Luthier Shop: Installing a Pickguard and Electronics On a Stereo Bass

Welcome back! Now that you’ve milled the pickup cavity, let’s dive into installing the pickguard and electronics on your new bass. This process can take a bit of time, so make sure to take breaks and check your work throughout.

Tools needed

  1. Razor
  2. Jigsaw or Spindle Sander
  3. Small sanding block
  4. Electric drill
  5. 7/8ths forstner bit
  6. Solder
  7. Heat shrink wrap
  8. X-acto blade
  9. Dry erase marker
  10. Ruler

Getting the body ready

  1. Score the plastic film on the pickguard with a razor, then cut through the guard as close to the shape of the cover. When cutting, make sure to leave your edges slightly in front of the score lines.
    1. You can also bore a few holes while cutting into the guard to make the next step faster.
  2. Once everything is cut, take a small sanding block and sand your edges to make them smooth and uniform. Make sure to check if it fits with the body, neck, and pickup before moving forward.
    1. You can scoop material out of the corners with a razor if needed.
  3. After checking your work, remove the guard, pickup, and neck to make handling the piece easier. 
  4. Next, take a 7/8ths forstner bit and make two channels for the outfit jacks. Clean out the cavity afterwards.

Installing the controls

Note: There are several combinations possible with these potentiometer options, but we will be explaining the Billy Sheehan Attitude system. This means we will keep the push/pull for the Neck tone as the high cut pass and the second push/pull as the Bridge master volume, but it starts in stereo and goes mono when the switch is engaged rather than the other way around.

  1. Ground the master volume pot to the neck pickup by using a wire to connect the terminal to the casing.
  2. One the pot is grounded, start the path that leads the neck position controls. 
  3. The first tone knob will get two sozo capacitors, each with a different function. Use one that’s .047 microfarads (general Bass capacitor) and another that’s .001 microfarads (high cut treble pass).
  4. Set the .047 cap into the terminal, and connect it to the ground. Afterwards, connect the .001 cap to the c1 common terminal. Before connecting the .001 cap to ground, cover the exposed wire with heat shrink wrap.
  5. Once the controls are completed as far as they can go, start connecting the output jacks to each other and getting the signal paths organized.
  6. Once you confirm that your connections are good, seal the bottom with heat shrink and move on.

Connecting the pickups to the controls

  1. Starting with the neck pickup, connect the live to the middle terminal, and ground the bare wire to the casing. Repeat the process for the bridge at the third knob.
  2. Connect your output wires to the outside terminals on both neck and bridge. Make sure not to forget your ground wire to complete the circuit. 
  3. After connecting the output wires, test the signal to make sure everything is hooked up properly.
  4. Once you’ve confirmed that the signal is working, get everything fastened neatly, and make sure it all lays flat. Make sure to re-attach the neck before fastening the pickguard and pickups.
  5. Once the pickups and pickguard are fastened to the body and neck, restring the guitar and play away!
Milling out the cavity and installing the pickup and electronics on your electric bass is a time-consuming challenge, but the result is a beautiful bass tailored to your specific playing style. Visit aeluthier.com to see all of our luthier products, including a wide selection of bass bodies and pickups.

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