I have a little overdue update on my Stratocaster rebuild (see Part I and Part II).
The guitar is now fully assembled and fully functional. I’ll be posting some sound samples soon enough. But first some more details, and then the reason I’m waiting to post sound samples.
Everything went back together pretty easily. I shielded the body cavity with the copper foil one evening while babysitting my nieces and nephew. That went pretty smooth, although it took some creative placement to make the copper kit I bought work with a guitar with the “swimming pool” route like mine.
The next step was doing the actual wiring. I bought two Fender No Load potentiometers for the guitar, which work like normal tone knobs from 1-9, but remove themselves completely from the circuit at 10. Because of that, I had to use two separate capacitors– one for each tone pot. A custom wiring diagram was in order.
I did tons of research and looked at tons of schematic and theory-type papers before I drew up my custom wiring diagram. I ended up with a configuration that I’m pretty happy with. The normal Stratocaster wiring, besides all of the nasty ground loops, has one glaring fault: it provides no options for adjusting the tone of the bridge pickup. In a normal setup, the top tone knob effects the neck (front) pickup, and the bottom tone knob effects the middle pickup. I set mine up so that the top tone knob effects the neck pickup, and the bottom tone knob effects both the middle and bridge (back) pickup. I rarely use the bridge pickup alone, I never use the middle pickup alone, and I occasionally use the middle and bridge pickup in combination. This seems like a good balance. I get full control of the neck pickup, I get control of both the neck and middle pickup on separate knobs when using that common combination, and I get some control of both the bridge and middle pickup. It works good for my uses.
I originally wanted to order some Sprague Orange Drop capacitors for the guitar, and I still do, but I haven’t ordered them yet. I used the film capacitors that came with the No Load pots because, well, they were there. I still plan on ordering the other capacitors (and a new output jack), but that will have to wait until I need to order more than just a few parts. I can’t stand paying $6 to ship such a small amount of materials.
So I wired it up fairly easily. I used a vintage-type cloth-covered wire that made the whole process very easy. Instead of having to strip the insulation ends off each wire, I simply slid back the cloth covering, made my solder joint, and slid the cloth covering back in place. Very easy, and highly recommended.
So, I wired everything up, slapped it into the guitar, and finished putting it together. I plugged the guitar in to a practice amp with eager anticipation. I turned the volume up, fingered a chord, and gave it a strum.
Well, not really nothing, but instead of a beautiful note, I heard a faint buzz.
Great, I made a mistake. I grab my multimeter, and start reading impedance values using an instrument cable. The values were waaaaay out of whack, nowhere close the the 5 to 6 K-ohms I expected.
I carefully remove the bridge and strings, open up the guitar, and start examining my wiring. I trace signal path, checking for continuity for about an hour. I was totally stumped. But then, I had an idea.
Instead of looking at my wiring diagram, I decided to look at a different, more traditional wiring diagram. And then, it hit me– I forgot to put a wire on. It wasn’t just any wire, though. It was the signal wire from the main switch to the volume knob. All together now: DUH. I soldered up the wire, reassembled, and then, with the same eager anticipation still present over the frustration, I strummed a chord.
It worked! That beautiful Strat tone that I hadn’t heard from my guitar for over 6 years came through loud and clear. My rewire was a success.
So, the guitar is now fully functional. And now you want to know why I haven’t posted any sound clips yet. Well, there’s a reason.
Guitars need to be setup. This involves a lengthy process of finite measurements followed by an extensive period of trial-and-error. Hold down this fret on this string, measure how many thousandths of an inch are at this other fret. Adjust. Hold down the last fret on this string, and measure the distance between the string and the top of the pickup. Adjust. Measure the frequency of each string at the twelfth fret, and compare it to the harmonic of that string. Adjust. Measure the height of the bridge. Adjust. And on and on.
So, why haven’t I done that yet? Well, wood is a slow-moving, imprecise material. The neck of my guitar has had no tension on it for over 6 years. Before I go through the process of doing a full setup, I’m going to give it a few weeks (or months) to assume its final position.
Yeah, I know, you want to hear it. I want you to hear it. But, patience will be rewarded. Give me a bit of time, and you’ll be able to hear it. And if I can manage to postpone it until the end of October, you can even hear it with the new tubes I plan on getting for my amp with any money I get for my birthday.
But let me tell you– it sounds good. Really, really good. You’re going to love it.