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Old 05-02-2007, 01:14 PM   #1
J Kennedy
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Default Guitar hotwire 101 – Studio secrets of the Universe

Friends,

Here’s some tips and tricks to get a lot more sounds out of electrics. This stuff came about from my work in studios and never being able to get decent sounds out of the electric (apart from playing ability). This is no Loser or Justin stuff, more on the vegetable level of electronics. Good news, since if you can remember not to pick up the soldering iron from the hot end and can drill a hole straight through the pickguard, you can pull this off and get radical transformation of the sounds your electric is capable of producing. There’s only a few basic principles that you can get max use out of.

A couple non destructive tips to start. The modifications are best used with a good floor box compressor inline with a distortion unit after (check out an old Ross compressor if you can find one).

Voltage gain and tonal contour can be altered abruptly by running the electric thru a good quality lo to hi impedence transformer before the amp/recorder. Hook the electric to the low imp end of a mike transformer and the hi end out. Response will not be linear so may need some eq to boost the high end, but works well with thin single coils to get hi output, especially running distortion devices. All kinds of transformers are fair game, and some are the size of a sugar cube that can be mounted inside the guitar with switches to bypass. All these mods are using passive circuitry partly because I don’t understand anything more than which end of the iron is hot, but also, zero additional noise or distortion is introduced if everything is properly grounded.

Fuzz boxes should give you the chance to flail away and not have it obvious that you are using a distortion device. Some of the highest quality distortion boxes are made from old portable cassette recorders like the ones sitting in dusty piles of tangled wires in thrift stores. You have to take out the guts of the amplifier, put it into a metal project box and run the guitar input into the hot lead that connects the record head to the amp. Major clean overdrive. Run a compressor into this and “smooth as silk” takes on a new meaning. Some of the old General Electric junkomatics give an especially sweet sound.

Be back with some blood and guts invasive mods to pickups, body and circuitry.

John K

Last edited by J Kennedy; 05-02-2007 at 01:24 PM.
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Old 05-03-2007, 09:24 AM   #2
J Kennedy
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Default wood glue and hollow body electrics

Higher definition of notes can be had with hollow and semisolid guitars by applying a mix of 4 parts wood glue (casein base) and 1 part water inside. Total end volume of the mix should be about 2 oz or 60ml. Mix and pour into the sound hole and roll around till the back and sides are coated. Prep first by connecting a hose to a room humidifier and run the steam for a couple minutes into the sound hole. Wrap a piece of cloth loosely around the end of the hose to catch condensate but the steam still gets through. A plant spray bottle on fine mist will work also if you don't have a humidifier. After a couple minutes cool steaming, let the guitar sit for several minutes before treating with the wood glue/water mix.

Level out the guitar so that the excess pools symmetrically in the middle of the back. Temperature should be around 85 F or so. Let the guitar sit for 2 days before using. A low speed electric fan can help remove moisture while drying.

This works especially well for hollow body electric basses. No good for acoustics as it will only deaden the sound.

Epoxies and acrylics work well sound-wise, but two downsides. First, volatiles can flash off that corrode contacts. Second heat is created in the curing that has the plate stressed when it dries and shrinks, so the plate can separate from the wood after dragging it outside in the winter several times.

My feelings will probably not be terribly hurt if you don’t run out and immediately nuke your $3500 Gretsch with Elmer’s glue. If you do have a hollowbody to experiment with, the results are (usually) positive.

John K

Last edited by J Kennedy; 05-03-2007 at 09:55 AM.
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Old 05-03-2007, 02:09 PM   #3
J Kennedy
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Default too off topic?

Guitar mod is maybe too off topic to be on this part of the forum, so moderators feel free to shift it if you want. There’s such a wide database here of good useful knowledge that I want to document some of this stuff, wherever it belongs so anyone can take advantage, now or in the future.

There is a practical application to livelihood. Music is a hobby now and the success of others is about my remaining motivation. Don’t have to worry about the hair, the competition or any money from the music side.

When a Rickenbacker and a recording gig were my only separation from the food line, I discovered that guitar modification was becoming a main source of stable income and repeat customers. The studio had a fleet of modified guitars that the clients could use. The result..”I got a strat, but it sure as hell don’t sound like your strat. Can you make my strat sound like that??” I didn’t have a whole lot of bands coming back for more than 3 or 4 recording sessions, but a growing number of guitarists were hooked with the upgrades, and my place was their first stop after the music store with a new axe and Yankee green.

There’s a sobering thread on here getting to the root problem of surviving as an engineer in a more complex and competitive industry, and the waste of prep time before you even start the paying clock. We’ve all gone thru it. Union wage in Pittsburg studios was more per hour than a psychiatrist was making, but prep time, setup and travel equalized out the pay to not much more than minimum wage. Bummer.

I had a good, workable system on the modification end to cut out wasted time where I looked at the guitar and gave the person a list of parts to bring back with an agreed flat rate for the conversion. Customer did all the footwork so I had about 15 minutes invested in getting a parts list and setting a price before actually hitting paid time. Gentlemen, there is stable money to be made in this that can supplement the struggle to get a studio up and self supporting. Anyway, more tips to come on whatever forum this thread ends up on.

John K
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Old 05-04-2007, 07:39 PM   #4
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Default candidate for best guitar pickup

Greatest pickup probably doesn’t exist since individual preference rules, but try this one out. I never liked humbuckers because the tone is too thick, but here’s a mod to the humbucker that gets the bell sound of a singlecoil and the substance of a double coil. Increased output and superior sound at the same time.

You can almost hear ol' Hare Krishna himself jamming on the celestial flute.

You need the 6 alnico magnets out of a strat pickup, not the fake Squire types that are inert poles channeling the flux from a bar magnet underneath. (I was also wondering if anyone knows a source where you can get these magnets. It gets less cost effective to tear up a strat pickup to get them, though for the sound you get, it’s still a fair price to pay.)

Remove the humbucking pickup, unsolder the two cap joints and remove the cap. The pickup has the adjustable screws in one coil, but the other 6 poles hidden beneath the cap in the second coil are also run by the same bar magnet. Press these out and toss them away. Put a light coat of vegetable oil if needed on the strat alnico magnets and insert them instead.

Two points. The magnets are too long, so you will have to drill out holes in the pickup base plate to let them extend through. You have to observe polarity with the original bar magnet or you will get some weird results. This is simply felt by the pole and bar magnets attracting each other. If they repel, you’ve got a funky flux field going on. Before closing, make sure the bar magnet is in contact with the alnicos.

Solder the cap back on and reinstall the treble pickup with the alnicos closest to the bridge for extra twang. Best to install the other one or two pickups in the same manner to get the best sounds out of mixing the pickups.

John K

Last edited by J Kennedy; 05-04-2007 at 07:44 PM.
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Old 05-04-2007, 09:21 PM   #5
brainwreck
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post all this stuff you want. i'm definitely interested in hearing it.

i have a strat copy with the crappy steel pole pieces and ceramic bar magnet pickups (single coils). i thought about either replacing the ceramic bar with an alnico bar or trying to pull the pole pieces and replacing with alnico. have you ever tried this?

stewmac sells pickup parts including alnico magnets. i found another place also but i can't remember it at the moment. if i remember i'll post it here.

Last edited by brainwreck; 05-04-2007 at 09:24 PM.
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Old 05-05-2007, 10:31 AM   #6
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Brainwreck,

Thank you much for the reference to stewmac for the alnico magnets. These are really useful in upgrades across many brands, and if they can be gotten without having to tear up pickups… Please let me know if you find the other source.

There are several things you can do to the pickups you have that may help out by increasing the field. My rule of thumb is that more is usually better but not always and that with more complex phasing arrangements, what you do to one pickup should be done to all. Listen to the mod and if it sounds better not just louder, go with it.

Note on pickup mod on general. None of this stuff takes any brains to do, but some mechanical skill and caution are definitely needed. The wires in a pickup are thinner than a hair with a thin coat of shellac for shielding. Heat is necessary for soldering but is a major enemy to the magnets and windings. Very easy to melt and short a pickup or damage the field. Even taking off the lower bar magnet has to be done carefully if it’s bonded since the stress can abrade a few windings and the pickup is fried beyond repair. Break even an exposed lead on the winding and you’ve got maybe a half chance of soldering it back.

Pressing out the inert poles is usually not an option on the cheaper pickups. Humbuckings have a nice plastic channel to fit the alnicos. The cheap single coils are often glued in place to waxed cardboard with the windings in contact with the poles. Test it anyway with a slight push to see if it slides easily. Even if it does but it’s not in a plastic channel, risk is too high for killing the pickup. You may get the pole out, but you’ll never get the alnico back in. There are several alternatives, the best to replace the pickup with a real one having individual pole magnets.

Otherwise, replace the bar magnet with a stronger one. Downside may be that since the bar magnet field is not uniform from the perspective of the coil, you can get soft spots in the middle strings if you crank things up too much. Compensate by adding a bar on top of the original (polarity in mind) and tweaking the second bar if needed by sliding it a bit until the volume is nearly constant. Tack the second magnet with some super glue when you’ve got it right.

Warning on super glue. It will flash off a film of hi resistance acrylic stuff that will coat all your contacts if it’s not completely dry before enclosing the pickguard.

Tip on taking the guitar apart too many times to test, and reaming out the screw holes. Small section of half the width of a wooden match in the hole will fix things.

Another good option is to glue the alnicos on each inert pole (polarity preserved again with reference to the original bar). May require drilling some wood out for depth. Good to get a couple “drill stops” from an aircraft supply store to protect from inadvertently going all the way thru the guitar. Vacuum and paint drilled wood inside body with wood glue.

Best results are from drilling pole-width holes in the bar magnet and adding alnicos, but this opens up a whole bunch of problems. I can get more into this if you need.

Note on extended magnets. These work great until you’re on stage with a few fluorescent lights. Flux fields operationally can extend way beyond the boundary of the coil. Big magnets can also even change the sound of the adjacent pickup. Ground the entire cavity with copper foil so you can solder a link wire to ground. Otherwise use aluminum foil with a braided ground lead you can fan out and attach to the foil with a paper clip.

For what it’s worth, I’ve got a yard sale Squire strat with Radio Shack bar magnets bulking the fake pickups and major resurrection circuitry mod. The guitar as a whole is a piece of junk, but the sound has blown away every vintage hi end American variant it has been compared to.

Regards,
John K
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Old 05-05-2007, 03:35 PM   #7
brainwreck
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good stuff john and very thorough. you're just the guy i've been needing to talk to.

this guitar plays very good for a cheapie but i like higher output pickups and the current ones are pretty weak. i planned to replace the pickups soon but i'd like to try modding them first, just because. the worst that can happen is i break them and toss em, or try to rewind them, again just because. i'm a tinkerer. the tip about super glue flashing off is excellent. i remember when i was a kid and i super glued a cracked casing of a plastic jack back together. i never could get that jack to make good contact. i bet this was why. about delicate pickup wires: i worked for a manufacturer once that used .004" wire in their products so i have a good feel for working with the stuff. it can actually be almost seamlessly welded back together.

i have another old strat copy that i play constantly. the pickups in it are pretty high output. the dc resistance is 9.2k each. i like the sound of the pickups but i wish the bridge pickup had just a little more meat and maybe a tad higher output. i've tried adjusting the pickup heights but i like the sound of the neck and middle where they are now. when i raise the bridge pickup it doesn't really get any meatier. i see that lindy fralin offers a bass plate with his strat pickups. i'm wondering if i could add something like that to my bridge pickup. do you know anything about bass plates or have any other ideas?

btw, i've been setting up my own guitars for a while and i've shielded them, changed pots, etc. i'm about to try my hand at fret leveling and then a refret. i'd also like to learn about modding guitars and their electronics. where did you learn this stuff?

oh, i remembered the other source for magnets: http://www.guitarpartsusa.com/cat--G...pplies--MAIN22

thanks for sharing the info. any chance you know anything about modding acoustic guitars? i haven't found any info on it yet.

Last edited by brainwreck; 05-05-2007 at 03:51 PM.
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Old 05-05-2007, 05:05 PM   #8
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I love this type of stuff! i'm not going to turn my gibson 335 into a glue receptacle anytime soon but i got a smile at the idea!

a post like this a while ago prompted me to swap out the bridge on my '63 jazzmaster with a mustang replacement bridge from stew mac and it was like getting a whole new guitar. all the bad things about the jazzmaster disappeared. if you own one, you know there's a love/hate thing going on
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Old 05-05-2007, 08:59 PM   #9
J Kennedy
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Friends,

Don’t know much about acoustic mods except for shaving struts and learning the hard way not to load the box up with too much hardware. Came up with some excellent sounding electric/acoustics that completely ruined the acoustic application. Neat to have an acoustic that sounds like a Les Paul, but not so neat if you can’t hear it across the room without being plugged in. I settled on one or two in-phase transducers fed thru a strap pin jack. Placement of the transducer(s) is critical. Double-back carpet tape lets you move the transducers around and get a 75% good idea of what it will sound like before you commit and epoxy them in. There’s a kind of plasticy, nylon string artifact with transduced acoustics, you know the sound. This can be largely avoided with multiple transducers deftly placed.

One thing that works that’s even more off the wall than the glue trick though, is freeze drying the acoustic. You probably don’t want to do this with your Gibson Hummingbird, but if you have an old acoustic to experiment with that you don’t mind a few (well..maybe a lot of) hairline cracks in the finish... Dijon, you’ll want to spare your 335 this assault.

A dead friend who was an extraordinary guitarist took his 45’ Martin on an international flight. The guitar was in the cargo hold over the Atlantic for several hours and froze. He was shocked by the hairline cracks that had gone thru the finish, but swore that it was a different guitar, for the better.

I started experimenting with dry ice, freeze drying electrics and acoustics. Didn’t do much for the electrics, but the acoustics did resonate better. Doesn’t make any sense, but it does work. Even the finish cracks are a bit artistic. Undo the string tension, finely hammer the dry ice to small gravel size and dump in the soundhole. Cover with an insulating blanket and roll the ice around every couple minutes so the front, back and sides get evenly nuked.

Brainwreck, just an opinion, but the bass plate shouldn’t make a whole lot of difference in the sound since altering a solid body has less effect on the string/magnet/coil relation that what you can achieve with a hollow body alteration. Best boost with the same pickup would be thru increasing the magnet strength.

How I learned this stuff is a story so depraved that even the most macho guitar player would break down and weep. Sad, terrible sad story… I’m on call at the hospital tonight so I can’t get drunk to forget the memory, and without alcohol, all the PTSD stuff comes back and I start shooting holes thru the walls and ceiling again. The wife said this is the last time she’ll move back in. Since this forum is “about life” also, I’ll get a bottle of Mad Dog in a couple days and get it off my chest. Jeez, such a terrible sad story for a guitar player.

Best to all,
John K

Last edited by J Kennedy; 05-05-2007 at 09:11 PM.
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Old 05-06-2007, 09:55 PM   #10
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Brainwreck,

Forgot to thank you for finding the sites for the alnicos. Now I can start tearing up guitars again and not go broke in the process.

John
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Old 05-06-2007, 10:04 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J Kennedy View Post
Brainwreck,

Forgot to thank you for finding the sites for the alnicos. Now I can start tearing up guitars again and not go broke in the process.

John
Your welcome John. It might also be a good idea to contact some magnetics manufacturers.
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Old 05-07-2007, 10:06 PM   #12
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Default bare coils

Here’s an aesthetic protection for uncapped pickups, meaning for the ones you take the cover off of and the bare coils are exposed. Also a good way to finish hand wound pickups if you’re into rolling your own.

Next time you’re hanging out at the local aircraft supply store, pick up a container of “tautening nitrate dope” or butyrate dope if they don’t carry the nitrate stuff. This is a cellulose lacquer used in making fabric coverings for aircraft. It acts as a glue and draws tight to take out wrinkles in the fabric. The nitrate stuff dries hard but is flammable as hell, so if a wingtip catches fire, you’ve got just a few seconds to bail. The nitrate dope has sort of fallen out of favor over this minor inconvenience, but is still around.

Get some pure cotton sewing thread, any color, but not the part cotton, part synthetic stuff. Dip just the tip of the thread in the dope and tack (glue) it on the pickup base near the coil wire. Hold down with pressure under a pin tip and it will glue in a couple minutes. Wrap the pickup with several layers of the thread, ending near the bottom of the pickup and tacking the end of the thread to the thread below pickguard level. Put on a coat of the dope with an artist paint brush and let dry for about 20 minutes. The thread will tighten up and conform to the pickup. Put on two more coats and let dry for a couple hours. Carefully and lightly sand the thread with a 400 or finer grit sandpaper just enough to roughen up the surface. Wipe clean with rubbing alcohol and put on a final light dope coat. Pickup coil is permanently protected and looks all professional like.

John K
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Old 05-08-2007, 04:49 PM   #13
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Default pickups grounded?

I’d like to document some more involved circuitry modifications that will bring out tones the stock electric can’t produce off the shelf. Some of the sounds will come with a price of reduced output that may unmask background hum and unwanted inductances. The pickup system will have to be well grounded first to make the changes worthwhile.

Pickups have sort of a virtual hot and ground apart from a metal casing. The hot lead originates from the beginning of the coil wire that is wound closest to the poles and the ground is the other end. Fender has been at fault for winding their pickups backward haphazardly, primarily from putting the pole magnets in the wrong way. On a strat, the end product needs to keep the convention of all 3 pickups in phase, times at the expense of a backward winding. You can check for proper grounding of strat pickups and other pole pickup guitars by touching the magnets and listening to the background hum. It should go down. Unfortunately, a pickup may increase the hum when you touch the magnets in which case it was wired backward, and noise was accepted in manufacturing to keep the overall phase right. Sloppy worksmanship passed on to the consumer.

There are a couple ways to ground single coil pickups without metal caps. Be back with this.

John K
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Old 05-15-2007, 09:29 AM   #14
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Default Gibsons....your next stop.....the Funk Zone

Friends,

Had a visit from my long time no see buddy “Claw”, who dropped off a new Epiphone Joe Pass Emperor II hollowbody and wants the macho makeover done on it, wood glue and all. I gave him back $300 he tried to give me and told him that for an urban legend, if he got the parts, I’d do the stuff. Just hearing him play it would be payment enough. He’s got a very old Byrdland that he wanted minimal change to a few years ago so the original value was kept, which is what I want to get to..

Claw was evidently a terrible guitarist at one time, but guitar was his life. He met with a logging accident and ripped two of his fingers off the left hand and screwed the rest of them up and got the nickname “Claw”. After a couple botched suicide attempts he decided to kick the booze, got religion, went left hand guitar and practiced like a madman, stories about manic guitar rampages going on for days without sleep or food. The Byrdland is permanently stained with blood. He plays damn loud and I failed to get him recorded in a smaller setting since feedback was (is) king of his realm.

His setup is interesting. No effects, which he says are for wimps. “If ya can’t get an echo chamber and a flanger out of your head and guitar, ya got no business playing one”. Serious hardcore dude. He was inspired by Ted Nugent in the Amboy Duke days and uses about the same approach with a couple twists. Claw says he's thinks he's the reincarnation of Ted Nugent. I reminded him that he can't be the reincarnation of Ted because Ted's not dead yet, and if he wants to be floating on clouds jammin with the pope in the hereafter, he's got to stop talking all this reincarnation crap or he'll be jammin with me and the hindus.

Claw went left hand but didn’t restring, just flipped his Byrdland over and plays backward. Uses his thumbnail since the other two fingers aren't worth much after the accident and he can't hold a pick. His arpeggios are phenomenal.

Byrdland goes direct into two tube Fender Showman heads with 4 Fender twin 15” cabinets. Center two cabinets are angled in 45 degrees to each other and the other two are on the sides facing out to the audience. He plays inside facing the angle with volume all the way up in what he calls the “alchemy spot” where he mastered the control of feedback so that any note or combination of notes gets indefinite sustain. All volume is controlled by the guitar only. The guy sounds like a friggin 200db string orchestra. He does this lightfooted dance into and away from the speakers to alter the phasing of the feedback in a way that plays tricks on your brain. For whatever reason, this effect doesn't get caught on tape.

So regarding the modifications, Claw wanted something done to his Byrdland that would give some different options but wouldn’t kill the antique value, and this may or not be something to consider if you’ve got a real old antique. You can definitely make it sound better but any destructive modification will kill the original value. We redid his Byrdland with some simple mods that were invasive but not destructive, that could be returned to the original configuration if needed. You can try this on any Gibson with humbuckings to get maximum funk. Claw doesn't care about funk but likes the oboe and viola sounds he now gets from the Byrdland. His other problem was his feedback style hit up against a major limitation in Gibson circuitry in which you can’t get a specific pickup mix and alter volume from the guitar without altering the mix. They had to do this to compensate for undesirable rolloff characteristics with the volume controls. Anyone with a Gibson just puts up with the shortcoming. I’ll share an overview of potentiometers and how to solve the problems.

One thing double coils are good for is phase inversion that doesn't sound like a tin can. We redid Claw’s Byrdland by reassigning function for 3 of the 4 knobs and non-destructively reversing the phase of one pickup. This rephasing enters the realm of maximum funk, but at the non-destructive level (without adding a switch), you can’t revert to in-phase configuration without partially disassembling a pickup again. It does introduce another arena of sounds you currently can’t get off the shelf. Give this a try.

Unsolder the metal cap and simply turn the bar magnet around 180 degrees lengthwise. Reinstall the pickup. The isolated pickups will sound the same, but start mixing them….you’ll see.

Guess this opens up potentiometers and how to get a mix ratio to stay the same over the volume range and still sound decent for Gibson type wiring.

Claw said best not to tell my guitar sob story because all it would do is have the forum flying a flag at half-mast for a week and sending a lynch mob out after me. He said that it was okay for him though because when he gets down about his own past, he thinks about what I did and takes comfort that things could have been worse.

Be back with less stories and some considerations on volume and tone controls.


Best to all
John K

Last edited by J Kennedy; 05-15-2007 at 09:43 AM.
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Old 05-15-2007, 09:08 PM   #15
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Default Guitars screwed up from the factory….the curse of the 250 k pot

This may be an issue in your stock axe. The only way to tell is if you remove the problem to see if there was an actual problem, but any guitar with 250 k ohm pots on the volume and tone control was potentially damaged sound-wise from the start. They are all damaged on paper, but it depends brand to brand and even between two identical models as to whether the shortfall significantly corrupts the output. This issue is also becoming less important with digital recording and preamps/equalization taking up the slack more efficiently. Place where it still wears down your sound is in the rolloff frequency stability as you turn the volume down.

The standard 250 k audio taper potentiometer works okay and nobody seems to complain much, but here’s the problem. The volume pot of course works by allowing the signal to be shorted to ground gradually eliminating the output. The tone control gradually subjects the output to a hi pass capacitor filter shunting hi frequencies to ground. 250 k’s is a good resistance but still bleeds thru to ground, meaning that even with the volume control full open, you are still losing some signal to ground. With the tone control to full brightness, you are still shunting some of the hi frequencies to ground. This may or may not affect the sound/tone quality full open, but start lowering the volume and the capacitor bleed starts to become more significant in the total output. You notice that the sound may become more dull. Gibsons get around this (don’t know the why behind) by having one pickup in the mix gradually grounding out the other pickup as you turn one pickup volume down. Tone stays stable thru the range, but the ratio of the pickups does not, which is why you can’t get that perfect mix and turn it up or down without losing the mix.

To the original problem, replacing the pots with a 2 meg value helps, but there is still some bleed. If your guitar takes a hit from hi frequency attenuation as you turn the volume down, it can be often fixed by going with a pot having the on/off switch in the last increment. Wire it so the tone control at 10 can go one click further and break the connection of the capacitor to ground, taking the capacitor out of the circuit. Hi frequency rolloff decay can be fixed for most guitars though not all (again, don’t know why). A purist can do the same with the volume control. Full boar and the last click ungrounds the pot and you get the last millivolts output that was being lost to ground.

A semi-suitable but easier way to test if your guitar has these problems is to unground the tone control capacitors and the volume control ground (tone and volume controls full open or volume control about half to check for rolloff bleeds). Have a tape recorder head demagnetizer about 12 inches away from the pickups (don’t get it much closer or the pickups can be damaged). Otherwise put the guitar close to a CRT monitor so a good respectable hum is induced. Use a plastic fork or something non-conductive several inches long to press the tone and volume grounds in contact with the casing. Listen to the nature of the hum. For the volume control, if the hum goes down, you got problems and may benefit from isolating with the switch for what this is worth any more. With the tone controls, if the tone loses treble with the volume control anywhere, you will definitely benefit from isolating the capacitor.

Potentiometers come in the audio and linear taper varieties. The audio tapers are logarithmic to match the way we respond to decibel levels. They’re probably harder to find in pots over a megohm because multimeg pots just aren’t used for normal volume controls. You may be stuck with a linear taper if you’re looking for 2 megs and up (could be wrong on availability). However, not to worry because if you want to try some of the phase blending mods needing megohms to isolate, the linear tapers actually work better. A hair trigger adjustment will alter sound drastically and a linear taper pot will help spread the change over a greater turn of the knob letting you actually use some of the possibilities instead of flying past them.

I’ll try to draw some diagrams of this stuff and post them if it will help.

John K
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Old 05-16-2007, 01:50 PM   #16
J Kennedy
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Default Claw's guitar.....mission aborted

I had an aura of pending doom over Claw’s Epiphone. It’s headed back to the store untouched, which is almost a blessing for me. I’d forgotten how hard it is to work on hollowbodies that they put the hardware in and then build the guitar around.

I mention this and Claw again because any you guys in the Seattle region may get a rare privilege to hear him play. They’re opening a bar “Willow” or “The Willows” on the Federal Way side of town and Claw’s band will be the opener, still about 2 months off. This can be a bit depressing though, in the mode of when Horowitz gave piano concerts and few budding pianists killed themselves knowing they could never play like that. You just stare at your guitar for a few days wondering if it’s worth picking it up again. Van Halen’s you can recover from, but The Claw…

Where I failed to start the mod and maybe I can get some advice from you guys to pass on deals with feedback styles. Claw plays in a way that it about incomprehensible and I don’t think he understands it himself. The feedback thing has the equivalent of a complete string ensemble going in the background while he plays these waterfall cascades over the notes and harmonics that are spinning your eyeballs around in your head. He starts a session in standard tuning but is continually retuning on the fly to get the open strings where he wants them. Half way thru a piece, his guitar is tuned to any haphazard configuration that nobody in the normal realm could keep track of.

Technology has failed him because he may have a bass section going overlaid with flutes while doing violin rampages. He’s only got one good hand and has got to pull all this off at the same time. Tuning is an issue since the strings are retuned all over the map and the tension throws others out. He had chosen the Joe Pass Epiphone to get a more stable axe that wouldn’t warp as much as the Byrdland. Joe failed the feedback test, nowhere near as good as the Byrdland, and there is nothing I can do about that. Glue defines the sound but dampens feedback. Another point about sustain is that as you are adding pickups and magnets, free sustain will take a hit pulled down by the magnetic field, so we ditched the additional pickup and magnets. This is why a Telecaster has such good sustain. The neck pickup is weak enough not to cut vibration. We just regressed on the Epiphone from a grand vision, piece by piece until there was nothing left to do but send it back.

Byrdlands are about the king of controlled sustain. The only close second I know of is the Rickenbacker 381 series. Claw is taking this on advice and is applying to one of the Seattle area stores to try out the Rickenbacker, American Music, I think. He’s been politely banned from auditioning guitars there during normal business hours since he brings the house down with the volume. They set up appointments after business hours where he can bring in his own rig and shake the walls.

My question is, does anyone know of any guitar brands outside of the Ricks that can deliver feedback control anywhere near a Byrdland. Claw said thanks for any advice and see you in Seattle and we can all sit and jam together over a plug of chewing tobacco and a 6-shot expresso. (Just don’t bring up the subject of religion and get a good set of earplugs).

John K

Claws poster will start going up in about a month in Seattle. It just says “Come hear The Claw lay down the Law” with a space for the address and dates.

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Old 05-19-2007, 04:16 PM   #17
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Default Christmas done came early

It’s hard to contain the savage excitement over this one. Two hours plumbing job and this was the pay. (graphic attached)

Not-so-proud former owner is an international business tycoon with Intel. He’s from Greece and has one of the nicest families you could know and just goes to show that the crap happens to the nicest people. 4 years ago my family rented his ocean front palace for cheap since he was never there and I agreed to do maintenance if he would rent, so I could drink beer and watch the waves roll in.

The ceiling in one of the living rooms fell in from soaked insulation and he handed 15 grand over to a roaming contractor to fix the ceiling and do a deck rebuild. They finished the ceiling but were still 10,000 down for the deck. The contractor said he had to split due to family illness for a few days but would leave something priceless for collateral. …A genuine Vox Bulldog owned by George Harrison himself, worth at least 20,000. The owner took the collateral and the dude split. I didn’t know anything about this until the owner started thinking something was wrong because the guy hadn’t returned to finish the job. He was frustrated and was going to cash in and wanted my opinion where to start the bidding at. He could start at 10 and make an easy $5000. I was trying to get thru the denial telling him he basically had a piece of junk on his hands and kiss the 10,000 goodbye. He didn’t believe me, or my doubts that it was ever owned by “Harrison Georgeses from Beattleses” and went on to get second, third, fourth opinions.

We ran into each other and he bit the bullet somewhere along the way. This is a diamond in the rough. All the guts are rotted out and the surface scratched, but the neck is in great shape and them are real magnets on the single coils. WooHooooo!!!

Since there may be still some interest in this stuff, til someone tells me to put a plug in it, I think I can bring closure to this thread with these areas…Take some time, but it will make a lot more sense with all the data than there seems to be in the parts.

Cold and hot method grounding harnesses for pickups.. single coil with pole magnets, double coil with metal covers, and knife blade pickups (prep for phase work)

Simple principles of what makes a Telecaster a Telecaster and a Rickenbacker a Rickenbacker (prep for capacitor filter work , improving and applying the principles to other brands).

Bit more on capacitors and tone controls.

Getting single coil from your double coil and really weird phasing/ Rick filtering you may as well take advantage of if the pickup is already torn apart to this extent.

Phase inversion and blending pickups, how to do and where the great sounds and not so great sounds are found.

Good, the Bad and the Ugly of combining different type pickups.

Walkthrough on applying everything to a couple prototype installations (be using a Gibson SG and a Fender Strat).

Then I can let this thread float off into oblivion where it can hopefully be retrieved in the future if anyone wants or needs the information.

May this find all well.

John K
Attached Images
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Old 06-02-2007, 02:53 AM   #18
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Default plastics

Some considerations on plastics before grounding pickup assemblies.

Dig into the guts of an electric and there’s got to be a bunch of plastic, and the different types of plastic will require different precautions.

Here’s some stuff on plastics then. This is critical since you never know when you’ll be invited to a TV game show and get asked about this, and you don’t want to screw up a hundred or two dollar pickup because of the type of plastic they used.

Plastic is sorta like spaghetti. They got 2 broad types that differ in how you have to deal with them so something doesn’t get broke when trying to modify pickups and plates.

Plastics are chains of hydrocarbons, organical type of things like pearls on a thread.. Normal plastic coats you paint on things have some variety of volatile solvent that flashes off in the drying so the spaghetti strands can get closer together once the unstable stuff evaporates. When the chains get closer with less volatiles in the way, they got weak electronical type bonds that make the soupy stuff solidify beyond our mortal sense of seeing things flow over long periods of time. There you’ve got a pickguard that won’t run all over the place for the next several hundred years if it lasts that long. These are the thermoplastics,.. pickguards, pickup saddles, knobs. As solid as they seem, they’re flowing freely, just slower than we can detect from day to day. Elevated temp can reliquify them so even we humans can register that they’re dripping all over the place.

Another type of plastics have the same spaghetti polymers but require another agent to solidify. The epoxies add another catalyst to cross link the chains, not with weak links like acrylic pickguards, but heavy duty things that create concrete like “covalent” bonds across the spaghetti filaments. Once these guys set, they are pretty much done. They’re not thermoplastics and increased heat can’t make them get mushy no more. Too hot and they crumble apart.

Pickguards and the external paraphernalia are usually thermoplastic. Where you will usually run into non-thermoplastics are with the pickups backside. The whole thing can be epoxy poured over the magnet and coil. If you are lucky, the magnet will be visible and accessible for grounding. If not lucky, the coil and magnet can be buried under black epoxy that you can’t manipulate by local heat. More of how to deal with this ahead.

A simple test is to briefly touch the back of the plastic pickup encasement with the tip of a soldering iron. If it turns to stringy goo, it’ a thermoplastic. If it resists liquification or crumbles, you got an epoxy and a slightly different approach is needed.

I’m getting some advice from the best minds at Radio Shack on cold bonding in the 21st century. I’ll do some resistance testing to see if it works and get the required products documented. This may alleviate the need for heat no matter what type of plastic you are working with. Heat + magnets + lacquer coil resistance paint = not good.

About thermoplastics, referencing that they turn back to liquid as soon as the weak bonds are disrupted by heat. Lots of mods require adding plastic plates or pickup harnesses that have to be installed over curved or uneven surfaces. Your stock plastic will be planar.

Best tool to reform non-epoxy plastic is a slow cooker crock pot filled with motor oil. Thermoplastic additions can be perfectly contoured to the body by dumping the plastic plate into the cooker for several minutes. Protect the vintage Les Paul with a thin piece of cloth and a layer of Aluminum foil on top before the hot plastic is applied.. Take the plastic (plate, pickup base. etc) out of the hot oil and mold over the body to the desired contour. Imperfections in cut edges of plastic implants can be nicely removed by sanding edges briskly on a carpet scrap before or after the part has cooled. Liquid dish detergent is the preferred cleanup

John K

Last edited by J Kennedy; 06-02-2007 at 02:56 AM.
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Old 07-10-2007, 10:35 PM   #19
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bumpin this one out of the void.
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Old 07-11-2007, 09:27 AM   #20
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Default guitar hotwire

Brainwreck,

I'd let this one slip into oblivion since there didn't seem to be much interest, and I didn't want to spam the forum. Thanks for the bump and if I can figure where it left off, I'll get the tirade back in motion. Still some usefull info to share.

Regards,
John K
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Old 07-11-2007, 11:30 AM   #21
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I honestly didn't know what to make of this thread when it first appeared but, off topic as it may be, I have been watching it with interest. I can't confirm a lot of the content here, but I know there are plenty of knowledgeable users here who have not disputed anything in these posts. Unfortunately, this is definitely the wrong medium for this type of material. I think this should be posted on a dedicated site (even something as simple as a blog page) where the info is more permanent, and not lost and forgotten in a busy forum. Even better if the material were accompanied by lots of pictures or other media like the frets.com site.
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Old 07-12-2007, 11:12 AM   #22
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Default yeah, gotta move the thread

Earache,

A+ on your insight and suggestions.

This thread is misplaced and came from my reaction to this forum, its members, Reaper and its creators. The whole thing blows my mind continually. The ancient heathens said that all things are moving forward in the bigger picture, and this is evolution. When forward forces speed up to un-natural levels, this is revolution.

The movement and cooperative energy you guys have created here is revolution. Something is happening here that doesn't exist in other audio forums.

I was and still am in the constant take mode. My system, workflow, creative tools, psychological approach have been major altered by the stream of knowledge and advice from the experts hanging out here. Can’t keep up with the progress of the program and add-ons offered by the programmers. Look what you are all doing with the themes and icons. This is all I could think of to give back that could be of significant value, at least to the string players out there.

I had the job to play guitar 10 hours a day with concrete calluses on the fingers, progressed thru sweat and tears, and touched on the rim of mediocrity. Part of earning generic, mediocre studio session dude status is having to switch modes on the fly to mimic the sounds and styles of the real guys. Stock guitars never cut it.

I had a fateful night decades ago, high on acid, pot, booze, pwhipped by the girls after the gig, and inadvertently destroyed Rickenbacker serial# 006. As I hallucinated over the rubble of toothpicks and tangled wires, cursed for life for this senseless act, Jehovah had mercy on my despair and gave me an idiot savant understanding of the electric guitar.

Never mastered anything in this life but this came effortlessly in a flash. Each guitar was an independent entity to be reincarnated, phoenix from the ashes sort of thing.

Earache, your right, this needs to be moved to its own place maybe like Dandruff’s nitpicks.

I promised to show how to make the electric sing like the angels, so I should probably continue and the administrators can put this in a place where the info can be retrieved if needed. An additional archive in the knowledge base. You’re right also about multimedia need. Maybe I can get it together to include graphic clips of the components and sound samples of the mods.

Okay then, the axe won’t sing like the angels til the pickups are grounded, or 60 cycle hum will be all that’s competing with the perfect sound. Grounding harnesses are next. For strats and single coil pickups, you will need a smooth cast iron cooking pot that’s been in the freezer for overnite, ziplock bag to refrigerate the pickups (upper shelves of the fridge, not in the freezer with the cast iron pot). Need some simple plumbing supplies, acetone and fine grit sand paper and we’re ready to roll. Will return with the process on this thread, ideally moved somewhere more appropriate.

Peace, love and all that stuff to all,

John K

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Old 07-13-2007, 10:53 PM   #23
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if this is moving, i'll need to know where to. i'd love to see this accompanied by other media where appropriate and available.

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Old 07-14-2007, 12:01 AM   #24
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reaper lounge would be perfect for it

please keep going, this is very interesting.
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Old 07-22-2007, 06:03 PM   #25
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Default Single coil grounding process.

Friends,

Dragging this out, but hard to find enough time right now to get all this organized. There’s a lot of steps in the detail, but you should be able to pull it all off in a couple hours. I think of this as a global strat recall, which somebody should have addressed many years ago. If you don’t do anything else to a Fender, this will put a virtual end to the noise and increase the fundamental sound quality and clarity. If you go thru with the phase inversion mod, this is about necessary, but grounding can be done at any time before or after. Here is the list of things you will need. I will get the details soon.

Materials list:

Aluminum foil
Xacto knife
Cast iron cooking pot (better, several 3”x3”x1/2” blocks of iron)
Zip lock bag
Thumb tacks
Good measuring device with fine increments
#50 or finer gage drill bit (or just smaller gage than the thumb tacks)
small strip of copper metal
Can of spray adhesive (3M stuff works well)
Glue gun
Wood or casein Elmer’s type glue
Super glue
Wide, good quality rubber bands
Multi-strand speaker wire
Plumber’s Teflon tape
Plumber’s acid core solder (thin gage)
60/40 electrical solder
Several spare alnico magnets (optional)
Soldering flux (optional)
400 grit or finer sand paper
Acetone or denatured ethyl alcohol
Soldering iron (important, must be minimum 40 watt or higher)
Nitrate dope and cotton thread if you don’t have or want the plastic covers..(see earlier post for this..better to keep the covers though)

Best to all,
John K
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Old 07-24-2007, 05:12 AM   #26
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Just wondering, as a guitarist, if you've done that 'put a humidifier in your hollow body' trick, because it really doesn't seem like a good idea to me.
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Old 07-24-2007, 07:45 AM   #27
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pop_n_fresh,

No experience with humidifiers. Do know that excess heat/cold and humidity fluctuation (not so much constant degree within reason) are the major warp factors, other than string and truss rod tension. Also, the wood glue used in body construction is weakened by humidity.

Anti-humidity "dessicant" silica jel bags work well to keep the humidity in the case down. You can get high quality ones free from many pharmacies that receive their drugs with these bags (ask to collect them for you).

Some come as plastic tubes from pill bottles. Bags and cylinders can be heated every month or so to about 105F for several hours and reused. You can collect a bunch of these, put in a net bag and place in the guitar case or sound hole.

This is probably preferred climate control over a humidifier.

Regards,
John

Last edited by J Kennedy; 07-24-2007 at 07:56 AM.
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Old 07-24-2007, 08:13 PM   #28
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Default Grounding for single coil pickups (strat prototype)

Here is how you do it.

Unsolder and remove pickups from pickup plate, remove plastic covers and refrigerate in sealed ziplock bag. Place cast iron cooking pot or the 3x3x1/2 iron plates in freezer for hours. Do same with the extra set of alnico magnets if needed. For installed pickup magnets, abrade the back side with 400 grit or finer sandpaper and wipe clean with acetone or denatured rubbing alcohol before refrigerating. Do the old airplane wet and wipe thing, not letting the solvent dry on the pickup back which will redeposit grease/contamination. If the base of the pickup is the older waxed cardboard type, use isopropyl alcohol as cleaning agent instead of acetone.

Take sheet of aluminum foil and spray one side with spray adhesive and adhere to back of pickup plate. Use X-acto knife to cut out pickup/potentiometer holes and trim edges.

Pack body beneath pickguard with aluminum foil, carefully following contour with single, max 2 layers foil. (Bummer to have everything packed and the assembly won’t fit back in). Breaks in foil necessary for countouring are tacked into contact with thumb tacks. Cut off end of thumb tack (to shorten) and drill shallow pilot hole in wood, drilled with #50 or finer drill bit (seeking interference fit with thumb tacks of choice). Drop of superglue on end of tack to adhere into wood. Use precise measurements and an optional drill stop device to keep from going all the way thru wood, especially the thin back. Electric glue gun can be useful getting pieces in place, but unless you have serious overlap of foil, the thumbtacks are necessary for foil to foil contact and contiguous grounding.

Small area of foil is overlapped onto surface beneath pickguard for metal to metal contact, body to pickguard. Tacking the contour necessary since you may have to layer in pieces and can’t solder aluminum foil. Wood glue okay to glue foil to body contour if you’re not comfortable with the more lumpy and strandy glue guns.

Small strip of copper plating with a wire soldered on, tacked to bottom of body cavity for grounding to pickups/circuitry.

All 18 magnets of the assembly have to have a common ground, and this means either a time consuming mechanical harness or heat. Heat is the enemy, but necessary. Let me know if you want instructions on a cold harness.

Remove cast iron pot and pickups from cold. Do one last brushing of magnets with sandpaper and solvent. Have 40 watt or higher soldering iron already hot and tinned. Intent here is to use smallest gage acid core solder, to solder a small bead onto the alnico as fast as possible and do the least damage to the field.

Set chilled pickup on frozen pot, which acts as magnetic “keeper” and heat sink. Pickup magnet face in contact with the frozen pot. Quickly solder a bead of acid core solder onto the back of each magnet. Alternate magnets apart to minimize local heat concentration. Irons less than 40 watt rating will take excessive time to amalgamate and subject the magnet and windings to high heat for too long. Magnets weaken and shellac melts. Okay to “scratch” the bead into the magnet surface with the iron. Soldering flux optional here, though you can do a good job without. Attack and retreat is the goal.

Recessed magnets have to use a frozen alnico for the heat sink.

A senior physics dude advised about this, but all he was, was a senior physics dude, so this may or not hold vodka. Flash cooling the magnets may freeze the domains into the thermally scattered state, so hitting the back with a piece of dry ice is not advised. Do minimal damage by soldering as fast as possible with a hot as possible iron, let the heat sink absorb heat, and the nice little domains will pull themselves back almost together in the best compromise, as they are quickly but not traumatically cooled. I have never had any problem with field attenuation following this procedure.

Not out of the thermal woods yet, because now you have to link all the magnets, but this is not as bad as getting the original alloy. Take the multi-strand speaker wire and tin it with 60/40 resin core electrical solder as far apart as the magnets are. Three pickup-length pieces of wire, tinned space apart necessary to bond to the magnets, and another tinning in about the middle of each wire to link the wires together. Refrigerate the magnets again if you have the time, and solder the tinned speaker wires onto the pickup magnets as quickly as possible. Best not to do the linking wire between pickups yet (makes the next step easier).

Wrap exposed coil wire in a couple wraps of Teflon plumber’s tape. Put a small piece of insulating tape over where the coil wires are soldered onto the base. Don’t want to short these out, top or bottom Then wrap the pickup in aluminum foil from the face down. Get all the contours as tight as possible. Use X-acto knife to cut out around the facing magnets.

Remove insulation from 6-8 leading inches of speaker wire, spread strands and wrap around covered coils. Place good quality, wide rubber band around the wire to keep in contact with the foil. Have decent lead trailing and replace plastic cover (or use the nitrate dope/cotton thread method explained earlier if you discard the plastic covers. Obviously have to remove more foil from pickup face if you don't want the covers). Reinstall pickup onto pickguard plate. The trailing pickup wires are to be directly or indirectly linked (thru the circuitry) to the copper strip tacked to the body foil. You can now solder a connecting wire across the three pickups, joined to the 7th tinned spot on the connecting wires not common to the magnets.

Back with more. This completes grounding for single coils with individual magnets exposed to the backside of the pickup. Works wonders for the base noise level of a Stratocaster. You should now be able to actually hear your pickups in their full intended glory, if you do nothing else to alter the circuit.

Regards,
John K

Last edited by J Kennedy; 07-25-2007 at 07:30 AM.
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Old 07-30-2007, 05:23 AM   #29
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Thanks John, for your efforts. Good info in here!

D
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Old 07-30-2007, 06:54 PM   #30
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Default Strat magic

Diogenes,

Thanks for your support and interest. The grounding wrap alone will bring in clarity and lower noise level, superior to anything one can get off the shelf. The guitar is now worthy to record with.

The grounding work is basic and necessary prep for the next step. I'll make a decent attempt to either photo or draw out this process (as said will require drilling two holes between the knobs for a couple switch installments).

The result in the recording studio can only be described as magic. The universal phase options and mixing setup give 3D control to the presence and sound spectrum, screaming funk to etherial temple bells.

Parts list will be:

two, mineature double pole-double throw, center off switches
(Radio Shack in USA has these for about $4 or under each)

Optional (not vital) replacing the second and third 250K pots with 1 or 2 meg pots that will be used as volume faders. Radio Shack 1 megs are cheap and will be acceptable quality. Master volume can stay as 250K but 1 meg will allow a bit more punch full throttle..

..soldering stuff and a drill

That's it. I'll get a step by step workflow with diagrams and/or photos. Strat and 3-pickup guitar owners will be extremely pleased with the reincarnation.

Best to all,
John K

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Old 07-31-2007, 07:31 PM   #31
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Keep 'em coming John... I don't a lot of time to work my axes at the moment. Work is keeping me busy and what "free" time I squeeze in, I've been PLAYING them! Soon I hope to work on my white Mexi-Strat. It still has the stock single coils in it. They sound wonderful but do suffer from the NOISE! I can't use it church because of all the EMI and RFI from the lighting system controllers, the fluorescent lighting fixtures etc... I would really like to whip the above mentioned mods on this thing... *sigh* maybe soon...

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Old 08-26-2007, 01:17 AM   #32
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Default Pacific Northwest Concert update

Got word that the Sustain King, Maestro Claw did not do opening night at Willows up near Federal Way. It was a mutual contract dump. He was too loud for the place and didn’t fit the uptown disco motif they were looking for to get the dance floor rolling.
They said be belonged in a conservatory at some university school of music and not a bar.

So...lo and behold, there’s a couple upcoming gigs at OSU in Corvallis, Oregon and in Tigard (better give a heads up to Guitar Center). His sweet daughter is creating a website which can be Googled probably under “The Claw” and “Solarians”.

The 3 piece band is somewhere between the mode of Robin Trower and the New York Philharmonic, bass player doing the singing and Claw trying to sing (can’t carry a tune for crap and ruins everything). I think I pissed him off as we were politely arguing the merits of effects pedals and plugs, which he doesn’t believe in. He asked me to give an example a single effect that would be any use to him. I told him a mute button for his voice. That’s the last time he’s been to the coast.

This is one of the world’s premier guitarists, light years ahead of the game. These concerts redefine the potential of the hollow-body six string electric (AND...tadaa...you'll hear my Byrdland funk mod in all it's woodwind orchestral glory!!) Anybody in the area that gets notice or sees his red and white sign with dates and places, please post the info. I’ll be there with a laptop and Reaper, and will upload ogg files so everyone can share the rush.

Haven’t dropped the strat mod. Will get on it soon.

Hope all are well. Still humbled by the volume and quality of the work you guys are contributing to this grand project.

John K
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Old 08-31-2007, 08:42 PM   #33
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Default fuzz box from first post

John,
Firstly let me thank you for your wealth of knowledge and willingness to share. This is officially my first post here, so congrats on getting the best out of me!

In your first post you mentioned turning an old cassette recorder into a fuzz box. I happened to have one sitting around from several years ago, which is now in pieces and ready for the "transformation." any specific instructions? The old portable recorder I have has the standard phone out, but also has a mic in, as well as the standard audio mic to record ambient audio. Could I run the guitar into the mic in, and then from the phone to the output plug? Or does it need to go specifically into the record head?

I haven't taken any pics yet, but would be happy to take and post if there's interest. I just thought this would be a cool project to take on.

Many thanks,
Brad
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Old 08-31-2007, 11:29 PM   #34
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John,

Just happened to see this thread (after it resurfaced), glad somebody remembered how to do the "bump". The amount of information you have taken the time to invest in this thread is astounding... thank you.

I ran across another source of magnets, please take a look to see if they are the appropriate type: http://www.allstarmagnetics.com/magnets/specialty.asp

I've used humbuckers most of my playing career (?) and the idea of slipping some Strat magnets in a humbucker is very intriguing. The guitar I'm using these days has a P90 (LP jr). Might have to go down to the pawn shop find something with some humbuckers just to try it out. I always been a 'tone freak', so new tricks are always good. PEACE.
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Old 09-01-2007, 12:31 AM   #35
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J Kennedy View Post
Haven’t dropped the strat mod. Will get on it soon.
Cool - I'm just in time for the Strat mods! I've had a partscaster growing in my closet for the last ten years just waiting for some inspiration!! Got any tips on Strat trems?

This is great info, John - Thanks for putting it out there!!
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Old 09-01-2007, 09:28 AM   #36
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Friends,

Thank you for the support. A couple notes on this. The fuzz box mod with the cassette recorder works best thru the record head. The signal going into a relatively "hi-fi" preamp is completely overdriven by the output of a guitar pickup. The distortion is exceptionally smooth. The mic input will clip also, but the record head should give better results, especially with brite single coils where you can turn down the volume and get clean distortion with chords. Output about line level would be best going into an amp, and putting the cassette amp into a metal box for grounding is important. (The first one I did in a plastic box worked great but picked up a radio station in the background if I turned the guitar the wrong way). A volume control can always be added to the output if the gain it too high causing the guitar amp to clip.

The alnico magnets in a humbucker create what's got to be one of the best pickups. It introduces the bite and clarity of a single coil on top of the warmth and spectrum of the double coil. The increased output allows passive filters in the guitar circuitry to subtract out areas of the spectrum to hilite different ranges, and still leave enough output to drive external effects boxes with a decent S/N ratio. Orient the coil with magnets in the direction of the bridge for all pickups on the guitar. This will give better bite to the bridge pickup and the common allignment gives the best sounds when the pickups are mixed.

The strat mod will give incredible control in studio or on stage, although without adding knobs, you will have to sacrifice the tone controls. The trade will be more than worth it. As soon as I can get on the other side of family visits and crazy work shift, the mod will get posted. Next best thing to magic promised.

Also, thanks for the reference to magnet sources. On this subject, a doc at the hospital where I work had a patient who almost had her pacemaker ripped out by passing within several feet of a "Neodynium" magnet. I told the doc this sounded too weird, but some research has shown some incredible claims about field strength, flux field patterns, bones being broken by getting metal sucked off shelves and someones arm between the metal and magnet. There's a reliable reference putting them at more than 10x the strength of Alnicos. The doc was wondering what they would do to some medical monitoring devices. I was wondering what they could do to guitars. I don't know if anyone has had experience with these or knows anything about them, but I'll definitely be following up on this. There's got to be some potential for monster pickups if they don't pull the fillings in our teeth out in the process.

Best to all,
John K

Last edited by J Kennedy; 09-01-2007 at 11:42 AM.
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Old 09-01-2007, 10:50 AM   #37
bluzkat
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Yeah, I always kinda liked the mic stand and half the drum kit 'stuck' to my guitar.
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Old 09-01-2007, 12:38 PM   #38
J Kennedy
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Or trying to get a few pounds of these things thru airport security...

There's an interesting wikipedia link about them:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neodymium_magnet

Casual search (noedynium/neodymium) shows some commercial sources that could be of interest. Might try to get a couple bar magnets and replace the iron ones in some pickups and see what they sound like. If I can find a source for cylinders with the alnico dimensions, I'll post the link.

John

(edit) Found some info where these magnets are commonly used, beside computer hard drives and speakers. Kitchen refrigerator magnets, with a reference that they appear shiny. Sure 'nuff, we got about 30 magnets and one of them really anchors itself to the door, and the only shiny one. I can't imagine pots and pans flying thru the air, but these are many times stronger than the iron magnets. They're also used in clothing to replace buttons, and a button-size magnet would nicely fit under a pickup pole creating a lot stronger field than a bar could ever produce. Bigger isn't always better, but most of the time is. This is promising and hope to get any feedback from anyone with enough kitchen magnets or a new age shirt to tear up and plant the buttons under your pickups.

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Old 09-01-2007, 04:59 PM   #39
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The neodymium magnets would be a neat experiment for sure, but if the magnets were too strong wouldn't they tend to dampen the strings' vibration? Seems like I've read something like that somewhere.

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Old 09-01-2007, 06:37 PM   #40
J Kennedy
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Gregh and Guitarzan,

Thanks Gregh!

Guitarzan, increased field can definitely reduce sustain (action height 1st determinant, field strength second, and body acoustics/string type depending).

I've got an obscene 5 pickup SG Special that would rip aluminum foil out of my neighbor's freezer. The sustain is reduced a bit by the massive magnets I've got epoxied in. Think I'd mentioned the Tele that retains a lot of its sustain not from the body, but the weak pickup neck side. Heavier fields nearer the bridge have less effect, and the Tele with a tin can for the neck pickup inflicts negligible dampening effect. The further away from the bridge you get, the more the pickup field becomes a factor in killing sustain, meaning you can really beef up the bridge pickup with minimal damage. Crank up the neck pickup and you can loose some sustain.

I've always used a stomp box compressor right after the guitar to compensate, so the SG rings like a bell in spite of being dragged down a bit by the magnets. The sound variations are more than worth the tradeoff. This is however more manageable in a studio than on stage where you always seem to be fighting more noise and hum. I used an MXR noise gate floor box to kill the noise between songs or in quieter parts as well as replacing the toggle switch to a center-off Radio Shack deluxe. Tons of magnets, a compressor next and a finely tuned gate is one way to get the best of most worlds. We can probably pull off the gate better digitally nowdays, but I haven't found any digital compressor that beats the old Ross box, or the MXR floor box (distant second).

I'm dating myself badly here and would really appreciate any updates you guys have on quality guitar compressors. I'm sure I could retire the Ross, but don't know if they've come up with anything better.

Peace to all,

John K

Last edited by J Kennedy; 09-01-2007 at 07:34 PM.
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