Sunday, 4 May 2014

Gretsch G5265 Baritone Switch Replacement

When I started (and abandoned)  this blog over a year ago I thought I would be posting about one of the various project guitars that I have. In particular the nasty Les Paul clone with the crazy sustainer I've been building.

I certainly would never have predicted that my first post would be about a Gretsch Baritone G5265 Jet. The thought of actually owning one never really entered my mind back then let alone the thought of modifying one. Yet here I am.

Its a lovely guitar but it has one rather annoying feature, the three way selector switch. When I'm strumming I frequently knock the switch into the neck position. To be fair its more the fault of my playing style, but when seated its where my hand naturally falls.

So I thought to myself, why not replace it with a a rotary switch instead. Then I thought why have a three way switch when I could have a 6 way switch to give me every combination that you can have with two pickups.
I googled around to see if I could find a wiring diagram that would help with some success but the one I found didn't have the selections in the order I wanted. So I decided instead to work it out from first principles.

The approach I took was to draw a schematic for each circuit I wanted to make then I could colour in a block diagram of the switch to show which terminals should be wired together. With the block diagram complete I could apply the colour codes to a representation of the switch. With all the planning in place soldering the switch was as simple as painting by numbers.

Have a look at the embedded slides to see the documentation

When it came to wiring up I used some solid core jumper leads that had sleeves of the right colour. The solid cores made it possible for me to connect everything together before applying the solder so I could double check. There it is on the left looking like the console of the tardis

Once all the wires are soldered in, its simply a case of attaching the wires from the pickups and the controls to the appropriate tabs on the switch.

Identifying the cables wasn't too difficult. You can identify them by looking at how they are attached to the three way switch.  The white cable going to the central contact of the three way switch is hot going down to the controls and jack socket and the other two white wires are for either pickup.

One error I made was that I didn't pre-tin the terminals or the wires. Had I done so, then I wouldn't have had a dead connection on one of the positions. The green jumper had a dry joint that wasn't making contact so position 3 was not working. I had to take the switch out and do some probing with a multi-tester before I worked out what was wrong. To resolve it I just reheated the joint.

The switch came with a chicken head knob, but I thought it looked awful so I bought a Gretsch knob from ebay. I had to dremmel out the hole a little as it didn't fit in the switch shaft very well but once it was on it was a really good fit.
 The switch adds a lot of variety to the sounds and the out of phase settings are pretty unique. Not great dry, but they work well with distortion. There is quite a big different in volume between the settings and I think if I had been able to test out the different settings in advance I might have chosen a different  order. The good news is that the way I have documented the switch connections means that it is trivial to change the layout. I can simply change the order of the columns on my block diagram and its painting by numbers. If I had decided I didn't need six settings I could wire up a 4 way or 5 way switch using the same diagram, just skipping the positions I don't need.

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