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The other day, I got a call from Nicole Alosinac, a very talented local luthier, about a dead pickup from a 1953 Esquire. It’s not very often one gets an opportunity to dig in the guts of a ’53 Esquire pickup, but somehow, this is not the first one to cross my bench. Having something of this age sitting in front of me always makes me wonder how many hands has this instrument passed through. If only these guitars could tell their stories!
Check out this repair of a '53 Esquire pickup for Nicole Alosinac! #ReilanderPickups #Esquire #TelecasterClick To Tweet
After a quick glance and continuity check, I have a pretty good idea of what the issue is… and I suspect this pickup may have been re-wound in the past. The twine is covered with a rubberized black material that appears to be brushed on. This is much different than the black wax that you typically find with this era of tele pickups. As for the problem, the top of the bobbin is pulling away from the coil, and I can see corrosion on one of the polepieces. I suspect the corrosion has eaten through the inner coil.
After removing the twine, I am sure this pickup has been repaired once before. Note how the twine is white with black chunks stuck to it? Typically, the twine would be black from being saturated with black wax. Looking at the brown color of the magnet wire, it also appears that the wire is plain enamel. Plain enamel is not the correct wire for the era. It’s fairly well know that the early Tele’s use heavy FormVar, or formal varnish wire which is bright copper in appearance. In the above picture, you can clearly see the top flatwork lifting from the coil.
After peeling back the coil wire, it is evident that corrosion is indeed the culprit of this pickup failure. These early pickups had nothing isolation the coil wire from the pole pieces except for a thin layer of lacquer. Over time, the lacquer breaks down and the pole piece begins to oxidize. The oxidization begins to eat at the insulation of the coil. Combine that with the bobbin top moving, it becomes very easy for one of the windings to break.
Once the old coil wire is removed, the top flatwork needs to be flattened and re-set, and pole piece corrosion cleaned up. The pole pieces are then isolated from the new coil using our own tried, tested and true method as to not have this coil fail again.
Finally, the finished product. The coil has been repaired using the period correct heavy build wire and is ready to rock for another 65 years.