PAF Vintage Mk4 Pickups?

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Watersilk
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PAF Vintage Mk4 Pickups?

Post by Watersilk » Thu Mar 12, 2020 8:24 am

Hello everyone,

I bought a rather sad-looking Korean Love Rock on eBay some time ago. This guitar has had quite a hard life, an ideal project guitar. I was looking for a guitar that I could upgrade on a budget, so really perfect for my needs.
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When I started to look for information about these guitars, I was quite astonished with the lack of knowledge on guitar forums; many people owned Tokai guitars on these forums, but knowledge is so very scanty.

I think my guitar was made around 2003, judging by the guidelines laid down on this forum, although it looks 'much' older; truss rod cover and 'Made in Korea' stamped on the back of the headstock; however, it doesn't have a dimple on the open-book headstock, which is a little odd. A model made exclusively for the local market and not for export?
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Does anyone know 'anything' about the pickups that came with this guitar? The catalogues for the 2003 period list the pickups as PAF Vintage Mk4, but what are the specifications for these pickups?

They have chromium-plated covers:
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The baseplate of one has 'F' stamped on it, with a grey wire, the other 'R' with a blue wire (front & rear - Neck & Bridge?
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On removing the cover, one thing becomes apparent, a huge amount of wax used in the potting:
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Also, 2 spacer bars and a very dark magnet, would this be a ceramic magnet?
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Does anyone know where these pickups were made and by which factory? I thought that being Korean, they might be made by G&B, a large pickup maker, but I have doubts about this. A post on one forum suggests that the PAF Vintage Mk4 are the same pickups as the 50's Classic fitted to Korean Epiphone's?

I'm thinking of changing the covers to thinner ones made of nickel and if the original magnets are ceramic or even Alnico 5, perhaps changing them to Alnico 2 in the bridge and 3 in the neck? I'm just wondering if anyone here has tried upgrading them in any way? Are they even worth upgrading?

Sorry, lots of questions...!

cuthbert
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Re: PAF Vintage Mk4 Pickups?

Post by cuthbert » Tue Mar 31, 2020 6:03 am

No an expert but yes, the magnet looks ceramic.

What you don´t like about the pickups? That is the first question to understand how to upgrade and if to upgrade.

Watersilk
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Re: PAF Vintage Mk4 Pickups?

Post by Watersilk » Sun Apr 05, 2020 2:18 am

Hello Cuthbert,

Good question! :)

Unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to hear these pickups, the guitar wasn't working when I bought it, the jack had a problem; I then dismantled it to work on the body and neck.

I had bought this guitar with the plan to strip it of hardware and electrics to improve the aesthetics and of course tone. I have a Korean Hamer and it's original pickups were awful, actually unusable, unless perhaps I was going to play metal and I was tone deaf :) I just assumed that the Mk4 pickups in my ALS 48 would also need replacing. For the Korean Hamer, I just changed the original 'Duncan Designed" pickups for USA Seymour Duncan's; the difference was black and white, changing the other electrics produced another huge leap in tone and openness. I have wondered though, what if I just changed the magnets in the 'Duncan Designed' pickups, instead of changing them for an expensive USA set?

The amps I have will strip any guitar bare, this is fabulous when the hardware (nut & bridge) and electrics (pots, wiring, jack, selector switch & pickups) are well-made, all the positive things shine; however, any weak link in the chain is going to make playing a painful experience. I'm looking for harmonic overtones that give depth and an open sound, it's difficult to put into words but a flat, constricted sound that's not musical doesn't inspire me to play. I don't see why I can't have this in a Korean Tokai.

I think it's quite possible that Tokai used the same Korean pickup manufacturer as Gibson used for their Epiphone models. Searching for player feedback for Korean Epiphone pickups on the Les Paul forum is not encouraging; the answer most post is scrap them!

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This is a Korean Epiphone humbucker pickup, the wax potting is completely covering the pickup, it's caked in it, just like my Mk4's; the possibility of these Epiphone's being the same pickups as my Mk4's looks convincing. I think that there is some sharing of parts between the two companies, my Tokai Les Paul's jack plate is precisely the same dimensions as an Epiphone part.

I don't like the Mk4 pickup covers, if I'm keeping these pickups I will change them to 'raw' nickel, for aesthetic reasons, but also for tone, they will be thinner and also being nickel will allow a little more high frequency to pass through. I've heard that changing Ceramic magnets in low output pickups for Alnico can improve tone; I'm guessing that Ceramic magnets are not the ideal choice for a 'PAF' sound, but are most probably used because they are a cheaper option for a budget guitar.

I'm wondering if it is worth me spending a little and upgrading these pickups by changing the magnets to alnico? Will they sound better? If so, how much better? If the original, Mk 4 pickups sound good and will give me the tone I'm looking for, there is no need to spend money on replacement pickups.

I'm curious, perhaps with Alnico magnets and a cover change, these Mk4 pickups could sound perfectly fine?
Last edited by Watersilk on Sun Apr 05, 2020 9:37 am, edited 1 time in total.

luis
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Re: PAF Vintage Mk4 Pickups?

Post by luis » Sun Apr 05, 2020 5:53 am

I guess it could be Artec made because two holes in upper rigth and down left diagonal....

They would improve a bit I guess, but wire used and so much poting is a problem for a good sound.

Watersilk
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Re: PAF Vintage Mk4 Pickups?

Post by Watersilk » Sun Apr 05, 2020 9:26 am

Hello Luis,

"I guess it could be Artec made because two holes in upper rigth and down left diagonal...."

Oooh! Normally I read a lot of posts before acting, but reading yours I was immediately impressed by the reference to holes in certain places... that's attention to detail!

Do you know if Artec make pickups for Epiphone?

Your mention of wire, I was also wondering about this, you would think that wire is wire, but like everything else it comes in different metals and qualities; and, that potting! Nothing left to chance in that process, I've never seen anything like it.

Obviously, what I don't want to do is spend money on new covers and magnets, only to find that these pickups still sound like the kind of pickups you need to change...

I have some Humbucker sets lying around, Tonerider Alnico 2, Kaiyo Mk2 (from a Japanese model) Gibson Burst bucker, Gibson Custom bucker and a Geppetto Nomad set (Alnico 3, overwound to replicate a Dry Z).

The ALS 48 I have was obviously made as a mid-late 1960 Les Paul type, the neck profile measuring exactly the same as the 1960 neck; the sunburst top was also correct; knowing how good the Japanese are with detail, just the colour of this guitar alone told me that the neck would be a 1960 profile.

I'm going with reflector knobs and double ring tuner buttons to reinforce the 1960 look, which makes me think that the Geppetto Nomad's will be the right choice; clarity and power! Gibson also seem to use Alnico 3 in their 1960 reissues.

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I tried new pickup rings here, but I think I will stick with the originals, they are a better fit with the pickguard.

It will be a fun project, the difficult part will be refinishing the back (alder) and neck (maple); I stupidly removed the original varnish because i didn't like the colour.

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Thank you again for your reply.
Last edited by Watersilk on Mon Apr 06, 2020 2:00 am, edited 1 time in total.

JVsearch
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Re: PAF Vintage Mk4 Pickups?

Post by JVsearch » Sun Apr 05, 2020 1:11 pm

Looks like you've done a great job on removing the finish.
Good stuff!

Sorry I don't know jack about pickups or re-finishing guitars.
Totally biased towards Japanese made guitars.

Watersilk
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Re: PAF Vintage Mk4 Pickups?

Post by Watersilk » Sun Apr 05, 2020 1:45 pm

Thank you JVsearch,

I was trying to thin the finish on the top and went through the cherry red... where it graduates into the yellow... so I had no choice but to take all the red off, then I was left with... yellow! I'm happy with the top, but removing the back and neck finish was not the brightest thing I've done. The original colour was a pinkish red, it just looked wrong. I thought I could just dye the back and neck vintage cherry, then finish with Tru Oil, oh dear, there must be an art to this,,, clearly one I haven't mastered! The outcome was very blotchy and the dye didn't want to soak into the wood, both the alder and maple seem impervious... the dye just floating on top! To make matters worse, the difference in colour between the alder and the maple just makes it worse!

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Mahogany is at least an open pore wood, it must be much easier to dye that.

I think I will have to buy a can of nitrocellulose vintage cherry and hope that I can cover enough with a few coats to get some kind of uniform colour.

I will post the whole project from start to finish when I have got to the end...

Thank you again, cheers!

luis
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Re: PAF Vintage Mk4 Pickups?

Post by luis » Mon Apr 06, 2020 6:26 am

Artec made pickups for several guitar brands and I would say Epiphone Korean made too, why not? It makes a lot of sense....
I was told recently ARtec made pickups for Orville somewhere in 90s buit not 100% sure. It could be put in korean made Grecos also. If you have a local firm you can negotiate easily don' t you see?

The wood you are showing is fart from being any mahogany specie, it seems to be something else.

Watersilk
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Re: PAF Vintage Mk4 Pickups?

Post by Watersilk » Mon Apr 06, 2020 8:50 am

Hello Luis,

There is another large Korean pickup manufacturer, G&B, I originally thought the MK4's were made by them, but on closer inspection they just didn't look like G&B's.

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It's not mahogany. The model is i think an ALS48, from around 2004? I think that the body is made from Alder, three pieces, really lovely close-grained wood...

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while the neck is Maple.

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These woods fit perfectly with the ALS48 specifications, but they are hell to stain!

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