I purchased a 1988 SG Custom in stock condition (I believe) a couple of months ago. Great guitar--one that I have always wanted. However I discovered that Gibson may have been somewhat "loose" at that time (after 1986?) with exactly what pickups they installed in what guitar. In mine there were two apparently standard humbuckers (with metal-stamped "Pat. No. 2,737,842" back) in the neck and middle positions, and a "Bill Lawrence" "The Original" HB-L humbucker (with printed circuit board back) at the bridge position. I have seen other reports that 1987 through 1989 SG Customs came with 0, 1, 2, or even 3 Bill Lawrence P/Us. Same with some of the two-pickup Gibson guitars like the Les Paul models. And yet the Gibson catalogs of these years describe all as having '59 Les Paul Reissue pickups. Sounds like in the late 1980s Gibson literature " '59 Les Paul Reissue" may have been PR
-speak for "whatever pickup happens to be nearest to the assembly bench."
I remembered with fondness the great tone of a 1985 Les Paul Custom I once owned. To make a long story short, I started reading about so-called "Tim Shaw
" humbucking pickups
installed on many of the nicer Gibson guitars in the early and mid-1980s. As you probably know, these used pickups are now selling for pretty steep prices. And yet there appears to still be a lot of confusion and misinformation on some of the for-sale sites, not all of it accidental, and in some of the forums about just what a "Tim Shaw" pickup is.
Below are some photos of a 1983 Shaw P/U with imbedded captions and notes that I hope demonstrate some of the key characteristics to look for. Unfortunately, you have to remove the cover to see all the details, but if you going to drop $300, $500, or more for a pair you may want to consider doing just that.
I do not know how many SGs were fitted with these "Tim Shaw" pickups, but many of the ones I see for sale are from Les Paul models. Because of the difference in placement of the pickup selector switch in relation to the pickups in SGs versus LPs, there may be differences in the lengths of the lead P/U wires that must be accounted for and modified when using P/Us from a LP in an SG. However, since on Shaw P/Us the pole-piece spacing is the same on both neck and bridge pickups, and the output resistance usually averages about 7.5 K-ohms, many Shaw P/Us can probably be used in either neck, bridge, or (on an SG Custom) middle position.
Also note that depending on which model guitar they came from, different Tim Shaw pickups (and other Gibson humbuckers?) seem to have at least two different height-adjustment screw lengths (e.g., 1" or 1 1/4"), depending on the length/depth of the bracket arms coming off the base plate. The one pictured needs a 1 1/4" height adjustment screw. You may want to be sure your guitar's P/U route cavity will accommodate a P/U with the longer/deeper brackets (if that is what you happen to acquire).
Many thanks to Ned Wilson of Ned's Guitar Shed (they have a web site) in Cross Junction, Virginia ("gitfiddle460"
on a certain very popular auction site), and to many commenters on this and other Gibson-related forums for information about Shaw pickups (but any errors in this posting are my responsibility). And shame on those people purposely attempting to swindle buyers with phony claims.
: The thumbnails are way too small to see details and my notes clearly, but you can just click on the image for an enlarged view. For those who may be interested, I can send you copies of the photos directly. Or if you have corrections, please let me know. Contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org