#1
Alrighty, so you have a pickup that you love, but it is only 2-conductor. You wanna get some fancy wiring going but can't or don't want to spend a small fortune on the 4-wire version of the same pickup. You've come to the right place.

Before I go on, I should mention that if your pickup has a tap (3 wires plus a bare wire) then you don't need to do this. A 3-wire pickup can do everything that a 4-wire pickup can do, with the exception of phase-reversing the individual coils (which you wouldn't want to do anyway).

Disclaimer: Perform this procedure at your own risk. It's not that difficult and usually not the most delicate area of pickup surgery, but it's still very possible to ruin a nice pickup if you aren't careful. I am not responsible for ANY damages to your gear. Practice on junk pickups. I recommend reading this entire post to get an idea of the big picture before you go at it step-by-step.

Tools you'll need:
*Soldering iron and solder (a 100W gun to remove the cover, if the pickup has one, and a 15W pencil to solder the wires)
**If you have a decent variable-temperature controlled soldering station (for example, I have a Weller WESD51), you won't need a high-powered soldering gun. A cheapo iron has the heater in the shaft, making it impossible to keep the heat around long enough to work on big areas. A good iron has the heater near the tip, right where you need it. The difference is like night and day.
*A DMM (digital multimeter) to make sure the pickup still has continuity when you're done
*A small-diameter 4+shield cable, length to your preference (USB cables are perfect)
*A tapered reamer to enlarge the hole in the mounting bracket if it is too small for the cable
*A small file to deburr the reamed hole to prevent it from cutting through the cable
*A screwdriver to remove the screws holding on the bobbins and (if it's a Gibson) the screw poles
*1/8" heat-shrink tubing to insulate the leads after you solder them to the cable
*3/16" heat-shrink tubing to protect the cable where it comes through the hole in the bracket

If the pickup has a cover you'll need to remove it and carefully remove the block of wax encasing the bobbins. Holding it near a heat source (like a light bulb) will soften the wax making it easier to work with.

Next, remove the tape around the bobbins and the screws holding the pickup to the bracket. If it's a Gibson pickup, you also need to remove the screw pole pieces enough to clear the holes in the bracket; Gibson threads their screw pole pieces through the mounting bracket to reduce feedback and vibration.

Desolder the bare wire from the bracket. Here's a Gibson 490R completely disassembled.


Before you continue, draw a diagram showing what went where. It'd also help to mark the magnet (for example, I marked it with a silver sharpie on the side facing the slug coil and a black sharpie on the high-E string side). Doing this helps to keep the polarity of the magnet the same if it isn't glued to the bracket. It would suck to get this thing put back together and wired up only to find out that the pickup sounds like crap because the coil and magnet polarities are out-of-phase. The Gibson color code is:

Red: North Start (signal wire)
White: North Finish
Green: South Finish (connect White and Green for standard humbucker wiring)
Black: South Start (ground wire)

The slug coil is referred to as North and the screw coil as South, regardless of whether the pickup is for the neck or bridge position.

Right, so this pickup has long lead wires that are soldered together and taped; they're great to work with. Some pickups have very short wires that lead from inside one coil to inside the other. These are more difficult to work with. If you have the latter variety, cut the series link in the middle and strip back some insulation by heating it with the iron. If it's the former, simply remove the tape and desolder the leads and the braided wire.

Now to prepare the new 4-wire cable. USB cables are perfect for this. Strip about 3/4" off the outer insulation, separate the bare braid, grab the strands and twist them together and tin only the tip (the braid needs to be a bit flexible). This part will be soldered to the bracket. There may also be a foil shield; unwrap it and tear it off. Now strip a bit off each of the 4 conductors, twist their strands together, and tin them.


Time for the fun part. Always remember that humbucker coils are wired in series. The signal goes to the start of the first coil. The finish of both coils are connected together. The start of the other coil is ground. Making a drawing and knowing this, it's easy to properly wire the pickup in-phase. Remember to solder the bare wire to the bracket; this is very important, because if the bracket is magnetic and is left ungrounded then it will increase the pickup's inductance and cause it to sound dark and muddy.

Now do the other coil and heat-shrink the solder joints to keep them from shorting to each other and re-assemble the pickup. Find a place to tuck the wires. I prefer to apply the heat-shrink after I've soldered the leads. This makes the short wires easier to deal with and makes it easy to remove the heat-shrink later without damage if repairs are needed. Note: I didn't have any heat-shrink tubing when I was doing this pickup. The wax everywhere prevents electrical tape from sticking so it's basically useless here.


Re-apply the coil tape (or use new tape if you have any).


If the pickup had a cover, just solder it back on and re-pot it to encase the pickup in wax.

That's it. Now you can wire it any way you want. With some practice, this becomes much less intimidating. I've done this conversion for several people in the past (some were even UGers) and have repaired a number pickups with old worn-out cables or cables that were too short due to being installed into multiple guitars over time. It's a very useful skill to have.
Last edited by Invader Jim at Jul 6, 2016,
#3
Good Tut Jim I might do this with my BC's pup its only the standard two wire hookup.
Hearing about a pair of great boobs is like hearing about a really cool bug or lizard as a kid and you just gotta see it.
#6
No Jim its just the crappy BC pup that came with my Bc the Lawrence is in the Sl i got from you.
Hearing about a pair of great boobs is like hearing about a really cool bug or lizard as a kid and you just gotta see it.
#7
Awesome, I've got 490s in my SG and I've always wanted to do something cool with that thing. Its on the list.
Member of the official GB&C "Who to Listen to" list
Quote by handbanana
wiliscool is just plain dumb
#8
Great tutorial Jim! I ought to try this on the no-name 'buckers I banished from my LP copy.
#9
There was a really in depth one on here, but its probably buried somewhere in the depths of the archives, I couldnt find it when I searched. I guess it was about time for a new one then...
#10
This is pretty cool Jim, nice Tut as well.
Quote by Invader Jim
The questions people ask here makes me wonder how the TS's dress themselves in the morning and can shower without drowning...
#11
Quote by livrockdie
There was a really in depth one on here, but its probably buried somewhere in the depths of the archives, I couldnt find it when I searched. I guess it was about time for a new one then...

There was another tut, but I couldn't find it. I had gotten a couple of questions and I searched for the link but never found it. May have ended up getting deleted. Anyway I was tired of saying the same thing over and over so I made this one anyway.
#12
Nice man.
Great tutorial
I might have to use this sometime
Quote by letsgocoyote
No I'm not Jesus. I would aspire to be though. I think under circumstances he would let you pay less if you needed to.
#13
Quote by Invader Jim
There was another tut, but I couldn't find it. I had gotten a couple of questions and I searched for the link but never found it. May have ended up getting deleted. Anyway I was tired of saying the same thing over and over so I made this one anyway.
Le Guru de Search found this:
Splitting 2 conductor p'up+wax potting tutorial---WITH LIKE 50 PICTURES!!!
but maybe that wasn't the same one you were thinking of...
Meadows
Quote by Jackal58
I release my inner liberal every morning when I take a shit.
Quote by SK8RDUDE411
I wont be like those jerks who dedicate their beliefs to logic and reaosn.
#15
Indeed it is, Jim.
Now all ya gotta do is trim down the bloody pics to 640px wide or less.
Meadows
Quote by Jackal58
I release my inner liberal every morning when I take a shit.
Quote by SK8RDUDE411
I wont be like those jerks who dedicate their beliefs to logic and reaosn.
#17
wow thanks for this tutorial
Quote by Deliriumbassist
Antisocial Behaviour Order. A chav's equivalent of GCSEs.
#18
This tutorial is awesome!
For the pup tape, You could also use thin cardboard. Works just as good as tape.
Now, If only there was a 4 Wire Humbie to 2 Wire Humbie tutorial.
My Humbuckers starting to piss me off...
..I was watching my death.
#19
4 wire→2-wire is pretty self-explanatory. Just take the pup apart and connect the two coil finish wires internally and put the two remaining wires onto a 2+shield or vintage-style gibson cable.

How the hell is cardboard going to stick?
#20
^ All you have to do is solder the North Finish and South Start wires together then tape them off so they don't touch anything.
#23
Quote by Invader Jim
How the hell is cardboard going to stick?


You have to overlap a little bit, then glue the ends together, so it's around the coil. I saw it a couple times. With this method, you'd definately want a pup ring, or you'd have the ugly brown cardboard sticking out.
The cardboard has to be very thin.

Just a pointless bit of info, Because almost everyone has a roll of electrical tape lying around somewhere.

EDIT: ^ on my pup, It had 2 grounds. It messed me up so much. I ended up soldering them to eachother, to make it easier(only 1 soldering point).
..I was watching my death.
Last edited by timbit2006 at Jul 20, 2009,
#25
Quote by Invader Jim
You mean the bare and coil ground?


I think so.

The black went to ground. Green went to pup selector, and the red and white, were connected.
..I was watching my death.
#27
Quote by Invader Jim
There's a reason the bare and coil gnd are seperate, you know...


What might the reason be? The schematic I used said they just go to the same place, so I thought why make all the hassle of doing 2...

Now that I think of it, I did do them seperate. What was I thinking. I did that earlier on, then realized the ground wouldn't connect.

I'm speaking nonsense aren't I?
..I was watching my death.
#28
Quote by timbit2006

I'm speaking nonsense aren't I?


yes, yes indeed.
i used to be a mod, then i took an arrow in the knee.
#30
The case (bare) is grounded to kill noise when you touch it. If the case is magnetic, grounding it also lowers the inductance of the pup quite a lot. leaving the case floating would make the pup sound muddy and awful because of the overly high inductance.

The coil hot and ground sometimes have to be reversed to correct phasing issues. that way the bare can remain grounded. If it was connected to hot, it would pick up noise and add noise when you touched it.
#31
My guitar works pretty much noisless now, so I guess I did something right. When I had black and bare together, It made a whole ****load of noise when touching metal.
..I was watching my death.
#33
I have pickups im swapping out they have hot and shield (ground), v7 v8 I have three wires im using a three way switch but every forum tells you a little different in how to wire them i have a good general idea but i would like some one who knows to explain it two me the proper way
thanks