Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Final Results

Sorry I don't have more pictures. I finished the black guitar up last saturday morning. I kind of did it all at one time then realized I forgot the pictures. It turned out pretty good I think.

So here's what I had to do.
1. Clean it up because it smelled like smoke.
2. Get rid of the old electronics.
3. Shield the body.
4. Drill another hole in the pickgaurd for a second tone knob.
5. Route out the cavity for the neck pickup to fit the humbucker.
6. Route the pickgaurd to fit around the base of the neck.
7. Mount and wire the pickups in the new pickgaurd.

For this guitar I bought everything from guitarfetish.com. The electronics probably aren't as high of quality, but they're a lot cheaper. And since this guitar wasn't quite as nice, I didn't want to spend as much on it.

The pickups are GFS Fat Pats. They're modeled after the PAF pickups in a Gibson SG. They were only $30 each, but I think they have a pretty good sound. Nice and crunchy when you turn them up.

I used a single .022 mf Orange drop capacitor wired to both tone knobs. I used a Telecaster 3 way switch with a circuit board. It took me a few minutes to figure out how to wire it all but it turned out great. And I did a much better job on the soldering this time. It just takes a little practice.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Stock electronics

A very nice soldering job by the chinese people. The pickups might be a little better quality than what was in the indonesian guitar. They sounded pretty good, but not great because of scratchy volume and tone pots.


I went on and started shielding this one while I was waiting on some parts for the other one. Same process as before.

One thing to note. I found the difference in the guitars very interesting. The indonesian guitar definitely has better wood work. And the chinese guitar definitely has nicer electronics work. It's funny how different cultures can produce different products.

On to project number 2

So in the process of modding my strat, I received anoter strat as a trade for some stuff on craigslist. I got the strat and some cash, so figured I'd just put the cash into some new parts to start a second project.

This is another squier strat, black, made in china in 03 I believe. Not quite as nice as my other one, but still a decent guitar.

Finished product

The guitar sounds great now. I plugged it up to a 2 inch marshall practice amp first just to make sure it wasn't going to blow up. I figured it runs off of a D battery, so it couldn't do too much damage.

Everything worked fine so I plugged it into my good amp. I did notice a big difference in hum. There's still just a touch there, but I think it's from the cord and not the guitar. You have to turn the guitar all the way up to 10 before hearing any signal noise from it. I declare thee noiseless.

Did notice one small thing after the fact. Turns out the blue lace is a lot higher output than the others. So I had to move it back off of the strings to make up the difference in volume. The gold is a little over 5k, the silver around 7k, and the blue over 12k. At some point I may go in and switch the blue and gold, but not now. I don't want to waste the new strings.

I definitely love having the tone on the bridge. And like some other comments I read, the middle pickup sounds really good wide open. And I really like these pickups too. They all three sound so different now that it gives you a lot of choice as far as your tone.

Final assembly

Here I have the grounds connected to the shield. I just used some 1/4 inch wood screws to attach them. I ran the wire to the output jack, flipped it over and screwed it in place.

Be very careful not to strip the screws when putting them back in. They don't have to be very tight, it's not going anywhere. If you do, I read that you can roll up a small piece of paper and slide it into the hold. Then place the screw in the middle of the roll of paper. That should give the screw enough bite to hold.

Same thing goes for the strap locks. They need to be tight, but not too tight. They seem to work pretty good. These are from wd music and I like their design better than some others I've seen. You press the little button on top to disconnect it.

Wiring the electronics

I did this kind of all in one step. So there are only pictures of the finished product. Probably not the prettiest soldering job ever, but I think I'm getting the hang of it. The two orange cylinders are the sprague capacitors. The second tone know is attached to the bridge pickup. All grounds are going to the little ball of electric table, then to the volumn pot and out to the jack.

I did have one little messup. I had the neck and bridge pickups switched. Just remember as far as the switch, what you selected on the front of the guitar is reversed on the back of the switch.

Finished shielding

The shielding is finished with just a little bit of overlap to get a good connection with the shielding on the pick gaurd. I will add a wire from the shielding to the ground, so any stray interference will be caught by the shielding.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Guitarnuts.com rendering of wiring

I'm omiting the 400v capacitor. It's supposed to give shock protection from faulty stage wiring. Don't think this will be a problem for me since I've never been on stage before.

Body shielding

This part took a little while. It wasn't really hard, there's just a lot of little knooks and crannies to get covered. You want to try and cover everything, even the little channel between cavities.

You need to lap the shielding over the side of the cavity just a little so that it will make contact with the shielding on the pick guard when it's put back on. But don't overlap too much or it'll stick out from under the guard.

I was surprised to see that the body was already routed for either a fat strat or super strat configuration (humbuckers in the neck and bridge).

Check out the Lace Sensors

At this point I just had to go on and put the pickups in to see what they look like. Look pretty good I think.

Shielding the guard

The copper tape I used had conductive adhesive, so all you have to do is stick it on and flatten it out. The idea is to have all of the body cavities covered top, bottom, and sides with shielding. Top would be the pick guard.

Removing old electronics

I'm replacing all of my electronics with better quality after market parts. So I didn't really have to worry about desoldering anything here. I simple unscrewed all of the parts from the pick gaurd and set them aside.

Be careful poping the knobs off of the pots, I think it would be easy to break a pickgaurd a that point.

Removing pick gaurd

Removing the pickgaurd was pretty simple. Eleven screws around the outside edge, then carefully flip it over, laying it on a towel to keep from scratching the body. Also make sure the towel covers the whole body as you'll have to desolder a wire here.

There are usually two wires attached to the body. One is the output jack which I've already detached. The other runs from the volumn pot, through the body to the trem claw. Tin your iron and barely touch the back of the pot and the wire should slide right out of the little blob of solder.

The pickguard is now completely free of the body.

In the picture, the grey wire is the one that ran to the output jack, already pulled through the body. The little black one that goes behind the towel is the one to the trem.

Removing output jack

The first step was to remove the output jack. This wire runs through the body to the pickguard, so you can't remove the pickgaurd with out unsoldering the wire from the jack.

I have minimal experience with a soldering iron, but I was surprised at how easy everythings been so far. Just make sure to tin the tip of the iron. And cover the front of your guitar with a towel just to make sure not molten metal drips onto your beautiful finish.

Before starting

Here's a picture of the "mostly" stock guitar. At this point I've already added three springs to the tremolo to lock it down to the body. This effectively makes it a hard tail. I don't really care about the tremolo anyway. I've read of some people fitting blocks of wood into the tremolo cavity to make it a true hard tail and increase sustain a little. But that's seems too drastic for me.

My first tip for you is to take lots of pictures, especially of the wiring. Just in case you need to look back at them later.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that this is a 2004 deluxe edition squier strat.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Project Plan

I've decided to rebuild my squire strat so I thought I'd blog the details for posterity's sake. My wife bought me this guitar for a wedding present, so I'll never get rid of it. Figured I might as well give it an upgrade. Besides I think it plays pretty good, it has a good neck. No use throwing it out just because it didn't cost a fortune.

So here's what I plan to do:
1. Replace the pickups. I was able to buy some Lace Sensors off of a guy for pretty cheap. Got one blue, one silver, and one gold. I found them on Craigslist. They were brand new, they'd just been sitting in this guys store shelf for several years.

2. Replace all electronics. I bought 3 CTS 250 pots and a switchcraft 5 way from wdmusic.

3. Completely shield the cavity. I found this wiring scheme on guitarnuts.com. Along with some of the other mods I'm doing. I bought a roll of copper tape from stewmac.

4. Rewire the controls to eliminate ground loops. This goes with the mod "Quieting the Beast" on guitarnuts. Sounds like the guy is an electrical engineer who just likes to tinker. The mod was highly recommended by other people that had done it. Figured I might as well give it a shot.

5. Move the bottom tone control from mid to bridge. This is really just one wire, but seemed to make since when combined with the next mod. Plus I think I'll like it better than the stock arrangment as I never used the middle tone anyway.

6. Place differing capacitors on the neck and bridge. At the recommendation of my teacher, Doug Holt, I chose two sprague orange drops. I'm putting a .047 on the neck and .033 on the bridge. That should let the bridge have a little extra treble bite to it.

7. Going to throw a pair of strap locks on while I'm at it. Got these and wdmusic again and I think they're very nicely made. They seem really solid.