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    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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    It is a while ago that I started my Tele Dream Machine project. The project advanced and got to a stage where I had a playable fine instrument some months ago (which can be seen e.g. here when I was demoing the Walk  of Life pickups with this guitar). However, various parts were not finished yet, mainly as I was missing some of the required brass parts. Meanwhile I have (almost) all I need to finish the project.

    Let’s start with the control plate. The one you can see in the demo video was a gold-plated one, bought rather cheap on ebay. Unfortunately it did not fit properly into the contour of the pickguard but even overlapped the pickguard (see picture).

    control-plate-1

    The no-name control plate was too wide to fit into the contour of the pickguard

    control-plate-2

    The one on top is not only too wide, also the positions of the pots and the size of the switch slot are different to mine – needless to say which one is the correct way.

    Was my brass Tele pickguard wrong or the plate too wide? Of course it was the plate, what shows us that you can never trust no-name products to be compatible to the standard specs. Besides, the gold-plated steel looks a bit different than the polished brass on Van Nuy era Schecter Dream Machines. Well, if I can produce brass pickguards I should be able to produce brass control plates I thought, and this is what I did. I made a few more, and chrome-plated some of them to go along with my white aluminium Tele pickguards for a real “Walk of Life red Tele clone” set (with pickups, pickguard and wired controls, coming very soon, I basically only have to take some pictures  to put it into the online shop). By the way, it is not that you cannot get chrome-plated ones everywhere, but try to find one of chrome-plated brass instead of steel …  – and it has to be brass for an “authentic” Dream Machine clone!

    control-plate-3

    Here it is, fitting properly now, and with the right switch button

     

    So here is the picture with my brass control plate. I also added the switch tip button (which was missing on the video): Schecter had these round black Tele buttons, but occasionally also Strat-style tips of brass.

    While doing the brass plates, I also made the serial number plates, of chrome-plated brass and – brandnew – polished brass, vintage-correct clear laquer coated, with the S8001 serial number. I replaced the gold-plated steel plate I had on the guitar (without any number) with this one for the vintage-correct look, with an S serial number of the correct size, font, and at the correct position.

    Please note that I only made these with three serial numbers of Mark’s most famous Dream Machines (red Strat, red Tele, sunburst Strat, plus the two red Dire Straits Fender Strats ), no other numbers are available, or will be. The idea here is to have the right-looking part without a danger of misuse,  not providing the possibility to fake a Dream Machine and sell it as original. I mean faking one and insstalling one of  the most famous serial numbers is like faking a pre-CBS Strat and give it the 0001 serial number of David Gilmour’s famous blonde Strat – cannot fool anyone.

    SNO-DM-Tele

    An S8-serial number – without danger of misuse

    The next thing I did was to replace the original vintage NOS Schecter bridge that I bought for a fortune a while ago with one of “my” new Dream Machine style bridges. As I copied all important Dream Machine specs and made sure to have it milled from best quality solid brass (nothing die cast), the sound will be identical but the look fits better to the other parts – the Schecter bridge has darkened with age, being about 35 years old (see one of the pictures above).

    WoL-bridge-brass-1

    The Walk of Life brass bridge

    Last not least a few words on the three (!) strap buttons of the Dream Machines (most of them had three but there were also some with two, even in the 1980 Schecter catalogue). My mahogany body already had two holes at the usual positions, so I had to drill two new holes. I used a piece of tape and drilled through it to avoid crackling of wood or finish, something very important when drilling into a laquered body! The distance of these is about 9.5 cm (3  3/4 “) on my guitar. Only thing left to do: filling the unused hole. I used normal gold-plated strap buttons for now. Unfortunately these look rather different to the original ones which were made of raw brass, without laquer and rather dull looking for this reason. Thinking about it, it should not be impossible to make these from raw brass myself …  Well,  let’s leave something for the future :)

    DM-Tele-1

    Only some very last details missing…

    Watch out for the the next blog post in this Building a Telecaster Dream Machine series with the full photo album of the final guitar.

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    I am an official Kluson dealer now, so you can get the correct Kluson guitar tuners for a Schecter Dream Machine replica now in the online shop of my site.

    During the Van Nuys era, Schecter used Kluson guitar tuners for their guitars ans basses. I have seen a lot of Schecters from this time with Schaller tuners but I guess that these were not factory-original. Remember that authorized Schecter dealers could assemble guitars from Schecter parts, and if the customer wanted Schallers, I guess the dealers put them in (Schaller tuners were common because they were considered as the best guitar tuners at that time).

    It seems Mark’s Schecters all had Kluson tuners (it is sure for the Strats but I cannot say with 100% certainty for the red and black Teles as we don’t have enough high-resolution pictures of these). I personally like the Klusons better than Schallers, mainly as I love that the string ends disappear in a hole in the split shaft of the tuner.

    Kluson double-line tuners on a 1980 Schecter Dream Machine

    Klusons were also the tuners on all vintage Fender guitars, before they were replaced with the Fender keys (labelled with a “F”) that were in fact manufactured by Schaller in Germany. The earliest Fenders had Kluson tuners with no label, from 1957 to 1964 Fenders had the so-called single-line Klusons, from late 1964 on double-line Klusons. The terms single-line and double-line refer to the “Kluson Deluxe” label on each tuner: both words in one line in the centre of the tuner are single line, while double line means one line for “Kluson” (left) and one for “Deluxe” (right). To my knowledge all Schecter Dream Machines had the double-line Klusons.

    These tuners are still manufacturerd today.

    Get them here in silver (nickel) or gold.

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    Coming new products

    Posted in: Guitars,Mark Knopfler gear,Misc by Ingo on April 30, 2014


    I am planning various new products and projects for the next weeks or months, and just thought you might be interested in what is coming. I must say I found myself involved in more and more different ideas lately, but as what is basically a “one-man company” it is often difficult for me to keep them all going at the same time. Whenever I dig more intensively into one thing I have to delay other projects but – well, I think this is the way things simply are. So what is going on?

    MK61 pickups

    There are probably enough companies who make clones of pre-CBS Fender pickups but I found that the pickups in Mark’s red Fender Strat of the early Dire Straits era had some unique features that I would like to have for my personal guitar as well (to be precise I should say the pickups in Mark’s greenish pickguard – the one with the black volume knob – as he used to swap this pickguard from one of his two Strats to the other frequently). It seems that other fans often like the same stuff as me – no wonder, we all want the same sound – I thought to offer these to everyone. What I am talking about is a Strat pickup that is not only a faithful replica of a 1961 Fender pickup but also has all  features that differ from pickup to pickup – like pole pieces height for example – as close as they were in Mark’s guitar. It’s a bit too early to tell what other details I have in mind, but there will be some that make not only an cosmetical difference but also a subtle sound difference. Planned for summer 2014.

    Walk of Life Telecaster set

    You know that I have the Walk of Life pickups – replicas of the tapped Schecter pickups of the Van Nuys era Dream Machine Teles, and I already offer brass or white aluminium pickguards for such Tele clones. You need two push/pull potis to switch the pickup taps, and do some soldering for these. So I am planning to offer pickups and the metal pickguards as a set including the control plate (of course from brass like Schecters then) with all controls and switches already wired. So it is easy to turn any Tele style guitar into a Dream Machine copy with the sound of these. One set will have the golden brass pickguard and control plate, another one the white aluminium pickguard with a chrome plated brass control plate. Planned for summer 2014.

    Walk of Life Telecaster bridges

    A major part of the Dream Machine sound comes from the brass bridges that I already offer for the Strat. We still need a brass Tele bridge with the typical brass saddles to get the real Walk of Life sound. These will be available in brass and chrome-plated brass. Coming summer 2014.

    Serial number plates

    So many of you built yourself Dream Machine clones but a nice little detail to have might be the matching serial number neck plate. Maybe we are moving more into the “mad fans only” area here, but many of you already asked for these so I thought to offer them not only with the different serial numbers of Mark’s most important Dream Machines (of course of brass or chrome-plated brass) but also for the red Fenders of the early Dire Straits days (chrome-plated steel). Also hopefully available in summer 2014.

    Van Nuys Dream Machine style bodies

    Mark’s Dream Machine Strats all had bodies from rather unusual woods, and not from ash or alder like Fenders. But not only the kind of wood was different. Did you sometimes have the impression that for example the horns on Mark’s guitars were somewhat different, or other contours? In fact the horns, the cutaways, the edges, the forearm and belly contours, even the size was different on the Van Nuys Dream Machines. I am not talking about drastic differences but about many details, some subtle,  some rather clear. As it seems bodies with these specs are not available anywhere, I thought to produce some by myself, of course from high quality tone wood. I already have the first prototypes :)

    Probably I will offer them unfinished and finished. With the unfinished bodies you can not only see the wonderful wood, you can also let it be finished by yourself in the quality (nitro, poly,..) you want, or are willing to pay. In fact the original nitro finish is very expensive as it is extremely labour intensive ( I heard Fender estimates nitro finishing costs at about one third of the price of the complete guitar). I might offer them with such a high quality finish neverthelessl. First bodies (unfinished) might be available in summer 2014.

    And before you ask for matching necks (birdseye maple): yes, makes sense, we will see .. :)

    Loaded Dream Machine Strat pickguard in chrome finish

    In addition to the loaded brass, white and black enamel aluminium loaded pickguards, I will produce some with chrome plating. However, as there seems only little demand for this non-Knopfler related finish, these will be limited, with more in case of a demand for more. Summer 2014…

    Guitar tutorial DVD

    Many readers asked me for tutorials, e.g. for the MK style right hand techniques.  I thought to start with these on a DVD, but still cannot say for sure when this will be available. Possibly autumn 2014.

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    This blog post is about the next step in my Tele Dream Machine project – the wiring of all controls. The main difference to a standard Fender Telecaster wiring is due to the tapped Walk of Life pickups (or Schecter F521T / F520T in the original)

    Unfortunately the original Omni Pots, those square conductive-plastic potis with the push-pull switch that Schecter used in the Van Nuys era, are no longer available. These were made by Allen Bradley – who are out of business for a long time – or by Bourns who also dropped these from their product range. The only alternative are standard push-pull potis. You can get these here in my online shop, also from Bourns by the way.

    Generally, the original Schecter wiring is like the standard Tele wiring – with exception of some different component values and the Omni Pots that were required to switch the tapped pickups between their normal and the fatter sound. The potis had a 500k value, something that seems a bit unusual for a Tele (Fender first had 250k and later 1 M). 500k seems to be a good compromise for both the normal and the full coil of the tapped pickups.

    The tone cap was a 0.02  uF ( sometimes also 0.025 uF or 0.01uF) ceramic disk cap. This value is much smaller than the Fender standard (0.05 uF).  Schecter used a 680 pF treble bleed cap with a 150k resistor in parallel on the volume poti (Fender standard: 0.001 uF = 1000 pF and no resistor).  The resistor changes the taper of the poti.

    One problem is that normally all ground wires of a Fender Telecaster are soldered on the back of the potis. This was not possible with the Omni Pots as these had a plastic case, and is neither ideal with a standard push-pull poti. Schecters solution was to use a small brass soldering plate that was hold by the two potis. All ground wires were soldered to one point on this plate then. As an alternative to cutting such a plate from a metal foil, you can use two washers with ground lugs, and connect all ground wires to these instead (see photo below).

    8 different pickup combinations on a Tele

    Operation is like on any Tele, with exception of the push-pull potis. Pulling out the VOL poti enables a beefier sound on the neck pickup, while pulling out the TONE poti does the same trick for the bridge pickup. This way you can get 8 different sounds of the two pickups instead of 3 sounds on Fenders (n, b, n+b, N, B, N+B, N+b, n+B, with small letters for the normal and capitals for the fatter sound).

    Here is a schematic:

    (3-way connected in Schecter style)

    3-way connected in Schecter style (click to enlarge)

    Alternatively, the 3-way switch can be connected like this (Fender style), the result isthe same:

    (3-way Fender style)

    3-way connected in Fender style (click to enlarge)

    The wiring on the two push-pull potis is shown in a separate drawing here:

    push-pull diagram

    Wiring the two push-pull potis. The one on the VOL poti switches the neck PU, the one on the TONE poti the bridge PU. (click to enlarge)

    The following picture shows how you can use two washers with soldering lugs (included with my push-pull potis) instead of the brass ground plate that Schecter used.

    Soldering all ground wires to washers with soldering lugs

    Soldering all ground wires (black) to washers with soldering lugs (Note: Different from this photo, I now have the red and purple wires on top of the push/pull, and white and yellow at the bottom, which means the full coil is in the down position of the knob and the tapped coil when being pulled, see diagram above)

     

     

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