Building a Schecter Dream-Machine Style Telecaster Copy

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Finally, I finished the second Telecaster-style guitar with Dream Machine brass hardware. You might remember my first build report about a Dream Machine Telecaster clone. Even back then when I started that first project, I already got the body and neck to start a similar project with these but never found the time to complete it. The idea behind the project was to assemble an affordable guitar that looks great, and – most important – sounds great and gives you the ‘Walk of Life’ Schecter Tele sound of the tapped F520T / F521T pickups and the brass bridge, in other words a guitar with high-quality brass hardware and electronics but without any parts so cheap that they might ruin the sound of the guitar. It turned out to be a really great guitar, great look, great feel & great sound. As I already have more guitars  than I have room for, I put it for sale into my online shop.

DM-Tele-sb-600-3

The body is a really nice looking, extremely light sunburst Tele body. I have no idea how old it is exactly (I guess you can call it ‘vintage’), or who made it. It is not 100% accurate compared to the Fender specs, e.g. it is only about 90% (ca. 40 mm) of the Fender body depth (44 mm) but still it seems to be a great piece of wood without anything indicating inferior quality. The grain looks great, the tap tone is nice, and, given its age, it is completely dry tone wood. There are some dings & dongs, e.g. at the edges of the body, so it looks  a bit ‘naturally relic’ed’.

DM-Tele-sb-600-1

I got the neck together with the body. It has a rosewood fingerboard without center dots (like Mark’s ‘Walk of Life’ Tele, although this one has little dots on one side of the fingerboard, between the two lowest bass strings). So the look is similar to a dotless Schecter but you still have something that helps to orientate. The neck even has a slight flame on the peghead.

DM-Tele-sb-600-4

I used a set of brass hardware that I produce myself, even the control plate is brass like on vintage Schecter Dream Machines. The pickups are two ‘Walk of Life’ pickups, clones of the original Dream Machine pickups of the early 80ies.

DM-Tele-sb-600-5
Here is a first video:

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Comparing sound: Schecter Dream Machine vs. Fender Strat

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With the following video I was trying to demonstrate the basic sound difference between a vintage Schecter Dream Machine and a ‘traditional’ Strat.

The Dream Machine is from about 1980, it has a Koa body and a one-piece Pau Ferro neck. The three pickups in the brass pickguard are the tapped F500T’s. It has s a hardtail brass bridge.

The Strat is a 1983 Japanese vintage Squier Stratocaster, unmodified.

Of course the amp & effects settings are 100% identical for both guitars. Also they both have new strings of the same brand and gauge (Fender 09 – 40). Each of the three pickups on the Schecter can be switched to the ‘normal’ coil (tapped) or the overwound (full) coil but I will only use the tapped pickup positions of Schecter in this video, as these are more comaparable to the Fender pickup sound.

Beside the sound difference, note that there is less hum and noises with the Schecter as the metal pickguard and the copper tape around the pickup coil provide a better shielding.

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Two ways to connect the string ground wire on a Strat

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Guitar in general, Vintage guitars

For better hum shielding, the strings on electric guitars are normally grounded, which means they are connected  internally to the ground of the guitar. For this purpose, usually a ground wire is connected somewhere to the guitar bridge, in the case of a Stratocaster with tremolo this is normally a wire from the case of the volume pot to the ‘claw’ that helds the tremolo springs. As the springs are – like the whole bridge – made of steel, the bridge is grounded via the tremolo springs, and the strings via the bridge.

Many guitarists, even the guitar freaks, are not  aware that there are two different ways how this was done on the classic (= vintage) Strat. And I have never seen this issue discussed in any guitar book or website, so let’s cover it with this blog post.

The ‘normal’ way (as it is on most Strats and copies) with a wire from the volume pot to the tremolo claw was  not the original way how  Fender did it but was introduced about 1964/65. In all the years before, the wire went from the tremolo claw to the ground lug of the output jack! Electrically it does not matter whether it runs to the volume pot or the output jack (except some  theoretical arguments that might cause a very small and usually negligible difference) but to build a ‘vintage correct’ Strat (or Schecter Dream Machine) it is of course important to know.

The wire runs (see picture below) from the tremolo claw through a drill hole into the electronics cavity, from where it directly runs through the drill hole to the output jack cavity where it is connected to the jack.

Stratocaster_Body_Cavity
Original Fender style (before 1965): ground wire from tremolo claw directly to output jack

The ground wire on the Schecter Dream Machines and on the mk-guitar.com pickguard replicas

On their Dream Machines, Schecter used the original style that Fender used from 1954 to 1964, the wire from the tremolo claw to the output jack. The pickguard is  connected with only two wires, the hot (yellow) and the ground (black) wire. It is a bit different on my replica pickguards which feature the post-1964 style. They come with a third wire, that is soldered to the ground plate of the pickguard (where also the ground wires from the pickups are soldered) and must be connected to the tremolo claw. I did it this  non-original way because it is the most common way on a Strat. If I delivered these without this ground wire, you need to connect the existing ground wire from the tremolo claw on your guitar to the output jack. If you have bad luck, the wire will be not long enough to reach the output jack, or the drill hole between the electronics cavity and the output jack is not wide enough for three wires instead of two.

ground-schecter-pickguards
Remove (unsolder or clip) this ground wire (the one to the tremolo claw) for the original wiring style

If you build your own Dream Machine and want to do it the vintage-correct style, you can unsolder the ground wire on the replica pickguard (or simply cut it close to the solder point) and run a wire from the tremolo claw to the output jack. I could have shipped the pickguards without this ground wire, and instruct you to solder the one on your guitar yourself to the ground plate of the pickguard but this requires a strong soldering iron as the shielding plate and the whole metal pickguard absorb a lot of heat so that the solder does not flow very well, an effect that is by the way much stronger with the brass or chrome pickguards compared to the white aluminium pickguard.

The original wiring has the advantage that it is a bit more comfortable to work on the  electronics of the opened guitar, as only two wires instead of three connect the pickguard to the guitar. One thing however is important NOT to do as this causes a danger of hum due to a ground loop: never use both ground wires (from the pickguard to the tremolo claw + from the tremolo claw to the output jack).

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