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Uh, Oh. Don’t Go in There

Here's a '60 335 harness with bumblebees and Centralab pots. Some don't have as much plastic shielding. Some only have it between the jack and the tone pot.

Nope. We aren’t doing a slasher movie where you know that the girlfriend is going to get sliced and diced when she goes out to the garage to get a beer from the fridge (usually after a toss with the hot boyfriend). We’re actually going to talk about the thing that separates the tinkers from the pros. The harness. The reason most 335s still have their original harnesses is because most of us just don’t want to deal with getting the darn thing back in there. There are methods for doing just this all over the internet-in fact, I think I may have linked one somewhere along the way. None of them work that well. The string method, the plastic tube method, the forceps and the chopstick all fail at some level especially when you’re dealing  with an early 335 that doesn’t have the cutout in the center block. I’m not even going to mention the stereo harnesses (345/355) here. That’s a whole ‘nother post. Recently I got an absolutely wonderful ’60 dot neck that looked and sounded like a million bucks. As usual, I take the guitar apart to make sure everything is as described (by the seller and by me. the dealer). It’s pretty simple, really…Unstring it, remove the pickups and check the solder and the stickers, turn over the bridge to check the markings, do the same with the stoptail. Unscrew the thumbwheels to make sure no holes are under there, unscrew at least one tuner and check that the bushings are tight–you know, the usual stuff. The other thing i do is stick a flashlight in there to make sure the harness is correct. If all the wires are the proper braid (two strands per braid) , then I usually take a dental mirror and check as many pots as I can. It’s tough enough to read the numbers when the

This is a 7 digit Centralab from 1961. Let's see you read that with a dental mirror while it's still in the guitar. Thanks to Kyle and Chad at Vintage Correct Parts for this and the next photo.

harness is out but even tougher when you have to read them backwards in the mirror and completely impossible if they’re Centralabs-you know the ones with the microscopic numbers on the side. If anything looks suspect, out comes the harness. That’s what happened with the 60. It had white plastic wires between the pots, although the pickup wires were the correct braid. When there’s a cutout in the center block, it’s pretty easy-the whole thing just slides out but most of the guitars I get don’t have the cutout. The cutout really doesn’t become common until 64, although it exists as early as 61. I’ve had a non cutout block as late as 65. Getting it back in is a different story. But without the cutout, the whole thing has to come out the f-hole. Now I know why they’re called f-holes. To get a pot through the f-hole, you have to angle it just so-like getting a sofa through a narrow doorway. Then, do it again and again and again being careful not to break off the caps (which should be the big ones -bumblebees or black beauties). Also, be careful not to break the ground wire because if you do, there is no good way to fix it without some pretty major surgery if you break it off at the end that goes to the stop tail stud. So, out came the 60 harness and sure enough, the pots were dated 1985 and said “DiMarzio”. Of course, I didn’t have a 60 harness on hand, so I either had to wait to find one or stuff the harness back in if I wanted to play the guitar before it went off to its new owner once I found him the proper harness. But what’s a proper harness? It gets pretty tricky but if you pay attention to the date codes, you have a good chance of getting things right. Gibson used Centralab pots (no shielding cans on a 335-they don’t fit through the f-holes) up until around 1962 and then CTS after that. You can tell by the code and the placement of the code which one you have. A Centralab will have the code on the side and it will start with the numbers 134. A CTS will have the code on the back (and it will usually be obscured by solder) and will start with 137. Those are the only two brands I’ve seen on a 335. Then there’s the 6 digit code and the 7 digit code. It’s generally assumed that after 1960 the 7 digit code was used. So a pot that is numbered 134043 will be a Centralab from the 43rd week of 1960. One with the code 1376302 will be a CTS from the second week of 1963. Pretty simple actually. The jack of a 335 shouldn’t have the shielding housing around it on a 335-again, it won’t fit through the f-hole. You find those on archtops mostly and I’ve seen them in 345s. The three-way should be say switchcraft on the frame and should be silver colored and not brass in a 335 and be the vertical type. The wires that run from the lugs should be yellow cloth impregnated with some plastic like substance. OK, so you got the harness out and everything checks out as it should. Now you have to get it back in there without breaking any solder. Here’s a link to help you. That link is for the rubber tubing method which I don’t use because the tubes get in each others way. I use the string method where you use a piece of twine instead of the rubber tube. I told you not to go in there.

This is a photo I grabbed off Ebay of a 65 which looks pretty much like a 62-64. Those are CTS pots and the proper Switchcraft 3 way.

9 Responses to “Uh, Oh. Don’t Go in There”

  1. I’ve had to do this operation far too many times to recount. 335s are easy compared to the nightmare that is the Chet Atkins Tennessean! The method I find works best for me is, instead of tubes or twine, a length of high-quality wire.

    At the shop where I work, not only do we do guitar and amp repair, but we also produce our own line of pedals. The wire we use in these pedals is thicker than the kind you might find on an overseas-made guitar, and of a far sturdier constitution. I usually cut a piece the length of my forearm, then strip the wire about 1″ from its end. For the pots, I wrap the wire around the shaft, then through the split in the middle. Works brilliantly for me!

    As for the jacks, I usually wrap the same stripped bit of wire around the tongue. Because it doesn’t normally take too much force to re-set the jack, the wire pulls off with just a bit more pressure.

  2. Thierry says:

    Hi Charles !!!

    Thats’s another great post ! Bravo !!!

    Thierry from France

  3. OK Guitars says:

    Thanks Thierry.

  4. OK Guitars says:

    I’ll try anything. the twine works OK once you get it from the jack hole to the f-hole but the wire idea is a good one. I’ve actually used bailing wire when I had no twine but it’s kind of rough on the edges of the f-hole if you aren’t careful. The plastic tube idea is kind of clever but doesn’t actually work that well through the f-holes.

  5. Michael says:

    I’ve tried several different things. I usually use surgical tubing now. It grips the pot shafts firmly, but pulls off easily, and doesn’t scratch anything. It also inserts thru the output jack hole and grips the “tongue” of the jack too.

  6. Steve Newman says:

    Very good post! Have used all the previously stated methods with success….here’s one more. Small diameter, low lb. test weight nylon fishing line, or even old used plain nylon guitar strings run through the access holes. They can be tied or even lightly super glued to the tops of the pot shafts, depending on the orientation of the wiring harness. No scratches, extremely flexible yet strong. After re-installation, the line can be untied or easily popped off if glued. Be VERY careful of the ground wire running to the stop tail or trapeze/Bigsby. Charlie, thanks and keep up the great, informative posts!

  7. OK Guitars says:

    Don’t you find the tubes get in each others way-that there isn’t enough room in there to accommodate all of them. i’ve had some success using the tubing for the jack and tone pots and just fiddling the volumes and three way into place. I also have the patience of a gnat.

  8. greg wong says:

    Is the wireing different on a 335 that has the cans installed?

  9. OK Guitars says:

    No. The only difference is the capacitors. The 335s had bumblebee or black beauty caps and the 345s and 355s with cans had the tiny disk caps because they fit into the cans.

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