The customer was commenting on how badly it squealed under medium gain conditions, with the bridge pup being the worst offender. The guitar had been hot-rodded years ago via a well known So. CA guitar wizard, very similar to the Gibson Jimmy Page signature model LP with all the push/pull pots.
So the task was to recreate the problem in the shop and isolate tweedy bird. We figured there were a number of solutions and questions. Were the pickups potted, was the cover loose, was it a cold solder joint, bad pot, etc? Potting a pickup to me is a last case scenario because it will alter your tone and you will loose some of that VHF (Vertical Hair Factor) but if it’s a microphonic cover issue you can remedy that with a piece of double stick tape (or a small amount of melted wax) between the pickup bobbins and cover, then soldering the cover into place.
So we fired up a haystack of gain and righteous volume and that baby squealed like a pig. Suey! First we did a quick pot cleaning but saw no improvement. Next we pulled the bridge pup cover off, again tested and nothing. I started twirling on the pots to see what else could be going on. I quickly noticed that turning the tone pots down from 10 to 9 immediately got rid of tweedy. We were able to get away with replacing the two tone pots and re-install his humbucker covers that housed a set of original Gibson T-tops
Just goes to show that when pots wear out they may not always sound scratchy and can sometimes exhibit other odd behavior. In this situation we opted for a set of RS Guitarworks 500K push/pull pots with their 3/8” diameter shaft that retrofit perfectly into a stock Gibson hole, versus many of the other smaller shaft push pull pots out there, in which you would need hole reducers to install properly without damaging the pot.
I will be married by the time you read this but that’s not the nuts I’m talking about (ha!). There’s a variety of nut materials and suppliers available, but what material do you use and why? Beauty, tuning stability, wear factors, maintenance, tone, cost, etc, all play a part in making this choice. If I could only choose one, tuning stability would be it hands down, with tone a close second.
To me, bone has always been the tone reference benchmark, but now that I’ve been using it consistently for the past year, I want to go back to Delrin. One thing people always loved about my original Baker models was that they stayed in tune wonderfully using standard Grover non-locking tuners. The truth of the matter is it’s all in the nut material, Delrin. It’s a very slick material often used for making crazy glue bottles because nothing likes to stick to it, also found in NASCAR suspension parts.
I buy it in a square foot sheet, 3/16” thick for Gibson or 1/8” for Fender nut-like guitars. It’s available in a variety of shapes from dowel, sheet, cubes, etc; white is the primary color, but it’s also available in black. For the most part it’s easy to work with using a belt sander or bandsaw to do your rough work. Slotting the stuff is a little trickier than say a bone nut – it cuts slowly with files, since it’s so slick and is impossible to repair with Delrin or bone dust if you slot too deep. Why? Nothing sticks to it, although a few drops of crazy glue will hold it in position just fine when installing the nut into a nut slot (the rare case where glue works). When I see a Delrin nut all polished up, it looks like a good ole vintage nut from a ‘59 LP, which was pretty stark white with aged lacquer all over it. That’s what I love about bone nuts – they polish very well and look like a shiny tooth. But if you get any stain on it during raw wood prep, bone is unforgiving; with Delrin, light sanding or scraping and it’s clean as a whistle again. Tusk is available through Graph Tech, and is the closest thing to Delrin I have found with equaled results. Tonewise, Delrin and Tusk will have slightly dulled highs but I think even the most finicky of ears will quickly appreciate its inherent tuning superiority and override any micro tone issues. At $17 a sheet you can slice a sheet into roughly 144 nuts.
There are other alternatives, including graphite – which sounds fine but wears quickly – brass, real fossilized ivory, various shells, Corian, and other synthetic materials. There is abalone sheeting available, which can be crazy glued onto bone nuts in sections, sanded and polished for a stunning appearance if you need an art piece.
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