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Gibson ES5 switchmaster pickup selector wanted

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I am trying to source a replacement pickup selector for a 1956 ES5 Switchmaster, which is currently only playable acoustically because of problems with the switch.


I do not mind if the replacement is a new historic collection spare, or an old one (at a reasonable price hopefully)...


If anyone has one, or knows where to get one, please reply to this post.


I live in the UK, and have tried Rosetti, who admit they cannot get one. I have written to Gibson customer service also , as well as a couple of US based rare/vintage guitar part specialists.




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Since Gibson did not/does not manufacture switches (they just buy off-the-shelf switches from switch manufactures), your research will need to take you in that direction. The manufacturer of the standard Gibson pickup selector switch is "Switchcraft", that would be a place to start. I'm not intimately familiar with the Switchmaster switch, but it seems to me it is very "Tele" like (Fender switches have been made by various manufacturers over the years, but NOT Switchcraft). There may even be a name or part number on the original switch that might help track down the manufacturer. An inscribed part number may even contain a manufacturers "code" like a potentiometer.


I have had NO Luck getting parts of this nature from Gibson, but I have usually been able to source them from the same manufacturer they buy from. Maybe someone from the "company" would like to chime in here with a little inside information.


I would avoid buying a "vintage" switch, for it may just develop the same problems as the one you have. Not knowing the exact problem you have, since these are big mechanical switches, and short of physical/mechanical breakage, a good cleaning and re-solder may revive the old switch. I have never actually had to replace a switch in a Gibson or Fender guitar. I have a 50+ year old Fender, and a 40 year old Gibson with original switches that have only required a good cleaning every so often. This is generally done with emory cloth and contact cleaner.

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Thanks for both replies. I was very fortunate to be able to buy this Switchmaster at a very low price, as it was damaged. When I saw it, I thought I would have problems. Something has hit the front of this guitar, hard, at some point. The switch sticks out quite a long way (compared to other selector switches I've seen) and seems to have taken a direct hit. This impact resulted in:

- the switch itself being badly bent

- the insides of the switch being shattered

- the plastic/bakelite that surrounds the switch being cracked in several places

As it was told to me, this damage happened over 20 years ago when the guitar was moved (maybe a house move), and when the impact has occurred, not all the pieces were carefully gathered up and retained. Some of the plastic is missing, so it is not possible to restore this switch. It's also not possible for me to give the pieces to a pickguard specialist and ask them to recreate this accurately.


The fact that the switch was there and took the impact may have saved the top from a nasty crack.


Getting a replacement switch is of prime importance. Then the pickups can be wired to this, and hopefully I can use the guitar fully. While I don't doubt that Gibson purchases the switch 'mechanism' from Switchcraft or Oak Grigsby or someone like that, I also need to replace the plastic or probably bakelite used around the switch mechanism ... the bit that says '1-2-3-ALL' ... and this is why I have approached Gibson directly about the possibility of getting a spare part. In order to restore the instrument properly though, I do need the original mounting part too, and I suspect this IS gibson-made...


Since my post to this forum, I did have a response from Gibson's 'european service' department stating:


"Thank you for your interest in Gibson guitars. The switch of the ES-5 is not available from Gibson for purchase. This model is not in production anymore and we do not have any stock left of this specific part.


There are not many guitars around with this feature, and we are not aware of an aftermarket retailer who sells this 4 way switch. We would suggest you to contact a good guitar technician who can advise for a possible solution or possible alternatives for your guitar. We have a number of authorized Gibson Service Centers in the UK. If you are interested to get in contact with, please send you zip code to us. We will be happy to refer you to the nearest one."


I replied to this as I had a number of issues with this response:

1) We are not aware of an aftermarket retailer who sells this 4 way switch - ok, so does Gibson not buy this switch mechanism in from outside ?

2) This model is not in production anymore - so why does the Gibson ES-5 Switchmaster still appear on a gibson.com site with a 'buy now' button on the same page, and why do various guitar shops still stock a Gibson Switchmaster 'historic' version (at around £3300 / $5200) ??

3) We do not have any stock left of this specific part - ok, but why no quotation to get another one made ? I am a customer with a Gibson instrument that needs a replacement part - what kind of customer service is it if you ignore this ??


In case Gibson thinks that, because I am not the original owner, I am not a 'customer', I am also not the original owner of:

1965 J200 in sunburst

1973 Les Paul Custom in cherry sunburst


I did buy new :

2002 Flying V reissue in natural finish


I have heard that the decision to no longer sell 'raw parts' (as opposed to packaged part sets like Gibson Les Paul volume/tone knobs) came with the upgrade of an internal accounting system, whereupon the SKUs for the raw parts were not migrated or re-entered into the new system. Had the switchmaster used a regular pickup selector, no problem - these are readily available, but I can find no documentation, including on the original Switchmaster technical drawing dated August 1960 ... back then accuracy and completeness didn't appear to be that critical when it came to the business of documentation...


From talking with a number of parts suppliers, Gibson's reputation is definitely 'in the mud' on this issue, and someone there needs to realise that this is a deeply unpopular way to treat both suppliers and customers. Regular players and prospective customers will talk to these parts specialists, who can often de-bunk a lot of the hype around certain elements of our industry - if these technical specialists are saying 'don't deal with Gibson' then some people will take this on-board... It would appear that the current management may be undoing Ted McCarty's hard work...


If Gibson customer service cannot sell the part, you would at least expect them to be interested in helping me repair what is otherwise a lovely instrument.


Someone once said 'we are merely custodians of these fine instruments, looking after them for the next generation'... it's difficult to see how that's possible without being able to perform the occasional repair...


I'm giving Gibson service a bit of time to respond, before writing an email to Henry J about all this, and would recommend anyone else in the same position to do the same.




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