Replacing pickups in an Agile Les Paul Clone

My wife bought me some pups for my birthday. She is pretty cool like that. Both are Iron gears, it’s a brand I have been quite interested in for a few months now, ever since they started getting rave reviews on the uk forums. Seymour Duncan performance for half the price seems to be the consensus.

So, for the last week I have had both a Blues Engine (for the neck), and a Dirty Torque (for the bridge), waiting for me to find time to do something with them.

Today I finally got some quality modding time. I went to see Kyuss play at the T&C last night, (sod corporate branding, I am not going to start calling it the Macdonald’s Megadrome or whatever it is now). In anticipation of a mild hangover and a late night I booked Monday off work.

There is no reason for me to reinvent the wheel and produce another “how to” on changing

Removing the bridge pup from an Agile LP clone

pickups. Seymour Duncan himself has already provided a fantastic youtube guide and here is a link to it. It is well worth a watch even if you have no plans to upgrade pickups.

The project wasn’t the quick one hour job I had expected. I ran into just about every problem you might run encounter. I thought it might be worth documenting some of the tricks I had to use to get the job done.

Pickups refuse to attach to pickup mounting rings.

The agile stock pups might have had a slightly odd diameter raise / lower screw. Always use the mounting screws that come with your new pups. Don’t rely on the aperture on pickup base plate having the same bore as your last set. Use the new screws, same doesn’t hold true for the springs however, The irongear springs were far too stiff. I went with the old agile springs, far easier to get the pup into the mounting ring and then get the screw to bite with the sloppier agile springs.

Neck pickup cavity to control cavity to narrow for pickup lead

This has to be the worse case of this that I have ever seen. The Iron Gear pups have ruddy huge leads. The stock Agile pups had tiny little leads, this was like trying to drive an tank through the Woolwich Foot Tunnel. I had to use every trick in the book.

Poke the cable through with an old bottom E string. Nope, too tight. The string just kinked.

Taping an unwound string to the cable using insulating tape. Poke the string through the aperture. Pull like hell. Fix the tape to make a “collar” just below the ball end of the string. This way the ball end bites into the tape collar and acts as an anchor behind the tape. This nearly always works. Nope, this was really tight. The ball end just pinged off across room.

I got lucky with the last ditch option before I committed to the hellish solution of stripping all the electronics out of the control cavity and getting out a power drill to enlarge the channel. I realised I could fit one cable through the channel, the problem was fitting the second through as well. Eventually I managed to pass through one cable, back it up so there was still a fair length that needed to be pulled through, squeeze a chunk of the second cable in and then use the friction from pulling the first cable to drag the second cable down the channel. Trust me; there was much swearing but I got there in the end.

Then the next problem. After finishing the wiring I realized the bridge pickup volume was working in reverse.

And here is the biggest tip I can share. When things don’t work stop and make a cup of tea. Take a look at a schematic or two, choose one and get the signal flow straight in your head. Strip all the wiring out of the control cavity, (I left the caps and the output wiring in place). Re-wire everything according to your chosen schematic. in theory It is much easier to work from scratch, resoldering every connection one component at a time than it is to trouble shoot a rats nest of wires.

I cracked it in the end, but it is too late to give you a full review of the pickups. I’ll do that later this week.

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