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  • #16
    DIY Soldering and Wiring.

    -In this thread, Ill give you all the information you’ll need to perform any soldering and wiring tasks on your guitars or related stuff, including equipment and materials, helpful tips and procedures.

    -Soldering iron: As with anything, you get what you pay for. I don’t recommend just a bare soldering iron with no stand, as they are clumsy and dangerous. Don’t get a Radio Shack one either. Now depending on how frequently you plan to solder should dictate how much you would like to spend on an iron. I personally recommend you INVEST a Metcal rework system for anyone who plans to do this quite often. The benefits are a 5 second heat up time, a pen like wand where were you hold it approx 1” from the actual tip of the iron… this is great for accuracy, and also ensures that you wont burn any other wires with the upper stalk like most cheaper irons. These don’t come cheap though (hence “INVEST” [img]/images/graemlins/wink.gif[/img] ), plan to spend around $300 for a used one on eBay. If you plan to do this a lot, then you’ll not regret spending the money for this one bit… take my word on that. For the once in a blue moon jobs, Id recommend a Weller WLC100 adjustable 5-40 watt soldering station. This little guy comes with a convenient base with a wipe sponge and adjusting knob. Home Depot usually sells these, right next to the welders in the tool corral for about $50… a great buy. What ever you decide on, make SURE it has a sponge on the base for cleaning the tip of the iron.
    -Heat gun for shrink wrap.
    -Small needle nose pliers, small wire cutters.
    -A good wire stripper is worth its weight in gold. Spend the $15-$20 to get one, you’ll be glad you did. Get one of the smaller ones, similar in shape to a needle nosed pliers. You don’t want those big clumsy ones, and you don’t need one of those automatic stripping ones either.
    -Small paint brush (for the flux) and an “acid” brush for cleaning.

    -Solder: Use a flux core solder, any diameter you prefer. I usually sway towards the thicker stuff as you don’t have to feed it as much to get a good amount of solder where you need it to be.
    -Flux: You’ll need a paste type No-Clean flux.
    -Solder wick, this will remove excess solder and desolder parts and wires.
    -Alcohol for cleaning.
    -Water to wet your soldering irons sponge(because you took my advise and got an iron with a sponge, right?).
    -Shrink sleeving(small).
    -Wire: Gauge depends on your application; I recommend you get multiple colors of the same gauge wire such as red, blue, green, white, and black.

    Optional Tools/Materials:
    -Small barrel pliers: Handy for bending wires and leads. This is a specialty tool though, so it might be hard to find.
    -Various metal picks/prods to hold wires in position.
    -Tweezers always come in handy.
    -Electrical tape is always good to have.
    -A mat for your table or desk. Solder can get a little messy, its easier to clean a mat and not ruin your furniture. Also helpful to keep from scratching your guitar or what have you.
    -Wire shielding material.
    -Adjustable stand with alligator clamps and magnifying glass. These definitely come in handy because we only have two hands, which a lot of times isn’t enough!
    -Burn cream and maybe a band aid or two… your probably going to get burned your first couple jobs. Don’t worry though, you’ll learn REAL quick where NOT to grab the soldering iron. [img]/images/graemlins/grin.gif[/img]

    Get all your supplies together, heat up your iron for a couple of minutes, wet the sponge. Remove any un-needed components on the guitar that wont affect the installation... it will give you more room to work and prevent possible damage to those parts.

    Lay out your new components, looking at the supplied schematics, draw your own wiring diagram placing all the components approx where they would be on your guitar. Its best to know what wires go where before you start so you dont have to redo anything.

    Make sure all your components are clean... use the alcohol and acid brush for this. Solder doesent like to adhere to a contaminated surface.

    Wire prep and routing:
    Place the components in the guitar, in the position in which you want them to be installed. Looking at the diagram you made, place each wire where it needs to go. When placing wires, NEVER put them directly where they need to go. Guitars are subject to alot of movement, so the wire will need stress relief... give some extra wire, and bend it in a soft "S" like pattern. Mark the wire, and cut it. Once all your wires are cut to the proper length, its time to take them back out and strip and tin them. Strip the wire the desired amount, and tin the wire. Tinning means to coat the wire with solder; this is especially helpful when bending the wire so that it will not frey, and also provides a much quicker solder joint and even flow. To tin the wire, dip the stripped end in your flux and lay it flat, apply solder to the tip of the iron, and touch the iron to the wire, moving it along the entire stripped area. One your done, its a good idea to bend the tip of the wire into a "U" shape. This doesent apply to all connections though, use your judgement on that. Do this on all your wires. Now your ready to install.

    Once all your components are back in and ready to be soldered, double check that you know where each wire goes. Apply flux the the part the wire is being soldered to. Don't be afraid to use the flux! Next apply solder to the tip of the iron. Place and hold the wire on the component, and touch the iron tip to the joint for approx. 2-3 seconds. Check to make sure the joint is secure and has flowed evenly and move on to the next. If youd like to redo the joint, just repeat the last few steps.

    For through hole soldering, eg: installing a new inductor in a wah pedal circut board, you must first remove the old part. On the solder side (bottom) of the board, add flux to the lead to be desoldered, place the wick on the joint and hold the iron onto the wick. You'll see the solder start to travel up the wick... you might need to stop and use fresh wick to remove all the solder. ***BE VERY CAREFUL TO ONLY HEAT THE SOLDERED PART OF THE BOARD (called the "pad"). THE COATINGS (USUALLY GREEN) WILL EASILY BURN IF YOU TOUCH THEM WITH YOUR IRON.*** If you happen to burn the coating a bit, chances are your still ok. Once the solder is removed, the component lead should be free inside the hole. Once all leads are free, gently pull the part out of the board. If one or two leads seem to be stick, touch the iron to the lead and it will come out. Not the polarity (if applicable) of the part your removing... you will need to install the new part the same way unless other wise stated elsewhere. Clean the section with your alcohol and acid brush, as sometimes wicking can leave brown/black debris. To install your new component, insert it into the holes (making sure the polarity, if needed, is correct). Holding the component fron the top, turn the board upside down. At this time you need to cut the leads to about 1/16th", then you can either slightly bend the leads over to hold the part in place, or just hold it there by hand. Apply flux to the leads, touch the iron to the joint, and feed in your solder until the entire pad is coated uniformly and the solder has traveled up the lead. Dont apply too much, if your solder joint looks like a bubble, then theres too much on there. Wick it off and redo.

    Other Installation Notes:
    Put shrink sleeving/shielding on any wires which may be subject to rubbing on a sharp object and/or close to other electronic components. For example, when installing an EMG system in a Jackson RR3R, the wires from the output jack to the controll cavity pass under the bridge pickup... use shrink sleeving and/or shielding material here.
    To join two wires inline, strip and tin each wire end approx. 1/4". Slip a piece of shrink sleeving over one of the wires, double the length of the strip. Using the alligator clamp stand, position the wires so that the tinned ends are horizontaly touching each other completely. Apply flux to the wires, and solder to the tip of your iron, and gently touch for 2-3 seconds. Clean off the flux, move the shrink sleeving over the joint, and heat with gun. Joining wires inline this way is not only the strongest way, but it also provides the most direct route for the current reducing resistance.

    Test and Cleanup:
    Once everything is soldered, plug in the guitar or what ever your working on, and just make sure it works, turning all the knobs and switches. If everything is good to go, clean off as much flux as possible with the brush, alcohol, and some tissues. If you cant get some of the solder off, dont worry about it, because you agian took my advise and got No-Clean Flux, which wont damage anything if left on, and is non-conductive.

    Tips, Hints, and Tricks:
    -Be careful and take you'r time.
    -Rember, ANY metal on the soldering iron is HOT! Even if its 3" above the tip, it is still VERY HOT and will do damage to wires, plastics, and especially skin. This is why I recommend an iron where you hold it as close to the tip as possible.
    - Keep your wiring as neat and simple as possible, so if any future repairs, you wont have to rip apart everything.
    -USE THE FLUX! A common myth is to use as little flux as possible. Lets face it, flux is cheap and it only takes an extra 2 minutes to clean it up. Flux helps the solder flow smoothly and evenly. Lack of use of flux is the reason alot of factory guitar electronic installs look like crap!
    -Clean the tip of the iron after every joint soldered on the wet sponge. This will ensure that new joints are uncontaminated and perfect.
    -Burn cream... it's your friend! [img]/images/graemlins/notworthy.gif[/img]

    Hope this quick tutorial helps! Ill be adding pictures as time permits, any questions or something that I might have missed, feel free to email me at [email protected] or AIM: RobNJTA [img]/images/graemlins/grin.gif[/img]
    Imagine, being able to be magically whisked away to... Delaware. Hi... Im in... Delaware...


    • #17
      Will a ____ neck fit on a _____ body?

      Another popular topic. here's a few bits of info:

      - Most Charvel/Jackson necks will not fit a Warmoth/Fender/Fender licensed body.

      The majority of C/J necks have a butt width of 2 1/4" which makes them too wide to fit in Warmoth or Fender/Fender licensed bodies without modifying the neck pocket (routing it out 1/32" on each side) or the neck heel (sanding it to fit). So if you see a C/J neck that you want to buy for a parts monster, get a measurement of the neck heel first and plan accordingly.

      - Warmoth/Fender/Fender licensed necks will fit on Charvel/Jackson bodies.

      However, you will most likely have a 1/16" gap in the pocket, which is not the greatest place in the world to have a loose tolerance. Some people don't care about that kind of a gap. Don't be one of those people. [img]/images/graemlins/smile.gif[/img] You can shim the sides of the neck pocket with thin wooden shims, or strips of 150 grit sandpaper. You can also drop a little bit of superglue into the screw holes in the neck heel; that will help the screws bite in a little better and improve your fit. At the time of this posting, Warmoth is considering making a neck that will work as a Jackson replacement (with the correct neck heel width), but as of right now, they do not offer it.

      - 24 fret necks need bodies that accomodate a 24 fret neck.

      If you put a 24 fret neck on a 22 fret body,(and vice versa) it's not gonna intonate, and it's probably gonna cover up the neck pickup rout. That's bad. You also cannot do the opposite and put a 22 fret neck on a 24 fret body (just being thorough!). At the time of this post, Warmoth does not make a true 24 fret neck; they offer a standard 22 fret neck with a crazy overhang (which won't work if you have a neck pickup rout, or be very functional on a strat body even if you don't have a neck pickup.). I believe that Mighty Mite makes a true 24 fret replacement neck, but I haven't purchased one, so I can't say for certain. You can buy those necks here, and they're pretty cheap.

      You can, however, put a 21 fret neck on a 22 fret body and vice versa.

      I hope this helps some of you guys.

      Sully Guitars - Built by Rock & Roll
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      • #18
        More neck-swapping info

        Just saw Sully's sticky that answers the most commonly asked neck-swapping Qs, but here's a few more that you might find interesting/useful:

        Import Jackson necks
        At some point in the last few years (2003/4?) Jackson switched their neck bolts from a fatter one to a thinner one. All recent imports I've seen feature the thinner bolts. This also means the holes in the body and the neck are thinner than the older 90's necks/bodies, so if you try to put a 1996 Dinky Professional neck on a 2003/4 Warrior body, you'll hafta make the holes in the body bigger. Thinner bolts won't seat properly in the larger neck holes, and fatter bolts won't go through the smaller pocket holes easily. However, I did put a mid-90s Stone Finish Dinky neck (offset dots, reverse head), on a 2002 DK-2 body with no neck bolt problems, so I don't have a definite "changeover" time.

        The Seemingly Infinite Jackson Neckplate Stash on Ebay
        Many of these are taken from recent imports, and thus use the thinner bolts. If you go for a bolt/plate set, make sure it's from the same period your neck/body are. Serial numbers that are 7-digits long or more are *generally* found on post-2000 Japanese/Indian models and have the thinner bolts, 6-digit numbers are *generally* found on pre-2000 Japanese models and have the fatter bolts.

        Neck-swapping considerations
        #1 - Older neck bolt holes may not align with newer pocket holes. I put an early-90s USA Fusion neck on a recent WRXT body and had to drill new holes in both the body and neck to make them fit correctly because the original USA neck holes were closer to the heel than the ones in the body, leaving a 1/4" gap between the heel and the rear of the pocket.

        #2 - Non-trem necks may have angled heels that are fairly specific to the body they originally came from, and putting them on a different type of body may require drastic adjustments.
        I put a recent Guitar Center Archtop DK neck on a recent JS30WR body, which is NOT arched. The neck heel, being shaped/angled specifically for the DK body, causes the neck to tilt back on the WR body far more than the original WR neck, and I had to raise the bridge and pickups considerably - almost to the point that the bridge posts are coming out of the inserts. As well, given the string-through design, the strings now "break" across the back of the bridge behind the saddles. This can lead to problems of premature string breakage if you do a lot of bending, however it does increase the downward force and contact area between the strings and bridge, so there may be some tonal considerations in that respect.

        #3 - Most Jackson neck heels I've seen are identical, however there is at least one import neck that will have to be modded to work on anything other than the original body - the JTX. This neck heel extends all the way to the edge of the fretboard, whereas the majority of 24 fret Jackson neck heels stop at the 23rd fret, with the 24th fret overhanging onto the body. Obviously this throws the bolt-holes off as well. Keep this in mind if you find a JTX body *OR* neck and hope to use either one with a non-JTX-model counterpart.

        Seat the neck in the pocket and place the bolt you are planning to use alongside the pocket as if you were looking at a cross-section of the neck/body/bolt to see if the bolt tip will penetrate the fretboard. If the tip of the bolt is even with the fretboard, it'll probably go in and push up a fret once it's bolted on. Remember, those bolts are flush-mounted into the neckplate, so there's not much of a variation allowance in the length of the bolt. This is especially important to remember/check when putting a neck from a body with a straight neck pocket on a body that has an angled or scalloped neck pocket.
        I want to depart this world the same way I arrived; screaming and covered in someone else's blood

        The most human thing we can do is comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

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        • #19
          Re: More neck-swapping info

          Great advice Newc.

          I can share some of my experiences as well.

          Bought a PS6T Kelly import body with a Jackson Professional Fusion neck. The Fusion neck was the older, large hole version (ebony, MOP sharkies). The holes in the body were large enough to fit, but the first time I re-bolted it together the front of the neck got "pushed up" with a negative angle (head up away from body). There was a gap between the neck and body in the front of the neck pocket. This caused interesting "tones" (Read in Dan Erlewines book about a guy who does this with Tele's) but I didn't like it and re-seated the neck flush. To describe the weird tones, I'd say it had the effect of killing some of the highs, and causing a weird acoustic hollowness tone.

          Next odd project was a DK-1 neck on a KE3 body. Holes on both were the "small" type. Do all USA bolt on's use small holes? Anyway, it was a bitch cranking those bolts in the last few micro-inches, but I got them in. I'm not going to be unbolting that neck any-time soon LOL!


          • #20
            Choosing paint for your project guitar

            This thread is not about “how to paint your guitar”, but rather some basic information regarding the two most commonly used types of paint, their differences, comparative costs, safety concerns, and equipment requirements. The preparation, priming, sanding, final polishing, etc., is a completely different topic, and much too involved to post within the scope of this thread, but I think Sully has plans for a more detailed section in the resources area. I will help with that where I can. For now, I hope this answers some FAQ’s about the paints themselves.

            Spray Can Paint (Acrylic Enamel or Lacquer):

            This is the most economical and safe means to paint your own guitar at home. There are many brands of spray paint out there but the most common are Krylon, and Dupli-Color. Either brand will yield the same final results if used properly, but all spray can paints have one thing in common; they take time and patience to achieve a nice looking finish. Many light coats are required, and plenty of drying time between coats is a must. The way spray can paints dry is by the evaporation of the solvents contained within them. The solvents are there strictly to thin the paint to a “sprayable” consistency, and they eventually evaporate, leaving behind only the “solids”. Any paint that dries (or “evaporates”) dries from the surface inward, and this is why they can feel dry to the touch, but aren’t really dry down deep. This also the reason for many “light” coats, instead of a couple of “wet” coats. The trick is to allow as much solvent evaporation between coats as possible, therefore eliminating any solvents trapped deep down under the surface. Remember, the surface dries first, and the more “wet” paint that’s under the surface, the longer it will take it to dry. The average spray can job will take two to three months or more to complete if it’s done correctly. One rule of thumb is to stay with the same brand and type of paint for the color and clear coats. I guess the most important rule is Don’t Rush It!

            Equipment needed:

            No specialized equipment is required for spray can paint jobs. You’ll need a well ventilated area such as in the garage with an open door, and a cheap box fan is nice to help pull the fumes out of the area. No specialized breathing apparatus is really necessary as long as the air is kept circulated outside the painting area. At the very minimum you should wear a dust mask as a particulate filter, but the best (and safest) way is to get a decent paint respirator mask with replaceable filters. You’re only going to be spraying a couple of very light coats at a time, so use some common sense to keep from inhaling the stuff as much as possible. No paint is totally safe to breathe!


            The average guitar job can be done with one can of primer, one can of color, and two cans of clear. Figure around $5.00 per can. If you go the respirator mask route (and I recommend it), you can get a decent one at your local auto parts store or home builders supply for around $25.00. You can buy a cheap box fan for around $20.00. Now remember, this doesn’t include sandpapers, tape, polishing compounds, buffers and sanders, etc., but that’s not the scope of this thread.

            Two-Part Polyurethane’s (including Polyesters):

            This is the stuff most guitar manufactures use, and it’s the same thing that’s used for most automotive finishes. Rather than “dry” from the evaporation of solvents (although there is a certain amount of that which does take place), poly paints harden by a chemical reaction that starts when the two components are mixed together (the paint/clear, and the hardener). This process is called catalyzation. To make this happen, the second part (the hardener) acts as the “catalyst” which reacts with the resins in the paint, causing it to harden from the “inside out”. The result is a very durable finish that can be sprayed on in two or three wet coats within a time frame of around 30 minutes. By the next day you can wet sand and polish it, and put the item into use. The biggest difference here is the way it hardens (compared to paints that “dry”). Catalyzed paints harden from the inside out, meaning that when the surface feels dry to the touch, it’s even harder underneath. Of course this may sound like the way to go for painting a guitar, but there are many more safety concerns and equipment needs involved. These paints absolutely should not be inhaled, even in small quantities, nor should they be allowed to contact the skin for prolonged periods of time. They contain a chemical known as Isocyanates (more info here). This chemical can cause many health problems and even death if inhaled in larger quantities. For this reason, it is NOT recommended to attempt using these paints unless you have the proper equipment to do so.

            Equipment needed:

            I know some may have used these paints with less, but these are what I recommend as MINIMAL requirements. First of all, the ventilation of the paint area is extremely important here. Of course the optimum is a paint booth, but as long as you’re not painting 5 guitars a week, you can be relatively safe in a garage environment. I would set up to paint near the door opening, and have at least a couple of the box fans no more than two or three feet from the paint area. The more air being pushed out of the paint area the better. Wear a long sleeve shirt and pants, and latex or nitrile gloves to minimize skin contact. Next, at a very minimum you need a good high quality respirator mask (absolutely no dust masks). The proper respirator should be labeled for use with organic vapors, and should fit your face tightly. Pay special attention to the fit if you have any facial hair, as vapors can leak in around the hairs. A tight fit is a must. If you want to test the respirator, spray a little “spray can” paint in the air and see if you can smell it. If you can, the respirator is not sealing adequately. One way to help conform the mask to your face is to remove the filters and soak the mask in hot water for a few moments, then shake it out, and strap it on until it cools. This will soften the rubber just enough to allow it to conform to “your” face better. When you have plenty of air flow and a good seal on the mask, you can paint. You should even have the fan(s) going, and wear the mask while mixing the paint, not just while spraying. When you’re finished spraying, leave the mask on and immediately leave the area. Do not remove the mask until you’re in clean fresh air. Don’t worry about cleaning out the paint gun right now, it’ll be fine for a couple of hours. Do not re-enter the paint area until all vapors are gone. As a side note, when painting “in the open” like this, you will get dust particles, etc., in the finish, but it’s not a huge concern because you’ll be wet sanding and buffing the final finish anyway. If you are painting very light colors (especially white), you may get some dark colored particles in there that show up after it’s buffed out, but without a paint booth it’s the best you’re going to get.


            If you’re doing a base/clear paint job you’ll need a two-part primer, the base color and clear coat. A gallon of primer (usually the minimum you can buy) with the hardener will cost around $65.00 (but will do several guitars). A pint of base color is going to average around $40.00 with the solvent (one pint will do two or three guitars depending on the color). The clear with hardener is going to be around $35.00 for a quart, or figure $100.00 per gallon with the hardener. A quart of clear will do two guitar bodies, or one neck-thru. You’ll need some cheap lacquer thinner for cleaning the paint gun and equipment, so figure another $10.00 there (gallon). A GOOD respirator mask is going to cost around $50.00. A decent cheap spray gun can be had for around $35.00 to $65.00. For the purposes of this thread, I recommend an HVLP gun. HVLP means High Volume Low Pressure, which ultimately equates to far less paint overspray (and that’s a good thing!) A compressor will need to be a minimum of 2 HP, and can be had for around $200.00 and up (you could also rent a compressor for around $35.00 per day). You’ll need (of course), an air hose and regulator, so add another $50.00 for that (unless the compressor you buy includes a regulator). Most importantly, read the air consumption requirements of the paint gun, and get a compressor that AT LEAST meets those requirements. Add to all of this the same costs for fan(s), sandpapers, and other misc. materials you’d need for any paint method, and you should have a decent ballpark of expenses.

            Bottom line is:

            Spray cans are the cheapest and safest, and they produce very acceptable results to most (if done properly). They require lot’s of time and patience, but no specialized equipment to speak of. The results will be a nice looking finish but it will not be extremely durable. It will chip and scratch much easier than a poly finish. Ballpark initial cost of doing a spray can job: $75.00 or less.

            Polys are relatively expensive, and can be very dangerous to use, but they harden very quickly and produce an outstanding finish both in looks and durability. They are chemical resistant, very scratch and chip resistant, and will last literally forever. They do require some specialized equipment. Ballpark initial cost of doing a poly job: $600.00 +

            I hope this info is helpful. The above opinions are only mine, and based on 26 years experience in automotive refinishing and restoration (I’ve done my share of guitars also!). I’m never too busy to help others, so if you have any questions feel free to email me at [email protected]
            My goal in life is to be the kind of asshole my wife thinks I am.


            • #21
              Technical Info, Paint to Parts

              Here's all the info you'll ever need and more ..
              Don't worry - I'll smack her if it comes to that. You do not sell guitars to buy shoes. You skimp on food to buy shoes! ~Mrs Tekky 06-03-08~