Tag Archives: Surh ThornBucker

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

 

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…

The Hardware (AKA The Shopping List)

So here’s my shopping list. This will probably change over time, but this where I’m at. I might write a post or two about some of the choices I made, but I’m happy with them so far, and only time will tell whether I’m truly happy with them.

  • Fender/Schaller Staggered Locking tuners  – Received & useless (read this)
  • Gotoh NS510TS Bridge
  • New HH Pickguard – Shipped
  • Fender 4P5T Superswitch  – Received
  • Linear 500K Taper for Volumen  – Received
  • DPDT on/on mini toggle switch for Blower switch – Shipped
  • Suhr Thornbucker Neck on Raw nickel – Shipped
  • Suhr Thornbucker 53mm Bridge on Raw nickel – Purchased
  • Wiring, and 2 Pin MULTI Pin Plug /  9V battery clips, for a quick connect/disconnect of the loaded board  – Done (read this)
  • Copper tape for cavity shielding – Shipped

Planning The Electronics

Grab some coffee as this might be a rather long read.

As I mentioned on previous posts. I have another Fender Blacktop Stratocaster, which is one of my favourite guitars. One of the things I really like about it is the pickup configuration (HH), and the 5 position switching. As logic would dictate, I will configure the new guitar with the same configuration and pickup selection options.

But it’s not a mere pickup replacement operation. Something I dislike in ALL my guitars, are the tone knobs: I never use them. I’ve played for 30 years, with several hiatus while I pursued other hobbies, and played different styles of music, and never used the tone knobs…. maybe if I played Jazz….I have even disconnected them in a couple of guitars when I replaced the pickups.

So now I have the opportunity to remove the tone pots altogether… and also do a few other things.

Here’s is what I want from the electronics:

  • 5 way “Blacktop” pickup selection

1 – Bridge Humbucker

2 – Neck + Bridge Outer Coils

3 – Neck + Bridge Humbucker

4 – Neck + Bridge Inner Coils

5 – Neck Humbucker

  • No tone knobs
  • Suhr like Blower switch (AKA True bypass)
  • Better volume control

so here we go…

The pickup selection

So first I needed to find the correct schematics of the Fender Blacktop Stratocaster. Unfortunately, Fender website was no help, as the HH strats service manuals are for HH strats with different switching options.

After digging for a while, (and is incredible the number of incorrect diagrams out there) I found what I was looking for in the Strat-Talk forums. I verified this against the wiring of the actual guitar. The wiring diagram can be found below.

actual blacktop wiring

This was very useful, but I quickly realised that the color coding is for Fender’s proprietary humbuckers, and I would need to translate to the brand pickups I would be using (Suhr Humbuckers, more about that decision on another post). I would also need to remove the tone pots, and add the blower switch.

The Blower Switch

I use my volume knob a lot to control my sound and dial the sweet spot, and also like more gain and byte when soloing. Sometimes you have found the sweet spot, switch to your neck pickup, full volumen…. shred!…then time to go back to that sweet spot… uh… where was I?…

So the idea behind the blower switch is that this mod allows the guitar to completely bypass all the switches and controls when engaged, the bridge pickup is connected straight to the guitar output.

The Seymour Duncan blog explains how to do this mod, so I will bypass the explanation.

I initially thought of using a push/pull volume, as It would give a more minimalistic look to the guitar, but then, the whole idea of the blower switch is to avoid messing with the sweet spot, so HANDS OF THE VOLUME. as a result, I will use a DPDT on/on switch. This will make soldering easier, and any service easier. I also have plenty of room to put this in the guitar, as now I don’t have tone controls.

The volume control issue

There are essential two types of taper (volume) pots: Audio (Logaritmic) and Linear.

Most guitarrist (and most guitars) use Audio pots. The problem with that is that audio rolls off faster (at the halfway mark the audio is anything between 25-35%). and to address mantaining tone, people use treble bleed mods.

A linear taper gets rids of those issues, and there’s a smooth volume sweep from 1-10.

The final wiring diagram

So here’s what the partscaster wiring will look like… for now 🙂

WIRING