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Entry for March 2018's Guitar Of The Month is under way!


Difficulty: Experienced

Adjustable Pickup Mounting With Threaded Inserts

Long-time forum regular John Wallace describes his simple but effective method of direct mounting pickups to the body using threaded brass inserts; far kinder to the instrument than the standard wood screw, and adds a whole new level of class to the finished instrument.

I just finished up a build that called for direct mounted pickups. I wanted these to be adjustable but more importantly I also wanted to preserve the threads in the pickup baseplate tab threads that normally get screwed up or drilled out by using regular wood screws to mount the pickups just in case I ended up pulling them out for any reason.

I ended up using 2-56 Brass screw-to-expand inserts along with matching half inch 2-56 thread pan head screws from McMaster-Carr. These simply press into an eight inch pilot hole and are reinforced with a drop of CA glue.

These screws are slightly smaller than the existing 3-48 threads in the pickup tabs. They do catch the existing threads just a bit but they will screw through the holes but will want to grab the pickup threads when fully inserted.   To avoid any thread damage to the pickup I filed off about an eight inch of threads just underneath the screw head so it wouldn't damage the existing pickup threads once fully inserted and turned while adjusting. I did this by chucking up the screw in a drill and using a file under the head.

Machine screw and threaded brass insert

Threaded insert mounted in the pickup cavity

Machine screw test fit


I tried using these with two layers of foam under the pickup but the pickup could be pressed down pretty easily and felt kind of spongy. I fixed this by adding two pickup mounting springs cut in half. They are now quite firm and can be adjusted infinite times without worrying about the screw stripping out of the wood.





Pretty simple but it works quite well. 



John is a long-term contributor to ProjectGuitar.com, a popular Guitar Of The Month winner and a good guy all round. His sublime boutique carved-top guitars include the signature Dimple model and are sold under the John Wallace Custom Guitars marque out of San Diego.




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Posted · Report

I do the same with virtually every screw possible on my guitars though smaller ones can be difficult to source.

What i have done on my latest project was buy small brass screws with corresponding nuts the countersink the brass nut into the pickup cavity with super glue(recess is possibly more technically correct). Ultimately stops wood stripping out. And despite electric guitar mythology, anything to reduce guitar body vibration is good. Plus it just looks cool

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Would you be so kind to help me find these at McMaster-Carr? I have an account there - so would like to try this great idea on my builds. Thanks!

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I went looking for these at home depot and although it says they had some in stock, I was unable to find them.  So then I went to ace (god I love ace) and found similar.  #4 4-40 threaded inserts.  This type has flat head screwdriver grooves at the top and threads into the body as opposed to expanding.  I believe they were $.60 ea and the #4 1" brass screws I bought were $.33 ea.  Just wanted to let those in need know.

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Posted · Report

Thanks for reviving this post mistermikey

I've got a new build on the bench with surface mount pups called for. I am not near a Home Despot - but luckily I found some on amazon and some 1/4" machine screws for the pickup attachments.



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