Fingerstyle part II

The long-shaft pots have arrived from Stewart MacDonald and it’s now time to start assembly of my fingerstyle inspired Telecaster.

You may recall the body from the last post – it is very pretty.



Almost as pretty as my daughter’s cat:


But I digress. Back to work. First the ferrules. But that’s easy. So next it’s the triple shot  – soldering the P-Rail leads to the Triple Shot connector pad then drilling holes for the mounting ring and installing the whole thing.


Next step is to attach the bridge, first running the ground wire through the angled hole on the right side in the pic above. Then solder the components according to the wiring diagram. In the picture below, you can see the black cable from the Triple Shot on the far right, connecting to ground and to the first lead on the volume pot. The other black leads are the bridge ground and the plug jack ground. The orange capacitor connecting the volume and tone pots is part of the RC circuit implementing a tone control. Why is there a giant section cut out of the mahogany body in front of the volume pot? I don’t know.


When I started to prepare the neck, the first thing I noticed is that the neck machine head holes are not the correct size. They are supposed to be drilled at 25/64 of an inch, which is 0.390 inches. My caliper says they are 0.365 inches in diameter. The tuning machine posts appear to measure 0.385 inches. Since there does not appear to be a straightforward fractional size size which corresponds to 0.365 inches (24/64ths being bigger and 23/64ths being smaller) my working assumption is that the holes were drilled to 25/64ths and then 0.01 inches was added around the interior of the hole from the satin finish. Sanding it out is a pain so I re-drilled the holes with a 25/64 bit.

To install the Schaller tuning machines, I am trying a new technique. I bought a small jig from Stewart MacDonald which is meant to help align the drill when drilling the pin holes for the tuning machines. Here is a shot of the jig and a Schaller locking tuner so you can see the extra pin.


You bolt the jig into a hole and drill through the top. Here is the jog aligned for the first drill. The jig supports various geometries but Schaller tuners are drilled in the singleton hole immediately above the three holes. I am using the front of the jig to align the jig with respect to the neck.


All done.


Now the tuning machines are easily installed using a 10mm wrench, 3 long ones on E, A, D and 3 shorter ones on G, B, e.

After bolting on the neck, I installed the low E string and it was immediately apparent I would need to shim the neck – the string was way too close to the frets. I won’t write about shimming the neck, I’ve described that here and here.

After shimming the neck and bolting back on, the basic neck setup is straightforward and I’ve described it before. Which gets me here.


Yes, there seems to be a camo effect going on. Here’s a different background.


Now for some fine tuning. One of the things I noticed was that the tone control doesn’t really have as much effect as I would like. I swapped caps, installing a 0.022 uF capacitor instead of the 0.047 uF and that helped a bit.

But my early impressions of the P-Rails pickup are not super excellent. Dirty, it sounds great but clean, all the settings seem a little light in treble. And furthermore, there isn’t a dramatic difference between the 4 settings. At some point, I think I will need to pull out the pickup and double check the connections from the P-Rails to the Triple Shot, just to make sure I haven’t screwed anything up there. For now though, it seems very playable and the neck turned out very nicely – I don’t detect any fret buzz. Onwards.

Edit: I pulled the P-Rails and cannot find a problem yet I continue to be unhappy with the P-Rails sound and I am slightly annoyed because switching pickups is clumsy with the tiny (and cryptic) switches, so I have decided to swap in a Seymour Duncan JB Trembucker, instead of the P-Rails.


I also tried one more attempt at fancy pickup control. The JB has the ability to isolate one of the single coil pickups from the humbucker. I have modified the tone control so it no longer functions as a tone control but instead, moving the tone control adjusts the pickup source. At full tone, this is a SD JB humbucker. At zero tone, it is one single coil of the humbucker. In between, heaven only knows what is happening 🙂  The Seymour Duncan web site refers to this as a ‘Spin-a-Split’. So far this appears to sound better to me than the P-Rails and is less complex.

Rereading this, I don’t think what I am saying in the above text is obvious nor is it clear how this works, so let me try to explain. To explain, I’ll first refer back to my original post on humbucking pickups. From this post one can see that humbucking pickups are no more than two single coils of wire wrapped around magnets in specific orientations. So it should be possible to deactivate one of those pickups and have a resulting single-coil sound, which is the style of pickup (and sound) favored by Stratocasters and traditional Telecasters.

To explain what I did using the tone control, let’s start by looking at a schematic of the pickup with the tone knob in one position and another schematic in the other extreme position.


In the bottom configuration, the electric signal generated by the two inductive coils flows in a loop, leaving the top section of the ‘jack’, flowing through the amplifier, and then back into the bottom part of the jack, then to ground. No signal flows through the 500 k Ohm variable resistor, or ‘pot’ because the signal takes the path of least resistance. This configuration operates as a humbucker.

Constrast this with the top configuration in which the signal from one of the coils is basically shorted directly to ground as the variable resistor is set to provide zero ohms of resistance. This configuration operates as a single coil pickup.

So all I needed to do was to use the tone control as my variable resistor. Luckily the Seymour Dunction JB Trembucker provides a wire tap from between the two coils, just for this purpose.

I am happier with this setup because I can easily hear the difference between the two settings and there is less clutter on the guitar, which was intended to be as simple as possible. So for now, I will keep it like this.








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