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Need some advice on pickup ring upgrade

dj335

New member
Joined
Oct 16, 2008
Messages
120
Hello all,

I have a 2005 Les Paul Classic Goltop that came with cream colored pickup rings that are the short ones, in terms of their height. I've been wanting to change them out to the taller rings, mainly because right now the bridge pickup sticks out of the stock ring quite a bit with how I've adjusted it, and I prefer the look where the pickup is flush with the end of the ring, per original vintage, and also historic reissues.

Here's a picture of my guitar showing the bridge pickup sitting up out of the ring:



So, this weekend I bought a set of Gibson Historic Spec cream colored rings, as they are the proper height I'm looking for. However, the Historic bridge pickup ring is completely flat across the bottom, and top carve of a Les Paul dictates that the pickup ring is curved across the bottom to match the curve of the top. I tried attaching the new pickup ring to my guitar, thinking that it might bend and conform to the top carve, but it just distorted the shape of the new pickup ring.

I read thru the "upgrade plastic" sticky in the Historic district, which compares the various vendors and types available, but couldn't find anything about how these fit (only about color variations).

So, my question to those of you that have done this is: Am I supposed to file and/or sand the bottom of the new ring to get it to match the curve of my guitar top, or is there another maker of pickup rings (DiMarzio, Fat Boy, etc) that will fit without any modifications?
 

Don

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 1, 2001
Messages
5,685
I would trace the curve of the original ring on the new ring and trim it with a Dremel.
 

dj335

New member
Joined
Oct 16, 2008
Messages
120
Don,

Thank you for your reply. I have a Dremel, and did consider your suggestion as a possible solution. However, I'm still interested in hearing from forum members who have done the same pickup ring swap, as to if they had to shape the new pickup ring's bottom edge, or if there is another brand available that fits out of the box, without any mods.

I've read older posts from other members about doing this, but can't remember if those posts talked about having to cut & shape the new pickup ring to the top.

If you're reading this, and have done before what I'm trying to do now, please post to this thread and share your experience with me.

Regards,
Dave in So Cal
 

Gold Tone

Active member
Joined
Apr 2, 2002
Messages
6,791
Many here have stuck 400 grit sand paper (grit up) over the pickup hole and run the ring back and forth over the paper to get the EXACT contour of the top.

Dremel works but if you are AT ALL shakey or slip just a tiny little bit.......there goes the ring.
 

dj335

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Oct 16, 2008
Messages
120
Gold Tone,

Thank you for the reply. Am I right in guessing that there is no aftermarket tall pickup rings that have a curve to them? Any pickup ring I find will have to be hand fitted?

It would be nice to have at least some curve as a starting point. The Gibson Historic Spec rings I bought are completely flat across the bottom. Did Gibson do this thinking that every guitar's top curve is different, so any replacement ring will have to be shaped by hand, and therefore needs to start out flat? Is this so the rings will fit a wide variety of vintage Les Pauls, each of which was shaped by hand at the factory from 1952 to 1960?

The stock ring that I pulled off has a built in curve to it that matches the guitar's top curve. I can't image the factory hand shaping each pickup ring to a specific guitar these days. I would think that the factory pickup rings come preshaped, and that the guitar bodies have pretty much exactly the same top carve, as they are cut/milled with a CNC machine.

Anyone else have experience with this?

Dave in So Cal
 

tuberide

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Joined
Feb 17, 2005
Messages
1,469
Pickup rings have some give and will pull into contour when screwed down. Careful though, some are more brittle than others and could crack if forced too far. Warm the rings in the sun beforehand and use your common sense. Some precontouring may be a good idea.
I have reversed black pickup rings on archtops and screwed them right down with no problem.
 

Manolian

Les Paul Froum Member
Joined
Aug 22, 2008
Messages
645
That's odd, I installed historic rings on my 2000 classic plus with absolutely no problem.

see pic:

001-6.jpg
 

Gold Tone

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Apr 2, 2002
Messages
6,791
Vintage is flat on the "deck". Historic is too but not quite as much as vintage. USA standard are not flat but curved so the rings need to be contoured to fit. Depending on the guitar you may get away with the ring shaping itslef over the curve but if the curve is extreme the ring can crack or deform.

Some aftermarket are pre-radiused.
 

Beano Geno

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Mar 12, 2007
Messages
3,631
Here's what I've always done when changing rings on historics (never had a classic). I only tighten them down until they first just snug up. Then I leave them there (even if there is a small gap) and give them an eighth turn or so in a couple months. Just don't force them down by overtightening them, a lot of them will crack. YMMV.
 

Guitar Whiskey

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Aug 10, 2006
Messages
2,734
Over the Pond or DMC rings fit historics nicely. Both have curved bottoms to match the contour on the top. I'm not sure how classics differ from historics.
 

dj335

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Oct 16, 2008
Messages
120
That's odd, I installed historic rings on my 2000 classic plus with absolutely no problem.

Manolian,

I now recall it was your post that I saw where you said that the Historic Spec rings fit your Classic without any modification. I don't think our two guitars would be that much different. However, I have noticed that my 2005 Classic has some features that seemed to have disappeared from the later Classics made from around 2000 on. In particular, mine has a one piece back (most I've seen are two-piece), and a Nashville bridge instead of an ABR like yours. The biggest difference I've seen on mine vs. other later Classics is that mine has the thin binding in the cutaway, where you can see the maple cap between the binding and the mahogany back. I've heard that the thin binding on the Classics went away in the mid-90's, yet my 2005 has it (?).

Did the Historic rings you bought have a curve to the bottom at all? I'm thinking that maybe they used to have some curve to the bottom, but the currently available ones are flat now. I'll shoot a picture of the new ring verses the stock ring, and post them to this thread later tonite.

Dave in So Cal
 

dj335

New member
Joined
Oct 16, 2008
Messages
120
Regarding my original post about how the Gibson Historic Spec pickup rings are flat across the bottom and do not fit my guitar's top carve, here are some pictures I shot tonite showing how my stock rings are curved on the bottom:

First, my stock pickup ring, rear side:



Next, the stock pickup ring front side:



And the new Historic Spec ring sitting flat on a table:



I looked at the "Over the Pond" and "DMC" rings; several hundred dollars for a pair of rings is enough to make me try to shape the new Gibson rings I bought for under $30, even if I screw them up.

So where do I go from here? Just live with my stock rings? Try to reshape them? With heat? With sandpaper? A file? A Dremel? A chainsaw? (just kidding...)

Dave in So Cal
 

Les45

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Joined
Nov 13, 2001
Messages
954
I have put the Historic rings on my Standards and Classics, and never had a problem.
Just go slow on tightening them, and they will conform to the top contour.
I also pre-drill with a small drill bit in a pin vise to deepen the mounting screw holes to accomodate the longer Historic screws.

Good luck!
 

Manolian

Les Paul Froum Member
Joined
Aug 22, 2008
Messages
645
Regarding my original post about how the Gibson Historic Spec pickup rings are flat across the bottom and do not fit my guitar's top carve, here are some pictures I shot tonite showing how my stock rings are curved on the bottom:

First, my stock pickup ring, rear side:



Next, the stock pickup ring front side:



And the new Historic Spec ring sitting flat on a table:



I looked at the "Over the Pond" and "DMC" rings; several hundred dollars for a pair of rings is enough to make me try to shape the new Gibson rings I bought for under $30, even if I screw them up.

So where do I go from here? Just live with my stock rings? Try to reshape them? With heat? With sandpaper? A file? A Dremel? A chainsaw? (just kidding...)

Dave in So Cal

The stock rings are flat in the bottom also,go ahead and just install the historics.
 

dj335

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Oct 16, 2008
Messages
120
Gold Tone,

Last Sunday evening I pulled off the bridge pickup ring to install the new Historic ring. My original ring has a curve to the bottom that matches the top curve, and of course the new Historic does not have that curve.

By what I've been hearing back from forum members, my stock pickup rings must have started out flat on the bottom, and developed the curve from being screwed onto the guitar top and the plastic relaxing into a curved shape. Therefore, I take it that the new Historic ring will eventually conform to the top curve of my guitar. Still, it seems that there should be some curve or radius cut into the new ring to start, as there is going to be a fair amount of pressure pulling down on the new ring until it "relaxes" into the proper shape. I think I'll follow Beano Geno's advice in tighening the screws a little at a time to gently force the new ring into fitting.

Thanks for all the help and advice. I didn't want to reinvent the wheel here if others have already been down this road.

Regards,
Dave in So Cal
 

erl

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Feb 18, 2019
Messages
2
My choice always is to go to a certified PRO for advice. Dan Erlwine, 50+ years experience, Blues guitarist and master luthier at StewMac has a Trade Secrets video on the subject. The rings MUST be shaped to fit the top of your Les Paul. Is it a true curve topped or violin curve topped, curved sides and flattened top. I'd want to be very good with a Dremel before going that route, have it fixed in it's bench clamped base and know what direction the wheel is turning. 1st, Trace the lines of your top onto the sides of the new ring with a pencil. place paper on the top; hold new ring in position with 2 mounting screws; I like a flat carpenter's pencil; slide pencil along top thus marking the new ring; turn ring around and repeat. If using a rotary cutter, ( variable speed Dremel,) the Dremel wheel should be turning slowly and towards the lead edge; ie: it turns counter clockwise so in it's base it will be as clockwise. Starting from right move the ring to the left, carefully watching the scribe pencil line. Wear safety glasses so you don't get dust in your eyes and lose sight of the line. Dan uses nippers to cut to the line and then abrasive paper to finish the job; finally, scraping away any burrs with a straight edge knife. BUT he's a PRO; not his first time at the dance.

Next comes the Enormously TRICKY job of reassembling the spring loaded rings to the pick ups.

Alternatively, contact a competent luthier and spend 20 - 50 bucks on your $ 4,000.00 investment. Ruin enough rings, or mar your guitar top and that's what you'll face anyway. Good luck.

Please folks, I beg you, don't give uneducated advice. I'm no guru but know my limitations.
 
Last edited:

erl

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Feb 18, 2019
Messages
2
The stock rings are flat in the bottom also,go ahead and just install the historics.
The ones you show in photo are a real bad fit; for a Custom Shop job, unbelievably bad; Boy Scout with camp axe bad. Genuine Gibson rings should cost no more than $ 15.00/pair Having that much money invested in the guitar why not take it to a recommended professional luthier. Every guitar shop has one on staff or on commission.
 

grimlyflick

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Oct 27, 2005
Messages
1,232
I have a historic ring on my 2005 Classic which I put on for the same reason you want to swap yours out, the pickup sat too high out of the stock ring for my liking.

To fit the ring I placed it on the top and screwed in each corner just enough for each screw to bite.
I then screwed each opposing corner down a little at a time until the ring had bent into shape following the arch of the top.

I found this caused very little if no distortion to the shape of the ring at all and have since used this method the great effect on my 2016 Standard also.
:salude
 
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