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Thread: T-Top resource

  1. #1
    Les Paul Forum Member mrbeasty's Avatar
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    T-Top resource

    There is a mountain of internet resources and books about pre-1965 PAFs but most stop when T-Tops arrive. Even Wikipedia has a few sad and vague entries after Patent Numbers.

    There were a lot of T-Top variations (Pat sticker, stamped Pat Number, insolated wire, etc.) and I would like to learn more.

    Any good resource that you could recommend?

  2. #2
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: T-Top resource

    The reason why you hear very little is that not much variation went on, as it had all taken place beforehand........so T-tops stayed practically the same. Same wire type, same bobbin, same mag type and length.
    The baseplate change was simply to streamline production so a sticker didn't have to be added. At the same time the magnet went from sandcast to polished short A5 for more consistent size (quicker assembly).

    Some have noted slight changes in K during a short period in the early/mid 70's. But that was a batch that reads at 7.8k fairly consistently.
    Then there was (I think an SG model) that was fitted with a T-top with a doublethick ceramic mag bridge version in the late 70's. But the mag was the only difference.

  3. #3
    Les Paul Forum Member mrbeasty's Avatar
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    Re: T-Top resource

    Thanks AJCR.

    I have two T-tops in my pile of pickups. I am trying to ballpark their age.
    One is a Pat. Number sticker base plate with braided wire;
    The other is also a sticker base plate but has a shielded connector wire.

    Any insight is welcome.

  4. #4
    Les Paul Forum Member mrbeasty's Avatar
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    Re: T-Top resource

    Quote Originally Posted by AJCR View Post
    The reason why you hear very little is that not much variation went on, as it had all taken place beforehand........so T-tops stayed practically the same. Same wire type, same bobbin, same mag type and length.
    The baseplate change was simply to streamline production so a sticker didn't have to be added. At the same time the magnet went from sandcast to polished short A5 for more consistent size (quicker assembly).

    Some have noted slight changes in K during a short period in the early/mid 70's. But that was a batch that reads at 7.8k fairly consistently.
    Then there was (I think an SG model) that was fitted with a T-top with a doublethick ceramic mag bridge version in the late 70's. But the mag was the only difference.
    I think it is a bit oversimplified, especially by PAF cork sniffing standards.

    From what I can find, in 1975 Norlin purchased the MOOG factory in Williamsville, NY and seems to have moved it’s pickup manufacturing from Kalamazoo, MI to NY. So by ‘75-ish you would have at least new baseplate, new winding machines and new operators. Some connector wire became shielded, and magnets changed from sandcast to polished (as you pointed-out). I believe the 490R and 500T variations surfaced by the late ‘70s too!?
    The SG ceramic pickups must be the tarbacks/blackbacks? ... lots of tinkering going-on.

    This went on until the Tim Shaw era (1980?) when they tried to backtrack some of these changes but ended-up going-in yet a whole new direction.

    I am super curious about all this but there isn’t much written about it.

  5. #5
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: T-Top resource

    I seem to remember that the first Patent Sticker pickups were pretty close/identical to the PAF's . Then came the first Patent Sticker T-Tops maybe around 65ish to 68ish ? ( which was born out of the winders knowing which way to place the pickup in the Lessona machines as to having the T mark on top of the one bobbin as a visual guide ) Then I believe the wire material changed ? Which people say altered the dynamic of the sound of the pickup . I know I am pretty close to the facts , but I couldn't swear under oath of penalty of perjury .

  6. #6
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: T-Top resource

    Quote Originally Posted by mrbeasty View Post
    I think it is a bit oversimplified, especially by PAF cork sniffing standards.

    From what I can find, in 1975 Norlin purchased the MOOG factory in Williamsville, NY and seems to have moved it’s pickup manufacturing from Kalamazoo, MI to NY. So by ‘75-ish you would have at least new baseplate, new winding machines and new operators. Some connector wire became shielded, and magnets changed from sandcast to polished (as you pointed-out). I believe the 490R and 500T variations surfaced by the late ‘70s too!?
    The SG ceramic pickups must be the tarbacks/blackbacks? ... lots of tinkering going-on.

    This went on until the Tim Shaw era (1980?) when they tried to backtrack some of these changes but ended-up going-in yet a whole new direction.

    I am super curious about all this but there isn’t much written about it.
    490R and 500T are 90's creations.

    There was no T spaced pickup in those days.
    However there was a hot pickup with double screw coils, as well as a Velvet brick. And of course 2 versions of the Tarback pickup set. (but these were already released in 72) But none of these are T-tops.....and as you've asked specifically about T-tops, thats why the focus on info about t-tops and their lack of change generally speaking.

  7. #7
    Les Paul Forum Member mrbeasty's Avatar
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    Re: T-Top resource

    Quote Originally Posted by AJCR View Post
    490R and 500T are 90's creations.

    There was no T spaced pickup in those days.
    However there was a hot pickup with double screw coils, as well as a Velvet brick. And of course 2 versions of the Tarback pickup set. (but these were already released in 72) But none of these are T-tops.....and as you've asked specifically about T-tops, thats why the focus on info about t-tops and their lack of change generally speaking.
    The Dirty Finger?

  8. #8
    Les Paul Forum Member mrbeasty's Avatar
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    Re: T-Top resource

    I have been reading as much as I can find on T-Tops and there is clearly some sloppy info out there.

    There was a retooling in the mid-‘60s. Gibson has new bobbins molds made (molds wear out), where the “T” was added and the top and bottom flange were made thicker. Apparently the internal size of the bobbins stayed the same.

    There was at least one change to the winding process, with the setup of the start lead.
    Originally 42AWG wire would be coiled on the bobbin, with pieces of wire protubing (the start bit and the end bit) then the lead wires would be soldered-on. So to make manufacturing easier they installed the “start” lead wire first on the 42AWG, before winding the coil. That start lead would then be coiled over.
    It is unlikely to have had much sonic impact but it is part of those things that changed and eventually, little by little, made PAFs to not be PAFs anymore: the rough cast magnets were replaced with polished, the wire was changed, the mount changed, the spacer went to plastic, the connector wire changed, the harness changed, production was relocated, etc.

    There was a lot going on during the ‘70s!!! IMHO.

  9. #9
    Les Paul Forum Member
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    Re: T-Top resource

    Well, much of change was in the early 60's. PAF thru pat# to t-top important changes were complete by 65. The last shift was to the t bobbin which was 67 or similar. The very early 80's (shift from T-top to Shaw) was all in the 80's.
    Really the only 70's change was the baseplate/mag.

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