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Xaudia offer microphone re-ribboning and repair services.

2012/12/18

Quick-change guitar for pickup testing

One challenge when building prototype pickups is testing them quickly. It is easy enough to make the electrical measurements such as inductance, resistance and capacitance, but they don't really tell you how the pickup is actually going to sound. Sooner or later they need to go into a guitar.

Squier by Fender Jagmaster ready for surgery

Changing a guitar pickup isn't a big job, but it still takes time. Usually the strings need to come off, the scratch plate removed, a bit of soldering, and then back together again before tuning. If you add a cup of tea then you can easily lose an hour.

So I wanted to make or modify a guitar to act as a workhorse for pickup testing, which would allow for quick pickup swaps without having to take the strings off. The obvious approach is to put the pickups in from the rear of the guitar - which means cutting a hole through a guitar and finding an alternative way to mount the pickup.
 

This Squier Jagmaster guitar makes a suitable victim for surgery. It was fairly cheap, the neck is straight  and plays well, and the strat-style trem cutout means that I don't need to remove a huge amount of wood.

The first job it to strip the Jagmaster down, removing the strings, scratch plate and the existing hardware from the front of the guitar, and the tremolo system from the rear. Then off with the neck to keep it safely out of the way when the jigsaw comes to play.


Once everything is out then I measured up and cut two aluminium rails that will act as mounts for the new pickups. These were filed round at the ends to fit the existing routing, and drilled and tapped for mounting.


Then came the dirty work.  With a jigsaw I cut through the body to make a humbucker-sized hole. You can see just how thin the wood is between the pickup and the tremolo routings - just a few millimetres.


After the jigsawing, the hole was cleaned up with a wood file. The rails were then screwed into the body at the top of the guitar - the holes countersunk so that they don't get in the way of the pickups.


One more job - the bridge no longer has springs to keep it under tension. A block of wood locks it in place instead. The guitar can now be put back together.

Now the pickup can be fitted from the rear with two screws attaching it to the aluminium rails. Screw terminals are also used to connect the wires to the output sockets for the ultimate quick change experience. A brass plate will cover the mess.

Rear of 'quick change' Jagmaster with locked tremolo and pickup mount

Now it takes two minutes to swap a pickup! Time for some rapid prototyping. And here's the front of the guitar with a hexapup fitted from the rear.

Jagmaster with Xaudia pickup fitted.

6 comments:

  1. Tony Iommi had that done to one of his SGs if I recall correctly.

    There's also the Dan Armstrong plexiglass guitar, which has interchangeable pickups that slot in sideways.

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  2. There is nothing new under the sun! I did have a little play with sliding them onto the rails from the front like the Armstrong model, but it didn't work for me.

    I was going to cut through the neck pickup too, but it won't leave much wood around the neck...

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  3. I think the most amazing thing is that you found a squire guitar that plays ok ;~)

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  4. HoHoHo,

    The QC on these is not that great so you have to try a few, and the factory setup was bad... the action was way high. But with a bit of attention this one is not bad at all.

    Having said that, some of the other budget fenderish things were pretty awful. I think they are losing the plot with some of the recent models.

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  5. Have you added a connector to your pickups? A quick-connect or screw terminal would eliminate the need to solder and de-solder after every test...

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  6. Yes! Have a look at the pictures - there are four screw terminals!

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