i have a les paul and i wanted to take the pickup rings off because i plan on makin new ones out of wood soon. i know how it screws to the body but it looks like i need to take the pickups out as well to get it off. were do i start?
Start with the four screws in the corners, the ones in the center are for the pickups. Once you take the screws in the corners out it will be pretty obvious what to do. Just be careful not to jerk them or you might break the solder connections.
but the pickups are spring loaded and the pickup screws go thru the rings. im afraid that i wont be able to put the pickups back in afterwords
I've taken out spring loaded pickups before, most are. It's not too hard to put them back, just put the spring around the screw and then into the pickup. If you don't think you'll be able to, then maybe you shouldn't take them out, but I tell you: it's pretty easy.
just be careful that the spring doesnt fly off when you take it on/off...I hate it when that happens
theres a slight problem. now the the pickup ring is off, theres nothing to hold the pickups in place! how can i secure it withou tthe ring or do i need to put rings back on anyway?
You can direct mount it, where you screw the pickup to the body through the tab that the pickup ring screw/spring went through, other than that you need a mounting ring.

WHy did you take them out if you don't have replacements?
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i wanted to see how it would look without them. no im trying to put them back in without taking the strings off. major pain in the ass.