Hank Marvin Inspired, Fender “Classic ’50’s” Stratocaster. Copper shielding.

I usually buy my copper shielding foil in packs of three to five, A4 sheets. Normally, (and with a fairly liberal attitude to economy), I can get through two to three sheets per job. I happen to have exactly one and a half sheets in stock. In the middle of lockdown – It’ll have to do. I’m also usually in the habit of using more than one lug to attach all the various ground wires to my preferred central, “star”, grounding point. With only one lug left in the bits box – I’ll have to think up an effective way of bringing it all together, this time.

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It’s strange – but, although my bad eye has been getting worse recently, I think I’ve actually been able to see a little better overall. I think that’s because my bad eye is now so bad, that my repaired eye has just about taken over completely. I seem to have switched from being left-eye dominant to being entirely right-eye dominant. The bad eye has just enough left in it to pick out some closer details, so I can just about resolve 3D, close up. At the moment – anyway. Fingers crossed – that means I should be able to solder reasonably well. If I take things slowly – I might be able to work on the Red Strat without accidentally burning it, or myself. Might as well make the most of the “Lockdown” time on offer. Who knows how long it, or my current vision, will last.

The first thing, is to locate a suitable grounding point within the main control cavity. I’ve tried a few different points on different projects, but the best seems to be located just next to where the bridge pickup rout meets the main control rout. Driving a small screw into the side wall of the control rout here is easier, since you can use the length of the control rout to keep a screwdriver at a lower angle, and drive the short screw in further. I’ve also found that this is a convenient point since, if the lug on the grounding wire(s) should ever accidentally contact the back of the volume pot, then it merely serves to complete the ground – rather than catching something “hot”, and shorting the circuit.

I locate a suitable point, and then drive a hole in with a sharp awl, and tap a short screw into place. I then fashion a continuity wire out of 0.9mm, tinned copper wire. This provides continuity between the shielded control rout, and the jack socket rout. I push one end of the wire into the hole I’ve just located, (take the screw out again first), and then run the rest along the bottom of the main control cavity, and then through the interconnecting hole, into the jack socket cavity.

Making sure the ends are held in place, with small strips of copper foil, I then proceed to line all of the internal cavities, on the front of the guitar body, with copper foil. The adhesive on the foil is conductive – so, although continuity between each strip is vital,  there only needs to be a small overlap between each piece. Normally, I lay way too much foil. It’s good practice to have to work to a particular budget. One and a half sheets should be enough.

Each strip is laid so that there’s a small bit on the bottom of each cavity – the strip then being pressed into the edges and corners of the rout with a burnishing tool, before being pushed into place up the side of each rout. I find that it’s best to lay strips up the sides of the chambers using a long strip – overlapping each piece, and then trimming each to the correct length with a sharp blade at the face of the guitar, as I go along.

Normally, I’d leave a good deal of copper overlapping onto the face – but I’ve always liked the look of a thin, even border at the top of each cavity. It helps to have something to complete the shielding at the scratchplate – but it certainly isn’t necessary to run great big swathes of copper across the face of the body – even if it is all eventually hidden by the scratchplate. In the photo above, you can see that I completed the jack socket shielding in this – my usual manner – before switching to “economy mode” for the rest of the job. I much prefer the looks of the tidier, “economy” approach – and will definitely be doing it again this way, in the future.

Where the continuity wire runs – the copper foil is placed over the top, and well burnished down. Once all of the routs are fully lined with copper foil, I ensure the whole thing is burnished again firmly, with an agate burnishing tool. This makes sure the adhesive is in full contact all over. The foil remains stuck in place, and the electrical conductivity between separate but overlapping pieces is maximised. Any areas where the burnisher breaks through the foil are patched with small pieces of foil offcuts – cut to size, and burnished down. Once the job is complete, I have one, small piece of foil left on its’ backing. Only a piece the size of a postage stamp remains.

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I can now turn the guitar over, and fit the spring claw, followed by the tremolo bridge and block. The new bridge claw doesn’t properly fit the screw holes in the body, and so I revert to the original claw that came with the body. The new gold tremolo bridge is screwed into position – with each securing screw tightened just until the back of the plate begins to move. Once all the screws are in place, I back all of them off a tiny fraction, and then back the middle four off by a further half turn. This leaves the tremolo held in place, mainly by the two outside screws – and with just enough play so that it can pivot properly. Three stiff Callaham springs then attach the claw to the tremolo block, and the claw is screwed in to tighten the springs so that the tremolo is held securely in place. Not too tight – but not flopping around either.

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I then take a piece of black, cloth covered, hook-up wire – lay it to run between the claw and the central grounding point in the main cavity, and cut to length – pushing back the cloth at each end, and then tinning the core wires. The wire is soldered to the claw in the spring cavity, and then the wire is run through the inter-connecting conduit to the main control cavity. I then push the end of the wire there, into the grounding screw hole, and push the cloth covering back, all the way until it exposes wire down to the bottom of the control rout. About 3/4″. I can then run this exposed wire up alongside the covered, continuity wire from before – and can solder the new wire alongside – on top of the copper foil. My last, postage stamp sized, piece of copper foil can then cover over this solder for security. Thats all of the “body-side” grounding and shielding components laid, and continuity checks with a tester show that everything’s working as it should. Everything runs to the central, “star” grounding point – where the wires are pushed into the small screw hole. My single, remaining, lug will attach here later – with everything held in place so that the lug and screw make good contact with all the grounds.

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And with that – it’s time to check out the eventual look of the gold hardware against that rich, Dakota Red. I also decide to re-use the aged white pickup covers and knobs from the original “Classic 50’s” Stratocaster – but to pair them with a new Fender “Pure Vintage”, parchment sratchplate, which I’d originally bought for the, abandoned, gold-leaf Strat. It’s a good colour combination, and I definitely prefer the Dakota Red to the pinker, although perhaps more Hank authentic, Fiesta Red. Sorry Hank.

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