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re: Hardware shopping for Les Paul

If my experience buying and selling vintage guitars over the last 30 years carries any weight with you Louis , my advice to you is if it is stock, I would only replace gears with kluson or klusen style reproductions that fit the exact footprint, several good quality ones are available from WD and Allparts. don't ream out your tuner holes for larger tuners if you can help it. it will de-value your instrument. Are yours the tulip shaped metal ones with gibson stamped on the back, or do they have plastic buttons? If its already been done before, try to at least match the foot print of the newer tuners rather than make new holes. getting a new nut and having fret work done is essential and won't effect the guitars value, the bridge, is most likely bowed by this point, the result of years of string tension, and the commonly held belief that screwing a stop tail piece all the way down gives you more sustain and better coupling, true to an extent, but it will also increase the likely hood of string breakage, and the afore mentioned bridge warping, and hey its a les paul, its got the sustain thing happening. also its probably prone to vibration issues as its gotten stressed over the years. So you will need to get a bridge and i would suggest a tone pros tune-amatic as they have set screw anchor reinforcements so they couple better. ditto with the stop tail piece, keep your originals. As far as the tone controls go, they often can be revived with some contact cleaner and the toggle switches and jack can be re-tensioned, so again replace only if you have to. ditto with the pickups, though in this case if you really want a change keep the old ones and avoid routing if at all possible. As far as humbucking pickups go if you are going for a classic sound bear in mind that you probably have a maple neck that sounds brighter than a mahogany neck so a slightly overwound pickup might darken it up a bit to compensate. I like pickups with alnico II magnets,they are warmer with better sustain than alnico v's or ceramics. Duncan makes some great ones and they would sweeten up a maple neck guitar. I suspect your guitar is suffering form fret issues bridges issues nut issues and tuner issues and electronic issues not related to the pickups, and if you get those taken care of first, you might find you like the sound of the stock pickups.