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  Project File:
Installing P-90s in a Gibson Melody Maker

click images to enlarge

1. This customer, Ray Bonneville, was sent to me by Gurf Morlix. Ray is a solo singer/songwriter who plays in an awesome finger-pickin' style. He uses all sorts of different tunings, slide, and an amplified board for foot stompin'! Check out his website in my Clients section.


2. He brought me this beautiful early 60's Gibson Melody Maker is really nice condition. He wanted me to install 2 P90 pickups and make a custom pickguard. We decided to go with Lindy Fralin pickups. Good choice. He also wanted stacked concentric pots so we could stick with 2 knobs and still have 2 volumes and 2 tones.

  Pickguard template

3. First I had to make a pickguard template. I made a drawing (on red paper), pasted it to the wood and then cut it out with a band saw. I cleaned it up with files and sand paper. Holes were drilled for pickguard screws, controls, and output jack.

  Pickup cavities and wire channel routed

4. I also used the pickguard template to rout the pickup cavities on the body. I routed the neck cavity 11mm deep. Only a little wood had to come out of the bridge pickup cavity, as it was already routed for the original pickup. I would have to put some blocks of wood in this cavity to raise the pickup up as the original cavity was too deep for P90s.


5. I routed a cavity for the 3-way pickup selector switch and a channel for the wires. I drilled a hole from the neck pickup cavity to the wire channel for the pickup wire. The original control cavity is just barely deep enough to accommodate the stacked pots. It's a good thing, I wouldn't want to go any deeper than it is. Melody Makers are thin guitars.

  Pickguard cut

6. Here is the new pickguard routed, drilled, and ready to go. I didn't bevel the edges because the original Melody Maker pickguards are not beveled.


7. P90 pickups are probably my favorite kind of pickups. They sound great. But since they are single coil pickups (large single coils) they have the 60 cycle hum that drives some people nuts. The severity of the hum changes from venue to venue depending on flourescent lights, radio waves, the wiring of the building, etc. Shielding the guitar will help reduce the hum. Of course, this pickup set included a reverse wind/reverse polarity pickup so the hum will be cancelled when both pickups are activated.


8. I shielded all the cavities of this guitar, and the back of the pickguard, with copper tape. I bought the tape from Stew-Mac. The adhesive on the back of the tape is conductive so I don't have to solder seams. I still check with my multi-meter to make sure and sometimes do have to solder some seams. I also wrapped the pickups with the tape.


9. Next I had to wire it all together. I used a right-angle pickup switch, shielded wiring, and orange drop capacitors. I used cable ties to keep the wiring nice and tidy.

  Lookin' Good

10. And then I just buttoned her up and set it up according to the specs I recorded from Ray's other guitars. He wanted this one set up for open C# tuning.

It sounded awesome! Those pickups sound so big and round. Lindy is the man!


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