Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups

Rule the Tones - many guitars in one

Discussion in 'Tele Home Depot' started by jvin248, Apr 21, 2016.

  1. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

    Apr 18, 2014
    Near Detroit, MI
    Thought I'd share a project I put together two years ago.

    Basic concept: Be able to swap whole pick guards without removing strings or soldering. Carry a fleet of guitars in a brief case to fit the common chassis.

    Not a new concept and many approaches exist out there to adding this flexibility. I expect I will make a version "2.0" down the road that makes improvement over this. I would be interested in any notes of similar guitar modifications you have seen or done.

    -Cut pick guards that do not hook around the neck
    -Fasten with one fixed screw on the top and two thumb screws at the bottom where the pick guard wants to curl.
    -The thumb screws go into long stand-off nuts that were super glued into body holes.
    -Install an RCA phono jack inside the control cavity and use RCA phono plugs to attach the loaded pick guard to the guitar body. The standard guitar output jack plus the body ground wire are soldered to this RCA jack. The RCA cable is shielded for normal audio use to cut down on hum (although body cavity shielding and pick guard shielding are absent for now).
    -Custom cut pickup slots in a variety of pick guards
    -Route the body so loaded pick guards can be slid under the strings at full tension. Body started with a pool route. P90s need a little wider cavity.
    -Whole pick guards allow matching pots and caps to the pickups to get authentic tones.
    -Pick guard blanks are cut from bathroom wall/shower panels (these have texture on the shiny side) but could be Garrolite, scrap plastic, or another inexpensive sheet material.
    -Blocked the trem since I don't use it.
    -Pots, caps, knobs and switches out of the random parts box.

    Overall it works quite well. Changing the tone styling involves removing the thumb screws, pulling the old plate out, removing the RCA plug, attaching the new RCA plug, sliding the new plate in, aligning the plate slot with the top pin, fastening the thumb screws. It is not meant for during-a-song or during-a-gig to swap out since it takes a few minutes, but I could show up at a gig and see the other player(s) have Strats and LPs and I can put in a Tele or a set of P90s.

    Guitar chassis origin: I picked up this used $15 Strat-like guitar that must have originally sold in a big box store for under $75 when it was new. It needed a lot of work as it had been a younger kid's starter guitar who didn't value it as anything, knocked around, stepped on, tossed in and out of the closet, until the kid upgraded to another guitar. I fixed up the broken bits and smoothed out the rest so it would play. The body appears to be bass wood, and possibly spalted bass wood based on a spot I cut out.

    Benchmarking (I'll edit in some links):
    Leo Fender had a block guitar set up and could slide in pickups mounted on other blocks to test tones, that can be seen in pictures of his work bench at G&L.
    TV Jones had a demo guitar at the 2016 NAMM so visitors could test out their pickup products, at least one youtube video out there. These slid in channels on wood blocks from the top down, with only gravity retaining them as I remember.
    PRS has a guitar with a pickup sized hole from the back to the front to test pickups.

    I recorded some tones from the classic pickup layouts cycling the switch from each position from bridge to neck clean and then neck to bridge dirty. Poor playing and fast recording, but at least the recordings are short! The Tele plate here is more twangy (not attempted in the recording!) than my other Teles. The Strat plate bridge pickup is bad and needs the connections or pickup itself fixed. I need to find Jazzmaster and Jaguar pickups to make those plates. I have around a dozen blank plates.

    Any cool ways you've seen this done? Include example pictures if you can.

    IMG_3853b.JPG IMG_3857b.JPG
    AbarT, Torren61, Deneb and 8 others like this.

  2. allen082

    allen082 Friend of Leo's

    Jul 16, 2009
    fort worth
    I have a similar plan for testing out pickups that I wind. I have an old beater guitar that someone gave me. The difference with my plan is that I plan to insert the pickups from the back of the guitar. I'll have a similar method of connecting pickups to stacked dual concentric audio pots so I don't ever have to swap out electronics ( ..... This has been on my to do list for a while but I'm planning to get to it soon.

  3. PumpJockey

    PumpJockey Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    Oct 12, 2010
    New Joisey
    FYI, this can be done on a few stock guitars. I have a 1964 Melody Maker with two differently equipped pick guards, one with stock MM single coils and one with gold foils. You don't even have to loosen the strings. I use regular pick guard screws but I suppose you could fashion a quick release mechanism.

  4. guitarbuilder

    guitarbuilder Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

    Mar 30, 2003
    Ontario County
    It's a good concept. I made this for my 2014 challenge guitar. I also used spade connectors between pots, pickups and ground. This you have to loosen the strings some to get it out.


    Last edited: Apr 22, 2016
    fortj3 and jvin248 like this.

  5. Asmith

    Asmith Friend of Leo's

    Nov 27, 2014
    Morley, England
    A very good concept, maybe for the 2.0 you should bulk buy something like this, clip the top left so the guard can still be slipped in and out, you don't have to screw all the holes though, maybe put some screw head caps on the holes to make it more aesthetic.

    For the thumb screw thing you might also want to come up with something so that the screws don't strip the thread out of the wood, maybe like a bolt sort of thing like what people use on some actual bolt on necks.

    Also a 21 fret neck would be more idea as you wouldn't have the over hang, one last suggestion maybe route out a lot more body so you have more room for switches so you can get more pots on it like on an LP or whatever.

    Also when I read the thread title I thought of my custom build, has lots of wiring options but I can't change pickups.
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2016

  6. tery

    tery Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    Sep 21, 2012
    Very visionary . . . better Patent it quick .

  7. Asmith

    Asmith Friend of Leo's

    Nov 27, 2014
    Morley, England
    This does have a few advantages that isn't portability, a design like this means if you find your ideal neck you could always play it on whatever style guitar you fancy, also weight/balance if you can get a nice light weight body for the build. Also setup is another one that you could get ideal and just leave it.
    fortj3 and tery like this.

  8. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

    Apr 18, 2014
    Near Detroit, MI
    I had the sheet of bath plastic from another project and it works reasonably well, at a much lower price than pre-cuts (thanks for the link though!) something like $1-$2 each if I bought a full sheet at the hardware store for this, template router is pretty easy, these first ones were hand cut and filed at the time. I have a stack of router cut blanks.

    The thumb screws go into pc board standoffs glued into the body, basically 1/2-3/4" long threaded hex rod (see the inset picture). Next version I will have a tbd set of latches so I don't need to twist any thumb screws.

  9. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

    Apr 18, 2014
    Near Detroit, MI
    Thanks !:) What I have is not new, and some improvement directions I considered going in I found already had patent blocks.
    Like the time I thought it would be cool to put a pickup on rails to slide it from neck to bridge positions or anywhere in between -- someone patented that back in the 70s. That design didn't get used much because pickups are relatively cheap to make compared with sliders.
    tery likes this.

  10. Asmith

    Asmith Friend of Leo's

    Nov 27, 2014
    Morley, England
    The latches are a good idea. That bath plastic is cheap, another cheap tip: I don't buy hookup wire for guitars now, I buy cable designed for house electrics like for light fittings. It's 50p a meter and that works out at 3 meters because it uses a live, neutral and ground wires.

  11. Fenderflame

    Fenderflame Tele-Holic

    Aug 2, 2013
    Mid Sussex, UK
    This looks like a cool idea, but I think I've seen it before. Taylor were doing something very similar with a solidbody (now no longer available) back in 2009:

    Cool idea, shame it didn't take off.

  12. cabra velha

    cabra velha Tele-Afflicted Platinum Supporter

    Jan 21, 2016
    estados unidos
    I'm intending to build a Jazzmaster with a universal "bathtub" rout and do something like this, a couple loaded PGs with different PU combinations, but I haven't worked out what to use for a wiring connector, I was thinking about a little Lemo or micro xlr.
    jvin248 likes this.

  13. freshchops

    freshchops Tele-Meister

    Jan 18, 2010
    Really, REALLY cool idea! Speaking on a broad spectrum (outside of your personal experimentation and interests), I think it's a bit too niche to become a standard or in other words adapted by a large company. Patentability on the concept would be great but likely a stretch. Unless you developed a new, custom way to connect the drop-in sets, you'd be looking at design patent at best. I think for the true audiophiles and tone seekers, there's just as much emphasis on variation of guitars, woods, weights, necks, etc... each guitars style playing into it's personality and tone. Strangely, guitar players seem to like to collect a variety of guitars. :rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes:

    Sorry, that's just biz related thoughts.

    I personally like the idea and would be down for it myself. It'd be great to see a video demo all said and done, if you will.

    Gibson ran a short lived version of "plug-n'play" pick-up swaps with the Les Paul a little while back. I think it was called "Push-Tone". If I remember, I think the pick-ups would pop in and out with magnet retention. I don't know what became of it because it seems like they were gone as soon as they were announced.

  14. C. Card

    C. Card TDPRI Member

    Dec 11, 2013
    San Francisco
    [​IMG] That guy with the funny guitar is Justin Trosper (formerly of Unwound, currently of Survival Knife). I believe his guitar is designed to easily switch out pickups, but I'm not sure because I had to leave right after this show. The next time I saw them he was playing a guitar of the same design but in a different color, so someone is probably making them on purpose.
    Anyway, I was hoping maybe somebody here could help identify it.
    jimash and mitchfinck like this.

  15. Frontier9

    Frontier9 Friend of Leo's

    Dec 10, 2007
    Greetings from Sunny New Jersey
    Ampeg AMG100
    jimash and mitchfinck like this.

  16. matmosphere

    matmosphere Tele-Meister

    May 27, 2015
    District of Columbia
    Cool design. How do the pickgaurd go in and out?

    The amg100 is modeled closely after the old Dan Armstrong Lucite guitars. The clear ones made of acrylic.

    The pickups were ment to be swapped out on the fly. There's a thumb screw on the back. Once it's lose the pickup would slide up and out the cavity on the top. I think there are six pickups that could be swapped in.

    The pickups are all encased in some sort of apoxy. There are three banana style connectors on the guitar body that went into sockets on the pickups.

    It's a little less cumbersome than your design because the extra pickups take up very little room. On the other hand yours would be much harder to lose. I've heard a lot of the Armstrong pickups got lost.
    jimash likes this.

  17. Michael A.

    Michael A. Tele-Holic Silver Supporter

    Jan 12, 2013
    Virginia Beach, VA
    Great that you brought this topic up at this time! I have been planning a similar concept, but with some variation. I started with a $30 First Act Overtone, which is a decent guitar with solid wood body, and added a swimming pool rout. I was going to go in a different direction with the pick guard, but now that I have seen your ideas, I think your design with no neck notch that slips in from the side is a better way to go. Before I redirect to that idea however, I still plan to experiment with mine to see if there is a useful middle approach. I also filled the trem hole for simplicity.

    I look forward to your continued postings in this thread.

    I also was planning a similar approach as Allen082 above in regard to permanently installing a pair of 250/500 concentric pots that stay on the guitar, so only the pups and guard get changed out. I'd have some kind of quick connects to both sides of the pots, and a small socket so caps could easily be changed out. I've had a little setback with this, having ordered the wrong size concentric knobs and now need to mod them to fit the shafts.

    2007-01-01 14.47.49.jpg 2007-01-16 06.59.07.jpg
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2016

  18. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

    Apr 18, 2014
    Near Detroit, MI
    Having the whole set of pickups and electronics together on a change allows tweaking the electronics to make the pups do their best. Sometimes a pickup with a volume pot at the max spec (550koms) sounds better than when used with a pot at the min spec (450kohms) of its factory target 500kohm range.
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2016

  19. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

    Apr 18, 2014
    Near Detroit, MI
    Slides in under the strings. The body is routed under the pick guard to allow the pups to clear the space between as the plate slides under.

  20. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

    Apr 18, 2014
    Near Detroit, MI
    When people see such a system they immediate start thinking about pickup combinations they always wanted to try.

    I agree on the manufacturing side ... the guitar companies want to sell more guitars so there is no incentive for them. Players fight in forums about tone being effected by everything except the pickups and electronics, yet they later ask about which pickup swap they should do because their guitar is too dark/bright.

    Fender released the cards that rewire guitars using the same set of pickups and pots, but not much about that lately.

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