HB Cover Removal-How To?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by Conner, Dec 30, 2005.


  1. Conner

    Conner Member

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    I know I've seen a fairly step-by-step on this one, but I'm coming up empty in my search attempts. I'm looking to take the nickel cover off of my bridge pu, but don't want to make any fatal errors. Anybody help me out?

    Also, what I'm hoping to achieve by doing this is more bite to the tone. Is this an effective means to that end?
     
  2. Jim Collins

    Jim Collins Member

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    If the cover is nickel, removing it is not really an effective way to get more bite. The nickel silver covers are about as sonically transparent as you can get -- as opposed to the cheaper chrome covers which can be tone sinks. If the pickup is potted in the cover -- and it probably is -- it is possible that the potting has muffled the tone, just a tad. I've tested several pickups with and without the nickel cover (several pickups, each one uncovered and covered), and I couldn't tell the difference. I wouldn't go as far as to claim that any other person would not be able the difference, either, but if you really want to change the essential character of your pickup, removing the nickel cover probably won't give you the change you want.

    In the old days, vintage PAF pickups were not potted, at all, so there was always some level of microphonic behavior in a vintage, covered pickup. Removing the cover of one of those pickups would eliminate some of that microphonic behavior, thus changing the sound, somewhat.
     
  3. John Phillips

    John Phillips Member

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    I actually do think that covers (including nickel ones) do make a noticeable difference to the tone, even discounting microphonics.

    The causes are the capacitance of the cover (it's a large grounded plate very near the coils, basically) which will take off top end, and the modification of the magnetic field caused by the metal (any metal will do this, it doesn't have to be 'ferromagnetic' - it's the electrical conductivity which matters since small currents are induced in it) which will lower and broaden the resonant peak.

    I find the tone with the covers on is more diffuse, softer and in some ways open-sounding; with the covers off it's more focused, a touch brighter and more aggressive. It does depend on the type and thickness of the covers, and also on the type of pickup. Some are much more sensitive to it than others. High-wound pickups seem to be more sensitive, as do Alnico II magnets - ceramics are less affected. So with some combinations of covers and pickups, you might not notice much difference - with others it can be very significant.

    The cover can also cause microphonics as Jim said - which makes the pickup more 'jangly' and 'lively' sounding... sometimes it's so bad that it actually feeds back and squeals, which is why most covered pickups are now potted at least to some extent.


    If you want to remove the covers, the best method I've found is to take the pickup right out of the guitar and lay it face down on a soft firm surface (eg a towel on a table), then cut down through the solder as close to the cover as possible using a strong, fairly sharp, curved blade - the large blade on a Swiss Army knife is ideal - steel will easily cut solder. Rock the blade along its length while pressing down firmly, and be careful not to break through suddenly as there is a chance of hitting the coil.

    Once you've got both sides cut you can usually get the tip of the knife blade into one corner of the cover and prise it off carefully. Sometimes the wax potting makes it difficult, and some pickups (eg some Gibsons) have a piece of double-sided tape on top of the coils which sticks the cover down and helps reduce microphonics. If you're having real trouble, warm up the pickup with a hairdryer, this will soften the wax and even help with the tape.

    You can then use the hairdryer again to soften any wax left on the pickup and clean it up with Kleenex or whatever. Sometimes you will need to wrap the coils with tape as they don't have the outer protective layer that pickups designed to be uncovered do - if I remember right PRS Dragon IIs are like this.
     
  4. Conner

    Conner Member

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    Thanks for the help, fellas. The pickups in question are Rio Grande TX/BBQ hb's in a mahogany bodied guitar w/ a walnut top and maple neck w/ rosewood fretboard, two volume controls, one tone control. I got this guitar custom built for me about a year ago, and it seems like the sound could "open up" a bit more, so I ordered an explorer/v upgrade kit from RS. We'll see how it responds to that before I remove the covers.
     
  5. KLB

    KLB Member

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    Once the solder is melted, remove the iron and quickly slide a single-edged razor blade through the solder, between the cover and metal frame. The solder won't stick to it.

    Don't use a soldering GUN, the magnetic field can damage the pickup magnets.
     
  6. sixstringslut

    sixstringslut Member

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    I like to use a cutt-off wheel on a Dremel tool to cut the solder. I know it sounds scarry...but solder cuts very easily, less chance of gouging something you don't want gouged, and less deformation of cover so it can easily be resoldered later.
     
  7. TheArchitect

    TheArchitect Guest

    Thats what I use as well
     

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