The Black Strat. Circuit wiring – Part 2. Pickup Installation.

Since I’ve already lined the pickup routs and wiring channel with conductive copper foil – the wiring route for the pickups is well shielded from outside, electrical interference. The custom acrylic pickguard came with copper foil already fitted over the main control cavity – just like Dave Gilmour’s original. I was originally going to go with that – but I’ve had second thoughts – and I eventually decided to add a little copper foil to the underside of the pickguard – just where the wiring runs go. The copper overlaps onto the body there – and these strips should help complete the shielding. It’s a minor detail – probably not that important – but I don’t see the point shielding the body cavities at all, if I’m not going to be consistent.

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I apply a couple of bits of copper tape, and trim them around the pickup openings. At the bridge pickup – I just run a small piece of tape so that conductivity is achieved through to the control cavity. Now the pickup wires should be fully shielded along their entire lengths.

The pickup installation is straightforward enough. Each of the pickups will go into their positions – held by stainless steel, dome-headed screws, as opposed to the countersunk type you see on some Fenders. Each of the pickups is covered with a custom, Aged White, pickup cover – part of the set provided by Overdrive Custom Guitars, which itself is a customised, Fender original accessory set. The pickups and pickup covers are “sprung” from behind the pickguard with short pieces of surgical type tube, rather than with the springs you sometimes see.

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I intend to twist the hot and ground wires from all the pickups, in pairs, around each other. This looks tidy, keeps the wiring job tidy, and helps to identify everything down at the switch end of things. Twisting the wires is also supposed to provide an additional,  slight benefit as regards shielding the signal. Normally, pickups come with plenty of wire to play with – but the Fat 50’s pickup I’ve acquired is second hand, and has already been trimmed short, presumably to fit a previous installation. The wire length is a bit too short, once twisted – so I trim the wire to a clean cut, pull back the cloth covering a little, and then solder on a matching extension wire, to provide a few more inches of length. The cloth covering pushes back into place – but doesn’t completely insulate the join, so I slip a piece of black shrink tubing over the area and give it a quick warm with a heat gun. I twist the black and white wires together, around each other, to a point where the twists extend down to just inside the control cavity. The route has to allow for a straight path down to the bridge pickup, before a deviation off to the side, towards the controls.

With the wires prepared – the pickup cover is fitted, and the assembly fitted into place on the scratchplate, with the screws and rubber springs. I tighten the screws, and adjust the pickup height until it’s roughly halfway into the pickup opening.

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To keep things extra tidy and secure, I slip another piece of black shrink tubing over the pair of twisted wires, and move it up to a position in between the neck and middle pickups. A little bit of heat shrinks the tube, and will keep the twisted wires in place. At the control end, I identify and mark the end of the white, “hot” wire – to mark it as being the neck signal wire. Since all the black, “ground” wires will go to the same plae – there’s no need to identify the neck ground in the same way, but you need to know which hot signal comes from which pickup.

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The bridge pickup from the Custom Shop ’69, Abby Ybarra set is selected to be fitted in the middle position here. The measured output suits the requirement for this project, and it’ll leave a pair of pretty well matched pickups to upgrade my Ash Stratocaster, later on this year. Because the pickup set was second-hand, the pickup wires had already been trimmed to fit in the bridge position – but when twisted together, a few more inches of wire needed to be soldered on, in order to get both wires to the required length. Again, the joins for each wire were insulated with black or white shrink tubing, as appropriate, and then they were twisted together in the same manner as with the neck pickup. Once again – the “hot” wire is identified and marked at the control end to identify it at the control end.

The middle pickup is fitted to the plate with it’s pickup cover, stainless screws and tube springs. The wire run is laid into position. I shrink a slightly larger diameter piece of tubing over, to secure the twisted pairs from both the neck and middle pickups, at a position just between the middle and bridge positions.

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The bridge pickup – a Seymour Duncan, Custom Shop SSL-1C DG – is installed in the bridge position. The pickup is brand new, so there’s no need to extend the wires at all. Also no need also to identify the “hot” – (since the other two are already identified, and the twisted run is short). The pickup is fitted in place, and the wires twisted together for the short distance between the pickup and the control cavity. The wires are then trimmed to the required length, and laid in place. (Leave a bit of spare slack when trimming). The run is short enough so that the wires don’t really need any additional support or ties – but I find it useful to slip a piece of unshrunk, black tubing over all six pickup wires – keeping them in a tidy bundle, so that they’ll sit nicely in the routed channel below the bridge pickup. The pickups are then all adjusted so that they sit approximately halfway down into their positions – and the plate is dry-fitted into the guitar, to make sure everything fits, and sits, nicely.

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All three black “ground” wires are separated off, and trimmed to a length where they extend just to the back of the volume pot. They are then soldered together onto the back of the pot. The wires are still individual – but I try to secure them all with the same blob of solder.

The three hot wires are bundled off to the side. The final part of the wiring process, will be to connect these three wires to the switch, at the correct terminals. Then – with the hooking up of the micro switch, and the jack plug – together with the connection of the ground fly lead from the back of the control pots – the circuit should be complete, for final installation and testing.

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