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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Building a Telecaster Dream Machine – Part 4 – Brass Hardware

Posted on 5 CommentsPosted in Guitar in general, Guitars

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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Kluson guitar tuners for the Schecter Dream Machines

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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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