Reliability Mod ...
OK so I'd had the Strat for about 2 weeks when I noticed that it would occasionally stop playing - sort of fade out when plugged in. First off I bitched about the rate that it went thru batteries, thinking that fading batteries was the cause, but when that didn't cure it (I found that shortly after replacing the battery it would still do it) it was time to take a closer look! Taking a look inside the body, the amp/equaliser had 3 connectors (plugs) in the end. One was the power, one the audio out, and the last was the input from the piezo pickup. This is a metal mini-jack with screened cable. Pressing on the side of this when the guitar was 'plugged but not playing' would get things going again - good place to start looking, however I thought I'd take the whole lot out just to make sure - more on that later. Righto, on to the jack plug. Get your fingers into the sound hole (you can do this with the strings in place if your fingers are long enough) and pull out the jack (the silver one). Pull it out of the sound hole - there will be just enough slack for you to work on it. Unscrew the plug cover and expose the connections. Now here's the culprit - you'll notice that the inner conductor (thin piece of yellow wire on mine) is soldered onto the plug's inner conductor. The outer shield (silver colored metal braid) has just been crimped on to the connector. On mine this could be slid in and out of the crimp - a certain recipe for failure - whether in 1 week or 2 years it WILL fail, as oxidation, sweat, ciggy smoke and other shit get in there. Unforgivable oversight this, but I've seen crap electronics on some USA made teles, so.... Anyway, the idea here is to solder the braid onto the connector. To do this you'll need a decent (hot) soldering iron with a small tip, and thin solder (i.e. not a warmed up shovel and a stick of plumber's solder). To solder effectively you'll need to heat the end of the connector (where it's already crimped onto the braid) and the braid itself, quickly, to the melting point of the solder, then apply some solder onto the joint, but not too much. The idea being to do it quickly to avoid melting the inner conductor of the wire, which will really fuck up your day. Cut a small piece of insulation tape (if you really don't have this then go out and buy a roll at your hardware shop - sellotape will do but not as effective) and wrap it around the join before replacing the jack plug cover. This will prevent the inner conductor touching the cover, which can happen. Another oversight, or a cheap connector. The outer conductor (the one you've just soldered) can touch, as it's the same connection. When you're sure you've done a good job get your fingers back into the soundhole and replace the jack plug. A definite 'click' should indicate that it's in place. The socket seemed of reasonable quality, so once it's in it should stay there. After this fix on my strat I've had absolutely no more problems, so it's well worth doing. I'll have some photos up here in due course as well.
Mentioned earlier that I'd taken the whole lot out. To do that, remove the 4 corner screws. The ones on the bridge side are really long, so loosen them and then turn them the rest of the way with your fingers. Pull up the plastic decal on the treb side (use a small sharp knife to lift the edge, or your fingernail) and you'll find 2 more small screws. Remove these. The plastic top assembly should now pull straight out, after which the metal case inside can be removed. You'll notice that it's not a Fishman or any fancy make (although Fender says it is) - probably made in Fender's China facility. The 3-wire connector is the audio out going to the strap-button socket, and the 2-wire connector goes to the battery. OK what you do with it now is up to you. Replacement is a direct reverse of removal, with one point to note. Replace the metal can in the hole, then push on the plastic cover remembering to align the battery compartment with the slots on the side of the metal can (you'll have to get your finger round the back in the soundhole to avoid dropping it inside) and replace the 2 long screws first. Screwing these in will bring the metal can up against the plastic cover, after which you can replace the two small screws behind the decal. Lastly replace the 2 screws on the neck end, then tighten the whole lot up. Don't overtighten!
Play non-stop for 8 hours to make sure that everything's working.
Another few things were wrong with the guitar - namely uneven volume across the strings and string buzz caused by the saddle (B,E strings). More details will follow on how best to tackle these ones, but basically poor installation of the piezo pickup in the bridge was the culprit for both items. After removing it, cleaning things up a bit and re-installing properly it's a different guitar. A blob of solder on the pickup kept the saddle from resting on the pickup at the bass end, and uneven seating of the pickup caused the treb side of the saddle to 'float' causing buzzing. Both sorted!
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