Modern Gretsch Guitars

How do I remove gold plating from 5420 pickups?


Hey everyone...

I’ve decided to sell my SSLVO on Reverb to buy this vintage orange 5420 from Sweetwater and also get a nice acoustic.

But I love nickel hardware, not gold.

I’ve read that the gold plating is just that: thin plating that a simple metal cleaner can take right off.

But while it’s easy to remove tuners, knobs, and stuff like that, how would I remove the cover and poke pieces from these blacktop filtertrons? I’ve never done that. Does the cover just slide off once I get it out of the guitar, and can I I screw poke pieces and put them back in later with no issues?



Just play it for a couple weeks. Plating drops right off.


I assume you’re joking, cause I’ve heard that before on other projects. 2 years later, looks the same! You have to rub it with your fingers or something.


You can unscrew the polepieces and remove them. You could replace them with round-head nickel of the same specs and not have to strip them.

You can do the pickup covers without disassembling the pickups - start with a very mild abrasive polish, and move up in aggressiveness till the plating comes off with semi-vigorous rubbing. Works for all the hardware.

Word of reality: I've removed gold plating from hardware with this method. You can watch a couple hours of something decent on the tube while working and be done by the end of the show. (I've employed QTips and toothbrushes to get into crevices on tuners and bridge parts, then carefully cleaned the toothbrush before I put it back in my wife's holder.)

The after looks waaaay better than the grodey corrodey before. (You can see the results in this thread by scrolling past the ridiculous autobiographical opening post to the pictures.) BUT.

But stripping all the plating frequently reveals minor imperfections in the underlying metal, and when stripped, that metal will tend to oxidize, cloud up, and discolor more easily than you might like. Nothing that can't be buffed back up to shiny - but it's something to be aware of. I guess I'm saying that naked metal is not the same as nickel or chrome plate.


From more than three feet away, no one will be able to tell that the pole pieces and screws are gold.


Proteus, you are the man!

Terrific, thorough answer. I think I’ll go for it, though I’ll probably leave out the part about returning the toothbrush to my wife’s holder, since mother’s day is coming up and all.

Thank you so much!


Reverse electrolysis. Google it.

Nev-r-dull metal polish takes off gold plate like it was made to.

Found that out the hard way.


I think Nev-r-dull was one of the chemical products I had at hand, yes. I probably used a few wads. I always go into such projects equipped with a variety of compounds.


I assume you’re joking, cause I’ve heard that before on other projects. 2 years later, looks the same! You have to rub it with your fingers or something.

– RockabillySurf

Yeah, I was. Sort of.


Rub the gold parts with a wad of Brasso brass cleaner. You'll be through to the nickel plating under the gold in no time and there'll be no scratches or damage that needs to be polished out.


Yep, Brasso works fine and I did that with a couple of gold Supro repro pickups. I even left a bit of gold bloom on there for an aged look. But getting back to the silver was easy. I guess you'll still have the gold plastic pickup surrounds to either live with, or change to match. I often get a bit unsure about gold/silver mixes. Ask women about jewellery, they don't usually mix them.


Ok, so if I were to buy one of these 5420s, remove all the nickel/silver (including the pickguard)... then replace it with the gold hardware...

Which of these (if you were in the market) would you buy (with gold tuners, knobs, pickups, and pickguard)?

I’m thinking Fairlane Blue, since it’s the most popular of the bunch.

First, here’s aspen green.


I have a CAR with gold hardware. It's stunning. Gold would also look good on the orange.

Not with the blue or green. Yuckptui. Bad visual clash.


Too true. I just got this, and all the gold has got to go.


That doesn’t look horrible to me on that shade of green, but it REALLY wouldn’t work with the light metallic. Gold needs more saturated colors to play against.


So many people take these pickups out. It shouldn't be a problem to swap them for silver ones. I wouldn't waste the energy on scrubbing and such. But that's me. Lazy and all.


Awesome answers. Thanks!

I think I’ll get the red or orange one, swap the hardware, and sell it for $700 total. That’s $150 below list price, and it will be unique. I trust they’ll be a buyer for someone who wishes Gretsch made those with gold anyway (like the special edition vintage orange, pictured in the first post above).

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