Luthier Shop: The Basics of Wiring Pt 1

Rewiring your electric guitar or bass can be one of the most difficult luthier projects to take on, but it’s a rewarding experience that teaches you much about guitar maintenance. Since the process can be a lot to learn at once, we’ve broken this lesson down into two parts. Let’s dive in. 

Tools needed

  1. Jack gripper with ½ inch wrench socket attachment 
  2. Polarity tester
  3. Wire
  4. Pickups
  5. Towel
  6. Electric drill
  7. Solder sucker
  8. Capacitor
  9. Pliers

Getting the guitar ready

  1. Before taking anything off the guard, cut off the pickup feeds and ground wire soldered to the pots.
  2. Take the guard off, remove the pickups, and check that the weather strip pads are clean and secure.
  3. Use a polarity tester to find where your lead pickup and ground connection are coming from. This and the coil line direction are what achieve the hum cancelling effect. 

Installing the pickup

  1. When installing the pickup, place the wires into position to reduce possible breakage, and hold them steadily while screwing them down onto the padding.
  2. Position the guard on top of the pups to make sure the holes still match.

Starting the wiring process

  1. Cover the body with a towel to protect from splattering solder. It does not have to be perfect.
  2. Tin the pickup leads and ground wire. Repeat this step for the bridge ground.
  3. Prep the output jack by cleaning out the old solder with a solder sucker. This process is similar to installing pots.
    1. Use the gripper to keep the jack from turning while you tighten.
  4. Take the pickup leads to the first terminal of the volume pot.
    1. You can also make the ground terminal connection to the third terminal which would be the knob at zero going to the casing. This would ground the signal and cut the sound.
  5. Solder the black ground wire to the casing.
  6. To connect the signal from the volume to the tone, cut a 2.5 inch wire to splice a connection from terminal 1 on the volume to the third lug of the tone. 
  7. Take the capacitor, and ground that open signal to the pot’s housing.
    1. Make sure to leave the third post ungrounded.
  8. Next, make a 3.5 inch wire to connect the outside of the pot’s chassis, grounding them to each other.
  9. Make sure to pause and check your work throughout the process. 

Being precise is vital when wiring your instrument, so take a break then look at the second part to the basics of wiring.

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