Misery en Place

Need to stuff one of these into a 345? Don't do it. Step away from the work area and call your local repair guy.

Usually, I really enjoy working on the guitars I get but sometimes it gets away from me. Everybody knows what a pain it is to pull a 335 harness but if you’ve ever pulled a 345 harness, done a repair (broken cap in this case) and tried to stuff all that stuff back in, then you know frustration. Maybe the reason they originally put the caps in the shielding cans is so you could put the harness back in without breaking the legs off a bumblebee type or black beauty cap like you find in 335s. Then, today, I was putting together an SG that I built from a husk using the bottomless parts bin. There isn’t very much thats original other than the plastic on it but everything is vintage correct. Let’s see how many things I can do wrong. I got everything back together without incident-the pickups had been uncovered but I had an almost matching pair of nickel covers, so I carefully soldered them on and hooked everything up. I plugged it into my “office” amp (55 Deluxe) and it sounded great on the bridge, great on the neck and…oops…out of phase. So, I had to unsolder one of the covers to flip one of the magnets. I chose the neck because its a patent number and if I was going to fry one of the pickups I didn’t want it to be the PAF. Of course I tried to do this without unsoldering the pickup from the harness. Bad idea. And my initial soldering job on the cover was a thing of beauty. So, after making a pretty good mess of the solder (and the edges of the cover, I got them back off and unscrewed the slug coil and loosened the polepiece coil and slid out the magnet and flipped it over. Now I knew they had to be in phase so I cleaned up the solder mess and resoldered the cover. Beautiful again (lucky). Then I put the pickup back in (putting the ring on backwards the first time) and tuned ‘er back up. Heaven. Then I saw the maple spacer on the floor. It must have slid out with the magnet and I didn’t see it. Well, I thought I could probably leave it but I hate to do anything that isn’t complete and correct, sooo out came the soldering iron again. So, another round of trying to unsolder a well attached cover without frying the pickup and it wasn’t easy (again). I used my little squeeze thing to suck up the excess solder but the excess solder kept falling down between the pickup and the cover. Whyizzit you can never get the damn solder to stick to the pickup and cover when you want it to but when you don’t, it sticks like white on rice. So, after a lot of jamming stuff between the pickup and the cover while heating the area with the hot soldering iron (you need four hands to do this), I finally got the thing off. Once again, I opened it up and, YIKES, the spacer is in there. It must have been the other pickup. If I had a gun, I would have shot the guitar. So, I go to take off the other pickup when I just stop. I hadn’t  opened the other one (the PAF) up. I need a break or my brain is going to explode. It happens that I had been resoldering the lead wire on an old T-top that I had in my old Robin Ranger (actually my sons guitar) yesterday and hadn’t put it back together yet. So, I went back to it. And I’m putting the bobbins back in place and the magnet and I can’t find the spacer. Boi-oi-oing. The lightbulb over my head goes on and I realize that the spacer on the floor was from the T-top and not the PAF. My wife gave me the moral of the fable.  When you’re working on anything that has a bunch of little parts, have them all together in a little dish or container of some sort. There’s a cooking term called  mise en place which roughly translates to everything in its place. It means have all the components and utensils at hand when you start cooking. Well, it applies to guitar tinkering as well. Have everything organized before you start your project-all the parts in their place and all the tools you’ll need to complete the job right in front of you. A word of caution-mise en place will do you absolutely no good if you’re trying to get a 345 harness back into a 345. A shot of Jack (or other similarly strong beverage) will help you a lot more. It won’t help you get the harness in but you’ll feel better about your failure. Oh, and the other moral of the story? Don’t solder the pickup covers on until you know everything is done right.

The SG turned out real nice but I was moments from throwing it out a window.

2 Responses to “Misery en Place”

  1. Steve Newman says:

    Have been following and enjoying your blog/posts for several months now. Still hoping for an early ’62 in the 51xxx serial number range. Having been inside more 335 family Gibsons than I can remember, I definitely feel your pain! A couple of secrets to getting them back together (especially 345/355 w/varitone/stereo) is to use a combination of nylon fishing line tied to the components to help guide them back into their respective holes/positions and a variety of old used long medical forceps. These can be bent to help get around obstructions when needed. As for the pickup covers, I like to zip thru the solder joint with the thinnest cutting wheel on a Dremel type tool, being careful to only cut the solder. After the repairs and you reattach the cover, heat the original solder and it will flow back together beautifully, still looking like the factory joint! Use a soldering iron with a high enough wattage to really flow the solder, quickly. Hope this helps in your future tinkering!

  2. OK Guitars says:

    Hi Steve
    I know the Dremel trick but I was at my office and my tools were mostly at home. You know how you just plan to do the preliminary stuff and before you know it you’re up to your elbows in wires….it just got away from me. My father was a surgeon and I grabbed all of his forceps when he retired. they are extremely useful for grabbing the pots and jack once they are in place below the holes. I tried the plastic tubing trick that seemed so clever and it didn’t work (way too bulky). I’ve used string which is a little easier to handle than fishline. These tricks are great for a 335 but a 345 is just too much crap going into too little space. Never again.

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