Guitar Surgery

Copyright 2003-2021 Nick Nielsen

Submitted by nick on Sat, 12/22/2007 - 09:41

So i recently ripped the guts out of my 1996 Gibson Les Paul Standard.


Say what??

The story begins with me reading an article in Guitar World magazine about Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin. It was the issue before their big concert in London recently (which apparently went fantastically!). They talked about Gibson's recent reissue Jimmy Page Signature Les Paul, and mentioned that it had "Jimmy Page's coil tap push/pull setup." ??? What the heck, and why haven't I ever heard of it?

After some research, I knew I HAD to duplicate his setup. Basically, your volume and tone controls become extra switches on your guitar. In Jimmy Page's setup, the volume knobs ground out half the humbucker to which they're attached, turning the humbuckers into single-coil pickups. In addition, the tone knobs, when pulled out, will either flip the pickup connections so they're out of phase with each other, or wire them in series (to make a giant pickup).

I've been toying with the idea of getting new pickups for a while, just because I really like the sound of some good Seymour Duncan pickups. The standard Gibson Burstbucker pickups don't have coil-tap wires, unfortunately, so you'd have to perform pickup surgery to duplicate his setup on Burstbuckers. The article describing the reissue guitar said that they made super-high-gain Burstbucker pickups with coil taps for the signature guitar, and weren't selling them standalone at this point. I did a lot of research and listened to lots of pickup sounds online, and I decided on the Seymour Duncan Custom Custom (TM) for my bridge pickup and the Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates (TM) for my neck pickup. Both are hot pickups with more of a vintage humbucker sound. Dickey Betts uses two Pearly Gates in his guitar (love that sound!). The Custom Custom is a hot, gnarly pickup, great for the bridge setting and will just sing during solos.

Both pickups have 4 wires, and are ideal for the coil-tap setup. Seymour Duncan has a bunch of wiring diagrams on their site, including the Jimmy Page setup - it is what I referred to during the operation.

I used push-pull pots available from - I needed ones with an extra long shaft, since the Les Pauls have a contoured top and are pretty thick.

The surgery itself took about four and half hours of CAREFUL soldering. It didn't need to take that long, but I was cautious - lots of staring at the diagram for minutes at a time, just to make sure each wire was exactly right and I didn't destroy my precious Les Paul!

The sound is just awesome - I couldn't be happier! Feel free to browse the pictures on my site to check out the visual details.