Finished: MIM Fender Squier Series

It’s finished. Well, for now. Pictures are below.

I made a some pretty nice improvements.

  • New Tuners, Fender 099-2040-000
  • New Bridge, Fender 007-1014-000
  • New Switch, Fender 099-1367-000
  • New Pots, Fender 099-0830-000
  • New Jack, Neutrik NYS229
  • NOS Capacitor, 50n (2x 100n Tropical Fish in series)
  • New Strings, D’Addario EXL115

I got everything installed, and have it nicely setup. This one was a bit of a challenge.

The neck relief was way too much, something like 0.040″ I would say… maybe more. 3/4 of a turn on the truss rod over two days, and it is 0.010″.

Once I got everything installed, I realized that the action was waaaay too high, even with the string saddles lowered as far as they can go, . Only one way that I can fix that– neck shim. I ended up using a piece of an old phone card to make a shim. It is a tad too thick, but should be just fine.

I needed to add an extra tremolo spring to get it to float properly, and the system is now in near-perfect balance.

I decided to stick with the ceramic pickups for now. I have never really had an opportunity to give ceramic pickups a chance. My American Standard came with Alnico, and I upgraded them with nicer Alnicos. The American Standard pickups went into my Mexican Standard, and it’s pickups went into a box. I’m going to give these a shot. In combination with the 50n capacitor, it should be significantly different than my other two Strats, which all have 22n caps.

One last thing to note is that of my three potentiometers, two were around 245k, but one was about 274k. I used that one as the volume, as I have read about people who like 280k volume pots in Strats. 274k is pretty close to that.

So… how does it play? It’s hard to say. After I had finished using a razor blade to scrape an uneven bit on the pickguard, I carelessly set the razor blade down, dragging it slightly across the tip of my middle finger, left hand. It was enough to create a 1/16″ deep, 1/2″ long slice. Direct pressure led to skin glue, which led to butterfly bandages, which led to medical tape. No more bleeding, and a nicely sealed wound, but I really can’t play guitar for a while. That is also why I did not replace the shim with something thinner– I can’t seem to use this hand without opening that cut back up.

I can say, however, that while I was doing the setup, I found the guitar to play very nicely. Maybe it is because my American Standard was made in 1993, and this guitar was made in 1995, but the necks seem incredibly similar. I like it a bit more than my 2011 Mexican Standard, which has a bit of a chunkier neck. Overall, though, I think I am going to like this guitar.

MIM Fender Squier Series - New Tremolo

MIM Fender Squier Series – New Tremolo

MIM Fender Squier Series - New Tuners (back)

MIM Fender Squier Series – New Tuners (back)

MIM Fender Squier Series - New Tuners

MIM Fender Squier Series – New Tuners

MIM Fender Squier Series - Finished

MIM Fender Squier Series – Finished

More to come!

Another new guitar day!

I did it again. I bought another guitar. Somebody stop me!

Anyway, here it is in the state that I got it:

MIM Squier Series Stratocaster

MIM Squier Series Stratocaster

Not bad, huh? Overall it is in pretty good shape, with no major damage or missing parts. The fretboard is dry and caked with dirt/lint. The frets are in serious need of a polishing. The switch tip is cracked. I have no idea if it even works.

Still, the price was right, and it will be a great platform for modifications. First up will be a new tremolo/bridge unit, and then I will swap the tuners for the ones that are currently on my MIM Standard Stratocaster. After that, it may need a nut and some electronics upgrades. Then, I think I am going to paint it a different color.

When all is said and done, I expect it to be a pretty nice guitar!

The cleanup is complete, and here are the photos. I didn’t clean the tremolo, since it will be replaced, nor did I spend much time on the tuners beyond a basic wipedown.

Fender Squier Series Stratocaster - Cleaned up

Fender Squier Series Stratocaster – Cleaned Up

Fender Squier Series Stratocaster - Headstock

Fender Squier Series Stratocaster – Headstock

Fender Squier Series Stratocaster - Body

Fender Squier Series Stratocaster – Body

More pictures to show the aged plastic:

MIM Squier Series - Pickups

MIM Squier Series – Pickups

MIM Squier Series - Knobs

MIM Squier Series – Knobs

MIM Squier Series - Wiring

MIM Squier Series – Wiring

Let the fun begin!

New Guitar Day: Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster 50s

I did it again. I got another guitar. This time, it is a Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster 50s in Butterscotch Blonde.

Classic Vibe Telecaster 50s Butterscotch Blonde

Classic Vibe Telecaster 50s Butterscotch Blonde

I picked it up from Musician’s Friend for a very good price– much lower than is listed on their website. I ordered it on Monday, and it was in my hands on Friday. I was able to play it for a few hours on Saturday.

I haven’t had enough time with it to post a full review, but here are my initial impressions. Overall, the guitar seems to be put together very well. I would put it on the same level as my Vintage Modified Jazzmaster.

The fit-and-finish are great. The body is flawless, albeit heavy. The neck pocket is perfect. The frets are well done, with no sharp edges or dead spots. The setup is actually quite good. It even has a little card attached to show measured clearances. Everything is aligned properly. It is hard to find a flaw on this guitar.

When I played it yesterday, I thought it sounded great. All three switch positions were very usable. I can’t compare it to a real 50s Telecaster, or even to an American Fender, but it sounded great to my ear.

I will post a full review in the coming days, I’m sure. I think I need to write a review of my Vintage Modified Jazzmaster, as well.

Project – Power Conditioner

Here is the power conditioner I built.

The enclosure is a Bud CN-6702 from Mouser.  Paint is a botched Rustoleum hammered spray. I wanted it to be white, so I bought a can of their ivory hammered paint. It was junk. No hide ability, no hammering. It was like a blotchy transparent metallic white. I painted over it with one coat of the paint I used for my input and output buffers, and decided it was good enough.

This mounts on the underside of my board. There are two superbright white LEDs to show it is powered up, and provide some cool under-board lighting without creating glare.

There are two identical regulator circuits. My goal with that was to spread the load and the heat dissipation. I also thought that if I have two digital pedals that conflict and make power supply noise, I could put them on different regulators and hopefully stop the noise.

As a result, I am sure the filtering is overkill– I used a 1-Watt 3R resistor, two 470uF in parallel, and some ceramic caps on the input of each regulator, and 100uF and some ceramic caps on the outputof each regulator.

You might notice the diode inserted between the regulator pin connected that is supposed to be connected straight to ground, and ground. This is a little trick that lifts the voltage by the Vf of the diode. This way, my power supply puts out about 9.6V, or roughly a brand new 9V battery. This gives me a little bit of headroom, so I can use an R-C filter at the input of each of my pedals, and not worry too much about the voltage falling below 9V.

If you can’t tell, the power in my house is very noisy… heh.

Here are the project files. Included is an ExpressPCB Schematic and PCB file, along with a PDF ready-to-transfer image. Power Conditioner – Schematic, PCB, Toner Transfer [ZIP]

Questions? Comments? Criticism? Compliments?

Project – Output Buffer

Here is the out buffer I built. It is a standard non-inverting IC buffer.

The enclosure is a Bud CN-6702 from Mouser.  No LED, no bypass, but there is room in the enclosure for both if you decide to build one. Paint is Rustoleum hammered spray. I think it came out pretty good for my first hammered finish.

I am sure this will somehow be labeled as a Klon buffer, but it really isn’t. I did copy the two output resistors, but that is it. The rest is Opamp 101. Instead of the standard TL-072, I used a TLE-2072, which is an “Excalibur Low-Noise High-Speed” version of the TL-072, whatever that means. Any dual will work fine. I used the spare half of the opamp to buffer the bias voltage, and beefed up the power filtering. Other than that, it is pretty standard.

Here are the project files. Included is an ExpressPCB Schematic and PCB file, along with a PDF ready-to-transfer image. IC Buffer – Schematic, PCB, Toner Transfer [ZIP]

Questions? Comments? Criticism? Compliments?

Project: Input Buffer

Here is the input buffer I built. It is based on the Cornish buffer, with some additional power filtering and some minor part substitutions.

The enclosure is a Bud CN-6702 from Mouser.  No LED, no bypass, but there is room in the enclosure for both if you decide to build one. Paint is Rustoleum hammered spray. I think it came out pretty good for my first hammered finish.

I actually thought I had all the parts for this build, but it turns out I did not. I was short a couple of odd value resistors, so I made my own. Here’s a little tip. Let’s say you need a 7.5k resistor, and all you have is a 6.8k resistor. Grab yourself a small file, and start filing a spot in the middle of the 6.8k resistor. Once you break through the enamel, you will hit the actual resistor. Connect your multimeter’s test leads, and continue filing until you reach the value you need. When finished, cover the filed spot with clear nail polish. Works like a charm!

Here are the project files. Included is an ExpressPCB Schematic and PCB file, along with a PDF ready-to-transfer image. BJT Buffer – Schematic, PCB, Toner Transfer [ZIP]

Questions? Comments? Criticism? Compliments?

Three completed projects – Power conditioner, Input Buffer, Output Buffer

I will be posting about three completed projects today. They were all designed to integrate into my pedal board.

The first one is a power conditioner. It is a dual non-isolated regulated supply. I built this mainly to consolidate my power needs down to one box and one switch. I do plan on building an isolated supply in the future, but that won’t be happening for quite some time.

The second one is an input buffer. It is based on the Cornish buffer (bootstrapped BJT w/ filtering), but with more aggressive power filtering and some component substitutions.

The third one is an output buffer. It is a simple IC buffer, but I guess some people call it a Klon buffer. I fail to see how tacking a couple of resistors onto the end of one of an IC circuit that is so simple that even I understand it. Regardless, more power filtering, some component changes, and a higher end opamp.

My theory behind the buffers is that I am looking for consistency. I want my guitar to always see the same impedance, and my amp to always see the same impedance. I have built so many pedals at this point that there is no telling which pedal will be first in the chain, and which will be last in the chain, or how they will react with whatever guitar/amp combo I decide to play. I want my guitars, effects, and amps to work together in a predictable fashion.

I’ll be posting pictures of the completed builds, along with ExpressPCB schematic and PCB files, along with PDFs of ready-to-transfer images.

More to come!

Tap Tempo Tremolo – Build and History

Well, I finally did it. I built a tap tempo tremolo! It has been a long time coming.

I am going to first show off my build, and then give a little bit of history on the whole line of DIY (and some commercial) tap tempo tremolos, from my perspective.

What I have made is a Tap Tempo Tremolo based around a board I got from Taylor over at MusicPCB.com. It is built into a repurposed Akai Variwah enclosure.

The top middle knob, the toggle switch, and the treadle work together. When the switch is in the Up position, the treadle controls the Speed, and the top middle knob controls the Wave Distort. When the switch is Down, the treadle controls the Wave Distort, and the top middle knob controls the Speed. Of course, you can also tap out a speed with the Tempo switch.

The treadle uses the potentiometer from the Variwah, which is some sort of a custom dual gang pot. It is setup so that it is matched perfectly to the range for the treadle mechanism. Both gangs are linear. When I was testing, I found that the treadle’s linear taper was great for the Wave Distort function– the middle of the treadle was the center. For the speed, though, the fast portion was bunched up in the last few degrees of the treadle. I ended up paralleling a trimpot with one of the gangs of the pot, and adjusted the taper to my liking.

The Shape and Multiple controls are rotary switches. I never liked the idea of using a potentiometer for these settings. Rotary switches are accurate, with no guesswork involved.

The plates are regular ol’ copper clad from Tayda, treated with liver of sulfur. The switch plate and the the treadle plate are secured to the enclosure with JB Weld. It was a bit of a challenge to get the switch plate bent to the contour of the enclosure, but it came out okay. The knobs eventually will be switched out to something nicer, or at least something that matches.

I wanted to do something unique for the LED arrangement. I used a CMOS IC to buffer and filter the PWM from the TAPLFO. The signal is sent to an LM3914 IC, but is first adjusted from 0-5V to a range that works well with the LM3914. It took a lot of trial and error, but the 10 LEDs light up in time with the effect. Those LEDs, and the indicator LED, backlight the plate, and it looks really cool.

This was a very difficult build, requiring a lot of planning and a lot of detail work. It was challenging and fun, but I am glad it is done.

And now, a bit of history on DIY Tap Tempo Tremolos.

Sometime back in 2008, when I was just getting into effects, I started researching tremolos for a multi-effects board I planned on building. In my research, I found the Tremulus Lune. I could understand how the audio path worked, but the LFO was beyond my knowledge.

Around the same time, I found the VCLFO. It is a microprocessor-based LFO created by Tom from Electric Druid. I could understand the VCLFO– feed it values between 0 and 5V, and it alters the waveshape it outputs. I decided to hack them together.

I had no clue how to burn Tom’s code to a PIC, so I enlisted a friend of mine Ed for advice. He is a senior electrical engineer at a big company back in Illinois, and has been a huge help in my quest for electronics knowledge. He often points me in the right direction so I can learn whatever it is I want to learn, but in this case, he offered to burn the PICs for me.

We all know the adage when trying to get something: Cheap, Fast, Right– Pick Two. In this case, it was cheap and right. After months of polite nudging, Ed assigned the burning of my LFO chips to a junior engineer at his company, who burned me five of them.

I did a ton of research while waiting for the chips, and started breadboarding as soon as I got them. I ended up with a design that almost worked. I had one little problem, and Tom helped me out through email. I also was concerned that running multiple LEDs off of the PIC could exceed the PIC’s maximum current, so Ed scratched the transistor buffer on a napkin while he was here on vacation.

I finished my design and released it to the public in June of 2009. People seemed to like it, but I don’t think anyone built one. That’s ok, though, because Tom liked it. He thought my use of a photocell to clean the PWM was simple and elegant. He asked to use my schematic for the VCLFO Tremolo Application Note, and I, of course, agreed.

Some time passed, and Tom posted over at DIYSB that he had started working on a tap tempo version of his VCLFO. I jumped in to the development topic, of course, being the only person who had used the original VCLFO. Tom was great about the development, and incorporated pretty much every suggestion from the community. The community even pitched in on some of the coding (Wave Distort was implemented by Chris Saffi, if I recall the name correctly). Tom eventually released the TAPLFO, and a ready to go tremolo schematic that pretty much matches my original VCLFO schematic. It was so cool!

Some time passed, and Taylor over at DIYSB started a topic to build a tap tempo tremolo. Several ideas were proposed, but the end decision was to use the TAPLFO. One of the key factors was that it was open source and free to use. It didn’t hurt that there was already a completed schematic.

Taylor designed his board, and made an arrangement with Tom to sell them with TAPLFO chips. He released his board (still available), and also the Iron Ether Cygnet (discontinued, I think). At one point, he was worried about using my design for a commercial project, but I think it is great that I played a part in the evolution of tap tempo tremolos.

The TAPLFO has gone on to find its way into a bunch of commercial tremolos, including the Catalinbread Semaphore, and a bunch who I suspect are using the TAPLFO without Tom’s permission.

In parallel to all of that, I had at some point sent a crystal and one of the five VCLFO chips that Ed had made for me to Rick (Frequencycentral), across the pond in the UK. Rick was heavily into phaser development at the time, and I thought he might have some fun with the VCLFO and phasers.

Rick sat on the chip for a while, but when he started using it, great things resulted. Rick has been using (I think) both the VCLFO and TAPLFO to make synth modules. I think he is selling commercial designs and keeping with the DIY spirit by releasing his designs.

So there you have it. My little role in the history of DIY tap tempo tremolos. If you made it this far, thanks for reading!

Quick Review – Darren Riley’s Guitar and Amp Shop – Raleigh, NC

I just wanted to do a quick little review on a parts supplier I recently found– Darren Riley’s Guitar and Amp Shop in Raleigh, NC.

I was in the market for a replacement bridge for my Squier VM Jazzmaster. The stock bridge uses the threaded-type string saddles, and I have a heavy enough technique that the strings kept moving on the saddles. I found a replacement bridge– Fender # 0081239001, Bridge w/ posts Mustang Chrome.

Darren had the item at a good price, and shipping was reasonable, too. I figured it would arrive fast, since Darren’s shop is just two states away.

Darren was really helpful. I wanted to make sure the bridge would fit, so I emailed to ask if he could take two measurements for me. I emailed him at 2:09PM on a Saturday, he emailed me back with my answers less than an hour and a half later, and I placed my order about an hour and a half later. Now that is great service– I didn’t expect an answer until Monday.

He sent my order out on Monday, and it arrived today, Thursday. The item was exactly as expected, and well-packed with bubble wrap and foam peanuts. He even included a couple of picks.

Overall, everything about this order was perfect, and I will not hesitate to order from Darren when I need parts in the future– and I will need parts in the future. There are a lot of online merchants who could learn a thing or two from him.

Darren Riley’s Guitar and Amp Shop – Raleigh, NC

Project: Colorsound Overdriver / Power Boost / CSOD

I have just completed my first full project to share here on JustOneMoreBuild, a Colorsound Overdriver / Power Boost / CSOD. I will be sharing the complete project files, minus the enclosure artwork, so you can build your own. It came together quickly– I started working on it on Christmas Eve, and finished it tonight. There was no debugging, and just a couple of resistor swaps to adjust the bias. It sounds great.

First, this post is useless without pictures:

And here are the project files: Colorsound Overdriver – JustOneMoreBuild. It contains ExpressPCB sch and pcb files, and a PDF toner transfer image.

As you can see, this project uses Alpha board-mounted pots, box caps, and 0.4″ spaced resistors. The layout is spaced 25% larger larger than perfrboard– all components are at least 0.125″ on center from any other component’s pads. There are no jumpers.

On my build, I used a scratch-n-dent enclosure that had already been powder coated green. I sanded it with a random orbital sander to level the top (it had a bubble), and to cut the gloss. I went back and scuffed it further by hand with lower grit sandpaper.

The top is a piece of copper clad from Tayda. I found a design online, modified it slightly to meet my uses, and added a border and some labels. Once it was etched and trimmed, I applied liver of sulfur, which creates a patina. It was my first time using it, and it was very cool.

I applied the liver of sulfur, which can be found in the silver jewelry wire section at Michael’s, at full strength using a q-tip. It instantly blackened the copper. I let it sit for a minute or two, and then rinsed it off with water. Over the next 10 minutes, the copper peeled and flaked– you could actually see it– revealing a pretty cool finish. It looks different depending on the light. Sometimes it looks blue, silver, gold, red, or a whole rainbow of color. It is pretty cool.

My labels came out a bit thin, so I will be sure to use a bolder font next time I use this method. I am pleased with the overall finish.

For the LED, I decided to use the circuit board top as the indicator. I mounted three superbright LEDs on a little piece of vero, and attached it to the switch with double-sided tape. The LEDs draw about 5mA each, and do not add any pop to the switching. I drilled and filed the enclosure under the word Overdriver, so the LEDs light it up when the pedal is engaged. As you can see, it came out great.

You might be wondering how it sounds. It sounds fantastic. It can go from a nice, transparent boost with a lot of volume, all the way to a medium fuzz with a good deal of gain. The tonestack is pretty flexible, and allows you to dial in a broad range of useful settings. I had built one of these before, so I knew what to expect, and I was not disappointed.

I did make a few minor changes to the circuit. I didn’t have any 6.8uF capacitors, so I used a 4.7uF. I used a reverse audio taper potentiometer for the gain knob, and I highly recommend this. Otherwise, the fuzz is all piled up in the tiniest little portion of the potentiometer’s rotation. I used random BC550 transistors, and I biased Q2 and Q3 as close to 5v as I could get (4.8 and 5.1, if I recall correctly). Other than that, it is stock.

If you have never built a Colorsound Overdriver, I suggest you give it a try. I think you will like it.

More to come!