Wednesday, November 22, 2017





Washburn Strat Style Guitar retrofitted with Seymour Duncan pickups, original pickguard
Here is the guitar before I start the pickguard conversion. To my old eyes the white pickguard looks so cliche' and common, I've adopted an all black look on my other strat style guitars so I wanted this one to have it too. Even though it looks like a Strat, it's not the same at all and a Fender replacement pickguard would not work, not even close.

Seymour Duncan Little-'59 pickups and full size '59 humbucker
Back when I did the last rewiring job on this guitar I traced the original pickguard on to a piece of paper (which was actually two 8.5 x 11 inch sheets taped together). I folded the paper and mailed it to WD Music in Fort Myers, Florida. A week or so later I received an email with the estimated cost for the new pickguard made from the material I requested.

There are two ways you can pay for this, either PayPal by email or over the phone. For the fastest and best response I recommend using over-the-phone method. I spoke directly to the head of custom pickguards and he got me taken care of quick and easy.

Instead of using the large humbucking pickup sized hole that came in the original Washburn pickguard I wanted a smaller single coil sized hole in the bridge position so I used a Fender pickguard, carefully aligned to the Washburn pickguard, to trace a single-coil hole in the bridge position of the traced drawing which was sent to WD Music.

This guitar has three humbucking pickups and no single coil switching options so I removed the tone control from the circuit because I never use it with humbucking pickups.

This guitar has a three-position CRL switch, the same one normally used in a Fender Telecaster. In this guitar I've wired it is a three-pickup selector, only one pickup is on at any one time. There are three pickups and three switch positions, this lets the purity of the pickup shine with no phase cancellation or tone loss as heard when multiple pickups are mixed together in traditional guitar wiring layouts.

Note the large humbucking pickup hole in the bridge pickup position

The new pickguard design would eliminate all unnecessary holes for controls that are not implemented. I figure that I can always drill an additional hole in the new pickguard if I ever need to add something, but it sure looks great not having unsightly unused holes in the pickguard. That is a big advantage of a custom made pickguard, you can have it be whatever you want it to be.

A hurricane blew through Florida in September of 2017, it went right through Fort Myers where WD Music is located so my order got a two month delay. After some emails with the manager of WD custom pickguards my order was finally in production, a week later the new pickguard below was delivered to my home via Priority Mail.
New all black custom pickguard made by WD Music in Florida, now three single coil holes, no more big humbucker
The new pickguard is gorgeous. There was no way to take a picture of how shiny and perfect the top is but trust me, it is fantastic. Making those strat size single coil pickup holes in a blank piece of plastic is not easy, look at them, they're perfect.

This pickguard was not inexpensive but it was not crazy in price either. All-in including shipping it came to slightly under $72, in light of the quality of the production I'd say it's very much worth it.

I'm already thinking about a new WD pickguard for my Flying-V Gibson.

WD Music builds custom pickguards to your specification
The front side of the new pickguard was protected with a clear plastic film so it was scratch free and had a brilliant shiny mirror-like finish. The edges of the new pickguard were beautifully beveled all the way around the perimeter. Every hole on the new piece perfectly matched the holes in my guitar, I was shocked at how well it all lined up. The WD craftsman really know how to interpret the drawings people send in, my new pickguard was perfect. I used a pencil with a very fine point to make my tracing and I took my time to be sure I got it as close as I could.
Installing first pickup 
When the new pickguard arrived everything fit perfectly, the pickup holes were exactly correct, so was the lever-style pickup selector switch. After installing the bridge pickup in the new pickguard it was a simple matter to transfer the electronics from the original pickguard to the new WD custom all black pickguard.

I've been collecting Little-'59 Seymour Duncan pickups for over 12 years, you can see the construction style has changed from the older ones in the neck and middle position and the newer style model in the bridge position.
Wiring the new pickup after moving electronics to WD pickguard
 I cut all the wiring on the pickups to exact fit, I'm never taking the pickups out of this guitar. I've wanted a triple-humbucker guitar for several years and now I've finally built it.

I spent quite a few hours playing the full size Seymour Duncan '59 on this guitar before committing to a new pickguard and the smaller sized Little'59 style pickup. I have zero regrets about switching to the smaller pickup and even though the pickups on this guitar span a 12-year production range, they sound balanced and together in this guitar, that is a real tribute to the quality Seymour Duncan company puts into their American made pickups.
Seymour Duncan speed pot and CRL three-position switch
I've received several comments about the look of the soldering on the rear of the volume control on several of my guitar projects. First of all, low-impedance is the goal so I use a lot of solder, I get it molten hot, around 700 degrees Fahrenheit, and get all the conductors involved so that we end up with the lowest impedance connection between all the circuit branches. It's a bit of a dance because you don't want to keep this temperature up for very long or it can damage the pot or melt the insulation on the wire to the pickups causing a short-circuit.

I avoided landing all the grounds on the volume control pot for many years and wondered why I had excessive noise. When I finally adopted this style of wiring in the control compartment noise level in the guitar went down so regardless of how ugly it is, I'm going with it.
Closeup of switch and single volume pot
The wiring on this guitar is really simple, three-position pickup-selector switch and one volume knob. The pot is a custom Bourns model by Seymour Duncan, this is one of the Yngwie speed pots which has virtually no back-turn resistance, these are the easiest to turn pots for Strats on the planet.
WD Pickguard Installed
I love the look of the all-black pickguard with the chrome hardware, it's how I'd individualize my motorcycle if I owned one. I bought a bag of 200 pickguard screws from Amazon for $5 so I replaced all the original Washburn screws which were rusty.

Notice how shiny the upper frets are? I used an 800 grit Stewmac Fret-Eraser to polish the frets. The frets on this guitar are made out of some cheap alloy that corrodes easily but they polish up beautifully and play great thanks to the Fret-Eraser. Stewmac offers even finer grades of these cool replacements for pickup-killing steel wool.

This guitar cost me $59 originally and after a lot of love it's one of my best playing strat style guitars (which includes a MIJ 80's Fender Strat, a 90's MIM Fender Strat and a 2006 Fender American Standard). The maple neck on this Washburn is very straight and sort of wide and round, the frets are tall enough to make it feel really good in your hands for playing blues rock.

The Seymour Duncan little '59 pickups sound great in this guitar. It makes no sense but the bridge pickup sounds very much like a single-coil Fender Telecaster on this guitar. Cranked into a Mesa or Marshall it sounds wicked good.
The completed job
Old pickguard

New pickguard
I was very impressed with the way the new WD custom pickguard order worked out. All my fears were for nothing, the new pickguard fit perfect.

I'll be calling WD Music again for another custom pickguard very soon.

Good music to all!