Special-II wiring mod: "Albert King tone" & coil-cut / parallel coils

az2000

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I have a 2013 Epiphone Les Paul Special-II (LTD). A few months ago I replaced my "master" volume & tone controls with dual-concentric pots (separate vol/tone controls for each pickup, without drilling holes). Since then, I've wanted to experiment with some tone-wiring mods:
  1. Humbuckers
    • In-phase and parallel with each other (normal)
    • Out-of-phase (OOP)
    • OOP plus serial (called "Albert King tone")
  2. Coils
    • Series (normal)
    • Single ("cut")
    • Parallel (single-coil sound while retaining dual-coil humbucking)
Because the Special-II has only two knobs—not enough for all that (and, I already eliminated any possibility of using "push-pull" pots when I converted to dual-concentric pots), I must use toggle switches. That made me nervous (drilling holes; looking too DIY, "Frankenstein").

I found these low-profile mini-toggle switches, with stubby levers[1]:

Taiway short-lever mini toggle switch

(click for larger)

Those are perfect for my goal, to keep my guitar looking relatively stock. I found switches to implement all those tone-wiring mods. That's the entire "Jimmy Page" wiring (minus "serial humbuckers" by itself, which I don't like the sound of anyway), plus a single-coil sounding "parallel-coil.").

This is what it looks like with the first mod complete:

Special-II with tone switches installed

click for larger (more photos in post #21)

Those tone wiring mods can be implemented in three manageable projects:

1. "Albert King tone"
This mod can be done with the Special-II's original 1-conductor (plus ground) leads. However, it's better[2] to have 4-conductor leads. Because of that, I did the next step first.

Note: If you want to hear what this mod sounds like before doing much work, all you have to do is unsolder two wires and use alligator-clip jumpers. But, if you go further you'll want micro-clip jumpers:


(Click for larger)
[Available in a variety of colors, with or without wires (make your own). They're called "EZ-Hook," "mini grabber," "Mini SMD test hook," "mini hook" or "pico hook."]

Reminder: it may may have hum with the Special-II's 1-conductor pickups. More so with unshielded jumper wires laying around. But, it will give you an idea of what it sounds like compared to normal wiring.
"Al King tone" can be implemented with either a 3-position switch (as I did, to have an OOP-only position). Or, a 2-position switch—"Al King tone" by itself.​

2. Convert Special-II's original one-conductor pickups to four-conductor
This is required for the next mod (coil wiring switches). As mentioned in the previous step ("Al King tone"), this will also reduce hum when using OOP humbuckers. (I did this step first.).

Note: You could buy 4-conductor pickups. But, what fun is that? If you're a Special-II owner, you're probably a newbie, don't have an ear for tone yet, wouldn't appreciate one pickup over another. The whole idea is to learn some mod skills—on a guitar that's typically purchased for learning. Familiarity with your pickup's innards could also lead to further mods—like swapping the ceramic magnets with Alnico. Or, creating "hybrid" humbuckers with mismatched coils.[3] That's even more experience with tone mods—without spending much money.​

3. Single-coil (cut and parallel) wiring
This mod requires 4-conductor pickups (previous step).

You can use a 3-position switch to have both "single-coil" types of wiring (I did). Or, use a 2-position switch for just one type.

This can also be implemented with two switches (as I did, to control each pickup individually). Or, use a single 4PDT switch to control both pickups in tandem.

UPDATE: This turned into a potentially different mod using 1) Seymour Duncan "Triple Shot" rings for the coil switches, and 2) these two toggle holes for 50s/modern tone wiring (with 2-position 3PDT switches). I documented it with a diagram, but haven't decided whether I'll do it.​

The next post shows the "Al King tone" mod. Coil switching turned into three installments, beginning a little further down this page. That's followed by a variation of coil switching which includes switchable 50s/modern tone wiring (but remains just a diagrammed idea).

== Footnotes:
[1] I found these Taiway switches at LoveMySwitches (US). They were very supportive. I showed them what I wanted to do with a 3-position 4PDT. They added it to their inventory. (If you wanted black or gold finish, you could talk to them.).

I also saw a nice selection (including black and gold finish) at BanzaiMusic (Germany). I don't think they had the 4PDT switch. Taiway's web site lists regional representatives who should be able to help locate sellers in other regions.

[2] The so-called "Albert King tone" manipulates only the neck's hot and ground wires. A 4-conductor lead carries two separate grounds: the coil ground (the green wire, per Seymour Duncan's color code), and the pickup frame's ground (plus shield). The Special-II's humbuckers combine those two grounds into one.

The problem: the OOP portion of "Al King tone" requires the 4-conductor's black & green wires be reversed (Seymour Duncan color codes for hot and coil-ground, respectively). When you do this with your 1-conductor lead, your shield becomes part of the "hot" wire. This will result in hum when you touch the strings, or are near noisy electrical devices.

The solution is to replace the leads with 4-conductor (plus ground) wire. That's not hard to do (see my other mod: convert Special-II pickups from 1-conductor to 4-). But, 1-cond isn't terrible either. It could be worth implementing before delving into 4-conductor wiring. The switch will work either way. It could be a "baby step" along the way to doing everything.

[3] After converting your pickups to 4-conductor, you might feel comfortable swapping magnets, or creating "hybrid" pickups. See the 1-conductor to 4- mod, Post #1, footnote 3.
 
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az2000

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Wiring mod #1: "Albert King tone" (Humbuckers wired out-of-phase and serial)

This mod involves humbuckers wired out-of-phase (OOP) and in series. I've seen many references to OOP, and planned to do it. I've also seen serial humbuckers wiring. But, it didn't sound good to me. I found this "Al King tone" diagram[1] and realized the two sound great together:

Diagrams: "Albert King tone" (original 2-position & my 3-position) example

(Click for larger)
PDF version attached as "Albert King tone - original & 3-position example.PDF"
[NOTE: It's not easy to see in the original diagram: the bridge's green and bare-ground wires both go to ground on top of the bridge's volume pot.]

The original diagram uses a 2-position push-pull pot (down: normal wiring, up: "Al King tone"). I modified that to use a 3-position toggle switch (OOP-only in the middle position.). OOP by itself is a slightly different sound, and commonly used. It seemed worth having.

That diagram shows 1) out-of-phase humbuckers (the diagonal blue wire across the switch), and 2) humbuckers wired in series (the neck's black wire goes to the bridge's black wire. If OOP was removed from that diagram, the neck's green wire would go to the bridge's black wire, which constitutes serial wiring.[2]).

I'm still unclear what makes this serialized. I believe both pickups are entirely serialized when the pickup selector is in the neck position. However, when both pickups are engaged it appears to be a variable serial circuit, depending upon each pickup's volume. (That could explain why this wiring sounded better to me than when I tried to combine a more obvious serial-humbucker wiring diagram with an OOP diagram.).

Note: This is another example of separate vol/tone controls for each pickup (my dual-concentric mod) gives more tonal range: The above "variably serial" won't apply to the Special-II's "master" (one vol, tone for both pickups) wiring.​

1. Wiring
This post will modify my guitar's current wiring:

Diagram: Special-II wiring with dual-concentric pots & 4-conductor pickups

(click for larger)
PDF version attached to the 1-conductor to 4-conductor mod's Post #1.

If you've performed either of my two previous mods, you should have a diagram of your current wiring.

Note: Using the Special-II's original 1-conductor pickup leads?
If you haven't converted your 1-conductor leads to 4-conductor, with one caveat[3] you can use your original one-conductor pickups. You'll use your neck pickup's single hot wire (mine was white), and its bare ground wire. Translate your wires into the diagram's black (hot) & green (coil-ground), respectively.

BTW: If you haven't converted to dual-concentric pots, a diagram of your Special-II's factory wiring can be found in that mod's first post.​

The following diagram shows my wiring after doing this mod:

Diagrams: Dual-concentric (2-vol, 2-tone) + 4-conductor pickups + "Al King tone"

(Click for larger)
PDF version attached as "Dual-concentric, 4-cond, Al King tone.PDF"

If you haven't done my first mod (dual-concentric pots), but have done my second (4-conductor leads), this will be your wiring after doing this mod:

Diagrams: Original "master" wiring + 4-conductor pickups + "Al King tone"

(Click for larger)
PDF version attached as "Special-II original 1vol & tone, 4-cond, Al King tone.PDF"

2. Switches
I used these Taiway Series-100 mini-toggle switches:[5]

Taiway Series-100 mini toggle, short-lever switches

(Click for larger)
2-position DPDT (on-on) #100-DP1-T200B1M1QE
3-position 4PDT (on-on-on) #100-4P6-T200B1M1QE

Normal-length levers may be better if you need to manipulate the switch mid-song. But, for a couch guitar that I want to learn with, trying to keep it looking original/low-profile, I really like that stubby lever(!).

This mod can be done with either of those switches. It's up to you whether you want the extra choice of OOP-only in the middle position. (I used the 3-position 4PDT.).

3. Finish washers
This was a surprisingly challenging topic. First, the Taiway switches don't come with a finish washer. They come with a keyed washer to use underneath to prevent the switch from rotating. And a star washer. I didn't use either. (You definitely wouldn't use the star washer on the guitar's finish side. I think these parts are for installing the switch in a box or on a panel.).

Second: the next mod (coil switching) can use two switches side-by-side. That leaves very little room for finish washers.

Third: washers you find at the hardware store are thick, load-bearing. Even the smallest ones stand out a bit much (and might not fit together with two switches mounted side by side, which happens in the next mod).

Fourth: I was tempted to not worry about this topic until I get to the next mod. But, using a larger washer (that you intend to replace with a smaller) might leave an imprint or scratch on the guitar's finish (called "raccoon eyes").

Eventually I discovered "shim" washers. They're very thin, and not wide (not much exposed). But, shim washers are hard to find. They're specialized for precision applications (gunsmiths, hobbiests?). I found some stainless shim washers on Amazon.[6] They're only 0.016" thick and 0.3775" wide. They're nicely proportional to the switch's hex nut (.06" thick; .313" across the flats; .357" across the peaks.). More importantly (for the next mod): they'll look proportional with two switches installed side-by-side.

Note: I have some spare shim washers. If you're doing this mod in the US, I can help you out (use the forum's private message feature to contact me).

3.1. More options
LoveMySwitches sells a pack of 10 "flat toggle washers - mini size." I have some. They are 0.033" thick, 0.470" OD, 0.249 ID. That's smaller, thinner, better-fitting than anything I found at the hardware store.

But, the DPDT switch housing is 0.46" wide. So, these washers will almost touch if you use two switches side-by-side (which is possible in the next mod). That might not look right. Also, I think they're nickle (or zinc) plated—which means you can't file/redimension them (removing the finish would lead to rust.).

Before I discovered shim washers, I considered redimensioning an ordinary (hardware-store) stainless washer this way:
  • Choose the best size washer (enlarge the hole using a hand reamer, if necessary).
  • Reduce washer diameter:
    • Superglue the washer to the head of a long screw.
    • Lock the threaded end of that screw into a drill chuck.
    • Spin the washer against a file to reduce the outside diameter.
    • Polish the outer edge using 400, 800 & 1200 sandpaper.
    • Use acetone to "unglue" the washer from the screw head.
  • Reduce washer thickness:
    • Superglue that same washer flat against a small block of wood.
    • Use that block as a "sanding block" against a file laying flat on a table.
    • When it's thin enough, polish using 400, 800 & 1200 sandpaper.
That sounds tedious. But, if you want a right-sized washer, and can't find (or afford) shim washers, you can make your own. (Remember: you can't do this with zinc-plated washers. It will expose bare steel, which will rust. It must be stainless.).

If you don't want to get too deep into this topic now, you might try a 1/4" OD rubber o-ring. That will protect the finish from the nut. I would refrain from using a random steel washer as a temporary solution. It could leave a visible ring in the finish when you replace it with a smaller washer.​

4. Positioning the switch (deciding where to drill)
Follow these steps:
  1. Remove the knob and "Rhythm/Treble" faceplate (don't remove the pot and switch yet).
  2. Put a piece of masking tape on the guitar's finish between those two controls. (Be generous, cover a lot of finish. Protect it from scratches while you work. Tape's cheap.).
  3. Reinstall the knob and faceplate.
  4. Trace their profile onto the tape.
  5. Unsolder and remove the pots and 3-way pickup selector from the cavity.
  6. Use a ruler to draw a centerline from neck (pot) hole to 3-way hole.
  7. Mark the middle of that line (between the outline of knob and faceplate).
IMPORTANT: Turn your pots to zero before unsoldering them. Any other location could result in a scratchy sounding pot. I've read that the heat could damage the disk insie the pot. "Zero" means zero on your knob (no sound), which is also zero resistance in the pot (all the signal going to ground instead of the jack). In this location, any scratching sound wouldn't be obvious because it's going to ground.

Also, don't press hard when tracing the line. (You don't want to create a visible depression in your finish.)

Hint: masking tape can be more adhesive than necessary. I've been pressing it against my pant legs before using it. (This probably isn't a problem for the Special-II's thick poly finish. But, other/vintage guitars might be damaged by the too much "sticktoitiveness."
You should end up with something like this:

Finding the location to drill the hole

Original image

NOTE: Another reason it may be useful to do the dual-concentric mod first: this switch will be centered between the knob and "Rhythm/Treble" faceplate. If you ever change your knobs to a different size, the switch may not be centered. Since the dual-concentric mod forces you to consider your choice of knobs, it could be better to do that first. (The knob I used was almost the same diameter as the factory "speed knob." In that case it won't matter. But, if you opted for mini knobs, that would affect where you drill this hole).

Related to that thought: I replaced my factory 3-way selector's faceplate because the lettering was wearing off. The aftermarket faceplate was slightly smaller diameter (1.327". My factory faceplate was 1.35".). Considering how tight the next mod's two switches can be, it might be worth replacing the faceplate now. (FWIW: My new plate is half the thickness. This caused my 3-way selector to extend a little to high above the faceplate.).​

5. Drilling the hole
The switch's threaded bushing is 0.238" diameter (0.350" tall). You might be tempted to drill a 1/4" hole. However, drilling a hole in a guitar isn't as simple as you'd think. Ordinary (round) drill bits can grab/lift/chip the thick poly finish off the wood. They can also gouge a chunk of wood out (especially if you're trying to enlarge an existing hole).

I spent a lot of time googling about "drilling holes in guitars." A quick summary:
  1. Forstner and "(FISCH) brad-point twist bits" are used by woodworkers for this kind of work. These bits cut an outer edge first. (If you had an existing hole, you'd plug it with a dowel, then re-drill it with the bit. Using an ordinary round drill bit to enlarge such a hole can gouge chunks out, split the wood.).
  2. Some people use a small acorn-shaped dremel bit (with wavy fins on its side) to grind the finish down to the wood—wide enough that the ordinary (round) drill bit won't grab it. Then use a ordinary (round) drill bit to drill the wood. (I've seen a more pointy version of this which looks more like a triangle than an acorn. I also saw people say they use "countersink" drill bits. Perhaps more for "dressing" the finish-edge of the hole, so it doesn't grab/hang upon the part inserted into it. The dremel bits would work for that too.).
  3. A "step drill" is made for drilling holes.
  4. Run an ordinary (round) drill bit in reverse to remove the finish before drilling into the wood (in forward). This is said to heat the finish, softening it. (I've also seen recommendations to use a hairdryer to do the same, with any of the above.).
My conclusions: 1) I don't want to spend $20 USD on a forstner bit. Plus, the shim washer doesn't have much width (to cover much beyond the hole). I need a snug, clean edge around the hole. I'd be nervous creating a hole in one shot might not have a snug, clean edge. 2) I don't have much dremel experience. I get a mental image of that acorn-shaped thing "skating" across the finish of my guitar. 3) I've used "step drills." They can be a little rough around the edges. But, more importantly, they aren't meant to drill a deep hole. By the time I got to the other side of the wood, the next "step" would be cutting into the first side.

I decided drill the hole this way:

5.1. Pilot hole
Drill a 3/32" (0.094") pilot hole to help prevent the next steps from "drifting." (This drill bit is small enough that it shouldn't grab the finish. No need to run it in reverse first.).

Pilot hole drilled

(click for larger)

Note: I used a punch to make an indentation before drilling. I thought this would help the hole start without the bit drifting. But, I didn't feel good striking my guitar. That might not be a good idea. But, that's what I did.

5.2. Reverse drill to grind the poly finish away
Use a 3/16" (0.188") bit in reverse to remove finish. (The pilot hole will reduce the potential to drift.)

Poly finish ground away

(click for larger)

5.3. Drill hole closer to final size
Drill a 11/64" (0.172") hole. This is one size smaller than the bit used in reverse. I.e., the finish will be removed slightly past what this bit could reach (and possibly lift/chip).

Hole enlarged for reaming

(click for larger)

5.4. Ream the hole to final size
Use a reamer to enlarge that 0.172" hole approximately 0.066", until the switch fits snugly in the hole.

Hole reamed to final size

(click for larger)

I used this inexpensive reamer:

Harbor Freight T-handle reamer (capacity: 1/8"-1/2")

(click for larger)

Because reamers are tapered, you won't get the same size hole on both sides. Since you want a tight fit at the finish-side of the guitar, you should ream the hole from the cavity side. (Go slow, and check the fit frequently. It doesn't take many twists.

When removing the reamer: don't rock it back and forth to wiggle it out. Instead, twist and let it work it's way out. I think I created some hexagonal indents, seen in the following photos.).

Also, the reamer's handle has a tendency to fall out. It could hit your guitar. Wrap some electrical tape on it so it won't slip out.

Because the hole will be tapered from the cavity side, you'll know you're close when the threaded bushing slips in from that side. At that point, continue reaming from the cavity side, but test the switch fitting through the hole from the finish side.

Don't force the switch in; don't wiggle it if it's tight, don't thread it into a tight hole. Remember: the hole is tapered. When you're that close to it slipping in, it's entirely the thick poly finish hanging on the threads. If you force it, twist it, push/pull hard, you could lift the finish off the wood (causing the same thing as what you tried to avoid with tedious drilling).

When you're at (or near) that point, you can ream from the finish side to remove enough finish for the switch to just clear the finish. Then, go back to the cavity side. If you do it that way: don't ream too much from the finish side. Just enough for the switch's threaded bushing to clear the finish. Remember: you want a snug fit on the finish side. But, not tight against the finish.

That may sound tedious, or overkill. I could have drilled a 1/8" (0.125") hole; ream that to 0.238. But, that's a lot of reaming. Or, I could have started with the 11/64" (0.172") hole. But, that could be large enough to chip or lift the finish. (I would have had to reverse-drill the finish first. But, then I wouldn't feel comfortable reverse grinding without a pilot hole to help keep it from "drifting".).

Which takes me back to the pilot hole: A larger pilot hole would definitely work better to hold the reverse-grind centered. But, whenever you enlarge an existing hole (in forward), these drill bits are more likely to grab and rip out a chunk of wood/surface, especially if the hole's size is closer to the bit you're using. (This is why it's so risky to use these bits to enlarge tuner holes. It's easy to split the headstock when the slightly larger bit "grabs" into the existing hole. The reamer you used here will be perfect for that job.).

That was my reasoning for how I did it. "Better safe than sorry."

5.5. Dress (bevel) the edge
The resulting finish edge is sharp:

Drilled finish edge

(click for larger)

Note: I think I see indications of the finish cracking/lifting. I think this was because I pushed/twisted/wiggled the switch when it was still tight in the hole (snagged against the finish. The above warning against that came to my mind as I started to do it. I didn't do it much.). The damage isn't much. But, I bet that was it. (In the next mod, I drilled two holes. Neither had that appearance.).

I also see some hexagonal shape to the hole. I think I rocked the reamer to remove it (wiggling it back and forth). I didn't think of it at the time. But, the reamer should continue to be turned as you lightly pull up. Don't just stop and wiggle it out. (I'm pretty sure I did that.).​

I've read that the finish edge should be beveled using a "countersink" bit so the finish won't "catch" on the part being inserted/removed. That's probably more important for bushings pressed tightly in (and could lift the finish when removed). That seems like a good idea in this case. The sharp edge feels like it's inviting a problem.

I was too lazy to go to Harbor Freight for countersink bits. My dremel came with this stone:

Round dremel bit to bevel the edge

(click for larger)

That might be too flat. Maybe 45-degree angle would be better. Just rotate it carefully between your fingers. This is what it looked like with the edge smoothed off:

Edge dressed

(click for larger)

6. Enlarging the cavity
After you drill your hole, you'll notice that it's too close to the wall "bulge" inside the cavity. The bottom of that bulge needs to be ground back about 3/16" inch. This creates an "overhang" above the switch:

Cavity bulge ground back

Original image


Alternate views

(click for larger)

I accidentally bumped into the top of that bulge. (No big deal. I have leftover adhesive shielding. But, I thought I was being careful. That's how easy it is.). Tape your pickup wires back; maybe even put a kitchen spoon in front of them for protection. (If the dremel touches those for even a moment, you'll have another project to do.).

WARNING: Protect you eyes. That's always a good idea. But, copper is metal. Even though it's foil, it can do damage (like metal) at high speeds.​

From the photo, it's hard to tell how much material I removed. The semi-circle on the cavity floor is where the bulge was.

After removing the finish from the cavity floor, the thickness of my guitar's front was just right for the length of the switch's threaded shaft (0.350" long). I will apply a square of adhesive shield over the newly-exposed areas. That should cause the switch to be at a perfect height. If the finish had remained on the floor of the cavity, the exposed switch threads would have been a little too short.

I used these two grinding attachments:

Dremel grinding attachments

(click for larger)

The steel tool removes material fast. The stone works slower; easier to control. The stone was good for making the bottom flat, and remove the finish from the floor of the cavity.

This photo shows what the cavity looks like (how much space you have) with the switch installed.

Checking how the switch fits

Original image
[NOTE: I hadn't yet applied new copper shield to the areas where it was worn away.]

The only noteworthy thing about that photo: I rotated the neck pot counter-clockwise (from where it was in my dual-concentric mod, see the next photo.). A lug on the pot was touching the side of the switch (which is metal, grounded). I rotated the bridge pot too.

Hint: Your 3-way pickup selector is "cocked" a little (inside the cavity; i.e., it doesn't point to the ends of the cavity). That's so the lever travels along the same axis as your tailpiece. You can try to orient this toggle switch similarly. The next mod involves switches on the other side of the 3-way selector. That line (between 3-way and bridge knob) is almost square with the tailpiece. I.e., those switches travel the same axis as the 3-way.

UPDATE: I would grind a little higher up the bulge. It was a bit of a struggle to get the switch into the cavity. I realized the toggle is catching on the bulge "overhang." If the carved out space were taller, it would probably "tip into" the hole easier.​

7. Wiring harness
You need a template ("jig") to wire everything together outside the guitar. I made this for my first mod, dual-concentric mod, post #3:

My wiring-harness jig

(click for larger)

I used that same jig for this project, adding the hole for this switch. Just line up the existing holes and mark the new one. Be sure to put masking tape on your finish or you'll scratch it. (Per the previous photo: I rotated the pots so their lugs face further away from each other.).

8. Soldering
If you've done either of my first two mods, this step should be easy. There will be more soldering, in tighter spaces. But, for me, much less stressful than drilling a hole in my guitar.

Soldering basics (warning)
If you haven't done my first two mods, you should read my hints/warnings about soldering in the dual-concentric mod, post #3, and 4-conductor mod, post #1. Items like these mini toggle switches are easy to destroy with heat. I talk about that issue, especially in the dual-concentric's 3rd post.

The key seems to be: use a solder iron that has enough watts to drive the tip, and heat the solder joint quickly. Low-power irons could cause you to sit there for 30 seconds, applying heat (which will melt the switch). You just want to touch the iron for 2-3 seconds. Don't think that the iron is suitable just because solder melts when it touches the tip. The problem with low-watt irons is that the item being soldered (the switch) will draw heat from the iron faster than it can be replaced. You end up heating the entire piece hot enough to melt solder. You don't necessarily want a hotter iron, but one that can react to heat loss and drive it back quickly. One that stays hot. (In the dual-concentric's 3rd post I show an inexpensive iron which has worked well for me. It's listed as a 50-watt, but draws 80+ when plugged. That kind of variable drive is what you want.).

It's also smart to "tin" the wires and switch lugs. (Give lots of time between tinning multiple lugs; or tinning and soldering a single lug. Heat could accumulate in the switch, making it hotter with each touch of the iron.). If both pieces are tinned (pre-soldered), you should be able to just hold the wire to the lug, heat the joint till it wets, and stop. (No need to apply solder while you do this.). Try to hold the wire steady for 4-5 seconds after you take the iron away. Don't blow on it to "help" it cool. That's how bad solder joints happen.

Reminder: Turn your pots to zero before soldering. Any other location could result in a scratchy sounding pot. Heat can damage the disk inside the pot. ("Zero" means zero on your knob. That's zero resistance in the pot—all the signal going to ground instead of the jack). In this location, any scratching sound wouldn't be heard because it's going to ground.​

I used 22 gauge solid wire to make the connections. I like solid wire because it adds rigidity to the harness, creating a "skeleton," making it easier to transfer it in/out of the cavity. However, solid wire will weaken & break when flexed a few times.

However, this mod required so much rearranging, fitting, etc., that the solid wire made me nervous. You should probably use more stranded wire than I did. It's more forgiving. Solid is better for short, fixed connections. (The longer connections act like a lever upon the solid.).

I used 22 ga stranded wire to make "pigtails" where the pickup wires connect. That will be easier to solder to after installing the harness into the cavity.

Harness soldering complete

(Original photo)


Alternate views

(click for larger)

Instead of pigtails, I could remove the harness from the jig, rest it half into the cavity, solder the pickup wires where they go. But, I anticipate replacing the magnets in my pickups, maybe other things. I think having pigtails will make it easier to work on the pickups without disturbing the harness.

UPDATE: The switch's threaded bushing has a "keyway" (a slot). It's better (aesthetically) to orient the switch so that faces down. I oriented mine up (without thinking about it.). I just noticed it in the photos. It would have been slightly better to point that down. It's a small detail and can't hardly be seen. But, it's something to be aware of.​

I temporarily wired the harness to the pickup wires, and verified that it works.

Listening to the harness

(click for larger)

It sounded great!

9. Installing the harness
It can be difficult guiding the pots and switches into their holes. There's not as much room for your fingers to shove things where they need to go. I used a small (jeweler) screwdriver to push pot shafts and toggle levers toward their holes.

UPDATE: I didn't dremel away the "bulge" high enough. The toggle switch hangs a little when tipping it into the hole. If that material was removed a little further up, it will help things fall into place.​

You should have soldered "pigtails" where the pickups connect to the harness. All you have to do is solder the pickup wires this way:
  • The neck's black & green wires go to their respective switch pigtails.
  • The bridge's black wire solders to two pigtails:
    • The bridge's volume pot.
    • The switch, where it connects to the bridge's volume pot.
There are also three ground wires to solder to the ground bus:
  • The two pickup bare grounds.
  • The ground wire from the bridge bushing.
This is what mine looks like installed (switch is in the DOWN position, normal wiring):

Installed

Original image


Alternate views

(click for larger)
[Note: Mirror finish courtesy Turtle Wax Express Shine.]

The next mod will unsolder some of this mod's wiring. After doing this mod, it seemed like it would be more efficient to do this and the next mod as one project. But, that would have been overwhelming. Drilling this mod's one hole was the most stressful part for me. The next mod will use two holes (almost zero room for error). Doing this mod by itself (and hearing it work) alleviates a lot of anxiety.

10. Additional thoughts
10.1. A "dress ring" would improve the switch's appearance:

"Dress ring"

(click for larger)

I'm not sure what the trade name is for that hardware. I believe I saw it called "dress ring," "finish ring," "knurled nut," or "knurled ring." The switch's thread is "1/4-40 UNS." I was unable to find one of these. I'm sure they exist. The problem is Google ("dress ring" returns wedding-related results.).

10.2. I think my 3-way pickup-selector's threads protrude too far. In the next mod (coil switches) I will use a washer (inside the cavity) to lower the 3-way.

This is probably due to me replacing the factory faceplate (mentioned in step 4 "positioning the switch"). The new faceplate is about half the thickness. Plus, the Special-II comes with a finish washer over the factory faceplate. From photos I've seen, higher-end Les Pauls don't have that washer. So, didn't use it when I installed the new faceplate. Those two factors probably make the 3-way's exposed threads look tall.
10.3. Since the photos show this, I'll mention it again: after the soldering step, I realized I should have oriented the switch 180 degrees so the "keyway" (a vertical slot in the threads) faces down. You'll get a slightly cleaner look doing that.

10.4. I've been saying "use masking tape." Sometimes that tape has been strongly adhered to the finish. Lately I've been pressing it against my pant leg to reduce it's sticktoitiveness. I think I need to go back to past posts and add that qualifier. (Or, use painters tape.).​
==Footnotes:
[1] I don't recall where I found the original "Albert King tone" diagram. A tineye image search produces many copies.

[2] When I converted my pickups to 4-conductor, I temporarily wired the "Al King tone" diagram. It sounded good. But, the diagram didn't look as clearly "serial" as others I'd seen. Since I wasn't confident in the diagram's pedigree (nor it's invocation of Albert King), I tried a different "serial humbuckers" diagram, and added OOP to it. That didn't sound as good to me. Being uncomfortable advancing the above diagram as "serial" (not understanding it), I asked on the forum if this diagram is indeed serial. It was confirmed to be.

[3] Wiring this with the Special-II's one-conductor pickup leads can cause hum. See Post #1, footnote 2.

[4] Seymour Duncan color codes:
BLACK = start of stud/north coil
WHITE = finish of stud/north coil
RED = finish of adjustable/south coil​
GREEN = start of adjustable/south coil​

Remember:
  • South is screw side; north is slug side.
  • The White & Red wires are usually soldered together and taped for serial coil wiring.
  • Green is ground and Black is hot/Output.
[5] For datasheet and dimensional drawings, see the individual product pages at LoveMySwitches. See Post #1, footnote 1 for more resources, and the possibility for black or gold finish.

My 2-pos DPDT is 0.46"W x 0.51"L x 0.52"T (the body only, including lugs)
My 3-pos 4PDT is 0.50"W x 0.86"L x 0.57"T

[6] I found the largest selection of shim washers at: amazon.com/dp/B00AVZ2UJI/

The one I bought is ASIN# B004K1FF0K (1/4" Bolt Size; 0.250-0.255" ID; .375-.380" OD; 0.016" Thick). When you click that item, it takes you to this page: amazon.com/dp/B004K1FF0K/

That page shows the seller's model number: Z9796.

If those pages disappear, it may be discoverable using the ASIN or model number. The Amazon seller is named "Small Parts:"

amazon.com/Small-Parts/b/ref=bl_dp_s_web_3041233011?ie=UTF8&node=3041233011&field-lbr_brands_browse-bin=Small+Parts​

I think that's Amazon's own mega-merchandising—which might not be committed to selling this item (as an actual seller would be who is engaged in the business of precision hardware).

Something tells me that may not be a long-term place to find this washer.
 

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Riffster

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Wow, thanks for the very cool detailed post.

I bought a cheap B.C. Rich Bich recently. it has a simple volume/tone/toggle and I intend to add 3 toggle switches and a set of GFS pickups that I already had. I am also adding a killswitch.
 

BadPenguin

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Personally, if I wanted to go that rout, I would use the Gibson 6 way switch diagram for the L6s. Switches are like 12 bucks on feebay.

images1MEMOUJZ.jpg
 

az2000

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Personally, if I wanted to go that rout, I would use the Gibson 6 way switch diagram for the L6s. Switches are like 12 bucks on feebay.
I saw those. I thought the stubby toggle lever would stand out less (and be easier to actuate) than a knob. Plus, I would have to use toggles for the upcoming coil-switching mod. I think that wouldn't look right together.

Also, I never saw dimensions for that rotary switch. Space was a concern for me. I've seen the rotary's required cavity height is 1-5/16" (1.313"). That's 2x taller than the switch. The Special-II's cavity isn't very big. Just from the product photos, I'm sure that rotary switch consumes more sideways space too. That might be a problem.

The 4PDT toggle switch is 0.610" tall (in the cavity), 0.855" long, and 0.50" wide. That's a tight fit by itself.

EDIT: It occurred to me you might have been replying to @Riffster . Which brought to mind the (rather pricey) "freeway" 6-way pickup selector switch. (Stewmac has them.). That might fit over the toggle switches I'm doing. That might be an effective kill switch. Just knock the selector over to the other 3 positions. One could be dead. That would also leave 2 positions for something else.

That switch was what I initially planned to use. It seemed like a "free way" to get more choices without drilling holes. :) But, I read a couple people saying the switch can be fiddly. It doesn't reliably make connections. (I understood what that's like when I realized my own 3-way pickup selector was doing that.).
 
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BadPenguin

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I have a freeway in an Ibanez I have. Once you get used to it, it's worth the price.
 

az2000

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Wiring mod #2: Single-coil (cut & parallel) wiring — PART 1 of 3

This post will modify my Special-II's humbucker wiring to include single-coil ("cut"), and parallel coils (which sounds like single-coil, while retaining dual-coil humbucking).

I was inspired by this diagram:

Diagrams: 3-position toggle + serial & serial, cut (north/slug active) & parallel coil wiring

(Click for larger)
[Originals at 1728.com (archived)]

That is a 3-position DPDT (on-on-on) switch. Notice the staggered lug connections when the lever is in the CENTER position. (The grayed out diagram is a different type of 3-position switch called "center on," where all the lugs are connected in CENTER. Be sure to get the correct type.).

- In the DOWN position: the middle lugs connect to the top lugs. That's normal (serial) wiring: the red & white coil wires are connected, creating serial coils. (I.e., one coil's ground—the white—is connected to the other coil's hot: red.).

- When UP: the middle lugs connect to the bottom. That's parallel wiring, as shown in this diagram:

Diagram: parallel coils

(Click for larger)
[Original at 1728.com (archived)]

- The CENTER position is harder to understand.

Remember: the contacts are staggered. For me, the easiest way to think about it: both coil grounds (green & white) go to ground. But, only the north/stud's hot (black) goes to the volume pot. The south/screw's hot (red) goes nowhere. Therefore, the active coil is the north/stud coil.

That "cut" wiring is called "conventional" (at least, on that site).

Which coil should be active?
There is another type of wiring called "inside-out" ("alternative" on that site). It makes the south/screw coil active. This may produce more tonal difference, especially in the bridge position. For more info, see this 1728 page: "Coil Cut Switching" (archived). It also suggests mixing which coils are active (ex., north/stud in the neck + south/screw in the bridge).

Note: That page uses DiMarzio colors. I had trouble translating it into my wiring. I modified these two diagrams to use Seymour Duncan colors. These should help you translate the diagrams on that page to your wiring.

Diagrams: "Conventional" & "Alternate"

(Click for larger)
[Original at 1728.com (archived)]

Before soldering the switches you can use jumper wires to experiment.

You might also consider using Seymour Duncan "Triple Shot" rings (two slider switches built into the humbucker rings). These let you easily experiment with those coil choices. See Mod #3 "Triple shot" + 50s/modern tone wiring. (That's a future mod I'll do. It could be done now using the wiring diagram in that post. It uses the same holes, but different switches: two-position 3PDT on-on.).

FWIW: If you didn't want "cut" (were happy with serial & parallel coils), you would use a 2-position DPDT (on-on) switch. It would work the same as above, without a middle position.

If you wanted only serial & cut (instead of parallel), see that 1728 page linked above.​

The following steps are almost identical to the previous "Albert King tone" mod. I'll only describe what's different. Be sure to read that mod for very important info which applies here too.

1. Wiring
This post modifies the wiring which resulted from the earlier "Al King tone" mod.

The following diagram shows my wiring after this mod:

Diagram: Dual-concentric (2-vol, 2-tone) + 4-conductor pickups + "Al King tone" + coil switches

(Click for larger)
PDF version attached to post as "Dual-concentric, 4-cond, Al King tone, coil switches.PDF"

If you haven't done my first mod (dual-concentric pots), but have done my second (4-conductor leads), this will be your wiring after doing this mod:

Diagrams: Original "master" wiring + 4-conductor pickups + "Al King tone" + coil switches

(Click for larger)
PDF version attached to post as "Special-II original 1vol & tone, 4-cond, Al King tone, coil switches.PDF"

Note: If anyone wants to modify any diagrams, private message me and I can share the .odg files (open document graphics format; created in LibreOffice Draw.).​

2. Switches
I'm using two of these Taiway toggle switches:[1]

Taiway Series-100 mini toggle, short-lever switches

(Click for larger)
3-position DPDT (on-on-on) #100-DP6-T200B1M1QE

One switch or two? I'm installing two DPDT (on-on-on) switches to separately control each pickup. Instead, you can use one 4PDT (on-on-on) to control both pickups in tandem. The wiring is the same. Wire the 4PDT lugs as if you're looking at two DPDT switches side by side.​

3. Finish washers
The washers' size is much more important in this mod. I obsessed about that topic in step #3 of the "Al King tone" mod.

4. Positioning the switch
The only difference here is that I need two holes. I initially intended to place them side-by-side between the faceplate and knob. But, that looked too crowded. I'll go ahead and explain what I did up to that point.

Like the "Al King tone" mod, I marked the middle of the centerline (between the knob and pickup-selector faceplate). But, instead of that being where to drilll, it indicates where the sides of two switches touch. To find where to drill, mark half the width of a switch each side of that midpoint:

Finding the location to drill

(Original image)

This time I drew lines across the holes' top & bottom edges. That helped me see the centerline. (I put a pen inside the hole, pushed the ruler against it.). Reminder: Don't press too hard with the pencil. You could score the finish, leaving a visible indent.

Using a small plastic clamp to hold the switches together (for easier handling), and thinking of the levers as the "center" of the switches, I eyeballed where the levers touched:

Sanity check

(Click for larger)

However, the switches angle inward. The switches' bottoms (the lug area, at the top of the photo) is slightly wider, causing the levers to angle inward a little. (The holes need to be a little further apart than the levers suggest. In fact, the marks are a little further apart.).

These photos demonstrate how there's no room for placement error:

Imagining what it will look like

(Click for larger)
[Note: I have my original 3-way toggle (I replaced it with a Switchcraft #EP-4066-000), and a spare dual-concentric pot. I installed them to better imagine what it will look like.]

If you put too much space between those switches, the finish washers will touch the faceplate or knob (although the knob will accommodate that because it will be suspended a little above the finish). Too little space: one switch won't fit in its hole. (Together these switches are 0.92" wide. The one I used in the "Al King tone" mod was 0.86" long. I.e., these switches, inside the cavity, will also be a little closer to the pot.).

In the previous ("Al King tone") mod I stressed keeping the hole snug to the shaft. In this mod, some play will probably be beneficial. Reaming a tenth of an inch further will provide a lot of adjustment within that limited space.

Having second thoughts:
The above seems crowded. Now that I see it, I'm not thrilled with the aesthetics. I ended up deciding on vertically stacked switches (vertical lever travel):

Imagining what it will look like

(Click for larger)
[Again: I'm using a spare 3-way & dual-concentric pot to eyeball it.]

I drew the vertical centerline parallel to the tailpiece's axis. You can lay a ruler against the tailpiece bushings, lightly(!) trace the line, then work your way back from that reference line until you have a line that intersects the horizontal centerline at the middle mark.

UPDATE: The horizontal centerline between the holes is not square with the tailpiece. The difference is small. But, after finishing this project, sometimes I think that stands out to me. I think it would be better to make the vertical centerline square with the horizontal centerline (forget the tailpiece).​

Two switches (stacked vertically, with their levers traveling vertically) are 1.0" long. That fits in the cavity (perhaps dremeling a little more bulge away). So, I marked half the length of a switch (0.25") above/below the horizontal centerline. Those are the center of each switch. (Note: these top & bottom surfaces of the switch don't narrow like the sides.).

That might not be the best arrangement to actuate the switches while playing. But, that wasn't my priority (otherwise I might have used longer levers). The alternatives aren't great either:
  1. Stack the switches vertically on their sides (horizontal lever travel). I think that would be frustrating, switches moving in different directions than the "Al King tone" switch.
  2. Do my original idea (side by side, vertical lever travel)—but 1/2" below the center line. That would have required "Al King tone" to be mounted 1/2" lower too, so it all looked consistent. I think it would also require all three bulges removed (ground flat against the cavity wall), and perhaps even deeper into the lower wall. (Then install new bulges juxtaposed: two on the top wall, one on the lower wall.).

    That wouldn't be difficult to do. (Use some wooden dowel; file one side flat, into a semi-circle; epoxy this to the side of the cavity wall. Drill new holes for the cavity cover's screws.).

    Depending on how low the switches could be, it might look really good. The might emphasize the contour of the body. I think the challenge would be the two tone switches side-by-side: How low they have to be for them to look proportionally spaced away from the faceplate & knob. If I did this mod again, I would spend more time considering that. (If the bulges were removed/juxtaposed, you could grind another 1/4" lower. It would just depend on what the switches would look like that low, or where they need to be in order to look right.).
To be continued....
While I wait for 22ga stranded wire. This seemed like a good place to break this mod into two parts. I'll post Part 2 when that's done. (That turned into a Part 3, as well.).

==Footnotes:
[1] For datasheet and dimensional drawings, see the individual product pages at LoveMySwitches. See Post #1 (this thread's intro), footnote 1 for more resources, and the possibility for black or gold finish.

My 3-pos DPDT is 0.46"W x 0.51"L x 0.52"T (the body only, including lugs)

Alternatively, this mod can be done with the 3-pos 4PDT (on-on-on) switch I used in the first wiring mod, "Al King tone". In that case, wire the lugs as if it's two of these switches side by side.
 

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az2000

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Wiring mod #2: Single-coil (cut & parallel) wiring — PART 2 of 3

4. Positioning the switch (continued)
I ended Part 1 undecided how to orient the two switches together. I finally decided (vertically stacked, vertical lever travel). I "set" the holes:

Center punched for drilling

(Click for larger)

This time I used a scribe to make the indentation into the wood (while wearing a magnifying glass clipped to my glasses, going slow, making it deeper/larger with each confirmation). Then I used the center punch to enlarge it.

WARNING: I don't know if striking your guitar with a punch is advisable. I got the idea to use a scribe from another thread, where a "pin vise" was recommended. (The post after that one is good too—about going slow, double-checking, exacting.).​

5. Drilling the holes
Once again, refer to the "Al King tone" mod for important info.

Pilot hole drilled (3/32" - 0.094")

(Click for larger)

Notice where the bottom hole entered the cavity: on the edge of the bulge. The switch is 0.50" tall (top to bottom). Therefore, half the switch will live under the bulge. I.e., over 1/4" of the bulge's base has to be removed.

Poly finish ground away (3/16" - 0.188")

(Click for larger)

WARNING: Make sure you're drill is in REVERSE before drilling. I started to drill the bottom hole forward. It sounded crunchy/crackly. Fortunately, I made another mistake at the same time: I was using the next step's smaller bit. I.e., any rough edge will have some possibility of being removed by the slightly larger bit I was supposed to use here (and did use, before taking that photo. Plus, I have even more material to ream away. Hopefully I didn't crack the finish past that.). I haven't pulled up the tape to look. If there is a problem, that could make it worse. !!! Always think three times before doing anything !!!

Hole enlarged for reaming (11/64" - 0.172")

(Click for larger)

I should have done the dremel grinding before this step. That bulge could have deflected the bit to the side, causing an off-center/oblong hole.

In preparation for reaming, I ground the bulge's base away.

Enlarging the cavity to make space for the reaming tool

(Click for larger)

Note: the dremel's "collar" rubbed against the top of the bulge. I had the grinding bit extended as far out as possible. But, still, grinding the bulge near the floor of the cavity caused the collar to touch the top of the bulge.​

Holes reamed to final size

(Click for larger)

I was able to do about half the reaming until the tool began hitting the top of the bulge. I was worried that could cause the hole to be off-center.

I ground away some material from the top of the bulge (seen in the next step's photo). That let me almost finish reaming from the cavity side. I could've dremeled more away. Instead, I reamed more from the finish side (risking a [potentially] loose fit on the finish side due to the reamer's taper.). I went back and forth (reaming from cavity side, then finish side) trying to get to the point the switch would pass through. (Remember, don't force the switch into the hole. If it's hanging on the finish, you could damage the finish in the same way you tried to avoid with multiple drilling steps.).

This is what the finish side looked:

Resulting finish edge

(click for larger)

Fortunately, my accident above (starting to drill in forward) didn't cause a problem. However, I believe I see some "hex" shape to that hole. I think I caused that by wiggling the reamer to remove it. I think the proper way is to continue twisting as you gently pull.

This is the sharp edges beveled:

Edge dressed

(click for larger)

6. Enlarging the cavity
See the "Al King tone" mod for photos of the grinding bits I used, and warnings about using a dremel in your cavity.

Reminder: The way drilling the lower switch's hole crowded the bulge, I performed this step prior to reaming the hole. Also, the top of the bulge interfered with the reamer. I ground part of the top of the bulge away then too.​

These photos show what the cavity looks like after the all the grinding was done:

Enlarged cavity

(Click for larger)

I checked how far the switch threads protrude from the finish side. Like the "Al King tone" mod: it wasn't enough. Therefore, I removed the finish down to the wood. When I replace the layer of copper shield, that will make it just about right. (I can always use two layers if I overshot this.).

It was difficult to flatten the cavity floor. Each side drops off into the existing control holes (where the floor is thinner than the rest), making it difficult to know which level I wanted to be at. Also, the dremel's collar wanted to rub against the top of the bulge.

A sanding disk might have worked better for reaching under the bulge. I've seen a larger diameter than the stone I used (more "reach"). It's important to get that part of the floor flat (where the bulge was) or the switch will tilt.​

I installed everything into the cavity to check the fit:

Checking how the switches fit

(Click for larger)

7. Wiring harness
Mark and drill the new holes in your "jig." Same as before (tape your guitar's finish so the jig doesn't scratch).

My wiring-harness jig (again)

(click for larger)

This time I remembered to orient the switches with the "keyway" slot (in the threads) down. (I didn't think to do that with the "Al King tone" switch—until after I saw the slot showing in the photos.).

Note: I'll probably orient the "Al King tone" switch (left side) so it travels vertically like the 3-way selector and these two stacked coil switches. That switch can turn that far inside the cavity. The two new switches on the right are in line with the 3-way selector's travel. I.e., the same line as the tailpiece.​

To be continued....
I'm still waiting for 22ga stranded wire. I'll post Part 3 (soldering, installation) when that's done.
 
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Jewel the Sapphire

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Very cool, following to see your finished special ii. I have one from a friend it was his first LP, maybe ill follow suit to get experience, id like to. I also have an epi les paul standard with two mini switch holes already in the top...

I need to get wire too, whats your opinion on solid core wire, and is pre tinned copper better?
 

scott 351 wins

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I contacted Dan Erlewine last year out of curiosity on how much it would cost to build a Lucy as that guitar is one of my all time favorites. Unfortunately I don't have the cash to have him build me one..

Love Albert King!! Very interesting build you are doing!!
Screenshot_20190102-083039_Gallery.jpg
 

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Norton

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Seymour Duncan Triple shoot pickup rings have switches.

Might be a Better solution than mini switches in most situations.
 

az2000

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Very cool, following to see your finished special ii. I have one from a friend it was his first LP, maybe ill follow suit to get experience, id like to.
I'm glad you're inspired to do it. I hope you'll post your results, additional thoughts here. It's not hard. You just have to double/triple think everything. I try to imagine my guitar being a $2000 model, learning things from it that I'd be afraid to do to such. Thinking of it that way (being careful, patient) maximizes what I learn from the experience (getting the most from the mistakes I make). If I didn't do that, I'd plow into it like I'm hanging shelves on the wall, expecting it to turn out ok. I'm pretty sure that would be a frustrating experience. The other day I was thinking of this project like model-ship building. I've never done that. But, I imagine it's similar (going slow, being patient).

I wanted to document my three projects (dual-concentric pots, pickup rewiring, and these switches) this way because it seems common for newbies (which I am) to want to do more with their guitar. They have a lot of passion often expressed with replacing tuners, bridge, pickups, etc. They're usually admonished not to do that ("don't sink money into a starter guitar. It will never be what you could buy for that money. Just practice and buy a better guitar."). I think that's reasonable advice. But, it's also frustrating to want to do more, and no outlet for it. I think these mods are a good alternative. More learning, for less $; making more impact on the sound than just upgrading components. Ending up with a more personalized guitar than "buying a better one." It's not a lot of money to put at risk. (I got my Special-II used for $99. If something didn't turn out right during all this... oh well. Best $99 I ever spent. And, an opportunity to get into "relicing." :) )

That was my goal when I started this stuff back in July/August. I was thinking there might be there might be other newbies (not that you are) who would welcome something different.

The next thing I'll experiment with is replacing pickup magnets. The factory pickups use ceramic magnets. Replacing those with Alinco could be a fun/inexpensive way to develop an ear for those things.

I also have an epi les paul standard with two mini switch holes already in the top...
With your additional two switches: switchable modern/50s tone wiring? Or, switch different value capacitors? Or, a switchable tone-bleed?

If I had a 4-hole guitar, I'd do the "Jimmy Page" wiring. See this diagram which looks like it. (Archived, but you have to save the image and view it from your computer.).

That's everything I'm doing, plus "serial humbuckers" by itself (not sure if that's useful. Personally, I didn't like that sound). You won't get the choice of cut or parallel coils. But, they're both single-coil sounds. It's probably redundant to have both. (For my purpose of learning more, it might be useful to be able to switch between each, hear the differences better. It will probably be pointless pretty soon.).

I need to get wire too, whats your opinion on solid core wire, and is pre tinned copper better?
I'm using 22ga. I liked solid because it makes the harness rigid, easier to handle. But, now it's getting tight, and I have to fiddle with things. I think stranded wire would be better. Solid weakens and breaks after a few flexes.

When I did the dual-concentric mod, I used stranded to connect the jack. I made a coil that tucks into the cavity; extends easily if the jack plate's removed. I'm going to use more stranded wire as I finish the coil-switches. I might replace a couple solid wires from the "Al King tone." It seems like the longer wires should be stranded. The shorter ones might be better solid, for a more rigid harness. The longer ones have more leverage, flex more.

[ EDIT: @Jewel the Sapphire , I forgot that you asked about pre-tinned wire. I haven't looked into that. All my wire wasn't. (The Gavitt 4-conductor pickup lead I used in that mod was). I thought tinned wire meant you don't have to tin it before soldering. But, there's not enough to create a solder joint (heating the two together without adding solder at the same time). When I tin the wire ends before making the joint, the amount of solder is considerably more than pre-tinned wire.

I just googled about pre-tinned wire. It sounds like its advantage is resistance to harsh environments (used in marine applications?). Maybe better conductivity for higher current applications? Beyond that, I don't know anything. I don't get the impression it matters for a guitar. But, if I considered the topic before doing these mods, I would have probably selected tinned. Just because it's "better" in some way; babying my guitar, etc.]

[EDIT again: @Jewel the Sapphire , actually I did get tinned wire. I was just tinning the pigtails and switch lugs, preparing to solder it all together. The 22ga stranded I was waiting for is tinned.[1] And, the 22ga solid I bought previously[2] is also tinned. (I wasn't paying attention.).

After I posted the previous edit, I was thinking maybe tinned is better. I don't know anything about electricity. But, I remember reading a long time ago about how electricity moves on the surface of wire. Higher current will flow deeper in the wire. But, low-current energy (like radio waves) travel on the surface. Maybe a tinned wire would prevent surface corrosion and improve that flow?]

[1] 22ga stranded, 8 colors, 5' long each, $8 USD shipped. eBay seller "longacdcwireandsupply."

[2] 22ga solid, 5 colors, 25' long each. Philmore "hook up/lead wire kit" (22ga, solid) No. 12-2276. (I found this at Fry's Electronics. I don't recall what I paid.).
 
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carydad

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Wow, you went all in! I often use the 4pole dimarzio EP1111 and go with Petrucci wiring. Add a couple push pulls and you can do a lot without changing the look of the guitar at all. That said, looks pretty cool.
 

az2000

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Wow, you went all in! I often use the 4pole dimarzio EP1111 and go with Petrucci wiring. Add a couple push pulls and you can do a lot without changing the look of the guitar at all. That said, looks pretty cool.
I hadn't heard of Petrucci wiring (nor the EP1111 switch). I googled about Petrucci wiring. It sounds interesting.

Also googled about the EP1111 switch. I saw it on Amazon for $30 USD. That switch looks almost identical to the Taiway #100-4P6-T200B1M1QE I used. The only difference: the Taiway cost $5. (I hope I don't sound too promotional, but I really like the people at LoveMySwitches. They got that switch in for me when I talked to them about it last September. I was expecting it to cost $30. That seems to be the going rate for 4PDT switches on guitar sites. Everything I saw was long-lever. That's why I contacted LoveMySwitches. They had other stubby-lever switches. I asked them to carry the 4PDT. (If I'd seen that EP1111, I would have paid $30 and never contacted LMS. Serendipity. Now you can save $15. :) ).

When I bought my used Special-II, I wanted to do mods like this, but didn't know what. Looking back on it, I would have been better off buying an LP-100 or Studio LT. Still near the "starter" range, but 4 knobs.

OTOH: if I bought a 4-knob guitar, I wouldn't have had a reason to do dual-concentric pots. That was an unusual mod. I strongly suggest it to Special-II owners (or anyone with 2 knobs). I noticed a very definite clarity or "spatial" change having the pickups on dedicated vol/tone controls. (Compared to converting the pickups to 4-conductor, and this switch mod, the dual-concentric was easy. A quick improvement in the sound.).

I wish I had a better ear for tone, more experience playing. I.e., I wish I could compare these mods to higher-end guitars. I wouldn't expect it to be equal. I understand there's matters of "tone wood," etc. But, I hear a big difference (probably due to the dual-concentric knobs, new capacitors, shielding).
 
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az2000

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Seymour Duncan Triple shoot pickup rings have switches.
I have heard that term/name, but didn't know what it was. I've been wanting switchable 50's- & modern-tone wiring for each pickup. If I used those rings I could do the coil switching there, and rewire the two toggles for 50s/modern.

The only thing is, it looks different. My primary motivation was to retain the traditional Special-II appearance. Drilling holes contradicts that. But, something about subtle toggles around the existing controls looks more traditional (to me) than the Triple-shot rings. (I'll eventually rationalize liking the rings... because I really want switchable 50s/modern.).

Something else I'm thinking about is a piezo/active bridge for a more acoustic sound. That probably requires using a router to enlarge the cavity (more than nibbling at the edges as I've done). I'd want a luthier to do that. Maybe it's possible to enlarge the Special-II's cavity into the LP Standard's cavity (while remaining 2-hole), use the Std's cover.
 

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Duncan triple shot rings are just switches in the plastic pickup mounting ring.

They give you extra switches without making holes in your guitar.

If you’ve got to have the switches I get it. But it’s sometning to look at if you’re into endless switching options.
 

carydad

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The taiway looks like a mini switch. The EP1111 is a drop in replacement for the LP toggle switch. You can get them for 20 bucks if you look around a bit. Just got another one last week. 4 pole switches can do so much. I have them in three guitars and they are all set up a little different. Basically two switches stuck together that you can cross wire so it's like flipping two switches at once. Amazing options available.
 

az2000

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The taiway looks like a mini switch. The EP1111 is a drop in replacement for the LP toggle switch.
I just googled and saw a different product photo, and could see it was full size. (The Amazon photo, I couldn't tell.). I saw that kind of switch back in August when I was investigating what to do. I assume it would fit in the cavity. But, (no offence to anyone who has those switches installed), I didn't want my mod to stand out that much. Maybe a 4-knob's space/geometry would make that switch look like it fits. But, I couldn't picture that with the Special-II.

I was planning to do the "freeway" 6-position pickup selector, and try to get one or two things wired that way (not all of it, for sure). Then I saw the stubby toggles. That looked proportional. (Not to be promotional, but I was really thankful LoveMySwitches got the 4PDT for me. I don't think I would have done this mod if not. Or, it would have been a full-size lever on one side... two stubbies on the other. Not elegant.).

Just got another one last week. 4 pole switches can do so much. I have them in three guitars and they are all set up a little different. Basically two switches stuck together that you can cross wire so it's like flipping two switches at once. Amazing options available.
I agree. I would have never thought to expand "Al King tone" to 3 positions if I hadn't seen this this switch. I was googling for switches, hoping something would stand out to me. That switch was the only 4PDT I saw with a graphic illustration of how it works, and, a suggested use for it.

Once I saw that... It all fell into place. I wish more guitar-switch sellers would do that with their product pages. Give an example of how a switch is used. Then the visitor has a switch in search of a use (instead of a use in search of a switch). If I hadn't seen that page, my eyes would still glaze over at the thought of "4PDT, whatever that means."
 

Norton

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THe freeway switches are a must for 3 pickup lp style guitars. I love them. But you’ve got to be extremely careful with your prep, solder heat and solder work.

There are lot of small connection points on those switches and the circuit board isn’t going to be as forgiving as a lug etc.

Great switches though. I very much like them. Totally worth the ca$h.
 

az2000

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I contacted Dan Erlewine last year out of curiosity on how much it would cost to build a Lucy as that guitar is one of my all time favorites. Unfortunately I don't have the cash to have him build me one.
I wonder how much of that $9500 USD is because it's from the same tree (by the same luthier)? Have you considered making one yourself, or from a kit? (I just looked at Warmoth. They have a "V-K" kit available in walnut. That might be more fun, for $9000 less. There may be better options available. I don't know anything about making a guitar.).

I'm considering doing another Special-II to give as a gift (to have it on hand for such an opportunity). I'm watching for another $99 fixer-upper. (I got mine at Guitar Center, Mesa AZ. It needed a new jackplate. It was listed on their website, but they couldn't find it. I stood around for 30 minutes until they found it in the repair shop without a repair order. I suspect they were undecided whether it was worth fixing, and had been forgotten about. I felt like I "rescued" it. :) ).

After doing one of these, it's not much work. The first time it was challenging (and time consuming). Now, I think I could do one in a weekend (dual-contentric, 4-conductor and these tone switches). Maybe even a day if I tried. That would be a unique gift, mostly gifting the labor & know-how. It's fun to do too. Something unique compared to an off-the-shelf guitar.

Maybe you'd consider doing one of these? I'd love to know what an experienced player thinks of the resulting sound, before/after, what it might be comparable to (price range).

For me, I did these mods just to have something to do, learn more, document something for new players to do (when they typically want to do more than practice, but spending money on upgraded components is often discouraged as an unwise investment, "save your money, buy a better guitar."). I didn't have high hopes that I would create an exquisite guitar. Just something unique—more personal to me, while learning things I'd be afraid to on a $500 guitar. But, I do hear a noticeable improvement in the sound quality. Now I'm curious how it ranks with higher-end guitars (notwithstanding how being a Special-II will always limit it's value compared to a higher-end guitar). I don't have the experience/ear to know.

PS: I'm going to solder the switches and install today. I hope to post Part 3 today or tomorrow.
 
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