When I feel like playing electric guitar at home I always use my Marshall MS-2 mini amp, but I’ve always been sad about it’s pathetic little speaker (8 ohm, 0.8 watt). I felt it could do better. I had a leftover Sony XPlod 4 ohm, 120 watt car speaker doing nothing, so I tested it on the amp: sounds sweet! This speaker has a huge magnet compared to the standard speaker and is very clear and crisp especially when you play clean.
You’re looking at my late 80’s, early 90’s Ibanez TS-9 Tubescreamer. It looks fine, but it wasn’t. Sorry if I haven’t taken any step-by-step photos, you’ll have to make due with prose some googled images. Top picture is my own- now working- Tubescreamer.
The problem was; the LED light didn’t work anymore: this can be very tedious, especially when playing live. Lazy as I am, I grew accustomed to it and just checked it by playing my guitar. Today it was quite rainy so I thought let’s whip out the ol’ soldering iron and check out what’s wrong with the LED light.
In my spare cupboard I found an old LED from a pocket flashlight of the right size in color red, tested it using a small flat button battery, it worked. I didn’t yet know for sure if the LED in the TS-9 was broken, loose connection or shorting circuit in the pedal, so off I went.I opened the pedal carefully, and unscrewed the print board.
Two wires come off the print board to a smaller separate board, to which the LED is soldered. A diode (a Light Emitting Diode) in this case, will only allow current to flow one way: this means that it will only function if connected in the right way. The pedal itself was working fine, only the LED didn’t light up. So I used the spare LED in my hand, testing it on the various connections until I saw it light up; conclusion; the electronics are still in tact; only the bulb itself was broken.
Now comes the fiddly bit; I unscrewed the smaller “LED print board”, it is held in place close to the hole where the LED protrudes through the face of the body, and carefully lifted it out and used my soldering-helper-buddy to clamp it in one of the crocodile clamps. I let the soldering iron heat up and coated it with a tiny bit of solder; this will prolong the life of your soldering iron, regardless if you need to add solder to your connection.
I had positioned the small LED print board with the LED facing down, so I could heat up both “legs” of the LED captured in two tiny drops of solder on the bottom of it. Carefully heating them (you don’t want the two drops to merge or “cook” the print board). You can spot the solder melting when it turns all shiny and silver instead of dull. Using my free hand, I pulled on the LED while heating the “legs” and bingo! It came loose without disturbing the two drops of solder on the print board too much: success.
With the broken bulb unsoldered, I could now solder in the new -working- LED. Having mentioned before that a diode only accepts current one way, I was sure to test the new bulb and mark one of the legs with a magic marker so I knew which leg went where. There are two tiny holes in this print board which accept the two LED legs.
I clamped the LED up side down in the soldering helper, and clamped the print board in the other crocodile clamp over it, and nudged the (precut) legs in the tiny holes.The tricky bit: heating up both solder drops, making sure they don’t melt together (which would short it out) and without “cooking” the print board, I applied gentle pressure to the new LED while heating up the solder and all of a sudden, it sank in, I lifted up the soldering iron and presto!
The LED was soldered in place. It pays to test it at this point, before closing up the pedal. Luckily the new LED lit up real well and the soldering connection appeared solid. Using a normal paper perforator, I punched a hole in a tiny ring of cardboard with a shiny silver side. I used this as a washer behind the LED as a reflector, which makes it a bit brighter.Then I screwed everything back together, there you go: a brand new functioning LED!
As some background info, here is a video how they “wave-solder” several components to one print board by hovering it over a “bath” of molten solder and generating a “wave” in the solder bath, which then touches the pins that protrude on the bottom of the print board, soldering all components in place in one go: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CH2tE9Wct4U
Testing which wire goes where
I did get a wiring diagram with the pickups, but I chose to run with the chinese 3 way switch for now, since it’s already soldered up on the control plate.
Using my smokey amp, I had already connected the jack plate to the jack connector and just tested the pickups touching the wires to the tabs on the switch.
There was already a wire soldered to the pot (ground) so I figured this saved me a soldering nightmare, so I decided to solder both ground wires of the pickups to this ground wire (white /red to left pot). The solid white and yellow wires are the hot wires from the pickups to the switch.
I then recalled I bought some heat shrink tubing which is best to put on the wires before soldering, so you can finish them neatly afterwards. I chose to solder the three ground wires together, using some white pvc tape to bind them together, once soldered I put heat shrink tubing over the bare soldered wires and heated it so it’s all insulated.
The hot wires (white and yellow) of the pickups came tinned, so I just needed to bend them in little hooks so they would hang from the tab holes. Heating the tab I soldered them in place.
So here’s the finished result: everything soldered neatly with bits of black heat shrink tubing to protect the connections.
The rest is a bit fiddly; without breaking your fresh connections, gently fork everything back into the routing in the body, so no wires will short or break or anything.
Everything in place! The bridge pickup is now yet to be screwed to the bridge plate, which is still to arrive. So the only thing I need to do now is mount the bridge, put strings on it and set it up and intonate it.
Stay tuned for the final chapter!
I found this website where they sell all sorts of Fender decals, also for Telecaster models. Sticking to my ’73 theme, I chose this period correct “custom” decal, because I’m building somewhat of a custom thingie here.
These are called waterslide decals. You can order laser- or inkjet decal paper from eBay, but that won’t give you the opportunity to print gold or silver. This decal has gold flake paint in it and looks the part.
Within 2 minutes it’s ready to come off the backing paper and I found it very easy to slide off into position. I used googled images to pinpoint the exact position of the decal and I think it looks great! Now all I have to do is take all the hardware off (again) and spray it with some satin finish lacquer in order to fixate the decal in place, then some light wet sanding and that should do the trick.
Bought a can of satin finish lacquer at the DIY store and sprayed the headstock a couple times during the day; many thin layers.
After drying I wet sanded it using an eraser and some 1200 grit automotive waterproof sandpaper. I didn’t know how much I had to sand off without ruining the decal so I quit while it was still intact and the headstock felt smooth and flat.
After that remount the tuners and the string tree back in place. Almost done!
Found correct “flat” control knobs at local store.
This is a relief, because I already ordered all parts and don’t want to pay any additional shipping and or import tax charges. These are obviously not genuine Fender, but they have the correct “knurling” grip pattern and are fastened with a flat screw, which is also “factory” correct.
This might seem trivial, but the knobs on the complete control plate I bought are too round on top; proper Fender knobs are much more flat and slightly smaller than the ones that came with the control plate and screws instead of hex nuts.
What remains to be done is mounting the (yet to arrive) bridge and saddles and some soldering. In this regard I’m also planning to change the “Chinese” 3-way toggle switch to an “American” model.
Strap buttons installed. This was very straight forward; merely measuring the thickness of the body using the digital caliper (beware this thing is quite sharp and can easily damage the finish) and marking the top strap button near the neck using googled images as a reference, basically you want it 3 fingers width from the neck, about where the curve of the side becomes a bit flat. I chose to mount it slightly towards the neck so it will “grab” a strap better.
For gigging guitars I usually use the Schaller strap lock system, but they were all sold out and for the time being I’m sticking to the “factory” look.
Felt washers and screws come with the strap button kit.
Spot the 10.000 differences! Well this is what I was talking about earlier; the 3-way switch is used to toggle from the neck pickup to both pickups to the bridge pickup.
Unfortunately, the pre-wired control plate (pictured partly on the right) came with a cheap chinese 3-way switch (right). But I want the guitar to be as “genuine” as possible, so Custom World Guitar Parts was so kind to give me a
Some of the leads need to be soldered together; these connections are called “jumpers”, some are left on their own and some have (pickup) wires soldered to them. As you can see, the switches are quite different; the chinese one has all the leads together in one row but on the american model they’re fanned out, four on either size of the switch body.
I bench tested the control plate, connecting the pickups by hand and connected the jack to a miniature (smokey) amp to test the pickups, volume, tone and (chinese) switch; it all works fine. Now I have to figure out which lead corresponds to which on the other switch. Note that the screws on the USA model are much longer than the chinese one.
Saving the best for last; I’m not much of a solderer or electronic wiz, and since the bridge has yet to arrive I’m gathering knowledge and tools to tackle the big job at hand; soldering the pickup wires to the switch and pots.
To help me do this I purchased this “3rd hand” helper device in which you can clamp components and or wires to assist in the soldering pro
I own a 20 watt soldering iron with a “accelerator” button with which you can boost it’s power to 130 watts for 30 seconds at a time; I’m wondering if it is capable of heating the pots to proper temperature since most forums mention 40 watt soldering irons. I guess I will find out, if it doesn’t get hot enough I’ll probably borrow a soldering iron or buy another one.
I don’t solder much, so I thought I should do some test runs before I ruin all my nice hardware.
Using a 20 watt soldering iron with an accelarator button with which you can boost it to 130 watts for 30 seconds a time to speed it up.
So I clamped both items in the “third hand” soldering clamp pictured earlier, so that they already touch each other. I held the soldering iron toward the contact point with the wire on the coin for 2 minutes, then I started to also touch the wire to heat it up. In my other hand the rosin core tin dispenser and I managed to get a tiny drop on it.
When I had the impression of a solid droplet that melted itself entirely over the connection, I raised up both tin and soldering iron immediately and let it set.
Guess my old soldering mistake was getting a drop of solder on the iron and try to “smear” it on something, this doesn’t work. When pulled now that it’s set, the connection is so good that I can’t pull it apart at all.
Ball bearing string retainer installed. Normally this would be a flat disk model (vintage) or those flat steel pressed “butterfly” models you see regularly, but both of those can have quite sharp edges.
These on the other hand, have smooth round gliding surface and are therefor less likely to cause string breakage.
It is held in place with the screw and a little “plug” type protrusion on the bottom. I used official documentation as well as googled images to find out it’s location. The main thing is that you want it exactly between the B- and high E-strings obviously, generally they’re mounted near the A-string post. The internet says around this position is fine and I eyeballed it a little bit.
The screw became a bit marred due to screwing, I solved this by filing it a bit with a diamond coated file. You can also screw it in and out a couple times or lube the screw with some candle wax.
One might argue to mount it the other way round. I kind of thought this looked alright.
Pickguard installed. Note the change under the bridge; this time the super sticky green anti slip mat. Funny is, the “normal” bridge is held in place by 4 screws, this bridge is just held down by the string tension and the friction of the anti slip mat.
I have now adjusted the “lipstick” neck pickup (chrome) to about the proper height; it was sitting too low, but I added home made plastic bushing
Traditionally, the neck pickup is mounted directly to the body with wood screws. You can also mount it to the pickguard which will result in two screws next to either end of it. I chose this more original and cleaner look. The effect on the sound is supposedly negligable but the purists tend towards this method.
However, I digress. I test fitted the pickguard extensively and found that this after market model didn’t quite fit first try. The cavity for the neck pickup was not to my liking, pushing the pickup towards the bridge, giving it an “angle”, while it should just sit up straight. So I used an exacto knife to scrape off small slices until it fit snugly.
The other problem area was the half circle opening where the chrome control plate (not pictured) will go (routing near the bottom in this picture) they just didn’t line up. Same here; scraped and sanded the pickguard until the control plate fit nicely.
Again I used a drill bit to drill pilot holes prior to screwing; use a bit which has the size of the screw minus it’s threads and drill slightly less deep than the screw will go, so it will “bite” correctly. Do drill though, otherwise you might wind up splitting the wood or breaking screws, both hard to repair.
Go easy and steady, because you can easily damage the finish- or the screw heads with a drill bit or screwdriver, so take your time! Make sure the sawdust is blown or pulled out of the holes and the bottom of the pickguard (and the top of the guitar) are squeeky clean!
Oh yeah, you might notice the added B-string in this picture. I put it on to help locate the position of the “string retainer” which is mounted on the headstock. I used just googled pictures to eyeball the position of it on the headstock, more pictures will follow.
String-through ferrules in place. This is the bottom of the guitar, the strings go through it to meet the bridge on the other side. As you may notice, the holes are not exactly aligned, but I guess that doesn’t matter a whole lot.
These “cups” are commonly pressed in using a drill press, vise or just hammered in. I’ve read that some people press them in using a soldering iron while heating them u
I found them fitting quite snugly, so I used a piece of wood (protecting the finish) to bang them home with a hammer, I can always use a little drop of superglue to adhere them if they ever loosen. 99% of the time they’re held in place by the string tension itself.
Note that you can see the high E-string grommet in the bottom ferrule.