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Pot-like Switch


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Garehanman's linked thing there, those are cool and useful, but I think what you're looking for (from the original link) are rotary switches.

Lorlin makes some nice rotary switches, you can get them from Mouser.com, as well as smallbearelec.com.

Both places have other brands and types of rotary switches, I believe.

The Lorlin nylon rotary switches are smaller than the one pictured in the original link, and they're mostly enclosed, so I've found they last longer.

Small Bear has pics, check the fourth page of switches on the stock list.

I use them in homebrewed effects pedals to swap out capacitors in tone controls and such. They make them in a variety of pole and throw combos; I have some onhand here that are single pole 12 throw, and some that are double pole, 6 throw. Both of these are set up so by moving this wierd washer thing you can limit the number of positions - if you want a 5 throw switch instead of a 6 or 12, for instance, you can set it so it will only rotate through 5 positions, rather than having an extra "unused" click in the rotation, or two positions that are duplicate. They also sell some that are 3P4T and 4P3T (again with the number of throws selectable.

For some projects, I've also used the rotary switches pulled from printer/keyboard switches I got from a junk shop real cheap. Way more poles than you need for a guitar, I guess, (the printer switcher thing had DB25 connectors, so it was a 25pole, 3 throw switch - 75 wires coming off that thing! Maybe if each pole piece had it's own wire?) but if you can get them cheap, (I got mine for like a dollar a piece) they're handy, and half the wiring is already done for you (and maybe even colour-coded to boot!) Plus you get a real sturdy, fairly large metal box out of the deal. I can fit a whole bunch of DIY effects or a small practice amp in one of those.


Edited by j. pierce
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i was talking about rotary switches like garehanman said. does anyone have a diagram? i have no idea on how these switches work,i was thinking on just wiring it like a regular switch. im also thinkin in placing it where the tone pot is, cause y dont really use it, that means, no tone pot. would this ruin my guitar? maybe if i put a trimpot inside the cavity so i wont have to drill a hole for it... :D

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OKay, I'm confused again, but if we're talking rotary switches . . .

Most of the lorlin switches come with diagrams, and you can find them online as .PDFs at mouser. Otherwise, take your mulimeter and test for continuity between the connectors on the switch, check each position, and figure out how yours works.

But yeah, they work just like a regular switch, except they rotate instead of toggle or slide. The connectors are in different positions as a result, but you basically wire them the same if you're just choosing different settings, however, if this is a pickup switch and you want some settings being more than one pickup at once, it's a little more complex wiring.

You'll want to make sure that the switch you choose has the right number of "poles" (the number of connections it can switch at once - having extra is fine, you just won't use those) and the right number of "throws" (the number of positions the switch has - here, you don't want too many, because you'll have an extra switch position that you'll either have nothing [helpful if you'd like a quick "kill" switch] or switch positions that duplicate other ones.)

BTW, Radio Shack sells rotary switches, part number 275-1386.

What exactly are you doing with it? Honestly, I find that rotary switches are helpful for somethings, but playing live, I like a lever-type switch, it's easier to tell what position I'm in with a glance or a feel, and easier to switch during the course of a song. I've only used rotary switches in a guitar for swapping caps in my tone control; they work great there, I think for pickup selectors, a lever switch works better.

If you want a rotary control for pickups, I might try a "blend" control using a potentionmeter to blend between two pickups. I find it makes for a more effective tone control.

Edited by j. pierce
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Ah, here you gol from the Seymour Duncan website, a schematic for three pickups, using a 5-way rotary switch and a three way toggle:


PRS schematics with rotary switch info: (don't know how useful this will be)


THe bottom of this page has an explanation of rotary switches:


Edited by j. pierce
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ok, here's what i want:

-use the rotary switch intead of regular switch (5 position switch)

-place it where the tone pot is so i dont have to drill another hole for it

-use a trim pot inside the guitar for tone control, since i dont really use it it can be hidden inside the guitar

i hope i make myself clear :D

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Okay. I get it. (sorry, I just still wasn't sure what type of switch we talking about)

That's doable. I'm at work right now; I'll post an explanation when I get a chance (have to do it between tasks, it might be a couple hours) and if that's not clear, I'll post a diagram when I get home in the morning.

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Okay, sorry if this rambles a bit much, or if it seems dumbed down. I just jumped in and started writing.

(just a note, I don't know what convention is, when I mention "first pickup" I mean the bridge, "third pickup" means the neck, and "second pickup" is obviously the middle. When I say "position one" on the switch, I mean just the bridge pickup. By "position five", I mean just the neck pickup. I don't know if I'm following convention here or not)

Look at this:


It's a data sheet for a Lorlin rotary switch available at Mouser. It's a PDF, sorry.

I'll use this for reference.

Okay, so in the upper left is a picture of one of these things. But look down at the diagram labelled "1 Pole, 12 Positions". That's a rough represention of the back side of one of these switches, and shows how these things work.

Basically, at the point marked "A" on the diagram, in the center of the switch that's one of your poles, your common connection. You'll have a lug here, like on a pot. (The ones with pins are for mounting on circuit boards - so if you order one of these things, make sure you order one with solder lugs, so you can attach wires to it easier.) That lug should be surrounded by a ring of other connection points. (you get the idea from the picture upper left, probably.) Those are the points labelled "1" through "12" on that diagram we're looking at.

So, basically, with the rotary switch in the "first" position, the terminal at point "A" on that diagram connects to the terminal at point "1". Rotate the knob one click, and now point "A" is connected to point "2". And so on and so forth, up to twelve clicks, and you connect point "A" to point "12". Some switches can rotate back to position 1 from position 12. Some can't. This one probably can't, that usually what that broken ring in the diagram means.

So, what you could do here to switch pickups becomes fairly evident. Connect the hot lead from your first pickup to point "1". (If you want a tone control, you could connect that first, and then go to point "1"). Your second pickup goes to point "2", etc. ( Obviously you don't have 12 pickups. These Lorlin switches you can set so it won't rotate through 12 clicks. Or just buy a switch with less positions ["throws"]. )

Now, you take the connection at point "A", and run that to your output, or to your volume pot and then the output, whatever. As you rotate the switch, at each position, you'll be connected to a different pickup.

Now, the problem arises when you want more than one pickup at the same time. Standard strat type switches do this by stopping "halfway". If our rotary switch did that, you'd see point "A" would connect to both point "1" and point "2".

Unfortunetly, I don't know of any easily-obtainable rotary switches that do this.

So, say you wanted to do strat-style switching, and you don't have those "halfway" spots. You can't simply connect both the first and second pickups to the "2" terminal, since now these two are always linked electrically, and any time you're using the first pickup, the second would be connected as well. What we need to do is combine our pickups *after* the switch. So we need an extra pole.

So, back to the .PDF file I linked. Look at the next diagram, labelled "2 Pole, 6 Positions." From the back, this switch would look exactly the same as the first one we were looking at, except there's an extra terminal, where point "C" is on this diagram. This is the diagram we'll follow for the next little section of things.

This switch works basically the same way as the last one, but in double. In the first position, the terminal at point "A" will connect to point "1", *and* the terminal at point "C" will connect to point "7". Turn the knob one click; and now the terminal at point "A" will connect to point "2", and the terminal at point "C" will connect to point "8". This continues until you're at the last position on the knob, where point "A" and "6" are connected, and point "C" and "12" are connected, at which point the knob won't turn anymore. 6 "clicks". (Again, a Lorlin switch has a fancy washer that could limit it to 5 clicks, and some switches have more positions or less. I'd say leave it at six positions though, and we'll get to that in a minute.)

So, what you'd do here is connect your first pickup to point "1". Don't connnect anything to point "7". You'd connect both the terminal at "A" and the terminal at "C" to your output (or volume/tone knob and then to the output if you want that to effect all the pickups. If you want a volume or tone for each pickup, then they would go between the pickup and switch.)

But why are we connecting from terminal "C" to the output if nothing is going to "7"? (and, by relation, thus nothing goes to point "C") Well, for our next position on the knob, we want to use two pickups - so you connect the first pickup to the terminal at "2", (this first pickup, it's also connected to the terminal at "1" as well - since these are so close on the switch you can probably just bend them a little and bridge them with solder, or use a short jumper wire) and we'll connect the second pickup to the terminal at "8". Since the connections from both "A" (which is linked to "2" with out switch in this second position) and "C" (which is linked to "8" in this second position) are running to our output, we'll get both our first and second pickups at the output. We won't have the problems mentioned above, because the output of those two wires never connects until we switch it to this second position.

At position three on our knob, we want just the second pickup, so we connect that to the terminal at "3" and leave the other terminal ("9") that runs to "C" empty.

The fourth position at our knob, we want the second and third pickups, so we connect one of those two to the terminal at "4" and one of them to the terminal at "10", they'll come out of "A" and "C" respectively, and join up at our output, same deal we did in our second position of rotation.

The fifth position on this knob we want just the third pickup, so we connect this pickup to either the terminals at "5" or "11", leave the other one open. Same idea as at positions one and 3 in our rotation.

(Of course, make sure all your grounds from the pickups and volume pots and what not connect at one point.)

So a brief recap of the connections: (In parenthesis, are what position on the rotary switch the numbered terminals will apply to.)

Terminal "A" and "C" are our "outputs" from the switch; these connect to our output jack, probably via the volume pot.

Terminal 1: Connects to the first pickup (Position 1)

Terminal 2: Also connects to the first p'up, and terminal 1 (Position 2)

Terminal 3: Second pickup connects here (Position 3)

Terminal 4: Second Pickup connects here (Position 4)

Terminal 5: Third Pickup could connect here(Position 5)

Terminal 6: nothing (yet!)

Terminal 7: Nothing Connects here.  (Position 1)

Terminal 8: Second Pickup connects here (Position 2)

Terminal 9: Second pickup could connect here (Position 3)

Terminal 10: Third Pickup (Position 4)

Terminal 11: Third Pickup connects here(Position 5)

Terminal 12: Nothing (yet!)

Now a few things to notice:

If you wanted to do a two pickup setup with a rotary switch, you'd still need the double pole rotary switch (unless you found one with a "halfway" point like a standard switch) if you wanted to have both pickups on at one time. You just wouldn't need a 5 throw switch, 3 would be fine.

Notice that any signal that comes in through terminals "1" through "6" is going to come out terminal "A". "7" through "12" will come out terminal "C". This isn't a big deal if we set it up like I mentioned above so that the wires coming off "A" and "C" join together at the next step in the chain (the output or the volume pot). So you could wire things however you wanted, the first pickup could go to the terminal at "8" and the second pickup could go to the terminal at "2". Position two on your knob will still be a combination of the two pickups.

However, if we wanted a tone control for the first and second pickups and one for the third pickup, we have to pay attention to how things are wired. We could set up two tone controls, one each, attached to the terminals at "A" and "C", and then join the signals together *after* these tone controls. (Or volume, for that matter.) In this setup, make sure that the pickups end up coming out "A" or "C" in a manner that allows you to use the tone controls as you wish.


If the first pickups goes the terminal at "1". We also send this to the terminal at "8", (for our second switch position) and the second pickup goes to the terminal at "2". You then have a seperate tone control coming off the terminals at "A" and "C".

In position one, the first pickup would be on it's own and the tone control connected to "A" would be the one that effected it. (the second tone control would do nothing) In position two, however, you'd have both the first and second pickups working. However, pickup one's tone control would now be the tone control attached to the terminal at "C"! And the tone control that was controlling the first pickup (the one attached to terminal "A") in the first position, would now be controlling the second pickup! This might be desirable, it might not, but take it into consideration. This can be nice sometimes, in that you can set it up so that a certain volume control is always the upper pickup of a combination, whether that's the 2nd or 3rd pickup.

Heck, if you could sacrifice a switch position, and have two duplicate positions on the rotary switch, but they send that pickup through either tone or volume control.

I find it easiest to wire one tone control to my bridge pickup before it hits the switch. Then I wire my second tone control after my switch, and wire up my switch in such a way that my middle and neck pickups will always go out the terminal at "C" when they are used, and then into this second tone control. After the tone control, I join this back up with the wire from terminal "A", then go to my volume control and then the output.

Now about those extra terminals -

Okay, now you could find a double-pole, five-throw switch, or use the Lorlin switch and set it so it won't rotate past the fifth position, but if you end up with a 6 position switch, why not use it for something?

Well, you could just leave that position un-wired. This would basically make it a "kill" switch. turn the knob to the unused position, and everything cuts out. Helpful it you're playing high-gain music. But I think we can do better - since we're not using the standard blade switches method of stopping "halfway" to get two pickups, and rather using a double pole switch, lets do what they do with those fancy strat switches stewmac sells. Run your first pickup to the terminal at position"6", and your third pickup to the terminal at position "12", and now the sixth position is your neck and bridge pickups together. If you've got the extra "click" on that rotary knob, might as well use it! And you didn't sacrifice a switch position for it, like some switches make you do!

Another option that might be useful is making that 6th "click" on the wheel a duplicate of the first position, so you don't have to turn the knob all the way around to get back to just the bridge pickup.

So there you go. With rotary switches -> For standard 5-way switching with three p'ups, you need a Double-Pole, Five-Throw switch, (6 Throw to aslo have the neck/bridge combo) For 3 way two p'up switching, you need a Double-pole, Three Throw switch. (Sometimes they say "position" instead of throw, sometimes not. Sometimes it's abbreviated, like DP6T or 2P6T) The switch I mentioned below, the one available at Radio Shack, would work perfect. (You'll have to saw off the extra shaft on that thing though.)

Now, say you wanted to *also* be able to use all three pickups. Well, we run into the same situation we did at the begining, with things being in contact with each other even when the switch isn't in the position for it. We end up needing a *three* pole switch. (one with an extra common terminal where "A" and "C" are in the diagram we've been looking at.)

Thing is, getting a three pole rotary switch with enough throws (we probably want at least six throws, if not seven, unless we want the "all three pickups" combo to replace another option) is somewhat difficult. This is where those superswitches for strats come in handy, you can get things like this all in one control sometimes. But if you really want a rotary switch for pickup selection, and can't get ahold of a three-pole one with enough throws to do this, the easiest way is to cheat a little and add another switch to the mix. This could just be a mini toggle, but if you don't want to take up more room or make more holes, just go with a toggle switch mounted on a push/pull pot.

Wire up your rotary switch like before. Then think about how you want to get to the "all three pickups" deal - I usually end up going from using the bridge and the middle pickup to using all three. So the "extra" pickup that needs to be switched on is the neck pickup. If you go from neck+middle to all 3, then the "extra" pickup is the bridge. You get the idea.

All you do here, is wire up an open-close switch. Go from the neck pickup (well, since the wires from the neck pickup are already attached to the rotary switch, you'll probably just run extra wires from there - if you've got volume controls before the switch, that's another good place to run the lead from.) Attach this to one part of a switch.

Attach the other part of the switch. (If it's a double throw, just pick whichever throw feels natural to you to "activate" the extra pickup - whether that's up or down on your push pull pot, or a certain direction on your toggle. Leave the other pole empty. We just want an "on-off" switch. If it's a double-pole, double-throw switch, we'll only be using on set of poles.)

We've got a few choices - we could attach it at the terminals at "A" and "C", planning around any tone or volume controls already attached to those points, depending on how we want them to effect the added pickup.

Problem with this, however, is that if we go from "middle and bridge" pickup to "all 3", and then go back to "just bridge" pickup without returning the "extra pickup" switch to the open position, we're still getting that extra neck pickup - getting from "all three pickups" to "just bridge" is now a three step operation.

If this is a problem for you, one answer is simply to wire the end of the "extra pickup" switch to the terminal at "2" or "8" mixing it back in before we hit the rotary switch. This way, the "extra" third pickup will only factor in when the rotary knob is position 2.

In fact, if the switch you used was a double-pole switch, you could use the extra set of poles to do the same thing for the bridge pickup, and connect up to pin "4" or "10" of the rotary switch. Now the "extra pickup" switch, when closed, will add whatever the missing pickup is from the normally two-pickup positions at 2 and 4 on the rotary switch, but leave positions 1, 3, 5 alone. If you added that 6th position we talked about, that will also be left alone, but of course, we could have used the extra set of poles to add the middle pickup to position 6 on the rotary switch, instead of adding the bridge to position 4. Or whatever.

Of course, now, if we mix the signal from the extra pickup back in at the begining of the rotary switch, by running it back in at the terminals on the rotary switch, that extra pickup will hit any tone controls along the way. That might not be desirable. But I figure if you're running all three pickups, you've probably got everything dimed anyways, so to heck with tone controls.

I've experimented with using an *additional* rotary switch, rather than a toggle, and taking those extra 6 positions to mix in either the neck or middle pickup as my "third" pickup, and route them to different places.

At this point, the differences are subtle, and you might as well just add individual switches for everything and make your guitar look like a synthesizer with thirty little dials and toggles.

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oh god. I just started writing, and not until I look back to I realize how much I rambled. That was a good half my lunch break that flew by there.

I could have given just as much info in three or four pictures. I should have waited until I got home. Sorry! I'm a little long-winded sometimes.

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thanks pierce, very well explained, i wont need a diagram :D , i;ll try to get one of those 6 way with two outputs to get the strato-like setting. and the idea to have an empty position to kill the pickups is a great idea, i think van halen did something like that but he removed one pick up? dont remenber, saw it on a video.

i just want one tone and one volum pot so i think its easy. the ideas you posted are great but this is my first electric mod on a guitar, i'll try to keep it simple B) besides, i;ve seen those guitar with swtiches and pots for every pick up and indeed, they look like syntesizer.. ugly \ :D but it gave me an idea... take a big square pice of wood and make a guitar with all you said, it WILL look ugly but may come handy for home recording or just to try new stuff B)

anyways,thanks for the info, i'll post the finish product when its done :D

ps. what about the trim pot idea? will it work just fine?

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