ES 345 to ES-335 Circuit

Modify this? Are you out of your fu...oh, hello. Below is a post about how to turn your 345 into a 335. Don't do it if you have a red 59 like this one.

I’ve avoided writing this post for nearly two years because I don’t like to modify guitars but just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean you aren’t going to do it anyway and you might as well do it right. In addition to your ES-345, this also applies for rewiring a stereo ES-355. Before you do anything, ask yourself what you don’t like about your 345. Can’t deal with the stereo? Don’t like the Varitone? Think the Varitone is sucking all the tone out of your guitar? Don’t like the added weight? If the stereo aspect bothers you but you still find the Varitone useful, just have the guitar rewired for mono, keeping the Varitone in the circuit. You can eliminate a bunch of weight by removing one of the two chokes (inductors) as well. Just save the parts because the next guy might want it put back to stereo. Changing the guitar to mono isn’t simply a matter of swapping out the jack. The pickups in a stereo guitar are wired to the three way instead of the volume pots, so you have to rewire them to make the controls work as expected. Also, the pickups in a stereo guitar are out of phase with each other. Reversing phase in most situations just means reversing a wire but in this case, we’re talking about magnetic phase. Reversing the wire to one pickup won’t fix it. So here’s the bad part…You’ll have to take the cover off one of the pickups-I would suggest the neck pickup since it is easier to remove from the guitar-and flip over the magnet. To do this, you would partially unscrew the four philips screws on the bottom and  also loosen the pole piece screws. That should loosen up the bobbins to the point where the magnet (and the wooden spacer) will probably drop right out. If it falls out then you have a problem because you won’t know how it was oriented to begin with and you literally won’t know which end is up. So, take your time and hold the pickup so that you can slip the magnet out. If it’s stuck, there’s usually enough sticking out that you can grab it with a pair of needlenose pliers and pull it out. Once out, flip it over-top to bottom like a pancake-not end to end. Tighten all the screws and put the cover back on and don’t forget the maple spacer-it probably fell out. If you decide you don’t like the stereo AND you don’t like the Varitone, then you may want to wire it like a 335. You could modify the harness but I would suggest not doing that because when it comes time to sell the guitar, the buyer might want a stock 345 and he won’t want yours unless the mod can be easily and cheaply reversed. The simple solution is to remove the entire harness and the chokes. They come out easily but they don’t go back in easily. Take my word for it. Get a pre built 335 harness from RS, Mojotone or Dr. Vintage. Mojotone is the cheapest but they are a little fragile. Dr. Vintage is the most robust but its also the most expensive. All sound good. Remove the stereo VT harness including the VT switch and choke. Put it somewhere safe, like the case pocket. Install the 335 type harness as per the instructions. I suggest putting a dummy switch in the Varitone hole or plugging it with something removable. The ring and chickenhead look pretty cool if you ask me and I would leave them attached to whatever dummy switch you put in there. It could also be a dummy pot or even something functional. Your guitar will still look like a 345, it just won’t sound like one.  If you want a stereo guitar but not a Varitone, then you have a very simple option-you can simply disconnect or remove the choke from the circuit and the VT will cease to function. Good mod or bad? You can decide that. I like my 345s to be 345s and my 335s to be 335s. If I could only have one guitar on a desert island (that had electricity and a Fender tweed of some sort-preferably a big loud 2 channel one), I’d go with a 59 or 60 ES-345 but that’s just me. Want to learn more about varitones? Go here. It was written by my friend and resident tech guru, Chris Wargo. If you want to go totally geek, then read this one too.



5 Responses to “ES 345 to ES-335 Circuit”

  1. RAB says:

    Yes, don’t touch that insanely rare and beautiful red 1959 345! I had he sibling to that one…one of the finest ES guitars I’ve ever played!

  2. OK Guitars says:

    That’s red 345 number one by the way. Lowest serial number of the known five. I bought it from the nephew of the original owner who was a pro player out of Utica, NY. I should have kept that one.

  3. RAB says:

    Yes, an absolutely gorgeous git-fiddle. I also had an early red ’59 ES-345, S/N A3141X…I should have kept that one as well as my early Sunburst 345 S/N A2963X…it had the largest neck profile of any ’59 Gibson I’ve ever played (and I LIKE a BIG NECK!) but ya know how that goes, eh?

  4. Rea Mochiach says:

    Hi- Id like advice as to how to “monofy” my ’69 ES-345 and still keep the Varitone for Mono operation of the guitar. Thanks!

  5. cgelber says:

    Making a mono Varitone 345 requires fairly substantial rewiring. One pickup needs to be opened and the magnet flipped, the pickup leads need to be removed from the three way and soldered to the volume pots. The three way then needs to be rewired as stock mono and the VT leads have to be moved and one side disabled. I think that’s it. There’s a mono schematic somewhere on the internet. I don’t do this myself-it’s just too much work. There are folks who specialize in this mod.

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