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Northern Ash Jazzmaster Build


tparker
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I'm starting a new build of a jazzmaster. I got some northern ash because I like the grain and how it will look when stained blue. Like how it looks in photoshop as I plan it.......................but single coil with maple neck sounds has got me worried. This thing going to be a ice pick torture device? 

I'm thinking about planing down the blank to really thin and adding mahogany to the back to make it a warmer toned guitar. Maybe 1/4 ash and the rest mahogany? Thinking about making it a chambered body too. Try to take some weight out?

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What's wrong with a maple neck and single coils? Isn't that what Fender has been doing since the very beginning?

Agreed, the P90 equipped guitars I have don't have a pure maple neck, the two with maple have walnut laminated in between, the other one also some cherry. Nonetheless, their neck pickups have a nice warm full bodied sound and the bridge pickups scream a bit. For noodling alone the neck is more pleasing while the bridge blends nicely in with a band or in my case a backing track, filling an empty tonal range for riffs and solos.

Although the wood choices do change the tonal properties of a solid body guitar, the pickup is what dominates the sound. Acoustic vibrations simply don't come through a magnetic pickup. The wood has an affect to sustain and how the instrument vibrates against your body thus affecting your playing style and feel so it's not something one could entirely bypass. The actual sound comes from steel strings vibrating in a magnetic field, though, so the pickup choice is more crucial.

If you choose a pickup according to a sound sample that is the sound you'll get, no matter what woods you use. The rest is in your fingers.

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From videos and articles I thought that the body's wood would make much more of an impact. Hence Gibson adding a layer of maple between two layers of mahogany at one point in their construction. Maybe this had much more to do with the availability of wood sizes and pricing and/or marketing. 

I recently finished a hollow body guitar made from 2 by 4 glued together. I guess it is yellow pine or spruce. I went into it expecting that the body wouldn't have good sustain due to the soft wood. When compared to my mexican strat it doesn't have nearly the sustain. The neck is really tight in the pine guitar so I assume its the wood, but maybe not? Maybe the jazzmaster usual bridge problems?

It has Seymour Duncan Antiquity 2 pickups rather than the Gibson style P90. Was going to move these to the new guitar. and also use a bigsby vibrato and bridge. I like the feel of the Bigsby way more than the thin bar on the Fenders.

For this new build I was thinking I would stick to traditional woods used in guitars, but swamp ash wasn't available. Only northern hard ash. Other than the weight you don't think it matters?

 

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If I say "tonewood" there will be an endless debate. It's like a religion. There's also a lot of snake oil included. As you may know, the best lies have a maximum amount of truth involved which means there's a lot of facts in the tonewood jargon.

It's true that the acoustic properties change hugely depending on the woods used, but even there you can't just say that a certain species will do this and another that. It's more about the density and other attributes of the very piece used. Think about a steel spring: It will vibrate "forever" when knocked compared to a rubber slab of the same size. Similarly you can find a blank that rings like a bell while another of the same species just says "thunk". That's the sustain and vibration thing I mentioned in my previous post.

Traditional wood choices are based on acoustic tonewood knowledge, looks and most of all availability. Leo Fender took the woods and electronics he could easily get from the neighbourhood. Gibson was already an established builder for acoustic stringed instruments with the material providers for those. It's pretty much similar to fishing lures: The fish don't care about the looks as long as they make them attack. The shining colours and other novelties for every season are for the fishermen only.

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I'm all for chambered body.  I like the feel of a thick guitar with the weight of a thin guitar myself.  Northern ash is def going to require 'something' to make it light, if that's your goal. 

afa tonewood... follow your heart but let your head lead the way.  There is no proving if something sounds better... so stating either side of the coin as fact, or believing that side as fact... without acknowledging the possibility of error, is the only way you can go wrong IMO. 

look fwd to seeing your build - love me some ash!

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2 hours ago, tparker said:

mike v,

Any suggestions on the knobs? Maybe black chicken head?

what I think would work well here is if you bought some clear knobs... perhaps the bell type?  then take some whatever dye you used on the body and mix it with something... maybe tru oil or perhaps mix it with white paint?  and apply to the underside of the clear knob.  get some color matched knobs... that'd look pretty nice.

another option might be to go with some chrome dome type knobs to match the chrome hardware.  Might look nice with some chrome knobs with the black inserts to tie to both the pickup covers and the chrome hardware.

 

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On 12/22/2019 at 10:27 AM, Bizman62 said:

Although the wood choices do change the tonal properties of a solid body guitar, the pickup is what dominates the sound. Acoustic vibrations simply don't come through a magnetic pickup. The wood has an affect to sustain and how the instrument vibrates against your body thus affecting your playing style and feel so it's not something one could entirely bypass. The actual sound comes from steel strings vibrating in a magnetic field, though, so the pickup choice is more crucial.

Maybe people do overemphasize tonal qualities of wood in an electric guitar. But, did you watch this experiment? 
Tone Wood Tester: One guitar to test them all

If you ignore the product placements, and the guitar sounding out of tune many times, it seems like a reasonably designed test for the purpose. The difference between the woods in the test was larger than at least I thought. This is also despite the fact that the bridge is attached to  the same piece of wood.

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I've seen that before and watched it again. I don't know what kind of differences you heard, but to me they sounded pretty much similar just as the guy says starting at 15:56:

Quote

They all sound and look the same, like surprisingly the same. Some of them seem to taper off a little bit more, quicker than the other ones on the sustain but looking at the wave forms you can't see it, it's so quiet.--- The only one that sounded different from the others was the Poplar, it sounded a little bit brighter than the other ones and that was the only difference I noticed.--- But we don't play music like this, we don't play in a laboratory.

 

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  • 4 months later...

I'm working on the guitar I pictured above again. Can't go to the community woodworking shop right now to start the projects I want to do. I took out the jazzmaster pickup from the bridge because its just too shrill for my taste. Put in a TV Jones humbucker. It's an odd bird now. Neck sounds really woody and the bridge sounds kind of brass horn like. Much to my surprise, when you select both it the jazzmaster pickup that you hear the most.

So as usual, looking for advise from the veterans on the page.

*Instead of the humbucker or jazzmaster pickup in the bridge maybe a _______________. Mixing the two sound unique, but any other ideas? Maybe a telecaster bridge?

*I'm not happy with the jazzmaster pickup volume on the E,A,D strings. Even with the amp lows turned up this just isn't doing it. I've read about two methods of fixing this. One is to add a little metal to the top of the pole pieces to raise them closer to the string. The other is to heat the pickup and push the poles up higher if need be..... but this is risky on the E.

*Making a Blend Pot- can you do this with just a normal pot? I was thinking, what if you just put each pickup on the outside lugs and the swiper on the output? I've seen specialty pots for this, but wondering if it is really needed. 

IMG_1195.JPG

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1 hour ago, TParker2 said:

I'm not happy with the jazzmaster pickup volume on the E,A,D strings. Even with the amp lows turned up this just isn't doing it. I've read about two methods of fixing this. One is to add a little metal to the top of the pole pieces to raise them closer to the string. The other is to heat the pickup and push the poles up higher if need be..... but this is risky on the E.

The former seems a bit slapdash and the latter seems somewhat destructive. Can't you just raise the height of the pickup on the bass side by winding the pickup adjustment screws on one side a few turns?

 

1 hour ago, TParker2 said:

Making a Blend Pot- can you do this with just a normal pot? I was thinking, what if you just put each pickup on the outside lugs and the swiper on the output? I've seen specialty pots for this, but wondering if it is really needed. 

You can do it with a linear dual gang pot, but the taper and feel might not be to your liking. The "correct" way to do it is use a dedicated blend pot like the one StewMac sells, which will give more consistent results. Both alternatives are wired the same way - StewMac has a wiring diagram on their website.

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5 hours ago, TParker2 said:

Making a Blend Pot- can you do this with just a normal pot?

I've done that with a Strat for the outermost pickups. There's some bleed through in the extents which adds a hunch of the other pickup in the single pickup "modes". Or maybe the pickups really sound like that, I haven't tried! Anyhow, adding a quarter of a turn of the other one is what I prefer there. Note that I'm talking about a set of single coils here so that may not directly apply to your setup.

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The pickup cover screws were about maxed out for the tilt, so I couldn't adjust them much more. Hence the idea of raising the poles. But, Curtisa you are were right on making me think something else through. I made the covers from pretty thick plastic. By drilling out holes in the covers a bit more I did get it to tilt a bit more. Its sounding pretty balanced now.

Very cool Bizman. I'll give it a try with the one pot. I guess I should go ahead and order the real thing for the next project though.

Instead of doing the humbucker or p90 I"m thinking more of putting the original jazzmaster pickup back in. But this time putting it closer to the neck pickup to take some of the shrill out of it. How close can I place them? On a cheap P90 I've improved the sound by place a metal bar on its bottom. Maybe that's a better way to go? Suggestions?

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  • 1 month later...

Did some more work on this guitar. Used a Filtertron pickup instead of a normal hum bucker. This seems to be a better pairing to my ear. But, my crazy wiring plan isn't working. I had to turn it up to 8 on the amp volume to get sound. I've checked over the wiring today and can't find the problem. Anyone else ever had this happen? Double checked amp too.

The wiring is pretty odd. The concept has been to use only two way switches for the pickup selector. This way you can't mess up when playing and select the middle position when you want the bridge or something. to get both pickups you hit the other selector switch which takes it to blend mode. Finally, I put in slider switches for the capacitors. This lets you select the capacitor of high value, low value, or off. 

No ground on volume and tone- I grounded the housing of the pots, but not the empty lugs. I've done this before and it didn't seem to mater. Maybe this is problem? Or just too long of runs on the wire?

Anyway, I'm supper tired of opening the guitar up. Thinking someone might of run into the half volume problem and save me the trouble off experimentation. 

color coded wiring diagram.jpg

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Unfortunately your wiring scheme is not going to work as drawn. On first glance:

  • Volume pots are not grounded. Without a ground on each lug they will not operate correctly. There's also no ground shown on the output jack which is also mandatory for getting sound out of the guitar (could be the main reason why you have no sound at this stage)
  • There's only one pot value indicated (250) which I assume is meant to be 250K for all pots?
  • Which pots control what functions? Some are ambiguous as to what they are meant to do.
  • Capacitor values as indicated (0.22uF, 0.33uF, 0.1uF, 0.47uF) seem unusually large. I'd expect them to be an order of magnitude smaller, ie 0.022uF, 0.033uF, 0.01uF, 0.047uF.
  • When the pickups are in "split" mode, the neck pickup cannot be selected as it is routed through a grey wire to a resistor (lower-right of diagram, underneath one of the pots) which goes nowhere. The bridge pickup also becomes the default pickup going to the output in "split" mode (the neck/bridge pickup selector has no effect)

It's a pretty complicated looking scheme. It may be easier to fault find if it's broken down into blocks to try and establish what functions you want and how best to implement them.

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My work computer that has this file on it, just died!

Curtisa, I messed up on one label and forgot/didn't bother with some of the grounds on the drawing. Jack is grounded and volume pots are grounded (although I don't get the reason for grounding volume pots). The volume pots are 1m for the jazzmaster and 500k for the Filtertron. The tone pots are all 500k. Capacitors are my typo and are the normal value. Finally the split and blend mode label is reversed. In thinking about the direction of the physical switch, I forgot switch the label for the back of the guitar.

I did some more messing around with this and when the amp and gain are turned way up you can hear it. It operates as designed. Just really quite and a bit muddy.

I did notice when checking conductivity that I'm getting some measurable resistance when I test from pickup to jack. Maybe the runs are just too long? Wires are running in cables next to each other. I've heard this creates a capacitor effect. That stealling volume?

I ended short cutting all the wiring except the pickup blender. This worked fine and things sound great! So yeah, the seems like a weird interference thing right?

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6 hours ago, tparker said:

and volume pots are grounded (although I don't get the reason for grounding volume pots).

The volume pots act as a variable voltage divider. You can look at them as being able to variably 'select' the full output of the pickup (ie max volume), ground (ie dead silence) or anything in between the two extremes. If one side isn't grounded then turning the pot all the way to zero doesn't alow the wiper lug to head towards the 'dead silence' lug, and the volume control just doesn't work. You might get some reduction in volume and an increasing amount of darkening of the tone, but you'll never be able to achieve volume at zero.

 

6 hours ago, tparker said:

 Finally the split and blend mode label is reversed.

The problem with some of the wiring still remains, even if you reverse the labelling on that switch. When in the re-labelled blend mode for example, the signal from the neck pickup doesn't make it past the blend pot. The switching around the bridge and neck pickup tone controls on the 'neck/bridge' switch seems needlessly complicated which makes tracing it out pretty challenging, and may also be contributing to the problem by adding more chances of errors creeping into the circuit.

 

7 hours ago, tparker said:

I did notice when checking conductivity that I'm getting some measurable resistance when I test from pickup to jack. Maybe the runs are just too long? Wires are running in cables next to each other. I've heard this creates a capacitor effect. That stealling volume?

Unlikely. You'd need thousands of metres of wiring before such a massive loss in volume would become apparent.

When you say 'measurable resistance' when probing between jack and pickup, how much are you seeing? How are you taking this measurement (ie, where are you attaching your meter probes to)?

 

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