Category Archives: Electronics

Prep

So work on the red strat has commenced. There’s really nothing much different to the black strat build, after all, both guitars are stratocasters with aftermarket components, and they have much similarities in terms of components, in fact, aside from the pickups and the circuit, they are exacly the same guitar.

Today I commenced the prep work

  • Stripped all electronics
  • Deep clean body and neck
  • Fingerboard cleanup
  • Shielded main cavity
  • Added quick connect/disconnect connectors, including ground connections

Something I noticed while polishing the fingerboard, is that the frets are not in as good condition as the black strat, and might be time of doing a fret redress. I’ll finish this project and then I’ll send the guitar to have the frets done. If the work is good I’ll then send my MIA Stratocaster plus, as that certainly is in need of some fret love.

The next step would be to do the wiring, but I’m still waiting on the potentiometers, the capacitor and of course the pickups. Again there are no plans of adding a treble bleed, and whether to add a blower switch.

The Red Strat Specs

So, I have made up my mind, and here are the specs for the guitar

  • Seymour Duncan Antiquity Texas Hot Vintage Set
  • Fender Stratocaster White SSS pickguard and knobs
  • Fender 5 Way pickup selector
  • CTS 250K linear potentiometers
  • Sprague Orange Drop 0.022uf capacitor
  • 2 DPDT on-on mini-toggle
  • Fender Staggered Locking tuners
  • Graph Tech Black Tusq XL
  • Gotoh NS510TS Bridge

All components are already on the guitar or have been ordered.

Oh, I have also ordered a cheap chinese 1Ply pickguard. The idea is to use it as a testing for ageing. I’ll be using shoe shine to do this. if it works and looks good then I’ll apply the same method on the pickguard. It is funny though, I have a 30 year old guitar, and the pickguard still looks white…. has lots of scratches, but still white.

 

Lovepedal Babyface Tremolo Depth mod

Beware: modify the pedal at your own risk. I take no responsibility for any damage that might occur to your beloved tremolo pedal.

Ok. Disclaimers are done, and you decided to continue reading. Grab some tea/coffee, have a good read, and when ready, have a go.

I won’t write up about how good this tremolo is, this video is a better review than any write up I could put together.

However, the tremolo has what I think is a major of shortcoming, which is that the depth control is inside the unit, with no easy way to adjust and requires you to unscrew the rear of the unit, adjust depth to taste, and so on and so forth…. some pleople won’t mind, but if you are a performing musician, you are more likely to use more than one depth setting, which makes the unit rather impratical for live situations (that is just my opinion)

To get the unit up to scratch would require to have the depth control easily adjustable externally. I found a couple of sites (here and here) that make mention to the desired mod but did not provide further details, so it was time to change that.

Step Zero – what are we doing then?

With the the Babyface tremolo open, placing the footswitch at the bottom (see image below), there are two trimmer pots, one white on the left (level) and one black on the right (depth), which is the one we want to replace by an external pot. This is a CTS 262UR253A trimmer potentiometer, which translates into a 25KΩ CTS 10mm Carbon Trimmer Potentiometer.

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So here is what you need to make this modification

I bought all my parts from Bitsbox in the UK… cost including shipping to Australia was still cheaper than buying local, and by a long way.

Step One – open and dismount the unit

This is straigh forward, essentially you want to end with two major parts, the emply enclosure and the circuit board (see images below)

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Make sure you put all your knobs, metal rings, screws and covers in a container where they are kept safe while you are doing the mod. It will make the assembly a lot easier later on.

Step Two – remove depth Trimmer Pot

This is kind of the point of no return. Yes, you can solder the trimmer pot back, but if you are here, it means you are pretty committed to do the mod.

Note: make sure you have the appropriate soldering iron for the job. I didn’t and the job was made unnecessarily more difficult because my soldering iron did not have the right tip (the pointy/narrower the better). The same applies for your solder removal tool. Be careful and remove the right (black) trim pot only. you should end up with something like this (please ignore the soldered wires for now), more on that in a minute.

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Now it would be a good time to solder your wires, as you won’t have room for maneuver once the new potentiometer is in.

The ilustration  below is the diagram for the original trimpot. I have purposedly placed it upsidedown for your easy of reference when soldering the wires and the potentiometer. Note the bigger numbers 1,2,3. we will match these to the new potentiometer later.

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So, as per the diagram above, here’s how this translates onto the circuit board, and where you’ll solder your wires.

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Step Three – drill the pedal enclosure

This is probably the easiest of all the steps, but here’s where I ran into trouble, so you might want to do things differently.

There are only two physical locations where the pot can be placed. These are marked as locations 1 and 2 on the picture below. This is not an order of prefference (it was for me) but its only so we can identify the location. I chose location 1. I think location 1 makes more sense from a usability point of view as its less likely to mess around with your pedalboard cables. Locaion 1 however, is considerably more difficult to work with. You will want to measure where to place the potentiometer with the PCB and all components in. The final location for you will depend on the size of the potentiometer you got and how comfortably you feel doing this work. Also, if you plan to make any future mods, you might want to select location 2.

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IF you selected location 1 just like I did, then good luck to you! This is what I did.

The new 25K potentiometer required a 7mm hole on the enclosure for the potentiomenter shaft. This is not enough given the position of the potentiometer, as you will need to slide in the potentiometer, and then pivot it to place the PCB. I could not place the PCB and then put the potentiometer… but that was me, you might find a better way to do this. Just keep in mind, you might need to drill an 8mm hole, as it will make your life easer.

So back to drilling the enclosure. I’d sugest you place the enclosure in a vise and use some other material to protect it. also if have access to one, use a step drill bit. It will make the drilling a lot easier.

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Step Four – solder in the new potentiometer

Once the enclosure is drilled and we have worked out how to put the whole thing together, its time to solder in the new potentiometer. The trick here is how to wire it. The ilustration below presents a more familiar view of a guitar potentiometer, and the appropriate pin numbering.

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For the new mini potentiometer, this is no different, so it would be something like this

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All that is left now is to position the components on its final location, adjust but not tight all nuts, as this will help keep things in place, and then solder the wires to the right pins on the potentiometer, that is one to one, two to two and three to three.

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And that’s it. That’s the mod done.

Step Five – You are done, test your new tremolo.

Before closign the tremolo, make sure you test it.Once the enclosure is drilled and we have worked out how to put the whole thing. The tremolo should work and sound as it did before, but now the efect depth is controlled by the external potentiometer. Aren’t you glad you did this?

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Step Six – while you are it…

As you still haven’t closed your tremolo (I hope), why not make the level trimmer pot accessible? All you have to do is to drill a hole in the back cover, make sure is big enough to allow a small screwdriver in. This will allow you to setup the overall efect/boost level.

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As this is something you would not adjust often, but maybe during sound check or when setting your pedal board you don’t need to have it as easily accessible as the depth control.

Step Seven – close up and clean up

Here’s the modded pedal.

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You can also replace the ugly ass speed knob that ships with it as I did on the photo below. I tried with several colours and models and this I liked the best (gently donated by a Mooer Hustle Drive which now has a blue knob)

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Build day!

So I finally received the pickguard. Humbuckers fitted nicely, not so the CTS pot… so I had to enlarge the pot hole, and also drill a new one for the blower switch. I’ve to admit that I hesitated to drill the hole, and contemplated to use a push/pull volume, but my reasons to use a DPDT on-on were still very valid, so I ended up going on the original path and drilled the hole.

I mounted the components and it was  soldering time!… as I had pre-soldered (if that is even a word) everything, all I had to do was to solder the pickups and that was it… or so I thought…

When I went to mount the pickguard, I noticed the super switch was making contact with the side of the cavity. In fact it did not fit. so I had to flip the switch around, and re-do poles 0 by inverting the cabling so the switch would still work on the right position and right order.

I also swapped the DPDT switch for a different one which was easier to operate. Hopefully it will last the time.

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The completed pickguard.

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And this is what it looked like on the guitar. Notice the bridge saddles were also changed. I replaced the standard Fender vintage saddles with a set of Goth S21C steel saddles. I found these to be more comfortable for playing, specially as I do a lot of palm muting. The blower switch is behind the tremolo bar.

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The guitar with strings and intonation and action adjusted. Also note the volume know was replaced with a chrome one, as I think it looks much better.

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So that’s done!.. it was certainly a lot of fun…

and yes, it sounds amazing. I’ll upload some soundbytes soon.

Ah… and now I need a case and a beautiful strap

 

Because a little goes a long way…

… in terms of progress.

I know I have writen “Be patient” on the lessons page, but that does not mean to be iddle. While I wait for the remaining parts to arrive (Neck pickup, pickguard and copper tape), I decided to solder and prepare as many components as possible.  Also decided not to wire the components between them until I have the pickguard to mount them, in order to reduce the cable lenghts where it makes sense so the resulting guitar wiring does not look like an spaguetti bowl.

First the Fender 4P5T super switch was wired. Only outstanding connection into the switch are the neck and bridge pickups. The red and black cables on the left go to the volume pot and to ground on the back of the volume pot respectively. Not by best job but far from the worst

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The volume potentiometer CTS 500K Linear. Too easy

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Next was the blower switch. Red cable on the left of the picture goes to the tip in the output jack. The bridge pickup hot (black) is to be connected to the free connector.

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Also decided to redo the jack connection because I want the guitar to be as quiet as posible (noise wise), so the jack connection is now a twisted pair. this is the only part that won’t be inside the main cavity which will be shielded with copper tape.

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All the connections that I need to do next are:

  • Neck and bridge pickup to the super switch and blower switch (Bridge).
  • Neck “hot” from the switch to the switch,
  • Connect the ground to the output jack
  • Switch “hot” to and out of the volume to the blower switch.
  • Connect the hot from the blower switch to the output jack

 

Mod #1 – Quick Electronics connect/disconnect

I got a couple of JST Male to Female connectors to replace the ground and hot connection between the electronics and the guitar output jack. The idea behind this is to have a quick connect/disconnect of the whole electronics. I will also do the same for all the ground connections to the guitar once all the hardware has been replaced.

quickconnect

Getting the JST through the jack routing hole. This is very small, and the connector would not go through it, hence why I had to do this before soldering the jack.

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Here you can see the soldered jack. (red to tip, black to ring/ground). Note that for the new electronics I would require an additional connector for the hot signal coming from the blower switch.

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Back on the pickguard and main electronics, connections are black to ground and red to volume potentiometer

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And this is the complete job.

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but wait!… we still need to do the same for the ground connections. For this I used some eye terminals and JST connectors

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These will be the ground connections to the body and bridge

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As you can see this is a more neat and clean arrangement fir the internals. This will help a lot when the new electronics are installed.

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The pickups

As I wrote before, I love strats, they play just so nice. But I also like different guitars, and different sounds.

The firs time I heard of the Blacktop Stratocaster, I was really intrigued: A Stratocaster with dual humbuckers, and ‘vintage’ humbuckers while we are are. The demos available online sounded great, but as the guitar is no longer in production, I could not find one to test. So I bought one second hand.

I loved it. It was so familiar, yet so different. It played like a Strat, yet is sounded like no strat I’ve heard before. So it became one of my go to guitars.

But the AlNiCo V vintage pickups, while they sound really good, they are quite a high output, and as a result, they tend to mud things a little, specially when you are after the “Tube amp just breaking” tone… you know, that super clean yet crunchy sound. It just doesn’t happen. the pickups are simply too hot for that.

Enter the P.A.F. pickup. The 58-60 Gibson sound. that’s exactly the pickup for that job. While I love the Les Paul sound, I just can’t feel confortable playing it… maybe is a combination of the neck scale and the radius… and the weight… or who know… its just not right for me.

So I had narrowed down to a few PAF reissues, including Gibson and DiMarzio, and then I was lucky to try a Suhr Standard with a Thornbucker neck pickup… and that was it. exactly the tone I was after.

So more internet research and heaps of online demos and review later, I think the thornbuckers are the way to go. I believe they will provide that clean-dirty super clean and warm tone.

I’ve decided on the raw nickel covered ones, as there will ‘age’ its looks quicker (they will develop a patina), and I think they will look cool.

I have also decided on the 53mm for the neck.

thornbucker 2

lets just hope these fit on the HH pickguard…