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  1. #1
    Les Paul Forum Member antosimoni's Avatar
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    need help with '59 centralab pots

    Hi,
    calling help from all burst owners/experts/repairmen etc : I have a set of Centralab pots from late '58, they all read from 511K to 604K, I was looking after '59 ones but all I could find was original centralab pots that, still C2, read from 610K to 680K (!!!).
    As lettering on all these ones is on the back instead of the classic side one, Im asking if pots on '59 burst usually read so high.

    Many thanks for all the data you can share

  2. #2
    Les Paul Forum Member lewis_grey's Avatar
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    Re: need help with '59 centralab pots

    I seem to recall reading that they varied a lot (as with most stuff from the 50's!) and often read a fair bit higher than 500k, but I don't have first hand experience.
    1956 Gibson Les Paul Special - 'Terri'
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  3. #3

    Re: need help with '59 centralab pots

    I have a set of '56 Centralabs in my '03 Historic Makeover and they sound killer, better than any modern pot. Don't worry about the date, those pots are GOLD! As for the higher value, that's not uncommon with vintage pots. The crux of the matter is they will still be clearer and more 3D sounding than anything new from CTS.

  4. #4
    Les Paul Forum Member renderit's Avatar
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    Re: need help with '59 centralab pots

    Quote Originally Posted by Cream Fan View Post
    I have a set of '56 Centralabs in my '03 Historic Makeover and they sound killer, better than any modern pot. Don't worry about the date, those pots are GOLD! As for the higher value, that's not uncommon with vintage pots. The crux of the matter is they will still be clearer and more 3D sounding than anything new from CTS.
    +100 though I don't profess to know why...

  5. #5
    Les Paul Forum Member antosimoni's Avatar
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    Re: need help with '59 centralab pots

    thanks for all replies but I must ask (sorry for being so picky) can you please post ohm rfeadings for all the '59 pots you have or put your hands on? it will be very helpful for me
    thanks again

  6. #6
    Les Paul Forum Member hogy's Avatar
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    Re: need help with '59 centralab pots

    I've posted this before, the resistive element inside those old pots is mainly compressed carbon. As the wiper slides over that carbon trace, microscopic amounts of material are worn off. The thinner the carbon wears with time, the higher the resistance becomes. If you want to picture an analogy in your mind, it is like pinching a garden hose. The same amount of current has to pass through a smaller amount of carbon, the resistance goes up.

    So, nothing lasts forever. 1950s pots that started out reading 500k 60 years ago, will read much higher today, if they have been used. I've seen them up in the 900k range in very well worn guitars.


    As to why the old pots sound better (they do), I'm not entirely sure. My guess is it's the chemical composition of that carbon trace. It's not just carbon, there are binders and other agents in there as well. Supposedly, from what I heard but cannot verify, there's a good amount of lead in those old potentiometer elements. Which would explain while modern RoHS compliant pots are not the same and never will be.

  7. #7

    Re: need help with '59 centralab pots

    Quote Originally Posted by antosimoni View Post
    thanks for all replies but I must ask (sorry for being so picky) can you please post ohm rfeadings for all the '59 pots you have or put your hands on? it will be very helpful for me
    thanks again
    I acquired a full set a couple years ago and the least was around 600k up to 770

  8. #8
    Les Paul Forum Member Dave P's Avatar
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    Re: need help with '59 centralab pots

    C2 is the taper curve, they had a few to choose from in the old Centralab catalogs. I stumbled onto a small cache of NOS 500k C2 taper Centralabs a few years back, and most of them read over 500k, and these had never been used.
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  9. #9
    Les Paul Forum Member antosimoni's Avatar
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    Re: need help with '59 centralab pots

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave P View Post
    C2 is the taper curve, they had a few to choose from in the old Centralab catalogs. I stumbled onto a small cache of NOS 500k C2 taper Centralabs a few years back, and most of them read over 500k, and these had never been used.
    may I ask you to share exact readings of some at least? thanks

  10. #10
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: need help with '59 centralab pots

    Can't measure volume pots without desoldering. Tone pots have one end free though. Mine are late '59, bridge = 630K neck =790K.

  11. #11
    Les Paul Forum Member antosimoni's Avatar
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    Re: need help with '59 centralab pots

    just connect to outer lugs

  12. #12
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: need help with '59 centralab pots

    Can't - pot is in parallel with the pickup. You'll just get a measurement that is very close to the DC resistance of the pickup winding.

  13. #13
    Les Paul Forum Member slater529's Avatar
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    Re: need help with '59 centralab pots

    For what it's worth, I've got a '57 that reads 536K.

  14. #14
    Les Paul Forum Member michelebisignano's Avatar
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    Re: need help with '59 centralab pots

    I ve got a 59 and its 505k

  15. #15
    Les Paul Forum Member thin sissy's Avatar
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    Re: need help with '59 centralab pots

    Sometimes when I play my 57 Jr after a while of playing other (new, but great) guitars, I'm almost annoyed by how good the old pots are compared to everything else I've tried. It's hard to say exactly what it is that makes them better, but it's very apparent when you play. Maybe it's the pickup too though, who knows?

    I dread the day these pots wear out, what are the next best things any of you have tried?
    This is a song from the new album, it's a deep meaningful song this one... No, it's not whiskey in the fucking jar... Philip Lynott

  16. #16

    Re: need help with '59 centralab pots

    The original Centralabs in my '59 stinger burst measure 500k, 589k, 643k and 888k. This being the burst many folks have seen in my Trainwreck amp videos on Youtube. The two higher pots are on the tones, and though some of the resistances perhaps went higher with use I sort of doubt the tones were messed with more than the volumes. My gut feeling is these were simply all over the map when they were new. That said, it seems later (early 60s-70s) Centralabs typically started to run lower on average than the early ones. At least that I what I've run into.

  17. #17
    Les Paul Forum Member antosimoni's Avatar
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    Re: need help with '59 centralab pots

    thanks a lot guys but please keep posting ;-)

  18. #18
    Les Paul Forum Co-Owner Tom Wittrock's Avatar
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    Re: need help with '59 centralab pots

    Quote Originally Posted by geetarpicker View Post
    The original Centralabs in my '59 stinger burst measure 500k, 589k, 643k and 888k. This being the burst many folks have seen in my Trainwreck amp videos on Youtube. The two higher pots are on the tones, and though some of the resistances perhaps went higher with use I sort of doubt the tones were messed with more than the volumes. My gut feeling is these were simply all over the map when they were new. That said, it seems later (early 60s-70s) Centralabs typically started to run lower on average than the early ones. At least that I what I've run into.
    Did you unsolder them to measure them?
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  19. #19
    Les Paul Forum Member Dave P's Avatar
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    Re: need help with '59 centralab pots

    Quote Originally Posted by antosimoni View Post
    may I ask you to share exact readings of some at least? thanks
    Well, a good number of them read between 510k-550k. There were a few that read in the upper 400's.
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  20. #20

    Re: need help with '59 centralab pots

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Wittrock View Post
    Did you unsolder them to measure them?
    Yes, pickup leads were both unsoldered from the volume pots to test. Also I used a decent Fluke model 112 digital meter. The pots appear original to the guitar and all have matching 1959 date codes. That said I changed the pickups back in 1985, so that is the reason I was not worried more recently to disconnect the hot pickup leads to test the pots. The solder joints had already been broken 30+ years ago.

  21. #21
    Les Paul Forum Member michelebisignano's Avatar
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    Re: need help with '59 centralab pots

    The 56 quad on my conversion measure
    556, 498, 608 and 601

  22. #22

    Re: need help with '59 centralab pots

    I wish there was a way someone could record a tone comparison with these vintage centralabs - I have CTS 550k's matched to within 2% in my guitar - The tone pot in my neck is sweet with tone coming in from about 1.5 all the way up.

    I'm not naysaying these centralabs - I just wish there was something out there to help quantify what people are hearing. I have the vintage PIO bees & they make a difference to tone, so the vintage centralabs must also do something.

  23. #23
    Les Paul Forum Member antosimoni's Avatar
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    Re: need help with '59 centralab pots

    heres my '58s (538k 604k 511k 535k):
    '58 centralabs (google photo)

  24. #24
    Les Paul Forum Member antosimoni's Avatar
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    Re: need help with '59 centralab pots

    ...and the 59s (820k 828k 885k 709k) these are written on the back instead of side and to me they are even more abrupt than my 58 ones (at 9 Im already in little dirt/cleaner territory) dont look at the numbers written on the cardboard as it was originally matched with another set:
    59 centralabs (google photo)

    the main reason for this thread is that I was thinking that '59 ones are way more out of spec than other 50s

    PS in my epxrience swapping vintage pots Ive noticed that if I use a tone pot higher than vol one I got a little bit more clarity when rolling off volume (without touching tone pot) while on the opposite I got a little bit more power when volume its on 10

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