Re-staggering pole pieces (Fat 50s) possible?

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by Krank, May 25, 2008.

  1. Krank

    Krank Member

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    I'm not quite happy with the individual string levels of the Fat 50s in my Japanese Strat. They're all staggered exactly the same, meaning the piece for the high E string is flat to the pickup surface - and it tells; I don't get quite the volume I want there. Highest pole piece is for the G string, which is also just a bit too high in relative volume. I don't quite get the rationale for their staggeredness this way.

    Anyway, is it worth bothering with? I have zero electronics experience. I've of course adjusted the height of the pickups, which doesn't quite solve it, especially irt. the G and E string volume discrepancy.

    The Fat 50s are great pickups otherwise.
     
  2. stevel

    stevel Member

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    Well, you have to understand what you bought - in the 50s, for which these pickups are replicas, people played on sets of strings with E-A-D-G as wound strings, and B and E as plain strings (like modern steel-string acoustics).

    Leo Fender, in his infinite wisdom, decided that in order to make the strings balanced in volume, the less mass a string had (i.e., the thinner it is) the closer the pole piece had to be to the string. Larger strings also deflect more, and magnets actually pull on the strings as well, so this "stagger" was designed to compensate for those types of factors.

    So in "vintage" staggers (still found in stock strat-style pups) have the G pole piece closest to the strings. The lower strings "stair step" down from that. The B is usually way down (below the surface of the pup in some cases) and the E much closer.

    Now, for years, rock players have played on traditional 4+2 staggers, and the G string was exceptionally loud. Over the years, other pickup models have compensated for this in various ways - lace sensors, rails, larger diameter pole pieces, different materials, etc. But oddly enough, in one sense, the "overly-loud G" is part of "the sound of rock". In the early days, Pete Townshend and people like that were putting on really thin G strings (go ahead children, snicker away and get it out of your system :) so they probably weren't as bad as when string manufactures started including bigger G strings. I noticed Metallica's "One" in the intro - the G note when it finally happens really sticks out (if you listen to for that sort of thing).

    So, in a simplistic sense, you *should* have a wound G on there, or, you just live with the overly loud G.

    You could put a thinner plain G, and a thicker E on, and the decrease and increase in mass would help balance them a bit.

    Obviously, the real solution is pickups that are either "corrected" (mine have the G pole piece lowered a bit to compensate for a plain G) pole pieces or adjustable poles - like those with "screw head" pole pieces - like on my PAF style humbucker, I could adjust the G and E pole pieces to help balance things out.

    So there's the rationale and a bit of advice, but I'm sure others can chime in on whether those particular pole pieces are adjustable (I tend to think not, but I'm no expert in that regard).

    HTH,
    Steve
     
  3. RvChevron

    RvChevron Member

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    The only way to modify the staggering pattern is by "pushing" each individual pole piece down to the desired height.

    If you do that, you risk ruining the whole pickup because the winding inside might get torn by the movement of the pole piece.

    Some player, however, like Eric Johnson has very good luck doing that without any harm to the pickup even one bit.

    Better buy new pickups with flatter stagger and save the stock ones.
     
  4. Polynitro

    Polynitro Member

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    Whats the bridge radius? Having a 7.25" radius (50's style) puts the G and D strings higher and thus further away from the poles than the outside E's.

    I have one Tele with flat stagger pickup and another with slight raised D and G and they both are balanced fine (both 7.25")
     
  5. Kelly

    Kelly Member

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    Get some Fralins with the modern stagger...
     
  6. stratrat2000

    stratrat2000 Member

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    It's possible to push the G down a bit - I've done it a few times. I also often move the A pole on the bridge pickup down slightly.

    There is a chance of doing damage - the coils is wound directly on the magnets and the potting helps solidify everything in place. So there is a chance that you can break an inside winding. Having said that, I've done it to probably 15 pickups (including a set of fat '50s) and have never damaged one.
    Ideally use a drill press to push the pole down, make sure the pickup is properly supported underneath (I usually use a piece of wood with a hole drilled for the G pole to push down into. Take it slow and easy, and your chances of success are good.
     
  7. DonM

    DonM Member

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    Sometimes I adjust individual magnet gauss for each string as per customer request - I made a tool that magnetizes individual poles -

    ig the high E is weak - find a powerful neo magnet and gauss it full up - be sure its attracted to it - not pushing it away - cause if it is and you run it down on the magnet you'll simply flip the phase and have to - reverse it is all -
     
  8. Krank

    Krank Member

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    Excellent, helpful replies - thanks a lot.
     
  9. stevel

    stevel Member

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    I was reading somewhere last night that, originally, Fender didn't do anything to the poles and they were sandcast, meaning they had rough sides. So pushing them down would be likely to break the wire, which touched up against the poles.

    But newer ones have a little coating around the pole, meaning it's much smoother, and is supposed to be less likely to break the wires.

    Now, I said, "supposed to" and "less likely" - that doesn't mean you still won't cause damage. If you don't mind throwing them away, then you could try it and hope for the best. But I'm no expert, I just play one on the internet. Do it at your own risk. Otherwise, I think trading them for a "modern stagger" would be safer (of course, either way, you're paying for the new pickup, unless you can sell of the others :)

    Steve
     
  10. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    it is indeed "At your own risk", but i have been carefully tapping down the G poles of texas specials, fat 50s and other new fender single coils for a decade now, and i have never killed one. not too far, just level with the A pole is enough to fix the too-loud plain G.

    do not try this with an old pickup! also, duncans are wound really tight, so don't try it with those either. also, don't try it on the end poles of any of these, as that's where all the wire is wound onto.

    regular fender american standard pickups have a molded plastic bobbin,and you can literally push the magnets out with your finger and it won't hurt the pickup.
     

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