Premier Guitar

Restoring an Original: Potentiometer Restoration, Pt. 2

March 15, 2011
Last month, we started an unusual project—restoring a vintage IRC pot that had originally been installed on a stunning 1954 Gibson Les Paul. This pot had been replaced with a modern unit, but for many collectors, having an instrument with 100 percent original parts is important. And, as we discussed at length in Pt. 1 of this series, it’s a fact that vintage guitars from the ’50s and ’60s have some of the highest-quality potentiometers ever made. Why wouldn’t you want the best for a ’54 Les Paul? We left off with a description of how—after carefully positioning the pot in a vise with padded jaws—I’d pried open the case using a mini screwdriver. In this description, I explained how to avoid leaving any visible micro pressure marks around the four tabs.



Now, let’s resume the project: Once I’d removed the chassis cap and aluminum retainer clip, I could see that solder had bled onto the wipers (Photo 1). Fortunately, the solder did not adhere because of lubricants surrounding the internal parts.

But this was only one of two problems. The other was that the brass shaft was still locked in place. To free it, I used a StewMac deadblow fretting hammer and a punch to lightly tap the brass shaft loose. It looked to me like some form of glue or fossilization had taken place. I carefully removed the substance using acetone and Q-tips (Photo 2).

At that point, I lubed, cleaned, and reassembled everything. While reassembling the pot, I used a StewMac nut-and-saddle vise—which is ideal for simple, non-aggressive tasks—to hold it. I doublestuck Mylar cheeks to the vise jaws to avoid scratching the chassis.

For the final step, I soldered lug 1 to the chassis to ground it. I then used a glue brush to apply a solution that gave the solder an aged appearance (Photo 3). Voilà—a restored ’54 pot ready for duty in the ’54 Les Paul!


John Brown is the inventor of the Fretted/Less bass. He owns and operates Brown’s Guitar Factory, a guitar manufacturing, repair, and restoration facility staffed by a team of talented luthiers. His guitar-tool and accessory designs are used by builders all over the world. Visit brownsguitarfactory.com or email John at info@brownsguitarfactory.com.