Push Push controls for pickup splitting, on board pre-amp (booster), and split coil selector.

Woah!


Home at last!


Only a couple of downside points with this one.

The unmatched coils of the Burstbuckers tend to make them a little noisy.

Add to the the fact Gibson didn't bother to shield this guitar or its wiring, making it Fender noisy as well.
 
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DarrellV

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2018 Studio Deluxe IV Cosmetic Mods

These were pretty basic in that it already had creme plastics, but it was at this time i found myself pondering the age old questions...'Pick guard on... or off'! And of course 'Pickups covered, or uncovered'.... :laugh2:

So yes, folks! It really DOES happen!

As it turned out I had bought a nice set of Sigil pickups from a forum brother and he threw in a like new set of chrome covers for free (LOVE this place!)..

So I tried them on, and it was love at first sight!


I don't solder any of my covers on in case i decide to show off my 'Naked Zebras' at some point in the future.


Both this guitar and my 82 have zebras..


Now about that Pick guard......

I've always liked the look of the guard on a Les Paul, but there was this killer rippled top on this one....:run:

It also was the first time i would have to drill holes in it to mount the guard, as this one came without a guard...:Ohno:

But I found with a small bit in my Ryobi I could eyeball this thing on there with no problems.

The nice thing about Gibson guards is they are pretty much self aligning.

I placed the guard with no bracket up against the pickups to fit. It was nice and snug.

I then drilled a short hole for the neck screw as close to center as possible.

Now i attached the bracket to the guard, but left it loose so the bracket could be moved.

I fitted the guard to the guitar and fastened it with the one neck screw, just snug enough to center the guard and hold it.

Then I just took the metal bracket and moved it about the edge until it sat flat against the body and drilled the hole.

Removed the guard, tightened the bracket bolt and attached it!


Also of note:

There are a few topics in here addressing the mismatch of colors on Gibson plastics...
This one was no exception. Look at the factory guard against the factory rings.. They don't even match!

So don't sweat it! If its good enough for a Gibson...... :laugh2:
 
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DarrellV

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2018 SD 4 Noise Shielding

This was a lot simpler in that the pickups were already covered humbuckers so that part could be skipped.

However, there were a ton of wires inside this thing and NONE of them are braided shield!
Even the jack wires were plain double strand, like Fender...


So the control cavities and covers had to be done.

The details for sizing and execution are the same as the Classic Player topic, so I'll just post the results here.

Ta Da!


Back cover with 9 volt battery compartment.


Jack tunnel (of course!)


The switch well was also done the same as the Classic Player, so i didn't get pics of it..
 
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DarrellV

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more to come.....
 

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OK, seeing how you wired the tone controls seems to answer a question that I've had.

Generally, the difference between Modern and '50s tone is changing the position of the tone cap on both the volume and tone potsl, which of course, requires moving the ground on the tone pot.
I've pondered this, and since the 3rd terminal on the tone pot is not involved, even with an Audio taper pot, I could not see any electrical difference between the two circuits (to the right of the tone cap).
Your configuration seems to confirm that only the move on the volume pot is needed, which really simplifies the mod, not having to move the ground connection on the tone pot.

LesPaulTone-Options.jpg
 

DarrellV

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OK, seeing how you wired the tone controls seems to answer a question that I've had.

Generally, the difference between Modern and '50s tone is changing the position of the tone cap on both the volume and tone potsl, which of course, requires moving the ground on the tone pot.
I've pondered this, and since the 3rd terminal on the tone pot is not involved, even with an Audio taper pot, I could not see any electrical difference between the two circuits (to the right of the tone cap).
Your configuration seems to confirm that only the move on the volume pot is needed, which really simplifies the mod, not having to move the ground connection on the tone pot.

View attachment 403843
Dang! You've got a good eye! I did move the pickup leads when I put in the ZhangBuckers! I had forgot as I was typing this this morning!

This shot is factory Gibson before i did anything. The switch is to center of volume pot, and the cap and pickup lead are both on the outer leg.


The problem I have with this setup is that rolling either volume down in the middle position, kills the output of both pickups.

So I have moved the pickup and cap to the center lug and put the switch on the end like this.


Since the switch common goes directly to the output jack, this wiring either feeds full pickup signal to the switch (on 10) or 500K of pot resistance to it on zero. The zero still works because the pickup hot is now shorted to ground.

I saw no reason to move the tone control wiring as it worked before as is, and it works now, as is.

The tone cap is still hooked to the pickup hot either way.
 

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There are a few topics in here addressing the mismatch of colors on Gibson plastics...
This one was no exception. Look at the factory guard against the factory rings.. They don't even match!

So don't sweat it! If its good enough for a Gibson...... :laugh2:
The plastics for my '13 '50s Tribute came from three different sources. Of course they don't match :D but they're way better than all the black stuff I removed.
 

CB91710

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Ahh... I didn't catch that you had swapped both leads on the volume pot.
Ya... that's something that always "got me" about the LP design, you effectively have two master volumes in the middle position.
I completely understand that to help keep the amp from humming and picking up cable noise, you want the output jack to dump to ground when you turn the volume pot down.

So you've actually retained "modern" wiring, just switched the leads on the volume pots.
 

DarrellV

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Ya... that's something that always "got me" about the LP design, you effectively have two master volumes in the middle position.
I completely understand that to help keep the amp from humming and picking up cable noise, you want the output jack to dump to ground when you turn the volume pot down.
I actually use them for more than killing signal, I use them as blending pots..

I can alter the middle position sounds using either volume control to blend how much of either I want.
For more clarity I roll off the Neck pot just a bit so more Bridge shines through, Or roll off the Bridge volume and deepen things up a bit.

Also, rolling the tone pots around changes the middle sound.
Rolling off the Bridge tone pot will take some of the edge or spike out of the chime, so does rolling the Neck tone pot.

i have found dozens of differences in the middle position using all 4 knobs.

Some are very subtle and some only take a micro turn on the pot to bring a change.

That's the main reason I put pointers on my 82. I just haven't gotten to doing the others yet..
 




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