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Thread: Pickup cable splicing - tutorial

  1. #1
    Super Toneologist octavedoctor's Avatar
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    Default Pickup cable splicing - tutorial

    In response to some questions posed by a member in another thread, I thought I would post this series of images showing how to do a "professional" cable splice.

    In fact, there is no such thing as a real professional would replace the whole cable, but I'm sure you understand my meaning.

    If you have to do this, do it this way...

    Suppose you have this s/h pickup and the cable is too short



    Get some cable that is as close to the original as possible. This has a different colour coding and braided instead
    of foil screen



    Strip the screening back to a working length, at least an inch and trim the insulation back by a few millimetres. Tin all exposed wire with solder so that it's nicely silvered



    slip some heat shrink tubing over the wire



    bring the two bits together with just a touch of a tinned soldering iron tip



    then pass the heat shrink over the join and shrink it in place with the tip of the iron



    Repeat with all four strands. Try to correlate any colour coding as best you can; here I have connected light green to dark green, red to red, blue to black ( B to B) and finally yellow to white. This makes it easier to remember the equivalence...

    Note, on the left the length of heat shrink ready to pass over the splice



    pass the heat shrink over the splice and shrink it down but keep the screen wires OUT of the heat shrink



    join them up



    prepeare a piece of foil



    wrap it around the joint in a broad spiral so that all the edges overlap by a considerable margin then pres it down so that it makes good contact with the screen wires



    finally slip some more heat shrink over it



    shrink it down so that it keeps the screen in place and tight against the lead wires for both halves of the screen.


    Job's a good 'un!

    Remember that as with anything, the final result is only as good as your skill in soldering and execution of the job. Neat work generally produces a good result. If a job fails, it is usually because of the following reasons;

    bad solder joints caused by insufficient/excessive heat/improperly prepared surfaces

    Insufficient attention to finishing off, e.g. using too short a length of heat shrink so that bits of foil are left sticking out so that they can short against points on the signal path on other components.

    Misjudging the length of foil needed so that there are gaps in its coverage.

    Economising by using tape instead of heat shrink, which doesn't compress the foil against the screen lead wires enough and can come loose, taking the foil with it.
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    Ultimate Tone Slacker larry_emder's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pickup cable splicing - tutorial

    This will make me sound like a total noob, where does one get heat shrink from, and how do you 'heat' it to 'shrink' it????

    I havent a clue!

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    Baron Von Shred Zerberus's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pickup cable splicing - tutorial

    ANy electronics store should have heat shrink tubing in multiple sizes available.

    It can be heated with a hairdryer, or if you´re a bit more experienced (and careful) a lighter will also suffice in a pinch. According to some you can also do it w/ the soldering iron, but this I´ve never tried...

    NIce post, OD
    Zerberus Industries: Where perfection just isn't good enough.

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    Ultimate Tone Slacker larry_emder's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pickup cable splicing - tutorial

    Thanks zerb, and yes a very helpful post by the doctor.

    Vault it.

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    Ultimate Tone Member rainsong86's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pickup cable splicing - tutorial

    ok I think I'll add a few more noob questions:

    1. how do you tin the exposed wire? (I'm assuming that you heat up the exposed wired with the soldering tip then melt solder onto it)

    2. what is the purpose of tinning the exposed wire? (can't you just do a point-to-point solder joint?)

    3. how do you "tin" a soldering iron?

    4. what is the proper technique to keeping your soldering iron tip clean and capable of extensive use? (mine becomes covered in solder after big jobs and it doesn't heat the components up as well as it needs to)

    5. and finally, should I follow the same steps to splicing hookup wire in the control cavity instead of just doing point-to-point solder joints and wrapping it with electrical tape?

    as you may have surmised I don't even own heat shrink tubing nor do I have any idea what tinning is.. I'd really appreciate if I could get some answers for my amateur questions here

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    Super Toneologist octavedoctor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pickup cable splicing - tutorial

    Quote Originally Posted by rainsong86
    1. how do you tin the exposed wire? (I'm assuming that you heat up the exposed wired with the soldering tip then melt solder onto it)
    Tinning is a term used to describe the process by which a metal is coated with a thin layer of solder. The solder forms a suface amalgam with the substrate metal in a process similar to galvanisation (zinc coating).
    Modern electrical solders have a resin core which acts as a flux. The flux (from the latin for flow) melts at a lower temperature than the solder and coats the surface of the metal being tinned, preventing it from oxidising as it heats, as oxidised surfaces reject solder and inhibit the surface amalgamation process. The solder is heavier than the flux though, so when the solder melts the flux floats away (a bit like water flowing under a carpet!) allowing the solder to bond with the metal substrate.

    Quote Originally Posted by rainsong86
    2. what is the purpose of tinning the exposed wire? (can't you just do a point-to-point solder joint?)
    When two pre-tinned surfaces are brought together under heat the layer of solders melt and flow together forming a secure weld. you can twist wires together and flood the joint with solder but when doing inline splices it is quicker and produces a more reliable joint to tin the components. It is generally good practice to tin all surfaces, it makes the process quicker and produces more reliable joints.

    Point-to-point refers to a wiring practice which does not rely on circuit boards. Technically all wiring in guitars is point-to-point. Tinning is a technique used to facilitate soldering in point-to-point and counter dry joints.

    Quote Originally Posted by rainsong86
    3. how do you "tin" a soldering iron?
    Scrub the tip with a wire brush (a fine brass one like a suede brush is ideal). Heat the soldering iron up. Touch a piece of solder to it and wait for it to reach a temperature when the solder starts to melt. If the solder starts to ball up and run off the tip, scrub through it with the wire brush and wipe it in a wet sponge. Allowing the iron to overheat will cause the surface to oxidise and reject the solder.

    Quote Originally Posted by rainsong86
    4. what is the proper technique to keeping your soldering iron tip clean and capable of extensive use? (mine becomes covered in solder after big jobs and it doesn't heat the components up as well as it needs to)
    Wipe it periodically in a wet sponge. Many soldering irons have a recess in the stand for a sponge. Keep it wet...

    Quote Originally Posted by rainsong86
    5. and finally, should I follow the same steps to splicing hookup wire in the control cavity instead of just doing point-to-point solder joints and wrapping it with electrical tape?
    Yes. The principles are universal. Electrical tape is OK but it's messy.
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    Ultimate Tone Member rainsong86's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pickup cable splicing - tutorial

    so basically I need to have a thin coating of solder on both of the wires to be spliced.. and there also needs to be a bit of solder melted onto the soldering iron tip so that it's nice and shiny silver.. that way I can press the ends of the wires together and with a touch of heat from the soldering iron the wires will weld together.. this information is good to know because I used to think that my soldering iron needed to be completely clean so that the metal of the soldering tip will touch the components I heat and melt solder onto

    thanks for such an involved answer octave doctor.. you're a great guy for writing up such an informative answer to my questions.. good work doc!

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    Super Toneologist octavedoctor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pickup cable splicing - tutorial

    Quote Originally Posted by rainsong86
    so basically I need to have a thin coating of solder on both of the wires to be spliced.. and there also needs to be a bit of solder melted onto the soldering iron tip so that it's nice and shiny silver.. that way I can press the ends of the wires together and with a touch of heat from the soldering iron the wires will weld together.. this information is good to know because I used to think that my soldering iron needed to be completely clean so that the metal of the soldering tip will touch the components I heat and melt solder onto
    THat's exactly right. If the tip of the soldering iron is "dry" the transfer of heat is impaired. Tinning the surface allows the heat to be transferred moere efficiently as the liquid solder is a far more efficient heat transfer mechanism.
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    Default Re: Pickup cable splicing - tutorial

    Thanks for the tutorial OD! I've been doing my own pickup wiring for awhile, but I've never really had a good set method of splicing wires (I just did things kind of half-assed). This should be stickied or archived somewhere, it's awesome!

    -Austin

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    Goliath of Tone Davey's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pickup cable splicing - tutorial

    I say this thread be vaulted. VERY good advice for n00bs and intermediate users alike.

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    In Fluence Y'all frankfalbo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pickup cable splicing - tutorial

    That's about the best way to do it. The only thing I can add is that if I'm feeling tedious, I'll stagger the four joints, so that when you heat shrink the whole cable at the end, you don't have a bulge in the middle where all four covered junctions come together. I find sometimes the clump of all four splices together presents problems feeding through smaller holes in a guitar cavity. Or on a three pickup guitar if you have all three cables through the same hole and the splice happens to wind up inside the hole, you can run out of room for the other cable(s). You can always drill another access hole, or enlarge the existing one too.

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    Default Re: Pickup cable splicing - tutorial

    Quote Originally Posted by larry_emder View Post
    Vault it.
    Agreed. Great thread.

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    Tonus Maximus Pacificas Stevo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pickup cable splicing - tutorial

    Nice

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    Super Toneologist octavedoctor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pickup cable splicing - tutorial

    Quote Originally Posted by frankfalbo View Post
    That's about the best way to do it. The only thing I can add is that if I'm feeling tedious, I'll stagger the four joints, so that when you heat shrink the whole cable at the end, you don't have a bulge in the middle where all four covered junctions come together. I find sometimes the clump of all four splices together presents problems feeding through smaller holes in a guitar cavity. Or on a three pickup guitar if you have all three cables through the same hole and the splice happens to wind up inside the hole, you can run out of room for the other cable(s). You can always drill another access hole, or enlarge the existing one too.
    That's a very good point Frank, and thanks for adding it because that's a nice touch if you can do it. The reason i did it this way is because i was doing it very quickly at work and only had a short length of Seymour Duncan cable to play with and i didn't want to extend the length of the splice too much; I also wanted it to fit in the frame of the photo!
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    Super Toneologist octavedoctor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pickup cable splicing - tutorial

    In fact, it just occured to me that if the internal joints are staggered enough, you probably wouldn't need the four narrow bore lengths of heat shrink as long as the group of four signal wires is covered to isolate them from the screen...

    You can see I don't do it this way very often
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    Mojo's Minions SnakeAces's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pickup cable splicing - tutorial

    Any ideas of what sizes heat shrink should be bought for the three different stages it's used in?

  17. #17
    Super Toneologist octavedoctor's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pickup cable splicing - tutorial

    no idea, i just guess.

    The smallest is just the smallest i can get. I think it's about 1/16th of an inch. The next up is about 3/16" or maybe 5/8". The final one is probably about 1/4". It just depends a bit on what size wire you are splicing. It's not an exact science because the stuff shrinks by up to 60% (linear) so as long as it's big enough to go over the wire and shrink to contain it you're OK...
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    Mojo's Minions SnakeAces's Avatar
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    Default Re: Pickup cable splicing - tutorial

    Thanks again!

    This is by far one of the most useful threads for any guitarist looking to get to know their axe a lil more.

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