Quarantine project - P-Rails in an SG

Discussion in 'Other Guitars, other instruments' started by Deaf Eddie, Mar 20, 2020.

  1. Deaf Eddie

    Deaf Eddie Friend of Leo's

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    Ever since Seymour Duncan introduced the P-Rails, I've wanted to do some kind of a project with them. JUST before all this COVID 19 crap hit, I eBayed a 1999 Gibson SG Special, has a headstock repair, possible wonky switch, got it cheap.

    SG-special.jpg

    Had a big credit at MF, so I ordered a set of P-Rails...

    P-rails.jpg

    Guitar is here, not bad at all. With a truss rod tweak and a bridge adjustment, I can tell it'll be a nice player when I'm done. The neck pickup sounds good, selector switch seems to work, bridge pickup sounds way weak and thin - but I'm replacing them anyway...

    And away we go!
     
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2020
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  2. Deaf Eddie

    Deaf Eddie Friend of Leo's

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    Buying parts for the scheme I want, the first consideration was, will p/p pots fit? The body is pretty thin...

    Contacted the Art of Tone shop on eBay, asked them about the new CTS printed circuit board pots. They said the short shaft ones would go through the body, no problem, but could not confirm that the control cavity would be deep enough to accommodate them. Took a chance and bought four (middle ones in the picture). If they don't fit in this one, I'll find another use for them.

    CTS_Push_pull_Pots_DPDT.jpg
     
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  3. Deaf Eddie

    Deaf Eddie Friend of Leo's

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    First snag, disassembling the guitar - the pickguard screws were rusty, rusty, rusty. I could only get about half of them out. Carefully re-tracing the phillips "X" in their heads with an x-acto knife, an hour later I had them all out but one. I actually had to (carefully!) drill that one out. Removed the remainder of its shaft with some locking pliers. Whew!

    Now that it's all apart, I checked the switch - OK. Checked the old pickups (Gibson 490 R and 490T) with a multimeter. Neck, good, bridge - no reading. Pulled it apart to find the screw coil was OK, the slug coil was open. Guess it's a tosser - into the parts bin, anyway.
     
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  4. JeffBlue

    JeffBlue Tele-Afflicted

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    I think your project is outstanding. I love P-Rails.
     
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  5. Deaf Eddie

    Deaf Eddie Friend of Leo's

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    Pots are here. By removing all the nuts and washers, and bending the PCB tabs back, they JUST fit. With the lock washers back on them, they hit up against the control cavity cover just a tiny bit (half a milimeter too tall?), but I think the screws will hold the cover in place, practically flush with the back of the guitar - Gibson always leaves a little slop in that rout anyway.

    Next concern is that they are so big (around), I'll have to be turning them around in the control cavity to leave room for the two mini-toggles I want to install as part of the scheme. It's gonna be tight in there, but I think I'll be able to fit it all in. Man, that's a tight control cavity!

    Pics soon...
     
  6. Deaf Eddie

    Deaf Eddie Friend of Leo's

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    Got the P-Rails mounted in the pickguard - only lost two springs in the process (well, not lost, they're in the room here, SOMEWHERE). I'm sure anyone who has loaded humbuckers in a mounting ring has experienced this. The pickups are mounted straight to the pickguard in this guitar, adding an extra level of frustration to the installation!

    Mounted the pickguard on the guitar with new screws. Looks sharp!
     
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  7. DLReed

    DLReed Tele-Meister

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    Cool project! I love SGs. (Secretly, they may be my favorite looking guitar).
     
  8. Mincer

    Mincer Tele-Holic

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    I had P-Rails with Triple Shot rings on a Steinberger. I love the P90 sound the best, followed by both coils in parallel. The other sounds were a bonus.
     
  9. Deaf Eddie

    Deaf Eddie Friend of Leo's

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    WHAT?

    The scheme I have laid out will give me the ability to chose any of the four configurations for each of the pickups individually, PLUS the ability to run the pickups in series and/or out of phase. By my count, I think it will be, like, 72 possible different combos. YES, some of them will sound quite similar, and some of them will no doubt suck... can't wait to find out. I don't expect to have dozens of fabulous tones, but I bet I get a handful of useful ones.

    WHY?

    Since I don't gig anymore, I'm just doing this because I think I can - and hoping I might learn something in the process. I get a lot of emails (worldwide!) with wiring questions, and every bizarre project that I actually do hands-on helps me dispense a better-educated opinions and more-competent answers.

    HOW?

    The four p/p set up will be similar to one I have use on my Les Paul, ES-335 and others:

    The neck volume p/p will run the two pickups in series; the bridge volume reverses the phase of the bridge pickup.

    Inside or outside coils in series often will simulate a "middle humbucker." With individual volumes, you can can get some pretty sweet tones from out of phase pickups by balancing between the two volumes. Series/out of phase has always been a favorite tone of mine, it usually produces a kind of "cocked wah" tone, great for solos, especially played with some drive or crunch. Those are the combos the Triple-shot rings don't give you - plus, I don't think the Triple-shots would fit on this guitar, anyway.

    Instead of the inside/outside coils that I usually do, the p/p tones will run the coils in parallel for each pickup (overriding the mini-toggles).

    The addition of the on/off/on 3-way mini toggles will allow me to select between series (regular humbucker mode when "off"), the P90 coil, or the Rail coil for each pickup, individually.

    Ambitious? Decidedly. Coo-coo? Indubitably!
     
  10. Deaf Eddie

    Deaf Eddie Friend of Leo's

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    Here are the P-Rails loaded. Not a great pic, but the guitar looks good.

    p-rails loaded.jpg

    Here are the CTS pots in the control cavity. They're turned at odd angles to insure there's enough room for the mini-toggles between them before I drill holes for them.
    The toggles are smaller than I anticipated, and I might be able to turn the pots back around to a more standard orientation. In any case, it's gonna be a rat's nest in there...

    CTS loaded.jpg
     
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  11. Festofish

    Festofish Tele-Meister

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    Nice! Interested in p-rails myself.
     
  12. PC_Hater

    PC_Hater Tele-Meister

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    I have a pair of P-Rails in a Tele copy.
    You can get 6 different sounds out of each P-Rail using a rotary switch. The out-of-phase series and out-of-phase parallel for one pickup are thin and weedy and not much use.
    UNTIL you put them out of phase with the other pickup and then it gets interesting.
    I use the Tele 4-way switch and an out of phase switch so I can put the 2 pickups out of phase with each other.
    You get about 30 different useful sounds that way.
    Enjoy! and buy more switches.
     
  13. kookaburra

    kookaburra Tele-Afflicted

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    Oh gawd, airborne springs are a feature in my home “shop”!
     
  14. Asmith

    Asmith Friend of Leo's

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    Its ridiculous how the number combinations climbs exponentially everytime you stick a switch on a guitar. My #1 (in my signature and avatar) has always had the same style pickups but its been through a myriad of wiring schemes. At one point Im sure the number of combinations was near 200 (completely useless number of selections), I use about 6 and the damn thing has 6 switches. I want to put a freeway switches on it (6 way les paul/sg toggle) but its not urgent and the big rocker switches are cool.

    Anyway its a cool project, Ive been wanting a dual p rail guitar for a while, an sg or a double cut would be my choice of guitar. You should get more than a few decent tones out of with just the basic in phase and parallel options.
     
  15. Deaf Eddie

    Deaf Eddie Friend of Leo's

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    Bit the bullet this morning and drilled the holes for the mini-toggles. No going back now. AS expected, there's more room than anticipated in the control cavity with the toggles in. I guess these are, like, micro-mini toggles, smaller than I've worked with before. It's all good, I was able to re-orient the pots in a way that looks better to me. I took some pics of that, I'll post soon.

    So far, I've wired the bridge tone and volume p/p options, and connected the pots together. With these CTS pots, I'm taking them out of the guitar one at a time to do the p/p wiring. Next up, obviously, will be the neck v/t. Last, the toggles, which is also where I'll connect the four leads each from the pickups. Easy-peasy... so far!

    The project has slowed a bit because the wife wants me to binge watch stuff with her. I can't complain, her first choice from our DVD collection was "The Hunger Games" (all four movies). Next was "The Thorn Birds" - total chick flick (meh), but now we're half way through "Band of Brothers," so I can't complain. Between, we did the "Containment" and "Pandemic" series on Netflix, and "Contagion" on Amazon Prime. The stuff of nightmares! I think "The Stand" is up next...
     
  16. Deaf Eddie

    Deaf Eddie Friend of Leo's

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    Well, I finished it up today. Sorry, the batteries in the camera went dead before I could download the "before wiring" and take a "all wired up" shot of the control cavity. AS anticipated, it's a rat's nest in there, but the step-by-step plan I came up with made it pretty easy to accomplish.

    I WILL Have a picture for you. I don't wanna hear any of that, "but your didn't use push-back cloth-covered leads!" and/or, "What - no orange drop caps?" There just wasn't room. In my FAT-O-Caster biz, I've always used color-coded solid wire - that's what I have on hand, it's what I'm used to working with, and it makes projects like this a LOT EASIER. If there's actually a difference in tone, it's beyond my perception.

    Tap test only revealed only one flaw - the bridge tone pot didn't work. A little eyeballing revealed that the ground leg of the cap had come off - easy fix. String it up, and I'm ready for the ear check...

    HEY! It ALL works!

    My guess at the relative pickup heights was pretty close. After a few riffs, I lowered the bridge pickup JUST a tad and raised the P90 pole pieces, and I lowered the P90 pole pieces in the neck pickup. Of course, I was playing this through the "cocaine setting" on the Marshall DSL15r - I call it that because it makes everything sound good. A "tone review" after more critical listening through something cleaner, maybe tomorrow... but so far, it hasn't disappointed.

    Last tweaks: replace the "SG" trussrod cover with a "Deaf Eddie" one, and new knobs.
     
  17. Deaf Eddie

    Deaf Eddie Friend of Leo's

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    OK, here are some pics - not the greatest quality, it's an OLD digital camera.

    Here we are with the pots reoriented and the mini-toggles mounted:

    pre-wiring.jpg

    And here's the rat's nest, all wired up:

    wired.jpg

    AND, the finished product. You can't really see the mini-toggles in this shot - trust me, they're there:

    SG done.jpg
     
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  18. Deaf Eddie

    Deaf Eddie Friend of Leo's

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    How does it sound?

    Groovy through the Marshall, in the clean channel with a little hair on it! But, as I said, that's the "cocaine" setting.

    I played it ultra clean at low volume through the Fender Frontman 25 in the pic (on the left), with my regular amp settings (slightly reduced bass and less midrange). At low volume, the coil options are sort of ho-hum, they just sound like a bit of attenuation. BUT, kicking all the amp's tone controls up to "10," the guitar's tonal ability really comes to life. I'm betting it would sound great with any amp, CRANKED. Some stuff just needs to be loud to be heard.

    With the pickups right out of the box, the Rail coils were too weak for my taste (well, I expected them to be lower output, anyway). I HAVE been able to compensate for that a bit by fooling with the P90 pole pieces. I'm still doing some small tweaks to the heights of the pole pieces and pickups, working on getting the balances just the way I want them. I'll get it there, I'm sure.

    FUN PROJECT!

    If anybody is interested, here's my "working drawing" - not shown are the pot-to-pot grounds and the leads out to the pickup selector - you can add those yourself.
    I call this scheme "P-off-the-Rails..."

    P-off-the-Rails.jpg

    With the on/OFF/on 3-way mini-toggles, center "off" leaves the coils in series; the two "on" throws work exactly like a coil-shunt switch, playing one coil or the other.
    The p/p on the tone pots override the mini-toggles, giving you coils in parallel.

    Just a note - I REALLY like the CTS PCB p/p pots.
    With the 22-gauge solid wire I use, for the lugs that have two leads on them, I found I could simply strip a bare spot in the middle of the wire, bend it double and pinch it, and it would fit right in to the hole on the board. That made this project a LOT easier.
     
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