Upgrade to Vintage “Lemon Drop”

Vintage Lemon Drop upgrade

I recently performed a full upgrade on a Vintage Lemon Drop guitar. These guitars are great value for money but obviously at such a low price, some components are going to be less than top quality.

The full list of changes is:

  • bone nut
  • Sperzel tuners
  • Tonepros nickel bridge and tailpiece
  • Tonerider Alnico IV pickups
  • CTS pots
  • Switchcraft switch and jack
  • Sprague Orange drop capacitors

As well as a complete rewire in braided wire, fret dress and setup.

The total cost of upgrades including parts was about £370.

The pickups were, of course, wired out of phase. With both pickups on, and the neck volume rolled off slightly, it did the Peter Green sound perfectly.

49 Comments on “Upgrade to Vintage “Lemon Drop””

  1. I have a reissue lemon drop and it’s suddenly no longer out of phase. I’ve lost the honk and the neck pickup sound thin almost like it’s running as a single coil. Any idea as to what I should be looking at. Struggling to find a wiring diagram online that looks anything like what I’m seeing tbh best wishes and many thanks

    • It sounds as if the neck pickup has a broken coil.

      If you select just the neck pickup, does the tone control act as a volume? If so, you have a broken coil and the pickup needs a repair.

      • The tone control is fine it’s running as it should. The whole thing is bizarre. The only thing I’m thinking of doing next is to completely resolder everything but it looks like a birds nest in there and I don’t know if it’s been specifically wired to be out of phase or it’s a standard wiring but with a magnet flip. Any further advice much appreciated

        • The neck pickup has the magnet flipped.

          To eliminate everything else, connect the neck pickup directly to the jack and listen to how it sounds. If it’s not right then the pickup is faulty.

          • I’ve also noticed the adjustable screws on the pickup is magnetic where as the bridge pickup screws, are not!

          • Both sets of screws should be magnetic (induced by the bar magnet below) but opposite polarity of course.

  2. I put some VIP Potis in(they are like the Centralab from the Fifties-Gibsons)and they work very good,little thiner in the mids,best Example Brother in Arms from Knopfler.With Push and Pull i can change from normal to out of Phase.

  3. Hey, just wondering if somebody could explain exactly what is meant by ‘wired out of phase’? And secondly wold this be effected if I where to swap out the pickups?
    Many thanks from Ireland.

    • Seymour Duncan cover it here.

      If you get two pickups from the same maker they will almost certainly be in phase.

      If the pickups have four conductor wires (or even a separate earth) you can choose whether to wire in or out of phase by swapping the + and – wires over.

  4. Steve recently upgraded and set up my son’s Vintage “Lemon Drop”. Did an utterly fantastic job – astonishing improvement – the boy’s USA Strat has pretty much been relegated to its case ever since. Thanks Steve! I’ll bring the Strat over at some point …. :)

  5. Hello again!

    And Thanks for your reply. I’ll be ordering those pots then. Another thing I was thinking about is the tuners. Maybe I’ll upgrade those to. Anyone know the size of the mounting Holes in the headstock, 8mm or 10mm?

    Best Regards

    • I used the medium length (3/8″) like these.

      The short ones are only suitable for pickguard mounting and the long type are for Gibson Les Paul guitars with the thicker carved top.

      • Yes use the medium length pots. Often sold as upgrades for Epiphone Les Pauls. If using American CTS pots you will need to widen the holes. Look on YouTube for advice. I also find Axesrus quite good for parts and kits.

  6. Doh. When I pulled all the wiring out I found there was an earth wire going to the bridge rather than one to the stop tail piece. Job done – 50s wiring – original Wilkinson pickups – but what a difference!

      • Blue I think. However I had already put in a new earth wire to the stop tail piece, so the original earth wire was redundant.

    • Hi Tim, Could you elaborate on the difference the upgraded pots and wiring did for the sound please? cheers

      • To me it just seemed to open up the sound, making it less muddy, which could be due to the 50s wiring. The better pots also have a better taper on them i.e. you don’t get a sudden drop off – and the guitar retains tone better when you roll off the volume.
        I must confess I do prefer guitars to have a bit of brightness about them rather than sounding too dark, but a lot is down to personal preference.

        • Thanks Tim,
          I agree with you that a guitar should have enough top end. The taper on the original pots is something I would like to correct as is the retention of top end. Looks like I’ll be doing a wiring and pots upgrade when I finally get some spare time! Cheers, Sion

  7. OK thanks. Managed to pull the post and drill a hole for the earth wire. Pulling the post was a bit of a struggle – I’m sure there’s a proper tool for the job rather than a screwdriver and a pair of pliers. Looks a little more distressed now!

  8. Taking apart my V100 to upgrade pots and switches etc, but surprised to see no ground wire to bridge! Is it a problem??

    • I’m surprised too. You’ll probably find it’s quite noisy without one.

      It’s easy enough to pull the tailpiece post and add an earth wire so long as the hole for it has been drilled. Even drilling the hole isn’t too tricky.

  9. Hi. ..looking to upgrade electrics on my Vintage afd100…do i need a specific pot size doameter wise as a straight replacement. .any help appreciated

  10. Hi Steve.

    How much to put new potetiometers on the p.gm, the volume and tone.

    Cheers .

  11. Steve,
    Van you tell me which type Tonepros bridge you used als a replacement? I got me the same guitar but the bridge is bowing down. After the 12th fret the guitarsound is as good as dead.


  12. Hi Steve.

    no posted for a while, great job on the p.g.m, plays like a dream, thanks again, top job Sir

  13. Hi Steve.

    I have jut bought a vintage lemon drop p.g.m, i have noticed a few frets are higher than the others, is it possible to just level the odd frets, or is it a full fret dress.

    All the best steve.

  14. I recently bought a New Re-Issue Vintage “Lemon Drop” after many years of playing and really love this guitar. A friend of mine from Australia Kim Humphreys has a website with many demo instrumentals using this guitar. Check the demos out on
    kimhumphreys.com Such fantastic sounds from a reasonably priced instrument. Hope this post is useful. Alan

  15. Again thanks, I was interested in the cost in case it was something I could save for. The reason I mentioned the sanding was if it was to raise the price for mine significantly would it be something I could make a start on (eek- no skills) It’s all hypothetical and aspirational at the moment as I don’t think I could afford the work but I really liked the look of what you did here and was interested in the cost. Sorry if I didn’t make myself clear or sounded cheeky etc, Lorrie

    • Hi Lorrie, no you didn’t sound cheeky, I was perhaps being evasive.

      Having stripped one Lemon Drop top I really wouldn’t want to do another. It does take a long time to do it carefully and there are things I’d rather do with that time!

  16. Hi Steve
    I’ve also just bought a vintage lemon drop and find it plays better than my Epiphone Standard. I am hoping to upgrade the electrics to make it last etc and have been looking around at components. The problem I am finding is how do I know that wire pots and capacitors I see in various on line shops are better than what is inside it already? Is there an easy way to distinguish the quality or particular makes and models to go for? My lemon drop is great and want it to be the best I can afford.
    Cheers, Lorrie
    PS: I was also thinking of Bare Knuckle PG Blues pickups for the upgrade.
    Great re finish on this one on the other post!

    • I almost always fit CTS brand pots and Switchcraft switch and jack socket as I did in this upgrade above. The extra cost of buying the best components isn’t much over buying the cheap stuff.

      If you buy from an established dealer such as AllParts then you’ll be sure to get the best components.

      • Thanks for your swift reply. I would be interested in knowing how much the refinish on this guitar cost as well and whether all the sanding bumped up the price.
        Thanks again, Lorrie

        • The refinish was cheap as I stood by my quote which I gave before I knew how much work it would be.

  17. Hi, I’ve just bought one of these Vintage Lemondrops and I love it! I’ve always been a strat/tele player but being a child of the seventies I’ve always loved the sound of a cranked Les Paul through a Marshall Stack too. I’d heard that these guitars were good value so I took the plunge and got a factory second one for £200 (second because it had a very slight imperfection in the laquer on the side. It was nothing that a bit of T cut didnt sort out.)
    A friend of mine owned one of these along with a lovely Gibson Les Paul and readily admitted that there was not a big difference between the two. He actually preferred the action on the Vintage.Soundwise, he reckoned that the Wilkinson stock pups on the Vintage guitar were amazing. I love the sound on them, but I’m no humbucker expert and it may be a case of what I don’t know wont harm me!
    I was thinking of fitting a coiltap and treble bleed to the Vintage stock pups and wiring. I want to be able to get a nice thin toppy sound as well as the thick, rich tones available as stock. Have you any recommendations? Is a coiltap possible on the Wilkinson stock pups? I’d just like to make it a bit more versatile for gigs so I don’t have to resort to my strats or have to fiddle with my eq settings every time I need a thinner toppy rhythm tone for rhythmic stuff like funk and reggae. I could do with a bit more edge or definition on the wound strings too really! Any ideas as to how I’d do this? Upgrade s Pots?Pups?capacitors etc?
    I never thought I’d actually go to a Les Paul before my beloved strats! Can’t praise this Lemondrop enough really!
    Thanks for any help.

    • I can’t recall whether the stock pickups have 4-conductor cables. If they do then yes they can be coil split using push-pull pots, otherwise they’ll need to be modified.

      Again, I don’t know how they’d sound split, many humbuckers can be a bit weak. It’s probably worth a shot though, and if they don’t sound how you like maybe swap them out?

      • Thanks Steve.
        I’ve tried using a treble booster to get the pickups sounding more edgy and it has worked. I still need a treble bleed though. That will then give me the thinner lower output sound I need intermitently. Any suggestions for what to use? Would it be worth fitting new pots, switch n wires while I’m at it as the Vintage electronics are ok but an upgrade would be good for such a nice guitar. Would you do this for me?
        One more question if you don’t mind … I’d like to darken the rosewood fretboard and using the lemon oil or mineral oil doesnt appeal to me as it’s only temporary. I’ve tried Rustins wood dye on another guitar and it gives a lovely rich colour to the rosewood board, but it still rubs off with a bit of kitchen roll a week after I applied it.it seems that the rosewood won’t take the dye completely. What could I use do you think? Or shall I risk the Rustins as the Lemondrop’s fretboard looks very dry and untreated? Is this something you could do too? Maybe you could email me a price for dying the neck and upgrading the electronics. Cheers, Sion

        • Fiebings Leather Dye works on fretboards as it penetrates well.

          I’ll email you about the electrics!

  18. Looks like a great guitar after upgrading. Considering this option myself as I liked the Vintage LP after playing one recently.

    • I have another here at the moment for similar treatment, but it’s getting a Bare Knuckle Pickups PG Blues set.

  19. That’s my guitar! Steve did a great job upgrading the hardware and the set-up is great too. Unbelievable low action with no buzz, in fact its a bit too low for me! I plan to get the top refinished so will get Steve to sort this at the same time. Now this guitars a keeper! Great sounds, great player with well fitted, quality hardware. Like Steve said, when new these guitars are great value for money, but the components are not built to last. With this upgrade it will still be a player in 20 years from now, and for half the price of a genuine Les Paul. Cheers Steve!

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