Bare Knuckle Pickups — The Ultimate Installation Guide

Bare Knuckle Installation

Let’s take a look at how to install Bare Knuckle pickups. We’ll cover single-coils, humbuckers, and P90s, and with the help of this article, you’ll be able to install any model pickup into your guitar with ease.

Before Starting Your Bare Knuckle Installation

This post assumes you have some knowledge of wiring, have changed your pickups before, and understand the terminology that we’ll use. If you’re new to changing pickups and wiring your guitar, we recommend checking out one of the many wiring articles here at Humbucker Soup that provide step-by-step instructions for the beginner.

Bare Knuckle Pickups

Let’s take a look at the different types of pickups and their wiring diagrams.

Vintage Stratocaster Wiring

Vintage Stratocasters use single-coil pickups, and that’s a great place to start because single-coil pickups only have two wires, and they are relatively easy to install. Bare Knuckle makes several models of single-coil pickups, including the Apache, the Sultans, and the Mothers Milk. These pickups use a Hot white wire and a Ground black wire.

In Example 1, we illustrate how to wire Bare Knuckle pickups in a Fender Stratocaster.

Example 1

Vintage Telecaster Wiring

The Fender Telecaster uses single-coil pickups like the Fender Stratocaster, but wound slightly differently to get that legendary twang sound. Bare Knuckle produces several models for use in a Fender Telecaster, including the Country Boy, The Yardbird, and the Brown Sugar. The bridge pickup typically uses a yellow wire for Hot and a black wire for Ground, while the neck pickup keeps the black and white wires of standard single-coils.

In Example 2, we illustrate how to wire Bare Knuckle pickups into a Fender Stratocaster.

Example 2

Vintage P90 Wiring

P90s are the Gibson version of the single-coil pickup. It may look like a humbucker, but there’s only one coil. Bare Knuckle has a few great-sounding P90s, like the Blue Note, Half Note, and the Supermassive. Bare Knuckle uses a single conductor lead and a braided metal shield. When installing these pickups, the colored wire is the Hot, and the braided shield is the Ground.

In Example 3, we illustrate a Bare Knuckle installation into a Gibson Les Paul style guitar.

Example 3

Humbucker Wiring (Braided Wire)

Humbucking pickups originally had the same wiring scheme as P90s with a single lead conductor surrounded by a braided metal wire sleeve. The inner colored wire is the Hot and the braided metal wire is the Ground. There are still many vintage style humbuckers around, and you can choose to get almost any Bare Knuckle humbucker with the braided wire scheme.

In Example 4, we illustrate how to wire Bare Knuckle humbuckers with braided wire in a Gibson Les Paul-style guitar.

Example 4

Humbucker Wiring (4-Wires)

When pickup manufacturers noticed that guitar players liked to modify the humbucker in various ways, they started producing the four-wire humbuckers. There are four wires because each coil has one wire at the beginning of the coil and one wire at the end. The four wires mean you need to do the internal wiring yourself, but it leaves open the option to wire them incorrectly, producing new and unexpected tones.

We’ll give you an example of a modification in the next section, but to install a four-wire humbucker, you need to know the wiring code first. All brands are different, but Bare Knuckle uses the following wiring code:

Bare Knuckle Wiring Code

  • Red = Hot
  • Green + White = soldered together and taped off
  • Black + Bare = soldered together; Ground


In Example 5, we illustrate the wiring code of Bare Knuckle humbuckers.

Example 5

Once you know the wiring code, you can install them the same way you install single-coil pickups with the Hot and Ground.

In Example 6, We illustrate how to install Bare Knuckle humbuckers in a Gibson Les Paul.

Example 6

Humbucker Coil Splitting (4-Wires)

With the four-wire humbucker installed correctly, you can also coil-split one or both of the pickups. To add the modification, you need to convert one of your tone controls into a push-pull pot. With the tone control converted, you only need to connect the green and white wires to the switch part and add a short ground wire.

In Example 7, we illustrate what the coil-splitting modification would look like with the tone control converted in a Gibson Les Paul style guitar.

Example 7


A Bare Knuckle installation is not difficult. Usually, the hardest part is choosing which pickup to buy. Installing pickups is a great way to get to know your guitar and to personalize your tone. If you’ve found this article helpful, please feel free to share this guide on Facebook and Twitter. For more articles on guitar electronics, visit

Ed Malaker Our resident electronics wizard came by his skills honestly — first as an apprentice in his father’s repair shop, later as a working musician and (most recently) as a sound designer for film. His passion for guitar led him to Humbucker Soup, where he continues to decode the wonders of wiring and the vicissitudes of voltage. Ed has never taken his guitar to a shop — he already knows how to fix it.