From deni–(at)–eismo.CSS.GOV Tue Apr 18 12:52:17 CDT 1995
Article: 48025 of
From: deni–(at)–eismo.CSS.GOV (Dennis O’Neill)
Subject: Guitar mod: ES335 – make it easier to work on
Date: 18 Apr 1995 16:56:34 GMT
Organization: Center for Seismic Studies, Arlington, VA
Lines: 120
Message-ID: <3n0r02$r6--(at)--eismo.CSS.GOV>

The following is aimed specifically at Gibson ES335-style guitars, but
in general it’s applicable to any guitar with humbucking pickups that’s
inconvenient to work on. One could do similar mods to Les Pauls, SGs,
or Paul Reed Smiths, or to any guitar that one wanted to be able to swap
pickups in. I’m certain that I’m not the first to have done something
like this, but I’m posting it anyway.

I grew tired of the thick sound of my 1986 Gibson ES335, so I decided to
rewire it. As everyone who’s ever worked on one knows, it’s a royal pain
to work on the electronics of the ES335. I chose to make minor wiring
modifications to make future work easier.

First I removed the stock pickups by clipping the wires. Then I removed
the stock controls after first attaching dental floss to each pot, to the
phone jack, and to the selector switch; this is to help in reinstalling
the pots and other parts later.

I replaced the volume pots with high-quality 500Kohm audio-taper pots;
I replaced the tone pots with similar pots that had integral push-pull
switches. All of the wiring was done with shielded wire. I used all
new parts for the control network, for no particular reason other than
that I didn’t have to desolder the old parts.

The thing that will make future work easier is this: I installed
5-conductor pin-and-sleeve connectors, similar to those used in PCs for
connecting power supplies to the disk drives, in several places. These
connectors are small enough and flat enough that a male-female pair
will fit into a humbucking pickup cavity, and are asymmetrical so they
can only be connected one way. One connects the signal wire to
a pin or sleeve, then inserts the pin or sleeve into a nylon housing.
Construction of the connector makes short circuits unlikely.
I put connectors
o for the neck pickup
– in the neck pickup cavity,
– in the line after the internal cable comes out of the neck
pickup cavity and center block into the hollow part of the body
o for the bridge pickup
– into the line between the bridge pickup and the controls (there’s
a big gap in the centerblock under the bridge pickup to permit
extracting the control network, so only one connector was needed).

Consequently, I can swap out pickups easily, just by putting the
appropriate connector onto the signal leads of any new pickup. I can
also extract the control network easily if I ever need to, without cutting
or desoldering any wires. (I could shield the connectors by wrapping
them in copper tape and grounding the tape, but I don’t really know if
that would help on an ES335 since there’s so much else that isn’t

For each pickup location, I used 4-conductor shielded wire as follows:
+ cond. A (front coil +) -> pin 1 -> volume control
+ cond. B (front coil -) -> pin 2 -> pushpull switch center tab
pickup -+ cond. C (rear coil +) -> pin 3 -> pushpull switch center tab
+ cond. D (rear coil -) -> pin 4 -> ground
+ cond. E (shield) -> pin 4 -> ground

The push-pull switches were wired as
pushpull switch switch-in tab -> not connected
pushpull switch switch-out tab -> to ground (grounds out the
rear coil)

If one wanted to have the rear coil of the bridge pickup as the active
coil after pulling the switch, one could wire it as:
+ cond. A (front coil +) -> pin 3 -> pushpull switch center tab
rear + cond. B (front coil -) -> pin 4 -> ground
pickup -+ cond. C (rear coil +) -> pin 1 -> volume control
+ cond. D (rear coil -) -> pin 2 -> pushpull switch conter tab
+ cond. E (shield) -> pin 4 -> ground
This is most easily done by rearranging the pins on the pickup side of the
connector (as shown) and keeping the connections to the control network
the same as for the front pickup.

It’s easy to experiment with these connectors, since one attaches the
wire to its pin or sleeve first before assembling the connector, and
therefore can connect things temporarily for a trial before permanently
assembling the connector.

If I wanted to reinstall the original pickups that don’t have coil taps,
I could wire them to connectors as follows:

+-> cond. A (pickup +)
pickup -+->
+-> cond. E (pickup -)

Now I can buy a pickup, spend 5 minutes wiring it into a connector,
then just pop it into the guitar and have coil tapping or not.

On an easier-to-work-on guitar like a Les Paul, you could install the
connectors only in the pickup cavities since you can work on the controls
in-place. I installed the extra connector between the neck pickup and
the control network only to make it easier to pull out the control
network should I need to do so.

For this mod, I used two Actodyne General D100 pickups (Actodyne makes
Fender Lace sensors). The D100 is two AGI singlecoils in a Gibson
Humbucker-sized case. The D100 in single-coil mode seems to be a bit
grittier than the Fender Lace sensor, and sounds pretty good to my
ears. In two-coil mode, it’s hotter than in single-coil mode, of
course, but seems to have a more balanced tone, i.e., is not as “thick”-
sounding, than the stock Gibson pickup.

Hope someone finds this useful.

Dennis O’Neill deni–(at)– 703-476-5197
S-Cubed Div. Maxwell Labs 11800 Sunrise Valley Dr. #1212 Reston, Va. 22091 USA
Opinions expressed herein are my own and do not necessarily reflect
the opinions of my employer.


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