Workshop: '60s Electric Guitar Wiring Improvements

Here's a typical cheap, American-made "student" electric guitar -- a really cool Harmony-made Airline "Bobkat." It has the usual wiring woes associated with student-grade stuff, though -- no shielding and no ground to the strings via the tailpiece.

Here's what it looks like after work to the wiring -- I've shielded the control cavity with copper tape and underneath the pickguard and pickup. In addition I've added a ground from the tailpiece to the control cavity -- which was made possible by drilling a through-hole.

That ground wire will have the tailpiece mounted over it and the bolts/screws to mount the tailpiece will "engage" the ground further. Note the yellow duct-tape at the bottom of the control cavity that goes over the copper tape -- this is so that if the jack gets loose or a junky insert tip is used, the signal won't get grounded via the copper tape by accident.

Above is another ground problem -- this time on a '60s Danelectro Convertible. These never had a ground wire from the strings/tailpiece to the wiring harness, so you have to add one. After the tail is taken off, I drill a tiny 1/16" access hole to the interior of the body through one of those screw holes.

Because I don't want to have to yank the wiring harness (which has a copper-wrapped, taped-up little "box" that the controls ride in), I'm going to solder my ground to the grounded exterior of the pickup's lead wire. Here I've removed the pickup to access it.

I then thread my ground through and pull it out the "soundhole."

After wrapping it around the wire, it gets soldered to the braided wrap and then the pickup goes back in place.

Then I pull it a bit more snug, cut off the end with a little slack, and bare the end of the wire to make a ground contact with the tailpiece bolt/screws. You can do this same "trick" for the many hollowbody, f-hole archtop guitars of student grade out there that are ungrounded (I'm talking about you, Kay and Harmony factory guit-boxes).