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Grounding Strings Through The Headstock


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I know, I know... Why would anybody ever do that?

I've been thinking about this for a while though. I'm building two hybrid electric/acoustic guitars right now with acoustic bridges and a combination of piezos and magnetic pickups. The conventional method of grounding the strings is to use metal beneath the bridge plate that the string ends will catch on. But I've been thinking about this. I haven't tested it, but I would assume there is electrical continuity within a tuning machine. I've never taken one apart, but I'm thinking it's mostly metal on metal.

So if I ran a wire beneath a headplate to each of the tuners, and run that to a wire that goes between the fretboard and the neck and out the heel end into a hollow body, I think I'd have a working ground for the strings.

Anyone have thoughts on whether or not this might actually work? (This is a set neck thing, by the way.)


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It should work fine. There is also the option with the zero fret of grounding just one tuner.

Is there a reason your wanting to avoid the metal plate behind thr bridge?

Yeah, it just seems like an awkward solution. For one, that spot is the tonal focus of the soundboard. I know people use them successfully, but it just doesn't seem ideal. Also, I always worry one of the strings might not get good contact, especially if the plate wears a bit.

All in all, I think the metal plate is an ok way of doing things, but I'm wondering if this might be better. After I play around with a multimeter a little later, I'll have a better idea.

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Just in case anyone's curious, I tested four guitars today with a multimeter.

Late 90s Fender American Deluxe Telecaster (with Fender tuners)

1999 Taylor 710CE (with Grover tuners)

2004? Squier Bronco Bass (I have no idea.)

2010 Xaviere XV870 (with, I assume, Guitar Fetish's strat style tuners)

I tested electrical continuity from the midpoint of a string to every place I could think of on the tuners. Successful everywhere on the Tele, the Taylor, and the Xaviere. On the Squier, I did not have electrical continuity to two of the four buttons, but DID have continuity everyplace else on the tuners, including the housing, and (of course) the shaft.

So this should work. And I can't think of any reason not to try it The little wiring channels I make will be invisible, and I'm going to use a headplate anyway. Might as well try it.

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I'm amused by your contention that this is a less akward solution than copper foil (or similar) under the strings at the bridge. Combine with a zero fret and you're pretty much done.

These are amplified guitars you're building, so a small amount of additional mass is not going to 'make or break' the tone of the things. Then there's the question of whether you really need to ground anything at all. Acoustic guitars generally aren't grounded, even where mag pickups are used.

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I've been thinking about this. A brass nut is a good solution, but people like to change nuts. I like to change nuts sometimes. The zero fret solution would be difficult. You'd have to get just enough wire into the fret slot to make good contact with the fret tang, but not so much that the fret wouldn't seat properly. Or you could try to solder it, I guess, but I wouldn't even know where to start on that one.

Tomorrow's decision time. The board's going out to the workshop.

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In case anybody's keeping track...




I just routed out an ugly little channel and sent some wires through to the tuner holes. I'm not sure how well you can see it in the picture, but at the inside edge of each tuner hole, there's a small cutout channel for each of the wires. I'll end up burying the ends of the wires beneath the body of each tuner. Down the center of the neck, I cut another channel for the wire. A little superglue and it's stuck good. Now that I've glued the headplate on, it's invisible.

Before anybody says anything, I've decided to use two truss rods on this neck, for reasons unrelated to this thread. That's why the wire is in the center, and not toward the edge.

I'm not sure if I'd do this again or not. It wasn't much trouble, and there's no reason it shouldn't work, but it's an added step that's not technically necessary. The bigger problem is that I had to change the order I usually do things, and that's got me all messed up.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Ok. You're right - I misunderstood that. Nonetheless, apart from fretting and a little finish on the headstock, the neck is done. All the wires are completely invisible too. Honestly, I'm not sure I'd do this again. It works, but it made the whole process of building a neck take much longer than it should have. I kept running into obstacles I hadn't thought through at the outset.

As always, I appreciate your expertise, Mattia.

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The neck profile is done, and I have around 1/4" of wood beneath each truss rod. I was planning on a really thick neck from the start, which is part of the reason I decided on two truss rods. I wouldn't do this for somebody else's guitar, but I have long fingers.

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