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 Post subject: Re: Me and Billie
PostPosted: Wed Jan 24, 2018 7:22 pm 
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Joined: Sun Mar 09, 2014 8:13 pm
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If you have to grease, I've used white lithium grease (The tube, not spray). Use a tiny amount on a toothpick to put it where you need it. It won't migrate. I try to stay away from any kind of grease or oil, but sometimes it can't be avoided.


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 Post subject: Re: Me and Billie
PostPosted: Wed Jan 24, 2018 9:19 pm 
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Posts: 104
I think maybe greasing can be avoided after all. It appears the worm in each tuner is either made of or coated with graphite. I don't think graphite would be sturdy enough by itself, so it must be a coating. They seem to be getting less grindy with use, but still aren't as pleasant as they should be. I hope they don't ever get as loose as the original tuners did after a week or so, but I have a bad feeling that they might because just brushing a tuner button with the back of my hand while reaching for a different tuner button is enough to make a string go flat.

I got another disappointing part (or batch of parts) today as well: the metal knobs. They look nice, like solid brass (although they almost certainly aren't, they would cost more than $2.79 per set of 4 if they were), but (1) the center hole is too small and has to be reamed out before they fit on anything, and (2) worse is that the locking screw doesn't function on any of them. The Allen key (included, and exactly the same as the one for the bridge saddles) just strips out without having any effect when I attempt to turn them. This means that I can use them on split shaft pots, but I have one solid shaft pot now because I decided to use G&L's bass roll-off circuit exactly and all my 1MΩ pots (linear, not C taper, but otherwise the right part) are solid shaft. And (3) they weigh a lot, and I can't see a point in adding half a pound to an already excessively heavy guitar. I will eventually use them, but it won't be on this project. They would look nice on an amp head or something like that. The undersized center post hole is actually helpful in light of the non-functional grub screw, because they can at least be set up for split-shaft pots and not spin.

Anywho, I reamed out one of the two original tone knobs so it could be force-fit onto the solid shaft pot. It will spin on the shaft, but I can't really see a fix for that without grinding a flat onto the shaft. This just means I can't trust the number on the knob to mean anything, it still functions to move the control. Since it's a B (linear) rather than a C (reverse audio) taper, pretty much all the "action" happens between 7 and 10 on the dial anyhow. My circuit now looks a lot like this one, except that the bass cut circuit is in line with the bridge pickup only rather than all of them, and there is still a push-pull switch to feed the bridge pickup output into the mix regardless of the position of the 5-way switch. The purpose is that I can dial in a bright, spanky lead tone for the bridge pickup, then switch to the middle and/or neck pickup to do rhythm, and not have to mess with any knobs. Also nice (although unintended) is that I can roll off all the bass on the bridge pickup, and mix it with the neck pickup. In this mode it sounds more like a Tele than a Strat, but since this has been achieved without giving up any other functions, it is a welcome addition.

Also I'm using a 250kΩ B taper pot for volume. I could and possibly should use a 500kΩ (since I have humbuckers), but the only 500kΩ pots I have are audio taper and have push-pull switches. I found from experience that while an A taper is absolutely right for the tone control, a B taper actually works better on the volume. I don't know why. I can only guess it has something to do with the whole circuit being a high impedance system. When I had an A taper in the volume position, all the action happened between 5 and 10 on the knob. Below that, the volume did not decrease substantially. With a B taper, it turns down just as far but it is evenly spread across the entire sweep range. Lesson: Don't automatically assume that just because it's an audio application, an audio taper is better. It might not be. A C (reversed audio) taper might be better still, if I could find one, but the linear taper pot seems to behave the way a volume knob should.

I also got the grab bag of 100 picks in the mail. They smell like ping pong balls, so I am guessing they are celluloid. Unfortunately, they're all the really thin kind (I thought the thicknesses would be mixed as well as the colors) which just don't work for me. For one thing, they flex so much I'm not exactly sure where the point is when rapidly picking. Another is that they don't provide as much tonal variation as a thicker pick. Rotating a thick pick 30 degrees or so rather than parallel to the string provides a gentler attack, and also makes it much easier to play really fast without getting hung up on a string, but with thin picks, both advantages are lost. I have a couple picks cut out of an old credit card, and they are about .75 mm thick. I also cut up an antacid tablet bottle and got three picks out of it. Unfortunately that plastic has a reinforced rib down the middle so they vary in thickness, but when I make a point of using one of the thin corners (one has just one thin corner, the others have two each) they're rather pleasant to hold and to use, with a really nice feel. They're not going to last very long, unfortunately, as the material is rather soft.

I'm giving 87 of the 100 picks to my mother to use in her art projects because they are really pretty. I kept one big triangular one to use as a template for cutting more, and I kept a batch that happens to look almost exactly like my pick guard for repair purposes. I figure if I have to cover a hole permanently, I can glue one of these picks over it and it will practically disappear. I also kept three others to use as templates for cutting normal-shaped picks even though I do prefer the triangular kind for being slightly easier to hold onto.


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Last edited by Mal-2 on Fri Jan 26, 2018 12:23 am, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Me and Billie
PostPosted: Fri Jan 26, 2018 12:09 am 
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Joined: Wed Jan 03, 2018 12:56 am
Posts: 104
I have attached some audio files to demonstrate the capabilities of the electronics as currently set up. I inserted a killswitch between the 5-way switch and the volume pot (though it wouldn't change much if I had put it after the volume pot, this was just easier) but otherwise it is as shown in the schematic above.

The first audio file shows the pickup combinations -- first the usual positions 1 to 5, then neck+bridge, and finally all three pickups. This is with both the tone and bass rolloff pots set to 10.
Attachment:
demo1-pickups.mp3


The second audio file shows the effect of the bass rolloff filter, both on the bridge pickup alone and in combination with other pickups.
Attachment:
demo2-bass rolloff.mp3


The third audio file shows the killswitch in use. I may re-wire this to try to eliminate the clicks.
Attachment:
demo3-killswitch.mp3


Since I cannot attach four files to one post, I'll attach the picture of the completed build to the previous post. It is marked "completed" but it isn't quite -- I have better string trees on the way as well as black knobs.

The string height at the first fret is not done "by the book". I measured clearance for each string at the second fret when held at the first fret, and then replicated that clearance to the first fret for the open strings. If it doesn't buzz when fretted, why should the open strings be any higher? I think this is the primary reason the first few frets are in tune even though I have not done any nut compensation.

Pickup-to-string distance, when the strings are held to the last fret, is 1/8" (8/64) on the bass side and 3/32" (6/64) on the treble side. This is the recommended Fender spec for "Texas Special" pickups, and it seems to work well for these.


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 Post subject: Re: Me and Billie
PostPosted: Fri Jan 26, 2018 8:04 am 
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Joined: Wed Jan 03, 2018 12:56 am
Posts: 104
Wiring. Right. I added an isolation capacitor to the ground side of the killswitch. The clicks still aren't completely gone, but they're more like thumps now. On the flip side, a bit of bass leaks through when "killed" -- not necessarily a bad thing, as under heavy distortion it alternates between a bass note and the full sound. I don't think the value matters much, but electrolytic probably isn't the best choice here. It's what I had laying around, and 1µF just seemed right, but feel free to experiment -- or put another potentiometer in parallel and twiddle to your liking.

The killswitch itself is just a momentary pushbutton, Normally Open. Initially I just tied the hot straight to ground (that's what I recorded above), but the switching noise necessitates a capacitor. If you don't want or need a killswitch, just omit both parts and run the red wire directly from the 5-way to the pot.

Things I'd still like to fix next time it's open and necessary (hopefully not for a while):
• The bridge pickup's hot line should be green, or another unused color. This may just get some paint.
• The electrolytic cap should be secured with hot snot and not be held up by its legs. It will probably be fine like it is, but it's not optimal.
• Unnecessary twists of the blue pickup line around the pink. Again, not that big of a deal, but not optimal.
• The yellow segment from the 1MΩ pot to the push-pull switch is excessively tight. Possible point of failure -- but failure only disables the ability to mix the bridge pickup into switch positions 4 and 5.
• The joint on the hot side of the killswitch has a bit of wire dangling out of it.

The solder blob monsters are the result of soldering so many times. My wiring quality is just OK. If I bought custom wiring or a custom guitar, I'd think this was pretty sloppy, but I've seen a lot of work worse than this that called itself professional. It works. Every iteration of the circuit I've done has worked, but revealed some shortcomings. I am not an EE, though the protagonist of my current writing is (or will be, depending on when the story is). Take any of my design advice or decisions with a lump of salt, but nothing in here is going to blow up even under failure conditions. The use of a B taper bass rolloff pot is non-optimal, but C tapers are unobtainium.

Basically, I got my cheap "custom shop" guitar. It is what I hoped to achieve with the budget, but it remains a bit rough around the edges.


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 Post subject: Re: Me and Billie
PostPosted: Sat Jan 27, 2018 6:13 pm 
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Joined: Wed Jan 03, 2018 12:56 am
Posts: 104
More wiring changes, for the same reason as before: new gear has revealed a weakness in the old wiring.

I ordered a used Digitech RP90 multi-effects processor, and like most pedals, it is impacted considerably by how much bass hits the front end. Things worked well when using the bridge pickup, which allowed me to roll off the bass, but I couldn't really use the others without producing a muddy result. The obvious fix for this would be to move the bass roll-off circuit to a position where it affects all pickups, not just the bridge, so that is exactly what I did. I also fixed the issues listed above, if they were still applicable after the re-wiring, except for the securing of the electrolytic capacitor. I'm not certain I'm going to keep it at this value, so I don't want to make it hard to remove. The reason is that I generally use the killswitch with highly distorted sounds, and the amount of bass bleeding through is excessive in such a setup. I suspect something like a 10µF would be more appropriate.

In any event, I drew up a schematic for the new configuration. I also drew up an alternate version for a 2-pickup/4-pot setup, such as a Les Paul. Doing this on a Telecaster (and some Strat copies) would require adding a pot, since they only have two.

I also didn't like the red connector (which leads to the jack) being connected to a wire. While that has worked, I think some of the buzzing noises coming from the guitar body (not from the strings) are due to the stiff, solid-core wires acting a bit like a spring reverb. (Another cause is loose bridge adjustment screws, I need to use Loctite or nail polish on them once I'm totally happy with the setup.) I realized that I could use one of the leads of the killswitch as the connection point instead, so now the connector goes directly onto a hard point and not onto a dangling bit of wire. The ground connector has always gone onto a hard point, a metal tab sticking out from the end of the tone pot/push-pull switch. This may or may not eliminate a sympathetic vibration, but it will almost certainly be more reliable.


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 Post subject: Re: Me and Billie
PostPosted: Mon Jan 29, 2018 12:37 am 
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Joined: Wed Jan 03, 2018 12:56 am
Posts: 104
Le sigh. The spare set of giblets arrived, and holding the 5-way switch in my hand got me thinking. Do I even want a 5-way switch? Also, do I want to lose any more picks under the pick guard because of where they were stored? I decided the answer to both was "no", but I also decided I wasn't going to take the pick guard off again without a better reason.

Then I broke the D string. Time to re-string, might as well take off the pick guard. I saved the other five for spares, but if I break another D string, I'll have to use a .024" wound instead of a .026" because that's all I have for backup. I was surprised, I don't break wound strings very often. (But the last time I did, it was also a D string.)

The new strings are Elixir Nanoweb Custom Gauge (9-11-16-26-36-46 just like the Hybrid Slinky set that was on there). I'm not going to give a firm opinion on those yet, but they feel "grippy" and yet smooth at the same time. They are also noticeably less bright than a brand new set of uncoated strings, but I'm pretty sure they'll decline much more slowly, so at some point (probably soon) they're going to sound better than ordinary strings.

The visual changes should be pretty apparent, but it is probably not obvious exactly how I did them. For the knobs, I just glued celluloid picks onto the tops and then trimmed and sanded them to size. The three pushbutton switches that replace the 5-way switch have bits of pick (which happen to look really similar to the pick guard) in between them to hide the switch slot. I chose not to use the same thing on the knobs.

The shims that allow me to jam picks under the pick guard have been moved to the lobe above the bridge. When I had them in the waist area, I kept pushing them under the pick guard with my leg. After the second time I had to take screws out to retrieve one, I decided it was time to figure something else out. I can still get two picks in the new location, just as I did in the old location. I also shimmed the cover for the bridge springs to store four more on the back.

I ground down the curved pole pieces on all three pickups. The white/black one didn't require much, it actually has the pole piece on the white side further from the strings and the black side wasn't arched as much as on the red/black pickups. The red/black pickup pole pieces seem to be curved for a much tighter radius, so I had to file them down to something resembling the shape of the 21st fret. I then took a little extra material off under the B string on all three pickups, because the B string was much hotter than the E string.

Last and pretty much invisible, but not least, I painted the high-E end of both red/black pickups with clear nail polish so I don't touch them (no need to paint the white one, I never accidentally touch it). I tend to strum right over the neck pickup, and when I palm mute, I end up putting my little finger right on the end of the middle pickup. If said pickup was active, it induced a loud buzz. Now it makes somewhat less of a buzz. Tape totally cures the problem, so I may end up using tape even if it looks ugly. I also occasionally hit a pickup with my pick and produce a "tock" sound, but I'd have to completely fill them with wax or epoxy to cure that problem.

Since I can only attach three pics per post, I'll start a separate one for the electronics.


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 Post subject: Re: Me and Billie
PostPosted: Mon Jan 29, 2018 1:35 am 
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Joined: Wed Jan 03, 2018 12:56 am
Posts: 104
So the first, really obvious change is the three individual switches replacing the 5-way. They also eliminate the need for the push-pull switch on the tone pot. The three switches work exactly like you would expect: each one directly inserts or removes one pickup into/from the circuit. There is no need to override anything, as all eight combinations are possible (including no pickups enabled, nice for quietly using a headstock tuner). They're humbuckers that don't split very well, so there are no phase games to be played either. I could set up switching for serial vs. parallel, but I haven't yet come up with a coherent plan for doing that and possibly never will. They'll just be always parallel for now.

The 1µF capacitor has been replaced with the only other electrolytic I had laying around, which is 47µF. This totally eliminates the bass bleed-through, but it is less effective at suppressing the switching click. Since it was new old stock and had the full lead length, I was able to run it directly from the switch to the shell of the Bass pot instead of tapping into the ground wire. I think this will be adequately secure, it's certainly better supported than the old one was.

I indicated the connection points for the connectors going out to the jack, in case anyone else ever needs to poke around. The burn mark to the right of the last pickup switch is exactly that, a burn where solder dropped off the iron. It did not deform the outer surface, so it's just an apprentice mark in an invisible place.

The wire connecting all three pickup switches to the Bass pot is one solid wire pushed through all three contacts. Stripping it in the correct places was interesting. I've been known to solder right through the insulation, but that was not an option here because the plastic switches would melt from the dwell time required.

I replaced the killswitch. While the button and chassis are heavy, nickel-plated metal, the end plug that holds the contacts is plastic. All the soldering on the previous one destroyed this plastic. I was very careful to get it right the first time on the new switch, and used the absolute minimum dwell time required (under one second per lead) with the soldering iron.

I think this is the best looking point-to-point work I've done on this project, and I wasn't even trying all that hard. The new circuit layout is just a lot cleaner than the old one, even though there are more parts involved, and it proved more amenable to this kind of wiring job.


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 Post subject: Re: Me and Billie
PostPosted: Mon Jan 29, 2018 5:29 pm 
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Joined: Wed Jan 03, 2018 12:56 am
Posts: 104
New for today:
Pickup insulation. I scraped the nail polish off, then put electrical tape over the middle and bridge pickups so that I can't touch them while playing. I don't think a picture is necessary, because I've used all three allowed slots for this post. :)

Nut compensation. The first several frets on the low E string played sharp no matter how lightly I fretted. I could (and did) tune the open string about 5 cents flat, but that causes a different set of problems. The correct fix is to move the nut toward the bridge, but I only need this for the one string. Rather than move the whole nut .040" or so (about 1 mm), which would require filing out the slot even more and then carving back five of the six saddles, I opted to glue on a piece stolen from another nut and ground, filed, and sanded to shape. (It is glued only to the nut, not to the fingerboard.) Once glued on, I very carefully filed it down a little bit at a time and tested for intonation all the way. The pictures are all related to this. The scratches in the first fret are not due to my fret work, they're due to my rather aggressive bending. Only the low E needs to be bent at the first fret, all other strings I will avoid bending in the first two frets and just use the next string down.

It worked! There is no longer a 5 to 10 cent sharp tendency when fretting the low E string. The G at the third fret actually runs just a shade flat (like one or two cents), but I can't compensate for every fret perfectly and I'd rather have the notes a tiny bit flat than a tiny bit sharp because I can pull the pitch up easily enough. I am now finding that I want to do similar compensation on the A string, and the B and high E could probably use compensation in the other direction, but we're talking .005" or something similarly difficult to fabricate on the A string, and the nut slots would have to be filled back in if I want to file back the leading edge for the B and high E. It seems like a lot of work for a modest gain, but I'll probably end up doing it anyhow.

Hooray for the $10 caliper from Harbor Freight. If you have one, take the battery out when not using it because it only turns off the display and never shuts down. That's why the battery is almost always dead when you need the tool. I don't put the screw for the battery cover back in, and I'm not sure I even know where the screw is any more.


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 Post subject: Re: Me and Billie
PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2018 7:14 pm 
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Posts: 104
New string trees arrived today, picture attached. The hole for the old string tree has been filled with a plastic toothpick and painted over. That's how the holes from the other two string tree locations were patched previously, but those are under the polyurethane and this one isn't, so there is a slight difference in appearance on close inspection.

The whole point of roller string trees is to roll so that the strings never grab, right? Well someone decided to put both rollers firmly on the same axle so they only roll together. Brilliant! They're still better than stamped metal string trees, though, and I don't think Fender's string trees have any actual rollers at all.

The tuning peg for the high E is slightly out of alignment because I drilled that one myself. It's close enough that the string doesn't try to jump off the roller, but it's still not ideal. I don't think I'll ever fix it, though. I don't recommend the 5+1 headstock configuration, because (1) it didn't actually do what I hoped (make high E easier to bend because of less dead string -- I mean it does, but not by a significant amount), (2) I still turn the wrong tuner sometimes, particularly when tuning the B string because I think "2nd string, 2nd to last tuner" and turn the G instead, and (3) there aren't many good places left for a clip-on electronic tuner. Most people put them out at the end or on the round "bulb" on Fender headstocks, but in the process of eliminating the 6th tuner hole, I removed the material that is required for this placement. It also doesn't leave me much room to apply a logo, if I ever make up my mind just what that should be.

The second picture shows the pickups with tape on them. Exciting, huh? This photo does capture the veneer on the knobs quite nicely though.


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 Post subject: Re: Me and Billie
PostPosted: Mon Feb 05, 2018 3:43 pm 
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Posts: 104
So the newest problem is actually an old one – the neck wants to return to the shape it had before I heated and stood on it. It had reached the point where the truss rod was once again fully disengaged but the neck relief was still inadequate. This meant a repeat treatment was in order, on the reasoning that the wood is going to spring back a little bit less every time I fight it into shape. I didn't want to go with the heat and weight method again, so I went with weight and time. After tying the strings back out of the way, I put the entire guitar face down with the headstock pinned in place. Then I put a fulcrum point (covered in a folded towel) between the 7th and 8th frets and put weight on the guitar body itself. This amounted to something like 40 pounds, and I left it in place for four hours. Then I moved the fulcrum point to between the tenth and eleventh frets and left that for two hours.

The end result is that I got back to slightly more than adequate neck relief, and so far I'm just leaving it that way in hopes that it will "lock in" a little bit. The truss rod is minimally engaged just so it doesn't rattle. I figure I'll have to do this several more times before the spring memory of the wood is defeated, but since it's a fairly simple thing to do, I'm not that worried about it. Along the way, the 14th fret got so loose I could lift it out with my fingers, so I had to glue it back down. None of the others seem to be lifting or loose at all, and I didn't have any pressure close to that fret, so I'm wondering how this particular one was the one to pop out. I'm not going to lose any sleep over not knowing the answer, though.

The other side effect is that to get the action back where it belongs, I had to lower the bridge saddles almost to the maximum possible extent. I expect the adjustments will be going back the other way as the neck settles in, but it does indicate that I might have to shim and reset the neck at some point in this process.


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