Introduction: Soldering an SSS Configured Guitar Pickguard
In the instructable, I will go through the process of wiring your own SSS guitar pickguard. First off if you are doing this project you should try to have a decent understanding of the parts that go into the process. The SSS format is basically three single-coil pickups. In a guitar, there are two main types of pickups. Single coils, and double coils (humbuckers.) Humbuckers were made to eliminate external interference (hum). When choosing between the two it's best to think about the sound you want in your guitar. Humbuckers produce warmer louder sounds while single coils produce brighter snappier sounds.
Parts needed in this project
- Three single-coil pickups
- Three 250k potentiometers
- Five-way switch
- 0.22uF Capacitor
- Guitar wire (I used a cloth-covered wire because I find it easier to work with)
Below I have linked the parts I bought (using a kit is a lot cheaper and it's safer when buying online)
Fender Custom '69 pickups (These are pretty expensive but if you intend to play with the pickups then you should get the best quality you can)
Step 1: The Pick-guard
I would recommend doing the soldering after everything's been installed in the pickguard because it allows you to see how everything is going to look. Installing the potentiometers and the 5-way switch is pretty self-explanatory though you should probably have a bolt tightener handy. I did have a bit of trouble with installing the pickups as there weren't any instructions but it's also pretty easy to figure out. I attached an image of how I installed my pickups with the pickup covers and rubber tubing.
As for the pickguard, you can get a variety of pickguards online. I decided to laser cut mine from acrylic and I have attached the .ai file incase anyone else wants to do the same. If not there are plenty of choices of cheap pickguards on amazon and other sites.
Step 2: Soldering the Pickguard
I have attached the wiring diagram that came with my pickups. It's a pretty basic configuration and if you want to experiment with different more complex configurations there are plenty online. Something that I had trouble with the first time round was I rushed all the wiring and then organizing it so it fit in the body was trouble. My pickup wires came a lot longer than necessary which is why I would recommend cutting some off and definitely tying it so it fits in the holes. It's essential that every joint is soldered well or the sound may not come out as planned. I recommend doing research on the proper soldering technique before trying it out. In my opinion, the hardest part of the soldering is soldering to the output jack and the tremolo claw as those wires must pass through drilled holes to their destination. Once you solder those you can't really move the pickguard away from the body which is why I recommend soldering everything else first.
At first, my guitar gave off a loud buzz after it was soldered and I realized that the problem was the solder wasn't sticking to the tremolo claw. The problem is easily fixed by sanding the claw a bit so the surface finish is removed allowing the solder to stick. Once I did this the sound problem was fixed.
Step 3: Final Touch-ups
Once you finish the soldering it's important to test the pickups to make sure they work. Plug the pickguard into an amp and tap the pickups with something (like a screwdriver) to make sure they give off a sound. This is also important to make sure that the 5-way switch is working. Play with the switch and make sure only the pickups that are supposed to give off sound do so. You can also play around with the volume and tone knobs to make sure they're working.
You may need to adjust the height of the pickup by adjusting the screws. People recommend different heights for each pickup I suggest you go by what feels right. I stuck to around 2mm above the pickguard.
Once you've decided everything works it's time to screw the pickguard into the body. From then on it's just stringing the guitar and adjusting the string height.