One challenge when building prototype pickups is testing them quickly. It is easy enough to make the electrical measurements such as inductance, resistance and capacitance, but they don’t really tell you how the pickup is actually going to sound. Sooner or later they need to go into a guitar.
|Squier by Fender Jagmaster ready for surgery
This Squier Jagmaster guitar makes a suitable victim for surgery. It was fairly cheap, the neck is straight and plays well, and the strat-style trem cutout means that I don’t need to remove a huge amount of wood.
The first job it to strip the Jagmaster down, removing the strings, scratch plate and the existing hardware from the front of the guitar, and the tremolo system from the rear. Then off with the neck to keep it safely out of the way when the jigsaw comes to play.
Once everything is out then I measured up and cut two aluminium rails that will act as mounts for the new pickups. These were filed round at the ends to fit the existing routing, and drilled and tapped for mounting.
Then came the dirty work. With a jigsaw I cut through the body to make a humbucker-sized hole. You can see just how thin the wood is between the pickup and the tremolo routings – just a few millimetres.
One more job – the bridge no longer has springs to keep it under tension. A block of wood locks it in place instead. The guitar can now be put back together.
Now the pickup can be fitted from the rear with two screws attaching it to the aluminium rails. Screw terminals are also used to connect the wires to the output sockets for the ultimate quick change experience. A brass plate will cover the mess.
|Rear of ‘quick change’ Jagmaster with locked tremolo and pickup mount
Now it takes two minutes to swap a pickup! Time for some rapid prototyping. And here’s the front of the guitar with a hexapup fitted from the rear.
|Jagmaster with Xaudia pickup fitted.