50's Les Paul Wiring Guide

Posted on November 11 2022

Les Paul wiring refers to the standard wiring configuration for Les Paul guitars. Les Pauls are typically wired with two volume controls, two tone controls, and a three-way selector switch. Our Les Paul wiring diagrams can show you how this is typically done. Les Pauls can also be wired with one volume control and two push/pull pots, which allows for coil tapping and other special effects. Experimenting with different Les Paul wiring configurations and guitar supplies is a great way to customize your guitar's sound.

Still not sure you understand your guitar thoroughly? You can find more Les Paul wiring diagrams online or in many guitar magazines. 

Les Paul wiring is a bit more complicated than Stratocaster wiring, but it's still not overly complex. You will want to take the time to lightly tin the lugs of the pots and the tips of the wires to be used. You are pre-tinning the components before assembly makes an easier and more solid electrical and mechanical connection. Refer to our How-To guides for a quick refresh on tinning guitar components.

Les Pauls typically use 500k pots, which are higher value than what's used on a Stratocaster. This means less resistance in the Les Paul circuit, allowing for brighter tones. However, it also means that your Les Paul will be more noise-resistant. If you're looking for a Les Paul with classic tones, you'll want to use lower-value pots, around 250k. This will give you a warmer sound, but it will also be more resistant to noise. 

Step One

After gathering all the necessary guitar supplies needed for 50's Les Paul wiring, we can start by wiring the initial harness. This harness should be one that can slot securely inside the control cavity. This makes it much easier to work outside the guitar body. There isn't much room in there and you'll be working with a hot soldering iron. Since this can be tricky, it's often better to work in the open where you can see what you're doing and eliminate the risk of burning your guitar's finish.

When drilling control holes for a new guitar, it's important to use a sturdy template to produce accurate results. The 6" x 6" piece of acrylic or plywood is the perfect size, and it's thick enough to withstand the drilling without damage.

Next, trace the volume and tone controls onto the guitar body, place the template under the guitar and drill through. Be sure to use a 10mm bit to accommodate the larger diameter shaft of CTS pots (9.52mm). With this method, you should be able to achieve precise results that will give your guitar the perfect sound.

Step Two

Pulling out the correct tools and materials in advance makes it easy to assemble the pots. First, take the four-pot bases and screw them onto the pot shafts. Be sure to use the right size hex nuts: the long shaft 500k pots come with two hex nuts, a serrated washer, and a flat washer. The first nut will be used to adjust the height within the control captivity. The serrated washer sits between this nut and the inside of the cavity (i.e. the teeth dig into the wood), so it is important to ensure that this part is oriented correctly.

Once all four-pot shafts are screwed into place, attach the two end caps. Be sure to use the correct size hex nuts. They should be tight enough to not come loose, but not so tight that they strip the threads.

Step Three

Lay down a ground wire connecting each pot. Using the tinned copper wire, lay the ground going through the top left pot (neck volume) clockwise to the bottom left pot of the template (bridge volume). It is easier to cut the ground wire into 3, as long as each pot is connected. This ensures that each pot is earthed and will stop any unwanted interference.

It is also important to double check that any exposed metal on the pots is earthed. This includes the screws used to hold the whole unit together. Any exposed metal that is not earthed will act as an aerial and pickup interference.

Step Four

Next, it's time to ground the required lugs on each pot. If you look at the pots from a bird's eye view, you'll see that these are the first lugs on each volume pot (lug 3) and the middle lugs (output) on the tone pots. You may decide to use a snippet of ground wire soldered between the lug and the back of the pot.

Step Five

Once you have finished the above steps, you should have the initial wiring harness. This harness will drop into your control cavity. The next step is to install the toggle switch wiring. This process is relatively simple and only requires a few tools:

  1. Remove the backplate from your Les Paul.
  2. Locate the toggle switch and unscrew it from the body.
  3. Disconnect the previous wires from the switch and remove them from the guitar.
  4. Connect the new wires to the switch and reattach it to the body.
  5. Screw the backplate back onto the guitar.

Les Paul wiring diagrams can be useful when trying to modify or repair Les Paul guitars. Les Pauls have a unique wiring setup that differs from other guitars, so it's important to have a diagram on hand when working on one. They usually show the Les Paul's standard wiring configuration, as well as any modifications that have been made to the guitar, so if you have questions about wiring your guitar, these diagrams can be a helpful tool. These diagrams can be found online or in Les Paul repair manuals. 

Wiring your guitar may seem intimidating at first, but both experienced guitar technicians and Les Paul owners who are comfortable making their own repairs can quickly hone their wiring skills. Additionally, if you want to upgrade your guitar instead of just repairing it, the 50's Les Paul wiring is a great option if you want an upgrade to your guitar. This wiring gives your guitar more options regarding tone and sound. Check out the guitar supplies at Monty's Guitar and get 20% off wiring loom with any pickup set!

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