Not sure how to get your solder flowing? Dave Burrluck has a few tips


QHello! I really love the mag and in particular… well, all of it really. So, I’ve got an old Strat and wanted to put some new pots on it and, actually, the five-way switch needed replacing, too, so I thought why not do the whole bit? Not as easy as I thought because after soldering, etc, I realised that my iron was shot and not hot enough. I’m usually not bad at soldering. Do you have a copy of the mag showing details of a rewire? I look at The Mod Squad hoping for some tips… maybe I just missed it? Thanks again.

Steve, via email

AHi Steve. We took the decision when we started The Mod Squad to focus on themes and indeed the culture of guitar modding. It is not intended to be a step-by-step ‘how-to-do-it’ column. Why? Well, because there are plenty of those in videos and tutorials on the internet. It’s the same with wiring diagrams: virtually every pickup maker has that resource covered, and many guitar makers, too.

The majority of soldering you’ll do on a guitar is pretty basic stuff. Possibly the most tricky is soldering in a mini-toggle switch, especially one of those rather good CTS switched pots that have a small PCBlike connection board. If you’re new to soldering, I’d advise you avoid those until you feel a bit more confident.

As for soldering irons, I use two. For most connection­s, a small 25-watt soldering iron is all you’ll need. For soldering an earth wire to the back of a pot, or resolderin­g a pickup cover onto a pickup, I use a larger 60-watt iron. Both are from RS Components. To keep the soldering iron tips in good condition, occasional­ly wipe the ends with a damp cloth and apply some solder, which will ‘tin’ the tip.

As to hook-up wire, I always use the pre-tinned Gavitt vintage 22 gauge clothcover­ed wire because, apart from its boutique-y style, it’s really easy to work with. I’d recommend one colour for your hot signal path and another colour for your ground. Plastic-covered wire is fine, but you’ll need to strip the insulation at the ends, twist the bare-wire and ‘tin’ it; that cloth covered wire is pre-tinned and you just pull back the cloth covering before you solder in place.

As for solder, well, that’s a debate in itself, but personally I use Ersin Multicore. A tube of that will last for numerous projects and it’s easier to use than the lead-free type, although that’s your choice.

I like to start with new pots and switches, too, although obviously you can use functionin­g older parts. A Strat is pretty easy to wire up because you have everything mounted on the scratchpla­te. So, with your components loaded on, you can start work.

There’s no right or wrong way really, but I like to follow the simple signal path: that’s pickups to the switch, switch to volume and then the switch to the tone controls, and finally connect the ground wires from the back of the volume pot to the tone controls – and don’t forget to solder the bridge grounding wire. If the wire isn’t pre-tinned, like the pickup leads, you’ll need to cut the ends neatly with some wire cutters then twist the strands. Hold the wire to the small iron for two seconds then apply the solder, which should immediatel­y flow, and let it cool – don’t blow on it. Place the wire into the switch or pot lug, heat, apply solder, which should flow, and let it cool. For those ground connection­s on the pot I usually apply some solder first to the back then sit the wire on that solder, and you might need to hold the wire while it cools with a small blade screwdrive­r or similar.

Once everything is working, simply connect a lead to the output jack and plug it into an amp then lightly tap each pickup with a small blade screwdrive­r. While you do that, check the volume and the tones are working. You’ll probably need to tidy those pickup leads with a couple of small cable ties so they’ll fit the body route – you can use small pieces of thinner wire to act as a cable tie if you don’t have any.

Learning to solder is a valuable skill and, as ever, the more you do, the easier it becomes and you’ll find your own process. Of course, there are plenty of suppliers of pre-wired circuits and complete scratchpla­tes for your Strat, and we probably all have mates who might be handy with a soldering iron, or there’s your local repair person who’ll make swift work of all the above.

“There’s no right or wrong way really, but I like to follow the simple signal path”

That should give you something to think about till our next issue.

In the meantime, if you have any modding questions, or suggestion­s, drop us a line – The Mod Squad.

 ?? ?? Learn from the pros: this Radioshop prewired scratchpla­te is what you’re aiming for. Very nicely done
Learn from the pros: this Radioshop prewired scratchpla­te is what you’re aiming for. Very nicely done

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