Intro: Improved Strat for Less Than $20, Potting and Semi - Sheilding Your Guitar
Well I have an Indonesian crafted Squire Strat (I normally tell people its a vintage Fender). As With all cheap beginner electric guitars especially ones with single coil pickups you get a lot of feed back and un-wanted noise.
After a days work the improvement even surprised me and was worth every bit of effort.
The feedback I am talking about isn't the Hendrix cool type, instead is more of a buzzing popping and rather intrusive noise.
If you play with clean tone on the amp it starts humming, and I cannot put the distortion on the dial more than 4, before it turns into a whinny noise.
Simple ways to over come this problem is:
Cleaning all electrical parts
Setting your pickups in wax.
Shielding your electrics from outside interference.
New strings and more springs on the tremolo (whammy) unit helps get better tone and sustain.
The next step is a little theory to why the above help improve your instrument, you may skip it if you just want.
Disclaimer: Less than $20 is including foil, wax and new strings (I did not include equipment or any other extra costs I think are readily available). I am not responsible for any damage or harm caused from following this instructable. Follow this is at your own risk.
Step 1: Equipment
Things I used:
- 20 tea light candles enough to be able to submerge the pickups, (I re-molded the extra wax still had 15 left)
- Kitchen foil
- Spray on glue
- 1 small pot
- 1 larger Pot with
- Solderer and solder
- Screw drivers, 2 flat heads and one Philips head
- Duct tape
- WD40 or Shelly's RP7
Step 2: Theory
When you strum your electric guitar the metal Strings induces a current (signal) in the pickups that are than sent to the amplifier to convert into sound.
However other background electric waves might send unwanted signals to your pickups.
Encasing your pickups in wax stop the coils and wires from moving internally causing unwanted signals.
Foiling / shielding your guitar causes a Faraday effect eliminating outside EMS affecting your pickups, electrons in the foil realign themselves to cause a net "neutral" effect with outside charges to cancel them.
Cleaning out switches and Knobs stop those clicking noises when using your guitar, cause switches like to be cleaned....
New strings provide a better tone, as old strings get worn down from the tension and deformed from playing.
An extra spring keeps the bridge down against the guitar allowing better sustain as more of the bridge is in "solid contact". Is how long the note rings after it is played.
Step 3: Remove Strings and Pick Guard
Remove the strings, I would not bother reusing them, as after 1/2 a year the strings get dull and the tone is reduced. Put new strings afterward you wont regret it the sound is well worth the $12.
You can unwind the strings then pull them out the back, or reduce the tension then cut them in half and remove the strings.
***Must unwind the strings before cutting them, other wise you might cause some unwanted ouch***
After the the strings are off, turn the guitar over, undo the white back cover, there should be a Black "Ground" wire disconnect this, you can solder it off or use other means. Pic 3
Then flip the guitar to the front side and take off the input Jack and disconnect the two wires (remember which one goes where you need to solder it back on). Pic 4
Than remove the Pick guard, the pickups and all the electrics should come off with it.
With everything off I cleaned the whole guitar down.
Step 4: Remove Pickups
Ok I have the pick guard with all the electric soul of the guitar, now before doing anything, map out how all the pick ups are wired up (see my pic).
Disconnect all the Pickups by unscrewing the two screws either side holding them (don't loose the springs and note the orientation of the spring and the pickups e.g. neck, middle or bridge). The white pickup covers come right off don't worry.
***Pickups are sensitive do not touch any bit that isn't hard plastic, If the are wrapped in tape do not unwrap it. If they are coated in wax there's no need to wax them again unless they give bad feedback. Some pickups are in resin, can't do much to these but they are normally the expensive ones.***
After the pick ups are out tie them to string through the two screw holes as shown.
Next step is to prepare the Wax.
Step 5: Wax Potting Your Pickups
I used candle wax for this project.
Prepare somewhere where you can hang your your pickups to dry after waxing. I used a viced screw driver. see pic
Make a double Boiler. Basically a pot, with a smaller pot inside. You fill the larger pot with water and the inside one with your wax. That way your wax will melt but not burn. Place some nuts or something that will help suspend the inner pot from the larger one.
Boil some water , when the water starts to boil add the wax/ candles into the smaller pot.
****Keep the temperature no more than 65 degrees Celsius / 150F or else you could melt your pickups use an infrared temp gauge or a candy thermometer***
Once all wax is melted and at correct temperature submerge one pickup at a time and wiggle it around for a bit (using string). Watch for air bubbles to come to the surface just gently shake it around. The pickup has magnets that cause it to stick to the pot just use pliers (or if not that hot your hands) to hold the pot while moving your pickup.
Check the temperature every now and than, after about 12 min take the pickup out and hang it out to dry.
Repeat for each pickup, making sure not to hang them too close to each other as the magnets attract each other.
Step 6: Shielding
While the wax is drying (doesn't take long) you can start shielding your pick guard.
In this instructable I didn't bother making a complete Faraday cage, as I wanted to know how much effect just foiling the guard and waxing did without the "whole shebang".
Remove the Knobs from the pick guard, wrap some duct tape around two flat head screw drivers and lever them off you will need to use a little force but if you have duct tape on the ends don't worry.
wedge one screw driver in one end and other opposite than lever both at same time (note the orientation of the knob for installation).
Remove the Switch unscrew the two screws.
After clean the pick guard rub it down with some soapy water and dry it.
Take out a piece of foil more than enough to cover the pick guard, than spray a light coat of spray glue onto it. Wait 2 to 3 min for the glue to become tacky than place your pick guard on top of it or the foil on your pick guard, sticking the foil to the "inside" of the pick guard.
than use a knife and cut the excess foil off, cut more to the inside of the pick guard like I have. Cut all the holes that you need out. than wait for it to dry. Go over the edges with a cloth with some turpentine or thinner (carefully) around the gluey non foil bits on the inside of the guard.
Step 7: Reassemble
When the pick guard is dried and shielded
Pickups dried and waxed
Install everything thing back on, soldering the connections, wrapping the wires up like they were before.
Than put everything back on the guitar threading the ground and input wires through the right holes and soldering them on.
Use some WD40 or RPP7 on the switch and the Knobs (the tone and volume knobs)or better use a product like Deoxit Fader Lube, or TV tuner/cleaner to get longer life.WD40 might have a chance of wearing out the switches over time.
Step 8: Play and Notice a Difference
Install the extra spring on first than the strings is what I meant.
Put the loop of the spring onto the hook bit, than using pliers pull and put the straight end into the hole.
Than install the cover and put on strings oil the tremolo and any where strings make contact.
Plug it in and hopefully it should work, with amazing results.
I will post a video of my friends stock strat against mine for you all to hear the difference soon.
I will try and answer all comments thank you for reading.