Quantcast Ryan's Guitars: Gibson R7 Black Beauty Les Paul Historic Gets New Electronics Kit and WCR Pickups

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Gibson R7 Black Beauty Les Paul Historic Gets New Electronics Kit and WCR Pickups

I recently posted about a lovely Gibson R7 Black Beauty Les Paul Historic I added to my growing collection of Les Pauls. This is a wonderful guitar that plays beautifully and has a great sound. Even just strumming around on it unplugged the tone is loud and rich. However, I have never been a big fan of stock Gibson electronics and the stuff in this guitar was especially bad. It just had to go!

Since I had some WCR pickups lying around (a Darkburst bridge and a Crossroads neck) that were not being used for anything it made perfect sense to pop them in. But, these particular pickups have double black bobbins and chrome screws and slugs. I knew I wanted to keep the gold hardware consistent on this guitar so I called Jim Wagner of WCR Pickups and inquired about gold screws and covers. Jim, who is a very nice and helpful guy, confirmed that they sold the gold parts I needed and assured me that installing new screws in the pickups was a safe operation that would not damage the internal windings. While I was ordering I decided to stray this once and try one of Jim's wiring kits instead of my usual favorite, the RS GuitarWorks Vintage kit.

Once the parts arrived I got to work installing the gold screws and covers on the WCR Darkburst and Crossroads pickups. Nothing could have been easier! The quality of materials that Jim uses in his pickups is quite evident once you start taking them apart. :) Nice thick, heavy bobbin plastic, high quality screws/slugs and heavy gauge lead wires are a big part of why his pickups are so good. Once I got the screws in I used some putty to dampen the covers before installing them on the pickups so they don't squeal when played on a high gain amplifier at volume. With the pickups ready, it was time to gut the old electronics and install the WCR kit.

I now build Les Paul kits outside the guitar using a piece of card board with holes punched in it to accommodate the potentiometers. This gives you free access to the parts when soldering and you don't burn your guitar in the process. :) Once I had as much of the harness wired up as possible on the cardboard I slipped it into the guitar and finished the job by wiring up the bridge ground, switch leads and the pickups to the harness. One thing I don't like about the WCR kit is the lack of switch, jack and wire. For about the same price as an RS GuitarWorks complete kit you don't get those extras. Something to keep in mind in the future, because this guitar probably could have used a better switch, jack and high quality braided wire. I'll likely put those things in at a later date.

Another thing I did on this guitar was to fix the bridge radius. Gibson never seems to get this right. A Les Paul has a 12" neck radius, but the string slots in the bridge saddles were not cut properly so the strings did not follow the curvature of the neck. Since the D string was the lowest I used it as a starting point and reslotted the other saddles to create a perfectly radiused bridge.

I have some locking Grover tuners on order, which will complete this gem. I love this guitar and the new electronics and pickups really do sound great. It's just classic Les Paul, through and through and it doesn't get any better than that!

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