Modifying my cheap guitar – Part II – The Appearance

Continuing to the first part, I will now tell about how I modified the look of my guitar. I considered doing swirl painting or buying a customized pickguard online, but none of those options got me excited.

The Pickguard

After some time thinking and incubating ideas I started the composition by picking trippy and psychedelic elements, being Alice in Wonderland a huge influence as well as the line “The rabbit is just a monkey in disguise” of the song Organ Grinder by Marilyn Manson.

Unfortunately, visual arts are not part of my skill set. I contacted a friend artist (Daniel de Carvalho) with the ideas and soon he started to present me some sketches. Some months and some drawings later he started to work on the pickguard.

He developed the art using acrylic paint and India ink. Check out more photos of the process and other works on his page, Daniel is a very experienced, talented and passionate professional.

Pickup Selector

While assembling the guitar pickguard with Daniel, we come up with the idea of a mushroom pickup selector. I really liked the concept and resolve to try it out.

I used a recipe of cold porcelain. To my surprise it’s a very cheap and easy to use material, I have some leftover and consider using it on other projects. I regret choosing nail polish for painting, it’s too thin and inconvenient to use.

Modifying my cheap guitar – Part I – The Wiring

friend lend me his electric guitar for quite a while when I determined to learn a string instrument. After a lot of months I finally got my act together and bought a cheap an inexpensive electric guitar bundle(with a 15-Watt amplifier, gig bag and strap).

After a period of time it occurred to me to experiment, modify and change some aspects of the guitar wiring. All the applied modifications were found over the internet and, as you can imagine, there is nothing innovative.

Modifications:

  1. Switch between the original tone capacitor and a new one.
  2. Hard clipping using two diodes connected in antiparallel.
  3. Neck ON Switch (David Gilmour wiring).
  4. Treble bleed mod.

Motivation

It was a cheap guitar, however its value reflects its quality. I was a bit unsatisfied with its tone, with a little research I found out some ways to improve the tone.

Schematics and part list

guitar-wiring

C1 - 0.002uF / 2nF / 2000pF
C2 - 0.047uF / 47nF / 47000pF (original film capacitor)
C3 - 0.1uF / 100nF / 100000pF (ceramic capacitor)
D1,D2 - 1N5819
R1 - 100k Ohms resistor
SW - DPDT

Switch between the original tone capacitor and a new one

Simple selector between two capacitors. The second one helps to get a darker sound and not so strident like Stratocasters usually are.

Hard clipping using two diodes connected in antiparallel

Sometimes called as “passive distortion” or even wrongly as “passive overdrive”, it’s a fun modification. Gives a harsh sound, but loses volume since it clips the sound without any boost.

Neck ON Switch (David Gilmour wiring)

This wiring, when enabled, connect the neck pickup with whatever selection in the 5-way switch. David Gilmour may be the most famous musician to use this mod. Now with up to 8 possible combinations, the guitar has so much possibilities. In my opinion, the sound is colorful now.

Treble bleed mod

When you turn the volume down on a guitar you can feel that the sound loses a bit of treble. It happens because the pickup, the volume potentiometer and the capacitance in the cable act as a low pass filter. To compensate this loss we “bleed” more treble into the signal as the volume is turned down.

Further modifications

After all that, I ordered and installed a hotrail pickup in the bridge position. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures, but If I did it again today I would use the Gilmour/neck mod with the bridge pickup instead of neck. I customized the pickguard with an artist, that being the subject of the Part II of this post.

Conclusion

guitar-guts-and-componentsI learned a lot in the process. From something stupid like how a 5-way switch works to something unexpected like fixing to a stripped screw hole.

 

Instant Glue (Cyanoacrylate) tips and tricks

Although I prefer to use solder, hot glue, duct tape and, more recently, plastic filler to bound two parts together. The instant glue has some great uses, here are some techniques used by me for some time.

As usual, before gluing, sand the surface to make it rough and make sure to clean it from any oil or oxidation.

Baking Soda

Pour some instant glue drops on the surface and sprinkle baking soda over it, then pour instant glue again.
Useful as a quick fix for a guitar nut, as a filling when repairing wood cracks or to help gluing some metals or plastics.

HDPE Plastic

My guitar pickup screw hole stripped. To fix I poured some drops of glue and a little of ground HDPE plastic(from bottle caps). After the cure I just drilled a new hole. Still working for over a year, even taking out the pickguard two times.

Removing from a surface or skin

Rub acetone or nail polish remover. Don’t use that on wood furniture.

Improve useful life

Put the instant glue bottle inside an air-tight container with silica gel, calcium chloride or even rice. Low temperature helps too.

Prevent and treat blisters

Can be used as a protection to prevent or to seal a popped blister caused when playing instruments, running or doing any hard work.