Not for the weak minded.

“Computer Sex Corner” Never Ends Well

January 13th, 2010 Smerfj

If you know me well, you know that I have a myriad of projects that are never ending. The current project that is occupying my living room table is a combination project. I received an electric guitar from West, a talented young musician whom I met playing in the Shoreline band, about a year ago.

The guitar is a very basic strat knock-off. It is a Tradition brand stratocaster replica (3 single coil pickups), though I cannot find the model online. It has been painted a few times, the trim is quite faded, and the knobs are scratchy when turned.

I have considered buying a new guitar for a while, but I just don’t have the drive to spend a few hundred bucks on a guitar when I don’t play enough to really know what style to get. Since everything I own inevitably gets modified, I decided to go ahead and overhaul the Tradition guitar and make it worth playing on a regular basis. I knew that at a minimum I would need to replace the pots (potentiometers – they are the electronic part of the knobs) so that I could use the tone and volume controls.

So last week I began disassembling it. It was probably the least-complex device I have ever taken apart. Since it is now in pieces, I began to do some research to see what other things I could do before putting it back together. In my research, I found 3 modifications that I want to perform before assembling it.

The first modification is easy: Strip the 3 coats of paint off and refinish the body. Many layers of paint only serve to deaden the guitar and kill the resonant properties of the body. This makes sense since when I played it the sustain was lacking compared to some of the nicer guitars that my friends play.

The second modification is to revamp the electrical setup. I am ditching the 5 way switch in favor of a 5-switch modification that allows individual selection of pickups, series/parallel configuration, and phase configuration. This appeals to me because it requires minimal work and gives me some more features on the guitar. I am also replacing the tone and volume pots with 250k pots, replacing the 500k pots that came standard. The switch mod also requires a second tone cap to properly implement. The final part of the electrical revamp is star ground. Star ground is simply attaching all grounds to a single point. This is important to eliminate electrical hum in low signal strength devices.

The final modification is removing the tremolo springs and replacing the tremolo block with a piece of wood, hard mounted to the body. This will increase sustain as well. When I got the guitar it did not have a tremolo lever on it, and I don’t think I’ll use it any time soon – might as well get rid of it.

Those modifications are quite simple, and aside from buying an orbital sander to speed up paint removal, I could easily finish it this weekend.  The other part of this project is slightly more complex: A stomp-box to plug the guitar into.

I have also done quite a bit of research on stomp boxes, and settled on the “Insanity box”. I have no idea what it sounds like, but it is a good balance between complex sound capability and low complexity built. (if the site didn’t include a printed circuit board schematic, it would be quite a bit more complex…). At the moment, I have all of the components. Since I have verified that the schematic matches the pcb download, I am very tempted to just build it without attempting to design it on a test board first. I know from experience that this is a bad idea, so only time will tell whether I will jump the gun and screw it up, or not. For now though, I have a pile of parts that has invaded my living room.

If you are a computer or electronics customizer, you are familiar with this. You probably have that pile of computer parts in a corner of your bedroom or closet, or (in my case) living room. Most of the time it is small enough to ignore, but then one day you turn around and the pile is invading the room. Maybe it’s because you’re stocking up for a project, or maybe it’s just because you have accumulated too many spare parts. Whatever the reason, the parts seem to be multiplying.

A college friend of mine, Jenn, coined this the “computer sex corner”, where computer parts go to fornicate and multiply. I had completely forgot about this until I made a status post on facebook the other day that parts were taking over my living room. Her response to my update should be remembered by all of you electronics buffs- “‘Computer sex corner’ – never ends well.”