It sounds like this, “hhmmmmmm”.

One of our most recent requests is to eliminate hum, be it single coil or ground variety. We recently got the job to build a custom Tele for a real pain of a customer, my brother Mike. He always wants things to work right and his guitar to stay in tune. I know, right? Anyway, since the customer is always right, here’s a look at the first stages of his guitar and a great excuse to talk shielding.

Mike went with a light weight Paulownia body, finished in Mint Green. Even though he chose some nice hum-cancelling rail Tele pickups, we’re still trying to eliminate any interference and ground noise. Quiet as death is the objective, so it will stand up to any neon sign without fear.

Since we jumped ahead with the pics (poor documentation by our film crew, sorry) I’ll point out a few things.  We shield cavities with a combination of lead shielding paint and conductive foil. Usually it’s paint in the pickup cavities and foil in the control cavity. But since we wanted to really seal-in the juices, we chose to use the copper tape all around.  As you can see, the joints are soldered and a ground wire connects both pickup routes and the control room.  These three wires are soldered together and will terminate on the volume pot casing when the pickups and switch are wired in.

Here you see those out-of-focus wires, but also tabs coming up out of the cavity. Since the tele control plate is metal, we need a good connection to the shielding tape. The tab shown goes out a little too far and will be trimmed so as not to be visible when final assembly is complete. You don’t need to run a full bead of solder along the seam, but I’ve watched too many episodes of American Chopper to not make the seam look nice. If only I had a welding torch…

Mike’s choice of hardware was great, with a Wilkinson bridge and compensated brass saddles for good intonation without losing that classic tele 3-saddle look. Bravo. The mismatched knobs by Gretsch and mastodon ivory were purely accidental. And the switch tip is the back of a Schaller tuner. But what are details when we’re building someone’s custom guitar. EVERYTHING. That was a test my friend.

Tomorrow we start the final stages and will include leveling and properly dressing the frets, cutting the nut, proper neck angle, etc.  A good setup is what it’s all about, even after you’ve chosen the right woods, neck profile, fret size, pickups, pots and tone caps.

Thanks again.


One Response to “It sounds like this, “hhmmmmmm”.”

  1. Jeff Michael Says:

    Reminded me of this page (about 4/5 of the way down) from custom builder Ron Kirn’s website.

    The whole tutorial is great. He does fabulous work and really documented it well.

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