Guts. Glory.

Most ES models still have their original harnesses and that’s a good thing. There’s a good reason for this. It’s just too much effort to get them out and put them back in. I can’t imagine how many tinkerers have stopped dead in their tracks when they were about to mod their 335 when they see that the harness has to come out through the f-hole. I’ve had some heavily modded beaters come through here. Busted necks, refins, nearly every part changed but almost all of them seem to have their original harness. Even after Gibson decided to cut the centerblock to eliminate the need to load the harness through the f-hole, it’s still no picnic. Let’s see what’s actually in there. Well, of course there are 4 500K pots-usually Centralab (134 code) in the early ones (up to 63 or so), then CTS (137) in later 63 and throughout the 60’s. They always have the pointers and there is often a lock washer that goes between the pot and the top of the guitar. The 64 harness below is missing its lock washers. There are also two capacitors that are .22 µF in value. You’ll normally find Sprague bumblebees up until around 61 or 62 and Sprague black beauties after that. Early bees are paper in oil, later ones are not. I don’t think it makes much difference but there are those who do. There is also a mono jack made by Switchcraft and a 3 way switch, also made by Switchcraft. The housing of a 335 three way will be steel while a gold hardware ES will have a brass housing. The harness shown has a lot of plastic insulation which is typical by 64. Earlier ones don’t have it except (sometimes) over the wire leading to the jack. I’m sure Gibson added the insulation after getting complaints of the braid wires shorting out the three way-which happens all the time in older 335s. That’s also why you often see electrical tape wrapped around the three way, which is not factory.

This one is out of a 64. Sometimes they have a lock washer the goes between the guitar's top and the pot and sometimes they don't.

The harness in a 345 or stereo 355 is different. And if you think it’s tough to remove and reinstall a 335 harness, wait ’til you try to stuff a Varitone in there. You’ll try once and then gladly pay your local luthier anything he wants to do it for you. I’ve probably pulled 50 335 harnesses but only one 345 harness. Never again. The stereo harness has a few extra elements. Of course, it has a stereo jack and it has the 6 way Varitone switch which we’ve discussed at length elsewhere. There are also three shielding cans-one over each pot except the tone pot for the bridge pickup. The reason there is no shielding can on the that pot? Simple-she’s a no-fit. The tone pot is too close to the edge of the guitar. Nice design, boys. The stereo harness also has a bunch of extra wires going to and from (and grounding) the choke which is a transformer for the Varitone circuit. The choke is mounted under the bridge pickup. The capacitors are inside the shielding cans and are those cheap disc type. Again, I don’t think it makes much difference. Another interesting thing to note is that the pickups are soldered directly to the three way in a stereo 355 or 345. In a 335 they are soldered to the volume pot. Here’s a little secret..if you need to swap a pickup in a 345, you don’t have to pull the harness (or cut the lead wires). Just pull the three way out through the f-hole and you can do it with the harness still in the guitar. There are actually two totally separate circuits in there and it’s pretty versatile. I can’t understand why so many people want to convert these to mono. It’s not a complicated circuit and it’s pretty easy to work on a guitar harness-especially in a guitar like an SG or Les Paul that has an access panel. But, for sheer tear out your hair frustration, there’s nothing like trying to get 4 pots, 2 big ol’ capacitors, a three way and a jack out through an f-hole without trashing the finish. The only thing harder is getting all of that plus a Varitone switch back into the guitar.

This is a stereo harness from a 345. You really want to stuff this through that little cutout under the bridge pickup? Didn't think so.

2 Responses to “Guts. Glory.”

  1. RAB says:

    Charlie, thank goodness most of us ES owners rarely have to deal with the wiring harness! I have sprayed a shot of Deoxit 5 down the shaft of a scratchy potentiometer from time to time but that is about it! And curses on those who have resorted to cutting a panel in the back of their ES to gain wiring access!

  2. David King says:

    Thanks for the heads up on the 345 wiring. I just got a mint 68 in today to be restored to stereo after 3 decades in mono. I have a vague memory of doing a complete rewiring of one before but it must be a little like giving birth, I only have a dim fuzzy about it now. I’m sure that’s about to change.

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