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FDP Forum / The 'Pup' Tent / Pre-cbs pickups


United States

Collin Fields
Apr 7th, 2018 03:56 PM   Edit   Profile  

How can I identify pre-cbs pickups when there are no identifying markings of any kind?

Contributing Member

Get ready for the

Buena Buena
Apr 7th, 2018 04:35 PM   Edit   Profile  

You compare the appearance, materials, and workmanship to known authentic pickups.

The color of the flatwork and coil wire--as well as the type of leads it has attached to it are the big items.



Apr 8th, 2018 09:51 AM   Edit   Profile  

In addition, the resistance is generally thought to have varied during certain periods.
This could possibly be used to narrow down the year of manufacture.
For example, I seem to recall that 1963 was a year that had weaker lower resistance Strat pickups (for whatever reason).
Somewhere on the internet there is a chart.


U.S. - Virginia

Apr 13th, 2018 12:52 PM   Edit   Profile  

That's pretty much all pre-cbs pickups, unfortunately. If you see enough of them you can see certain commonalities, though.

For instance, typically before 1959, the magnets used were mostly "rough cast". The castings were broken, the magnets cut to length and sent on their merry way. There was little to no grinding on the outside diameter. So they have a dark, rough/pitted appearance from the form of the sand casting.

Later, the entire diameter was ground and you would only occasionally have small pits/inclusions from a smaller area of the casting. They ground to a finished diameter and any pits left were not "chased"

Beveling was done by hand until the CBS takeover in 1965 when machine tumbling was the norm. Hand beveled magnets are usually very uneven around the diameter because the operator was spinning a stick in their hand with the magnet edge against a grinder. Alnico is also very hard so you "run" you grinding wheel quite quickly. A wheel with runs in it does not grind very smoothly so plenty of marks and scratches are not uncommon in the chamfered portion of the magnet.

Some had a lot of material removed, some were only slightly beveled, some evenly around(not usually) most very uneven. All within the same pickup.

Years of wear will usually show a slightly softening of the edges around the bevel and top of the magnet as well. You may need an eye loupe to see this wear.

Oxidation of some kind is usually present. Not usually very rusty, but some darkening of the magnet tops is common.

Coils were very often uneven in shape and not so tidy looking. The color of formvar varied but I have noticed that usually the older stuff is darker in it's orange tint.

A blackening agent was also mixed with the wax for potting. Sometimes you will see traces of this in the coil.

Around 1956, many strat pickups flatwork on both the top and bottom were filed excessively. Some filing was always done to reduce any rough spots that the wire might snag upon winding. In 56 the flatwork was down right beveled and almost thin on the edges and ends.

One other common trait of authentic pre cbs pickups is that the underside of the eyelets was very flat. They must have been stamped hard flat. Only enough solder to fill the eyelet was used. No big bulb of solder was found on the bottoms.

Original leads were also cloth braided *un-tinned* wire.

There is a sort of indescribable look to many of the components that you get used to seeing. The sheen and texture of the fiber used on the flatwork for example. Still, there are some good copies out there that can make it difficult.

Contributing Member

Broke Down

in the Brassicas
Apr 13th, 2018 01:18 PM   Edit   Profile  

^wow, that was worth the read! I may never get to see a pre-CBS pickup, but that was very interesting stuff. Thanks for posting.


U.S. - Virginia

Apr 13th, 2018 06:04 PM   Edit   Profile  

Glad to contribute and to hear you enjoyed that.

I have spent the better part of 10 years learning as much as I can so I may as well share the knowledge.

One other thing I just remembered(It's been a while since I thought about some of this stuff)

This is more with Tele pickups but some strat pickups also exhibited this - the holes were many times quite a bit smaller than the magnets for a tight interference fit. Some records show Leo always ordered 3/16" diameter magnets, however we all know .197" or thereabouts was always common pre 1960s. I think they made the die's for their flatwork to fit .187" magnets and got larger mags instead. This created quite a squeeze. So you will many times see a small to large "donut" ring around the magnet in the flatwork material. It gets pushed out by the magnet when being assembled. This is very common on old blackguard era tele bridge pickup tops.

Contributing Member


Apr 14th, 2018 05:07 AM   Edit   Profile  

This is a great example of what makes the FDP great.


Nicoma Park, OK.

"Let the music do the talking"
May 16th, 2018 01:01 PM   Edit   Profile  

Good info. on vintage Fender pup's....

Vintage Fender pickups

FDP Forum / The 'Pup' Tent / Pre-cbs pickups

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