Intro: Left Handed 1950's Style Telecaster Wiring
This instructable will walk you through how to wire up a left handed, 50's style telecaster control plate. For a right handed control plate, please refer to a 50's style telecaster wiring that can easily be found online. The steps will be the same but the final product will essentially be a mirror image of what I have made here.
Step 1: Install 3-Way Selector Switch
Here I have chosen to use an Oak Grigsby 3-way selector switch. Some people prefer CRL 3-way switches but the added spring on the CRL makes the switch too stiff for my liking. Both the Oak Grigsby and CRL switches are excellent quality. If you want something that will last, I do not advise installing an economy switch.
Step 2: Select and Install a 250K Logarithmic/Audio Taper Potentiometer
I have chosen to use CTS brand 250k pots in this control plate. Bourns and alpha pots are okay substitutes but will not last as long. I measure the resistance of each pot I use to ensure the value is where I want it to be. The resistance of the volume pot is not as important as the resistance of the tone pot. That being said, I still like to shoot for as close to the listed spec as possible. Out of the pots I had on hand, the volume pot came in at 263 and the tone at 271. While I'm at it, I check the taper of the pot as this can vary some as well.
Being left handed, I chose to use a 250k reverse taper logarithmic/audio taper pot. The only trouble with this is that CTS only makes these pots with a split, knurled shaft. This is not traditional for a telecaster, therefore I had to modify the pot to my liking. This involves carefully prying up the tabs that hold the pot casing on and switching the shaft of one pot with the shaft of another. Now I have a 250k reverse audio pot with a solid shaft. I looked into ordering these directly from CTS but the minimum order was something like 5,000 pots. I couldn't use those in a lifetime and I'm not in the business of reselling left handed pots.
Step 3: Install Potentiometers and Tighten Nut With 1/2" Nut Driver
Remember it goes pot, lock washer, control plate, flat washer, then nut.
Step 4: Select and Install Tone Capacitor
The traditional cap value in a telecaster style guitar is .047uf. To me, this value is too large and results in a tone that is unusably dark when the tone knob is all the way rolled off. For this build, I opted for a Jupiter .022 capacitor. These capacitors are similar in tone to the vintage caps found in tweed fender amps. I always check the value of the capacitors I install, even in guitars, to ensure they are as close to spec as possible. I would also recommend installing head shrink on the leads of the capacitor. You don't want the leads of the capacitor getting squished against the back of a pot once installed in the guitar. This could cause a short circuit and no signal to pass through.
A note on "tone" capacitors:
I have experimented A LOT with different capacitor values and different types of capacitors both new and NOS. In my opinion, the type of capacitor and value makes more a difference than brand or age. People tend to go nuts for old Sprague Black Beauties but a lot of that is hype. I have a bunch in my stash and I have never left them in a guitar for more than a day. You can't just put those caps in your guitar and expect it to sound like a '59 Burst...
My favorite capacitors are NOS Mallory capacitors. Sozo makes good modern day replicas. The value is up to you but I prefer .015uf in humbucker equipped guitars and .022uf with single coils.
NOS Sprague Vitamin Q capacitors are also great sounding. They are very smooth and more transparent sounding than the Mallory caps. I like the Mallory caps because they cause a subtle increase in the mid-range when you roll the tone off which gives you a fat, vocal-like tone especially when overdriven.
Step 5: Next Install the Ground Wires and Wires for the Output Jack
I apologize for not taking better pictures during this step. Once I get soldering, it's hard for me to man my phone. Some prefer to use bare, solid-core wire for the ground bus but I prefer to use insulated wire like this cloth push back wire. If possible, be consistent with the colors of your wires (i.e. use black for cold and white for hot). This will help you later on should your circuit need repair.
Step 6: Next Add the Wire for the Pickup Selector Switch
Step 7: Optional: Add Small Wire Ties to the Wires Going to the Output Jack
It always helps to keep things tidy!
Step 8: Add Selector Switch Tip and Knobs
I recommend that you leave the protective plastic covering on your control plate until the plate is installed in your guitar. That way you will avoid scratching the plate unnecessarily. Now, enjoy the fruits of your labor!
Step 9: All Done!!
Congratulations, you're done. All that's left is to hook up pickups of your choice. Now put that soldering iron down, go get some fresh air then get back to practicing!!