Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Les Paul DIY kit (Part V: Electronics)

This is part five (finally...) of my Les Paul DIY kit construction diary, and finally, I'm going to assemble the guitar.

After having applied a few more coats of Tru-Oil (in total 16 on body top, 12 on body edge/back, and 8 on the neck), I'm ready for l'assemblage. That's french for la montage which is also french. Before starting, it makes sense to line up all the screws that go with the kit to see what's going where, because the parts list may be inaccurate (it is in my kit), and you want the right screws in the right positions.

I wanted to start with setting the neck. My kit is a bolt-on design, hence more like an Epiphone Les Paul, than a Gibson. The plan was then to continue by hammering in the bridge posts in the pre-drilled holes in the body. But when I inspected the pre-wired electronics contraption I found a ground wire for the bridge that needs to be routed to the post cavity before the post is hammered in (it ends up wedged-in between post and cavity wall). So this kind of prescribed a certain sequence of work: first electronics, then bridge posts (with the ground wire in place), and then the neck.

In order to avoid subjecting the electronic pieces to the violent vibration while hammering in the posts like a madman (as I do), I began by setting the three ungrounded posts. That only left the grounded one to be hammered in while everything else is in place.

The pre-wired setup consists of 3 long wires that go to the switch, a bundle containing the 2 volume and 2 tone potentiometers, and a wire with attached 1/4 inch output jack. The volume pots are those without capacitors. I began by routing the 3 long wires for the selector switch through the carved out cavities, and the output jack through the hole at the bottom.

I then set the two pickups by first routing the wires through the holes to the large main cavity, and then setting and finally screwing them in place. The inner wire is then soldered to the left lug of the volume potentiometer (the right lug is soldered to the back). The instruction manual is wrong here, because it asks for the wire to be soldered to the middle lug. This can't be because the wire going to the switch (and then on to the output) is already soldered there. The correct wiring can be found on the Guitar Wiring 104 page of the Seymore Duncan blog. The shielding is soldered to the back of the pot. I did this for both pickup wires.

Note that you can dedicate any of the two volume pots to be your neck or bridge volume pot, just make sure you know which is which. In my case, very conveniently, one of the wires going to the switch is red, and so is the inner wire of the bridge pickup. The neck pots (vol and tone) go closer to the strings, and the bridge pots closer to the edge. And between them, the volume pots go closer to the cutout of the guitar, and the tone pots closer to the jack. See picture below.

Before soldering the wires to the switch I checked which terminals are connected in each position. Of course, you can simply turn the switch if you wired it the wrong way. The middle terminal goes to the output jack, and the combined shielding to the edge terminal (housing). The outer ones connect to the corresponding potentiometers for the bridge (treble) and neck (rhythm), respectively. In my case each closest to the corresponding switch pole position.

All potentiometers securely fitted using the washers and nuts, I put the ground wire for the bridge through the hole and bent its uninsulated part down. I then gently hammered in the last post.

That last step completed the assembly of the body. The next step will be to insert the machine heads in the headstock and attaching the neck to the body, attaching the strap buttons, cover plates and the like. Stringing and intonation will complete the assembly of the guitar.

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