Sunday, May 2, 2010

My first (lame) guitar soldering job

I've been buying a few cheap older guitars recently - I'm a fan of the old Japanese guitars in particular - and that has caused me to learn some about guitar setup - stuff like fretboard/truss rod adjustment, string height, intonation ... that sort of thing. I'm too cheap to have pros do the setup work for me, and I figure I ought to learn how to do it myself anyway. Gradually the setup work led me to want to mess around with the electronics.

As my first test I was wanting to see if I could fix an old P-Bass that I'd had since high school. I'd used it to record bass on a 4-track way back then, but it had a short in the wiring and also an intermittent buzzing problem. Back then there was no such thing as the internet and I didn't know how to fix it so I'd just left it in it's sorry state for probably 20+yrs. Now with the internet though I felt I could tackle the project without making a bigger mess.

Here's my first soldering project. The hum/buzzing is gone now and the signal shouldn't have a short anymore. I'd bought some new parts with the intention of replacing the old parts, but this guitar used unusually small volume/tone pots and the new ones I purchased wouldn't fit so I just reused the old ones to see if rewiring would do the trick.

My soldering iron wouldn't quite get hot enough to solder in some places - too much heat dispersal - so I'm going to look into a better iron for future jobs, so please forgive some of the clumpy joints on the back of the volume pot - my iron just wouldn't heat enough to liquify everything. It works though and hopefully I won't have bad joints develop.

I told my wife I loved the internet after doing this project - it knows everything.
1. I watched the how to videos on you-tube. Some awesome folks have put up step by step video instructions for guitar electronics repair, including prepping the layout, preparing and tinning wires, soldering technique, along with tips on what to avoid. (need a how-too video? - search you-tube)
2. I found several appropriate wiring diagrams for this particular pickup/volume/tone setup for a P-Bass online. (It turns out the wiring on this bass was done wrong at some point before I bought it - that's probably why it was so cheap in the store. The grounding was messed up and the capacitor was wired incorrectly).
3. Internet bulletin boards helped me search for questions related to the problem this guitar was having to help troubleshoot. (search google for about any problem and you'll probably find solutions)

In a world before internet I'd have never even attempted any of this. It makes us all smarter. At least I feel a little bit smarter today - at least until the vapors off the lead solder start kicking in and making me dumber again.

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