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Unread 03-01-2012, 11:11 PM   #1 (permalink)
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How to Identify Gibson "Tim Shaw" Humbucking Pickups

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.

Addendum: 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: tim05031952-alternate@yahoo.com
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Shaw 1.jpg (93.8 KB, 190 views)
File Type: jpg Shaw 2.jpg (90.9 KB, 187 views)
File Type: jpg Shaw 3.jpg (60.4 KB, 158 views)
File Type: jpg Shaw 4.jpg (86.0 KB, 160 views)
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Last edited by tps5352; 03-03-2012 at 02:55 PM. Reason: (a) To further correct typos/grammar in photo captions/notes, (b) to add photo titles, and (c) to ammend the text somewhat.
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Unread 03-04-2012, 04:45 PM   #2 (permalink)
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How 1988 SG Custom Pickups Differ from (earlier) Tim Shaw P/Us

Here is some information on the original pickups from my 1988 SG Custom:

The neck and middle pickups (Photos 1-4) looked initially like they might be Tim Shaw P/Us without the batch or date ink-stamps (as some of the later Shaws apparently did not have). They have the characteristic metal-stamped "Pat. No. 2,737,842" tailpiece patent number, metal-over-cloth-covered wire leads, and resistance ratings of 7.2 and 7.7 K-ohms, like Tim Shaw pickups. (The neck pickup sounded good, also. Of course with stock wiring the middle pickup can only be played in combination with the bridge P/U--see more about the bridge P/U below.)

However, the four screws holding the bobbins to the bottom plate are not brass-colored, and when opened the internal differences (from those of a Shaw) are clear-cut. The internals of these two pickups looks much more modern, less primitive-looking than that of a genuine Tim Shaw pickup. (Nothing wrong with either, I'm just pointing out the differences.) If anyone can identify the specific model of those two pickups (Photos 1-4), please let me know.

The louder bridge pickup in the 1988 SG Custom (Photo 5) was a Bill Lawrence "The Original," HB-L Gibson pickup with a resistance of around 9 K-ohms. No problem telling that one apart from a Tim Shaw without removal (by checking resistance through a guitar cable plugged into the guitar [but not an amp!] with the P/U selector switch set to "Lead," or from the original neck and bridge pickups for that matter (by removing and examining the bottoms of each P/U). I believe that Gibson used three of these "circuit board" pickups in 1989 SG Customs.

By the way, according to the 1988 Gibson catalog, all three pickups in an SG Custom are '59 Les Paul Reissue pickups. Yeah, right.

Anyway, I hope this information is helpful.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg non-Shaw - 1.jpg (79.4 KB, 103 views)
File Type: jpg non-Shaw - 2.jpg (94.2 KB, 108 views)
File Type: jpg non-Shaw - 3.jpg (59.5 KB, 100 views)
File Type: jpg non-Shaw - 4.jpg (85.6 KB, 98 views)
File Type: jpg non-Shaw - 5.jpg (93.0 KB, 112 views)
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Unread 03-04-2012, 05:19 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Those textured or "grainy" bobbins are made by Schaller. Gibson used Schaller bobbins from time to time since the late 70s.
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Unread 03-06-2012, 08:31 PM   #4 (permalink)
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thanks very much for this valuable info. I am thinking of purchasing a, 82 model. Can I ask if you think this would have the Tim Shaw pickups (assuming the guitar has not been molested!)? Cheers
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Unread 03-10-2012, 02:32 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Response to infinitune

Hi infinitune:

You did not say which Gibson model you intend to purchase. I cannot say for sure, but the indication (from many posts on the Les Paul, Everything SG, and other Gibson-related forums) is that many of the high-end models (like Les Pauls Standards and Customs and some of the hollow- or semi-hollow-bodied guitars) did come with Tim Shaw pickups from 1980 to about 1986 or into 1987. But keep in mind that some early- or mid-1980s Gibson models had different Tim Shaw era pickups--e.g., Dirty Finger high-output or Velvet Brick P/Us. And while some Gibson P/Us from this period are easy to tell apart from TS P/Us, some are apparently not (without looking inside).

See this page for Gibson SG-related catalog pages: SG Guitar Forum | 1987. Unfortunately, there is no 1982 Gibson catalog listed at that site.

"Google" "gibson tim shaw pickups" and other word combinations and you will find many posts and articles about these pickups. But note that there seems to be mis-information in some postings. Apparently some Gibson pickups from the early 1980s had the metal-stamped "Pat. No. 2,737,842" and even ink stamps but were not Shaw pickups. Some people (incorrectly) identify earlier T-Top pickups as Shaws. People get confused about the characteristic needed--e.g., citing wood spacers instead of white plastic, Alnico II magnets instead of Alnico V magnets, and so forth...

As far as I know, the only way to be absolutely sure is to (a) remove the cover and examine the internal parts in addition to (b) testing the resistance (should be about 7.5 K-ohms) and (c) examining the bottom plate metal- and, sometimes, ink- stamps (but even if the ink stamps are missing it can still be a Shaw, or not). The red or yellow dab of color at the end of the wire lead can be partially indicative, but it may be missing or, I suppose, easily faked so is not necessarily a reliable indicator. But the white plastic spacers under the bobbins, the rough ends of the magnets, and the characteristic (3) holes (1 for inspection of the red/orange coil and 2 for the brass screws) in the tops of each bobbin are strong evidence, I believe.

Basically, to clearly establish a so-called "Tim Shaw pickup" you have to find a certain percentage of several different external and internal characteristics (a few of which, but not all, may be optional). No wonder it is confusing. And that is why I published the photos.

So if you want Tim Shaw pickups, you buy a 1982 guitar, and you cannot examine the pickups closely* both outside and inside, I guess you are taking a chance (e.g., that Gibson didn't happen to install TS P/Us in that particular guitar or that they were removed by a previous owner). (*Also, examine the P/U switch and volume/tone control cavity[ies] closely to see if the P/U wires have been changed/re-soldered.) However, if the guitar sounds good (on your amp), and the price is reasonable then maybe it doesn't/shouldn't make any difference? But of course, if the seller is specifically advertising TS P/Us, then you want to be sure to get your money's worth.

By the way, there are definitely people on this and other forums with more experience then me. For example, SKATTERBRANE and Ned at Ned's Guitar Shed, gitfiddle460 at the eBay auction site.

Good luck.
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Unread 03-23-2012, 12:52 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Tps Tim, I bought a nice 1987 SG Special that has the Bill Lawrence pickups in both the Bridge and Neck. It wasn't advertised as anything other than I described. However according to the Gibson Catalog it also was supposed to have the 59 LP reissue p'ups and an Ebony fretboard. By my best reckoning it has a Rosewood board. Which fretboard does your 88 have?" I must say this is a very comfortable neck on this guitar and the Lawrence p'ups aren't bad either. As a sidenote, I also bought a Set of T top p'ups like my original late 70's-'80 Les Paul had.

I'd love reading any more info you might have on the Lawrences and T Tops if you know anything or good sources to look into,
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Unread 03-26-2012, 10:33 PM   #7 (permalink)
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>>> I'd love reading any more info you might have on the Lawrences and T Tops if you know anything or good sources to look into, Thanks

Sorry, chilipeppermaniac, I have very little additional information about "The Original," Bill Lawrence pickups and almost nothing about T-top pickups (which pre-dated the "Tim Shaw" pickups). I suggest Googling to find out more--you'll see lots of entries about them in various forums.

The Lawrence "Circuit Board" pickups, with their larger K-ohm readings, seemed to be a mid- and late-1980s experiment by Gibson that was halted in the 1990s. Their exposed circuit board apparently allowed easy reverse polarity and other P/U modification flexibility (e.g., with 4 lead wires). This flexibility seemed to allow them to be used in a variety of guitars, including the classic models (LPs and SGs) as well as the more modern (and short-lived) varieties with up-to-date sound options (e.g., phase switches) to attract the younger players, perhaps. When installed by Gibson on most Les Pauls and SGs they came with standard single wires (with ground covers) and as you noted were called, along with other kinds of P/Us, "'59 Les Paul Reissue" P/Us (somewhat deceptive, IMO).

The T-tops were the PAF-style pickups of the 1970s, I guess, and I have no experience with them. From what I've read, Tim Shaw P/Us were apparently an improvement on T-tops (in terms of sounding like the original PAFs), but T-tops are authentic for '70s models and many people like them.

Regards,

Tim
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Unread 03-27-2012, 10:43 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Question

Just weighing in with some observations. I just sold a pickup on ebay with the following characteristics: white plastic spacers, rough, pebbled magnet (approx 12cm wide), appears to be brass phillips head bobbin screws, 2 holes on top bobbin for the screws, black and white coil attachment wire, what appears to be a small dab of red color on the main connection wire, and a date stamp of APR 7, 1980 on bottom plate. This sounds like what is being described as charcteristics of a Shaw except that it is a T-top pickup. I have 4 other pickups, all have the same characteristics with the exception of the T-top bobbins. They have the observation hole (peep hole) but I can't say it's "circle-in-square" since they appear to be only round. 3 of the 4 have the number code (only one has a 137, the others are various 3 digit numbers and all are date coded '82 or '83). The 4th one has all the same characteristics except it has zebra bobbins and a calender date stamp of JUN 18, 1980. Also, 1 of the 4 has the double row of holes on the bottom plate, and one has short bracket legs. I don't know if the date stamped p/u would be considered non-Shaw, Shaw era, "real" Shaw or would I be accused of perpetuating fraud by trying to pass it as a Shaw? It seems that there's a lot of overlap with Gibson and some of these things might fall into that category. Also, regarding the T-top, it has a large percentage of "Shaw" characteristics but is definitely a T-top. But with barely 2 months seperating the T from a possible Shaw you have to wonder if some of the older supplies were being used during the Shaw pickup production. Were pickups being produced at this time under other peoples direction or was Shaw the head of all pickup production, and all pickups produced made to his specs? Besides the obvious Bill Lawrence circuit backs, the tar backs and dirty fingers? If I decide to sell any of the others I don't want to mis-identify anything or be accused of try to mislead anyone.
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Unread 03-28-2012, 03:18 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Yes, designing the new bobbins happened later than the development of the Shaws. So, some early Shaws used T-Top bobbins.
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Unread 03-28-2012, 08:49 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Here is a Shaw with one T-Top bobbin and one newly developed (at that time) PAF style bobbin:

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Unread 04-04-2012, 11:31 AM   #11 (permalink)
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rmack41 and SKATTERBRANE:

How interesting! So Gibson (/Norlin) did not suddenly dispose of extra T-Top bobbins (from the '70s) but gradually incorporated them into the "new" Tim Shaw design starting in 1980. That makes sense for a company trying to (wisely) pinch pennies. (And this kind of thing happens all the time in factories making all kinds of products.) That zebra, half-T-Top pickup is particularly interesting and, in my opinion, should be a neat collector's item (depending on the number of them still floating around). What is the ohm rating and how does it sound?

rmack41, note the (far left) inspection hole in the cream-colored bobbin shown in SKATTERBRANE's photo. The "red" is, of course the (polyurethane-covered) coiled wire. While at the surface of the bobbin the hole is circular, if you look closely you can see the inner square edges (at least on the bottom and left sides inside the hole).

Based on the direction of the "T," was this a bridge pickup?

My original photos are naturally from a later Shaw pickup. Thanks for the additional information.
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Unread 04-07-2012, 11:07 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Interesting details... In my -86 "3-knob Special" I have two seemingly identical pickups, both fulfilling all above ´requirements´ for Shaws. The neck pup clocks in at vintage 7.5k, but the bridge pup is wound to 8.8k.

Now, having completely disassembled my guitar, I noticed some interesting features, not least of all is a maple neck! Several of these features (polyester finish, streamlined controls, no pickguard, ebony fingerboard...) indicate a thorough design to meet "the demands of modern players" (post-modern...?) in the ´80s. And I´m thinking my "overwound Shaw" may be a deliberate change or experiment.

Or does anyone have a different explanation?
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Unread 06-09-2012, 02:32 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Lillebeng, My 1987 SG Special definitely has a Rosewood Board,which I see was also an option for these under the 3 knob specs found on this site. My t tops were dated 1979 which is consistent with my 1979 Les Paul Std I sold back in mid 80's. I know how good these sound from playing that guitar and I hope to save them for a project guitar someday. No experience with Shaws here however. Also, my SG does not have a pickguard and no "washer" ring around the Pup switch. However it does have one of the nicest playing necks I have ever played.
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Unread 06-09-2012, 03:07 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tps5352 View Post
How interesting! So Gibson (/Norlin) did not suddenly dispose of extra T-Top bobbins (from the '70s) but gradually incorporated them into the "new" Tim Shaw design starting in 1980. That makes sense for a company trying to (wisely) pinch pennies. (And this kind of thing happens all the time in factories making all kinds of products.)
Quite interesting, a lot of times factories "incorporate" old inventory items in newer gear. This practice makes for some interesting one-off models that get on the market every now and then, and occasionally a whole model made of old parts like certain Fenders.
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