Sonny's Custom Shop
Custom made electric guitar pickups, accessories and service.

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Welcome.  My name is Sonny Walton. My specialty is custom manufacturing and repairing electric guitar pickups.  I call this a custom shop, because like the custom car shops of the '60s that could transform cars and trucks to match their customers ideas, I can make for you just about any kind of customized humbucker or strat type pickup you can think up, at least within reason, and I'm working on other types.  I don't make too many, and I don't make them too fast. I try my best to make each one the best it can be, and like to work with individual customers to help them get the tones they are seeking. I also do setups, repairs, and custom parts guitars, and deal in high quality guitar parts and accessories. 

Just as
the restored old pickup trucks in the background of these pages have been transformed by good custom shop work, custom guitar pickups and other work can make a dramatic difference in many guitars if you are willing to put forth some effort. 
Whether you have it done professionally, or if you can do it yourself, a good setup and good pickups can make drastic improvements to even the most modest of guitars.  In the online store I carry a small local inventory of top quality guitar parts and accessories, vacuum tubes, and amp parts.  Some of the items I carry are hard to find, and others are made by me and not available elsewhere. I am still adding to the store, it takes a lot of time to add all the items, so if you don't find what you are looking for,  just contact us, we may already have it, or probably can get it. 

Please take time to browse around the site and store if you are looking to get the best possible tone from your guitar, just doing some guitar "hotrodding", or perhaps even are lucky enough to have a vintage guitar to restore. 

Looking for a Stetsbar tremolo?  I've got them, and you won't find a better price. I also have quality tuners, pots, bridges and tailpieces, and some great deals on NOS capacitors from the 50's and 60's, if you are looking for those. Mine are similar to the Sprague Vitamin Q, Pacer, or Bumblebee types, but are the military versions, real unused NOS stock, not pulls from used equipment, with full leads, fully tested and yet half the price many are charging.  I've also got quite a few reproduction versions of vintage capacitors available, made by me.

If you are local to the DFW area, you might want to scroll down and check out the guitar tech services I offer, such as setups, installation and repairs.  For guitars with a pickguard, I can make a custom loaded pickguard, or install pickups of your choice in yours if you ship it to me.

This website is more than just an introduction to my products and the store, there's virtually an encyclopedia's worth of reference information loaded here - not only about my products, but just generally about pickups, tone, and guitars that you might not find elsewhere. It's phone friendly, but really best viewed on a PC or laptop or a tablet. I keep adding to it when I can. There's a shop tour if you'd like to see how I make them, and lots of reference information as well so please browse around. The webstore is a linked but separate site.  I've got lots of specialized and hard to find guitar items in the store, from bargains for the working musician level to the highest end custom shop work, hard to find new old stock parts, top line accessories, and some items that you'll find noplace else, and I'm adding more items frequently.   I'm currently a dealer for Allparts, Mojo Musical, WD Music, CE Distribution, DR Strings, Ventura Guitars, and Stetsbar. We are located in the Dallas Texas area.  Scroll down the page for a few recent pickup examples and sound clips.




 
      Accessories
 
  Contact Me
   
  FAQ Page
 Reference

Click the Facebook Link above to leave comments, or see a blog of some of our recent work. We try to post some of the more interesting jobs that come through the shop there. If you would like to receive updates on Facebook, like the Sonny's Custom Shop FB page.


Here's a few examples of my custom made vintage style humbuckers.

 
   
       

The top row is my P.A.F. Clone.  It is a very accurate copy of the Gibson Patent Applied For pickup of the late 50's.  To many, the original P.A.F. pickup is the ultimate humbucker.  There are no options on the P.A.F. set itself, since I go to great lengths to make it as close a copy as possible. I do allow a choice of two different and vintage accurate magnet alloys.  But I can also supply the same design with just about any variations you might want.  For example, the pickup shown in the bottom row is one of the custom ones I made for Austin Colden's Les Paul. It has vintage P.A.F. accurate construction including long bar Alnico II magnet, bare nickel cover, butyrate bobbins, and plain enamel wire, but is equipped with shielded four wire silver teflon leads for maximum tonal possibilities, and a short mounting leg nickel silver baseplate. I can supply them also with Alnico V or with a ceramic magnet or most any of the other Alnico magnet alloys if you prefer, or just about any modifications you might desire.  The tonal possibilities of this pickup in the right hands are vast, just scroll down for some MP3 clips.

I like working individually with good players to help them get the precise tones they are seeking. Within limits, I can work with you to move the tonal spectrum in the direction you choose.  I sign and serialize each one of my pickups. They are all made by me, I'm the only one here. I've spent many years studying vintage construction techniques and materials. But when needed I can also add my own inputs for newer materials and techniques. It's all about the tone, so whatever works- that's what goes. If you want them vintage, I can get them so close that I sometimes worry about someone using them for counterfeiting, and if you want a more contemporary style I can supply many options to make them almost any way you like.


   
Here's a look under the nickel-silver cover. It's a traditional "Zebra"  as standard, with butyrate bobbins. For Austin's set I used an Alnico II magnet for the neck and Unoriented Alnico 5 for the bridge. Scroll down for MP3's of them.

I can supply traditional polished nickel plated nickel-silver covers, or with chrome or gold plating.  Or you can specify no cover, and I will bind the pickup with woven acetate tape.  You can choose zebra, reverse zebra, cream or black bobbins, or even abalone, tortoise, or exotic wood bobbin overlays.



 
(click the pickup to see the Zebra Print Ad)


With the 4 wire connections, and using push pull pots, you can get a wide range  of tonal possibilities with these pickups, such as coil splitting and phase shift.  I customized an Epiphone Les Paul for Austin Colden with these pickups, special wiring with push pull volume pots, and Tone Pros tuners and tailpiece.  Austin has explored many of the tonal possibilities of this guitar and sent me samples, so...


Here you go -- some MP3's of Austin Colden doing a great job demonstrating these pickups in his customized Epiphone Les Paul, playing through a Fender Blues Junior at fairly low volume.  In each clip, the first part of the track is with the tone control on 0 and the last part is with the tone control on 10.
  The P.A.F. reproduction pickups I offer are going to sound similar to these.

These clips are with the pickups wired normally - both volume pots in normal position (pushed down)



Neck Pickup Clean                      Neck Pickup Dirty                        Both Pickups  Clean


Both Pickups  Dirty                      Bridge Pickup Clean                  Bridge Pickup Dirty


These next sound clips are with the coils split. (pull on neck volume splits both pickups)  Again the first part of the track is with the tone control on 0 and the last part of the track is with the tone control on 10.



Neck Clean w/ Coil Split              Neck Dirty  w/ Coil Split              Bridge Clean w/ coil split


Bridge Dirty w/ Coil Split              Both Clean w/ Coil Split             Both Dirty w/ Coil Split


Pulling on the bridge volume pot puts the pickups out-of phase.  These are the same pickups - out of phase.



Both Clean - Out of Phase          Both Dirty   - Out of Phase


Both Clean Out of Phase & Split   Both Dirty Out of Phase & Split


Within some limits, I can also supply these with transparent red or blue bobbins, or custom handcrafted bobbin overlays of natural shell, exotic woods, or tortoiseshell like the one below



     
Here's a custom open faced humbucker pickup model with Tortoiseshell bobbins. This is a signature custom design for a local player, Jeff Munson. Jeff's lead guitar for the local group Fare to Nowhere.  It is made to match the basic sonic characteristics of several well known pickups he plays often, but wound with more heat, edge and grit. This is the second one of this design I have made for him.







Just to give you more ideas, here are a few mockups of some of the other bobbin overlay possibilities, and don't forget these are for custom winds with great tone to boot.  Top row Left to Right is Macassar Ebony, Angel Wing Shell, and Rotary cut Bubinga (Kevazinga). Bottom row has Ripple (Flamed) Eucalyptus, Paua (Abalone), and East Indian Rosewood.  I have lots of others not shown such as  Figured Koa, Mozambique, Makore, and Sapele, Flame Curly Maple, Palmwood, Spruce, Figured Anigre, Birdseye Maple, Gaboon Ebony, Ribbon Mahogany, Agoya Shell, Burls, Quarter cut Bubinga, Zebrawood, etc.  You have plenty of choices to match your guitar, your fretboard, or even the interior of your tour bus, yacht or jet. (Actually most of the veneer I use is small pieces that are left over from making yacht and jet interiors.) This is the kind of handcrafted detail custom work you aren't going to find in very many other places.



OK so I hope you get the idea about the humbucker models.  There may be demos of other models on the Demos and Fun Links page.

Now here's some examples of single coil work.




These are some custom stratocaster pickups that I made for John Barry to 1965 specs and tones he was seeking.  He really liked them and sent me lots of demo mp3's.  This page is getting kind of full, so I created a new page for demos and other fun stuff and put some of the sound files he sent  here.   





This is a loaded strat pickguard I made for another local player, Larry Abercrombie. He jams with L.A. and Friends and plays in several local groups. I made this loaded pickguard to match the aging of his 70's Japanese Strat, and custom wound the pickups in it for his tonal preferences. On the left is the original guitar and on the right is the new loaded pickguard to match the aging.
This set of pickups became the prototype for my LMS Set.



Here's the back side of Larry's pickguard. It's quite vintage accurate with cloth wire, CTS pots, CRL switch and an orange drop.  This set is what I call the LMS set, for Local Musicians Special. I use some special wire that I got in a bulk buy to be able to make these at a good value. These are for vintage tone, just a little on the hot side, in a custom set that won't break the bank at all.  I'm offering this set at a great price as a way of introducing myself to the community.


Here's a couple of MP3 samples of  Larry playing this set of pickups, recorded with his own gear.

 


L.A.  "I'd Like to change the world"   L.A.   "Knights in White Satin"

  
       
   The LMS Set for Strat

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independent
Services - I charge $25 per hour plus materials for guitar setups and minor repairs.  Most setups for a new guitar or one in reasonably decent condition will run under $75. This is for a very complete and thorough evaluation and setup procedure that you won't get many other places.  I don't offer a fixed fee since I don't know what we will run into with a specific guitar. I treat each customer's guitar as if it were irreplaceable and my own, and take great care to preserve maximum life of the frets, nut, saddles, and other wearable parts. I take photos during the process, and provide them with your guitar when returned. One new set of strings is included free. Acoustics generally will run less than electrics. I have lots of repeat customers on this service. Here's what a typical setup would include: 
  • Check neck for relief and adjust truss rod as necessary (usually takes overnight)
  • Measure and record string gauges and customer data - free appraisal on request
  • Check all electronics for proper function, clean or replace pots and wiring as necessary
  • Set action as nearly as possible to the customer's preferences - (for acoustics this usually involves reshaping the saddle)
  • Hardwood neck shim if needed on bolt on necks
  • Check nut, clean, polish and file as needed for best tone and action - (Note: Replacing a factory plastic nut with a new bone, tusq or nubone nut is under $9 for the blank and usually less than an extra 1/2 hour to do at this stage.)
  • Remove strings, mask fingerboard, mark and check fret leveling with diamond flat
  • Reseat any loose frets, and shape and polish the fret ends for comfort
  • Level, recrown and polish all frets as necessary (minimum material removal)
  • Clean and check bridge and saddles for wear and proper fit, replace any needed parts.
  • On request replace saddle height setscrews as needed for comfortable playing.
  • Tighten all tuners and loose hardware - amazing how much this helps.
  • Unmask, clean, resurface and oil the fretboard as needed
  • Restring, reset action, tune and play guitar. (I like the playing part so it is free to you)
  • Let the guitar sit at least overnight tuned to pitch then play some more (also free)
  • Strobe tune and set intonation. (I use a Peterson Virtual Strobe tuner and usually I can get it within a few cents, but it depends on how accurately the guitar was made to begin with)

Use the Contact Us page to arrange for service work.  I will get back to you by e-mail or phone.

Pickup Replacements - $25 per hour plus material. You can furnish the pickup(s) of your choice, or I will give significant installation discounts if you purchase the pickups from me. (Either for my own custom made pickups, or just about any other manufacturers pickups that are available. I can also replace pots and/or tone capacitors with many available high end premium choices).

Hardware Replacements - $25 per hour plus materials. You can furnish your own hardware or get it from me. I can provide top quality upgrade hardware such as TonePros or Gotoh tuners, Stetsbar, Bigsby, Floyd Rose, or other tremolos or bridges, GraphTech nuts and saddles, Push-Pull Pots, etc. at discounted prices. For a limited time, a free full setup will be included with any tremolo or pickups purchased from me.


Pickup Rewinding - contact us for a quote. Rate is $25/hour plus material.  Sometimes a repair only takes 10-15 minutes for the simplest jobs, other times more, up to a couple of hours for a full rewind. I do lots of vintage rewinds, and try to keep it affordable, by charging only by time and material. That way you don't have to pay for work that isn't needed, or replace vintage work that is still original and fully functional. The cost depends on the type of pickup and the problem, and whether or not the existing parts can be salvaged and reused. Some of the rarer ones I might even rewind for free just to get the data if I haven't done them before.  Sometimes all that is needed is to repair connections or recharge magnets, but often one or more coils will need to be rewound.  In general, common types of passive pickups like most Fender and Gibson models will run under $40 per coil.  Most of them are no problem at all to put back in perfect condition.  I also will still take on some of the more difficult vintage pickup repairs that most other rewinders won't mess with anymore. Some examples of the more difficult rewinds are most DeArmond models like the gold foil versions, many Harmony and Kay pickups, or the so called monkey on a stick, vintage Rickenbacker horseshoe models, Teiscos, Supro/Valco, Fender Coronado, and even a few Gibson "Tarbacks". (I probably won't do most other non-vintage epoxy filled types - for example many Kent Armstrong, most epoxy filled imports, or active models like EMG though)  I can only do this because I'm set up for it, and I've invested in equipment and tooling, for example to properly replace the nearly impossible to find rivets in DeArmond pickups, Harmony Kay and other riveted pickguards, and have tooling and programs already made up for many obscure types, and I stock many types of magnet wire and lead wire, and other vintage appropriate materials to do these repairs properly.  I also stock many available replacement parts for many common models, and can readily fabricate many other obsolete parts that might be needed.  I can also do magnet recharging with a professional Magnetool M24-C magnetizer, and I am able to do touch up electroplating when needed. I have all the needed electronic test equipment and all rewinds will come with a full detailed test report.  If you have a dead vintage pickup that no one else seems to want to rewind, at least it won't hurt to ask. Not every pickup can be restored, but I might have done them before.

Custom Built Guitars -  I can build you up an electric guitar from parts, either parts that you furnish, or that I make or obtain for you,  or I can modify one of my stock Ventura guitars to your liking.  In keeping with the Custom Shop idea, perhaps you may remember the customized stock cars of the 60's and 70's, such as the Shelby Mustangs.  I have recently acquired a dealership for the Ventura line of guitars and I plan to use them in the same way that Shelby used the stock Ford mustangs.  In other words, take an affordable and stylish stock model then hotrod and customize the heck out of it, so it can "run with the big dogs". I got them initially as a cost effective way for me to showcase my pickups.  The Ventura line is one that goes all the way back to the 60's and 70s so-called "lawsuit era".  About 12 years ago the name and line has changed hands and since then, the line has only been available through independent music shops, and they are strictly not sold online or through the big chains.  Venturas are affordable Asian made guitars as they always have been, and are very well constructed for their price.  Just as they come, the will give any of the lower priced guitar lines from the big makers a good run for their money.  For one thing you aren't paying for a lot of marketing, promotion, and middlemen, so more can be spent on the guitar itself.  I can sell you one just like I get them, they're a great value for the price. Or preferably I'll put in some of my own pickups, upgrade some of the hardware, and give them a really good setup first.  The woodwork and finish is quite nice. One of the biggest differences between any makers' custom shop guitars and the rest of the line is the quality of hardware components used and the amount of labor spent setting them up for superb playability.  According to the dealer terms, I can't sell these online, so you need to contact me if you are interested.  The line includes most typical kinds of Electrics, and some nice Dreadnoghts, Acoustic and Acoustic-Electric guitars as well, plus ukeleles, mandolins, banjos, etc, even violins.  Prices start as low as $100 and go up to about $600.   Besides the Venturas, for another and  higher end option I also occasionally make up guitars from high quality raw wood bodies, and ready made necks, then finish them myself in nitro lacquer with top quality hardware and my pickups.

Here's something completely different for the vintage guitar restoration enthusiast.  

Reproduction 1950's and 1960's Capacitors  If you recognize these, you'll understand. The "red dime" type I make by carefully re-symbolizing NOS  ceramic caps from the 70's. My  "phonebook" caps are made from modern multilayer ceramic caps, but produced to look like the 1950's paper capacitors. They aren't intended to fool any experts, just have a vintage look. I offer them in the original values, or in values that were never really produced, but fit in with more modern playing styles.  I'm adding many new varieties, as I run into them in repairs. These reproductions are much less costly than the real thing or even many of the modern paper in oil reproductions.  Or check out the NOS paper in oil caps I have, like Vitamin Q.  They are the real thing from the 50's and 60's. All the NOS capacitors are new, never used parts with full leads. Not pulls. I clean them up and test them to be sure they are good and in tolerance, and include vintage style cloth insulation if appropriate.

If you're interested in more guitar pickup-ology, please cruise around the website, there's lots more information buried here than you'd probably ever want to know about guitar pickup technology and lore. Check out the
Shop Tour and Reference Information pages or the FAQ page.  Don't forget to visit the Online Store too.
  




  About Me    Shop Tour    Contact Us     FAQ's    Reference Information    Online Store  Accessories

If you'd like to post a comment, photos, or video for everyone to view, here is our Facebook page.   



About the background photos:   These old trucks don't have anything at all to do with guitars.  But they are "pickups" and from the era when many of the classic guitar pickup designs were created.  Those pickups and the classic amplifiers that came along at the same time enabled the guitar to be heard above the rest of the band and become a primary instrument, and changed popular music for all time.  It's a play on words, but recreating those vintage pickups is a little bit like restoring old cars or trucks.  It's also somewhat like guitar pickup archaeology.  Both are about craftsmanship and detail, and about pride of ownership. In the 60's if you wanted to restore an old model car or make a hot rod of it, you might do a lot of the work yourself, but also most people would take it to a "custom shop" to get some of the more specialized work done.  They could make it better than when it was new and change things to suit your own preferences.  I've modeled my business along those lines.  The truck on this page needs a lot of restoring, unlike most of the ones on the other pages.

Even if you don't give a hoot about guitars but just want to see all the old pickup trucks, go to the FAQ page and scroll all the way down to the bottom. Click any picture for the slide show. I like them too.  Enjoy the show.


© Copyright 2011 Sonny Walton    All rights reserved.

Disclaimer:
  For reference purposes of communication, and to distinguish among various available guitars, the commonly used names of the types may be mentioned.  Those names are or may be trademarks of their respective companies. I have no affiliation with those companies. None of the parts made by me are, or are intended in any way whatsoever, to be represented as products of any of the following or other musical instrument manufacturers, represented to have originated from the respective trademark owners, or to otherwise infringe on those trademarks. This disclaimer applies to all pages of the website.

Strat, Stratocaster, Esquire, Telecaster, Tele, Jazzmaster, Jaguar, Mustang, and Fender are registered trademarks of Fender Musical Instruments.

Gibson, Les Paul, S.G., Flying V, ES-175, ES-335, L-5, J200, Byrdland, Epiphone and P-90 are registered trademarks of Gibson Guitar Corp.  PAF  or P.A.F. is not a trademark of Gibson but is commonly used to refer to humbucking pickups made by Gibson during a certain period of time, which carried stickers marked Patent Applied For. (Dimarzio registered the trademark PAF in 1977 more than ten years after the last original Gibson Patent Applied For pickup was made)

Martin is a registered trademark of CF Martin & Co.
Danelectro is a registered trademark of the Evets Corporation.

Gretsch is a registered trademark of Fred W. Gretsch Enterprises, Ltd. and is used under license by Fender Musical Instruments.

PAF is a registered trademark of Dimarzio inc.

Marshall and Super Lead are registered trademarks or trademarks of Marshall Amplification plc.

Seymour Duncan is a registered trademark of Carter Duncan Corporation.

forbon  is a registered trademark of  ELE Associates Global LLC.  Used by NVF Company.

To illustrate certain points I may mention the names of well known artists or groups in association with things they are reported to have done. This is done strictly for purposes of illustration and effective communication. I have no affiliation with these artists or groups and the information given has been obtained from public sources and not from the artists themselves.


This Disclaimer is a part of the Terms and Conditions of use of this website.  Please see the Terms and Conditions link in the Online Store.  Terms and Conditions of the Online Store apply to the entire website. 

Photo Credits
The background photo on this page is from GoDaddy.

All other background images on this site are either from www.nashnut.com ©John Trotta, used by permission or from wikimedia commons  released into the public domain. If you like photos of nicely restored old cars please visit nashnut.com


To view a slideshow of the photos used as backgrounds on this site go to the
FAQ page, scroll to the bottom and click any photo.
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