Jimmy Page Tribute “Dragoncaster”. Copper shielding, and installing that difficult jack socket.

I’m still trying to source a suitable neck for the Dragoncaster. Since I need the neck to check the final scatchplate and control plate positions, I’m left with only a few bits and pieces I can do to push the project along. At least I can get the ground side of the circuit sorted.

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With the body all polished up, It’s a good time to line the routs and cutouts with conductive copper foil. As usual, I use a heavyweight foil, witha conductive adhesive.  Pressing the adhesive firmly down with an agate burnishing tool really helps to make the most of the adhesive, and to make sure there’s good connectivity. Copper lining the vintage spec, diagonal wiring rout is probably a bit overkill – but since the scratchplate will be opaque, running some foil down over the guitar body from the neck pickup down to the control chamber via the diagonal wiring passageway, is a simple solution which shields the cavity whilst also providing continuity between the openings.

The bridge pickup rout is connected to the main chamber via a small, interconnecting drill hole. This allows the pickup wiring to pass through – but there’s also enough room to take an extra, cloth covered, grounding wire. Stripping the covering back from the cable at the bridge pickup side, all the way down to where it emerges from the conduit, and then burying the bare wire within the layers of copper foil is a good way of making the connection at the bridge pickup rout – but I leave an extra tail to run below the bridge plate, and ground it there, also. Standard Fender builds tend to leave a short tail and fan out the wire strands – leaving the bare wire to merely touch the plate as it’s screwed down. I like to make sure there’s a good, permanent contact, and prevent the wire from ever possibly working loose by pushing the end of the wire down one of the bridge screw holes. As the bridge is screwed back into place, the screw will hold the ground wire  firmly in place, and provide a good, strong contact point at all times.

Back in the main control cavity, I leave a cloth covered tail of wire from the bridge, which I’ll trim to length, loop round, and then connect direct to a central gounding point.

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The central grounding point will also have a connecting wire running to the jack socket ground, (as well as another from the back of the control pots).. On vintage Telecasters, the jack socket is located within a small, chromed cup. The cup sits snugly in a rout which runs from the bottom edge of the lower bout, through to the back of the main control chamber. Modern Teles tend to have a, slightly curved, square plate, secured by four screws at the corners. This sort of patches over the hole, and holds the actual jack socket – but it’s a sort of “stuck-on” solution, and the plate isn’t normally seated flush to the body. On vintage models, a neater retaining cup is held in place by the jack socket pulling it back into the body, and against a small retaining clip. It’s a clever solution – but terribly awkward to install if you don’t have the right tools. Fortunately, I’ve managed to get hold of a handy thingummybob from StewMac. This holds the clip in exactly the right spot, while you apply pressure from a nut and bolt pair, to flatten the clip and press it permanently into place against the sides of the opening.

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The rout is already cut in the body, but the edges of the opening are still quite square, wheras the back of the cup is slightly rounded against its’ surrounding flange. Of course – the body is now nicely finished and polished – I really don’t want to damage anything with some careless sanding, so I temporarily sit the cup in place, and tape off a safe working area with masking tape. I can then wrap a bit of 320 grit paper around my finger, and work away at the edge of the opening, until there’s a slightly eased edge – with no damage to the surrounding nitro finish.

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Once the cup sits snugly into place, with the surrounding flange reasonably tight against the body, I give the edges of the opening a final smooth with 400 grit, and then remove the masking tape. Inserting the retaining clip is then achieved by fitting the clip into the special tool, and then inserting the tool into the rout. A special rubber “O” ring, cushions the tool against the delicate finish, and also holds the clip in the correct place. By holding the tool firmly in place with an adjustable wrench in one hand, and by turning the central hex screw with the hex bar supplied – a nut is slowly drawn back against the retaining clip until it is flattened, and the sharp edges spread sideways, and into the wood of the body. The end result is certainly effective, although the clip isn’t quite flat. However, the opening in it isn’t deformed, and will still take the jack socket – and the clip is just at the right depth, so that the chrome cup sits perfectly down on it.

I solder lengths of cloth covered connecting wire to the terminals of the jack socket in the usual manner. Black to the “ground” terminal, and white to the “hot”. As usual, I also insulate each solder joint with colour-matched shrink tubing. I then twist the black and white wires around each other, and leave enough wire for the two ends to reach where they need to, within the main chamber – (with a bit of extra slack to allow for the control plate to eventually be manoevred into a workable position).

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The jack socket assembly can then be pushed into position from within the body of the guitar – so that the outer portion threads through the hole in the retaining clip, as well as the hole in the bottom of the chrome cup. The cup then covers the opening, and the jack socket is secured in place by screwing on the washer and locking nut from the outside. A little thread-locking compound to the locking nut will help stop things from working loose.

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Back within the main chamber, I locate a central grounding point at the front of the rout, where it shouldn’t fall foul of the switch mechanism. On previous builds, I’ve sometimes fitted a screw lug to the end of each of the connecting wires at this point – but that usually takes three separate lugs – where I only, probably, need one. So I’ve changed the way I deal with the wiring arrangements.

Since the bridge grounding wire shouldn’t ever really need disconnecting – no matter what changes may be subsequently made to the electronics – I may as well make the connection to the main grounding point permanent. The two other connecting wires – from the pots and the jack socket – may as well share a single lug connection. That’ll help reduce the strain on the small securing screw – and also make it much less fiddly to connect it all up. I take a bradawl, and poke a hole in the right place so that I can locate, and drive, a small, securing screw into position. This screw will form the central grounding point, and will eventually secure the common lug from the pots and jack grounds.

I temporarily remove the grounding screw, and then trim the bridge ground wire, stripping a good centimetre of cloth insulation away from the end. I can then poke the bare wire end into the hole for the grounding screw, and then secure the wire in place with a good dollop of solder against the copper lined chamber wall, (leaving, of course, enough clear room to re-fit the grounding screw in place afterwards). I leave a little spare loop of the bridge wire – just in case – and secure the loose wire, out of the way, with a little extra copper foil. The end of the jack ground wire is then trimmed to length and soldered to a lug – together with a spur made up of another short length of black, cloth covered wire. The other end of this spur will eventually be soldered against the back of the pots, and will complete the ground side of the circuit. I just need to leave enough length to make an easy solder, and then the lug can be screwed and secured into position. The rest of the circuit can now be assembled on the back of the control plate, and the grounding connections made at the same time as the connections to the pickups.

With the ground side of the circuit laid – all I need to do is to check continuity between all the elements, with a multimeter. Since it all looks good – I really need to get on and find a suitable neck for the project. Then I can push on, and finally make me a sparkly, holographic scratchplate that fits properly.

 

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