Thursday, April 18, 2013

Silencing The Hum From A Very Noisy Squier

A customer wanted vintage pickups installed is his not-so-vintage Squier.  The neck, middle, and bridge pickups he gave to install had been taken off of a 1964 Strat.  They were in great shape and even came with the original capacitor.

But before I started the task of replacing the pickups I plugged it in and played it a bit.  It had a pretty nasty hum....well into the unacceptable range.

Below is a not very good pic of the Squier's innards.  A quick examination showed the likely cause of the annoying shielding in the pickup or pot pockets, unshielded signal wires, and minimal shielding on the underside of the pick guard....not to mention a few suspicious looking solder joints.

I'm a big fan of using conductive paint to shield the pockets of a electric like this one.  It's fast, neat, and from my experience, very effective.   Below is a pic of how I masked the Squier before applying the conductive coating to the bottom and sides of the pockets.  I also thoroughly cleaned the pockets of dust, debris, and finger oils in order to get the best possible adhesion.

Here's what the Squier looks like after 3 coats of the conductive coating.  A quick visual inspection and check with the multimeter shows that every surface, side, nook and cranny of the pockets are electrically connected.  That's what we wanted in order to have the best possible chance of silencing the hum.

If you look closely, this pic shows how I connected the newly conductive pockets to ground.  I used a small wood screw through a star washer and soldering terminal to get a solid well-gripping connection.

To complete the shielding portion of this job, I lined the entire underside of the pick guard with conductive foil and I replace all the unshielded signal wires exiting the cavities with shielded ones.  And I upgrade the 5-position switch...the original was a bit flakey....even the smallest amount of side pressure caused the pickup signal to cut out.  One last thing...I re-soldered all the cold looking joints just to be on the safe side.

I put it all back together with the vintage pickups installed, strung it up, tuned it up, and plugged it in.  Wow, what a difference.  Absolutely no hum and the new old pickups sound awesome.  I think this customer will be very pleased.

Stay Tuned.....