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Old military caps

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by Stiffwagon, Feb 25, 2014.

  1. Stiffwagon


    Feb 23, 2014
    So, I'm stationed on a 25 year old US Navy ship, but most of the equipment on board it was designed and built closer to 30-40 years ago. Some of it has been upgraded, yes, but the majority of it is ancient, analog equipment. (It probably comes as no surprise to any of you yanks, but your tax money goes to politicians pockets, not force modernization)

    Anyway, one of the ship's 2M techs (2M is what we call it when you repair stuff by taking it apart and resoldering it back together again at the component level. Nearly a lost art in todays navy) is also a bass player, and he has been teaching me how to do some basic electronics work while we're on deployment. I have my P-bass and my Tele (both MIM) on board, and he has looked over my shoulder while I take stuff apart and put it back together again.

    Recently, while cleaning out some old boxes of junk to throw it out, we found a stash of old (like ... old) caps. Among them, there were some .022uF and .1uF. (there were other in the "guitar" use range, but unfortunately no .047uF among them) So we're thinking that we should probably do some experimenting and see if we can't find some nice sounds or random lightening in a bottle. They were bound for the garbage anyway, and if we DO find something cool, then it'll be just about impossible to replicate.

    So I was wondering if anyone else has done this kind of thing - just pulled random electronics off of old non-guitar related devices and had any luck?
  2. Steve Dallman

    Steve Dallman Supporting Member

    Two .022 uF caps in parallel are .044uF, close enough to .047. Two .1uF caps in series are .05uF.
  3. Stiffwagon


    Feb 23, 2014
    You just blew my mind, changed my life, and made my weekend much longer.

  4. Crater


    Oct 12, 2011
    Dallas, TX area
    The "mojo" from vintage caps is waaaaay over rated. The actual value of the cap is most important factor when it's used for a tone control; and the value can be quite a bit off from the value printed on the cap.

    A guy did a test on guitars, he had one wired up with 3 different caps that were selectable via a switch. The conclusion was that the difference is very subtle and hard to hear.

    But they look cool, they'll do the job, and you're keeping a piece out of the landfill for a few decades, so no reason not to. It's just silly to pay $9 for a "foil-in-oil" cap when the 87 cent 'chicklet' cap from Radio Shack sounds the same.
  5. Don't forget, it's probably between 0.035uF and 0.053uF for the 0.022uF combo, and between 0.04uF and 0.06uF for the 0.1uF combo. Capacitors of the day often had 20% tolerances.